“Coaching is attracting America’s top CEOs because, put simply, business coaching works.”
FORTUNE Magazine

 Any company that genuinely wants to help its leaders and managers to reach their potential is ready for coaching.  However, there are ways to ensure that the impact of coaching is optimised and can benefit not just individual leaders but also contribute to the future success of the organisation.

Creating a climate for effective executive coaching is dependent on a number of factors.  A coaching programme will generally sit within a wider range of developmental activities as part of the overall strategy of the organisation. CIPD describes Strategic Human Resource Management (HRM) as the ‘overall framework that determines the shape and delivery of individual strategies, systematically linking people with organisations by integrating HRM strategies into corporate strategies to deliver organisational value’[1].

So, a structured approach to long term people development is important to ensure your company is ready to get the most out of coaching.  Some companies offer coaching as a type of perk – it is up to the individual and coach to determine the goals and there is limited assessment of the impact of coaching on the individual, and on the company. The integration of coaching within the organisation, and its alignment to strategy, is important if this discipline is to realise its potential.  Without alignment, there is a risk that coaching only generates improvement at an individual level and the opportunity to contribute to the strategic direction of the business might not be realised.   Coaching programmes within organisations will therefore be more effective if they operate in a culture where people are treated as assets and where there is a strong integrated framework to support the management and development of people.

Executive coaching should be regarded as part of a leadership development strategy.  Holbeche[2] advocated conducting a needs analysis to determine what development is needed and how it can best be provided – prioritising development needs using competencies and skills, often linked to 360-degree feedback mechanisms and psychometric tests.

Clutterbuck and Megginson[3] identified 4 phases in reaching a full coaching culture:

  1. Nascent, where there is little or no commitment to coaching
  2. Tactical, where the organisation recognises the value of coaching but there is little understanding of what it means and what will be involved
  3. Strategic, where considerable effort has been expended on educating managers and employees in the value of coaching and to upskill managers as coaches
  4. Embedded whereby people at all levels are engaged in coaching, both formal and informal

Effective coaching requires the right conditions including sponsorship from the top of the organisation and the policies and frameworks to embed coaching in the organisation.  Even when undertaken tactically, executive coaching generally has a positive impact on individuals and enhances performance and satisfaction at work, removing blockages and helping executives to reach their potential.  However, when a more strategic approach is taken to executive coaching, it can have a real impact on company performance and staff engagement.

Coaching is maturing in terms of professionalisation and growing as a key leadership skill.  It has potential for more visible impact by better aligning executive coaching interventions with business goals and better evaluation of impact.

I would like to the final word to go to Bill Campbell (1940 – 2016), previous CEO and Chair of Intuit, known as ‘Coach’ to those who knew him and mentor to Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt and Larry Page among others.  He wrote of the key lessons for leaders, something perhaps for us to emulate[4]:

  1. Care about people more than anything
  2. Judge people by more than their metrics
  3. Don’t separate the vision from the operations
  4. Put a premium on innovation
  5. Be completely trustworthy
  6. Give away credit
  7. Be yourself

 

Other blogs in this coaching series consider ‘Executive coaching, what’s it all about?’ and ‘Are your managers coaches?’

[1] CIPD (2015) Strategic human resource management factsheet (September 2015).  London: CIPD
[2] Holbeche, L. (2001) Aligning human resources and business strategy. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
[3] Clutterbuck, D. and Megginson, D. (2005) Making coaching work. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
[4] 7 Leadership Lessons From the Coach Who Mentored Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, and Jeff Bezos, Fortune Magazine, INC.com, APR 19, 2016