The Rise of Coaching
I recently enjoyed a wonderful on-line session with the brilliant Ian Florance, published author and coaching expert. The session was on the use of Psychometrics in Coaching, which supported his book of the same name. I’ll come back to that subject later. The thing that grabbed me from the session was Ian’s observation on the Rise of Coaching in business. This really hit home for me as DST people has seen a 10-fold increase in coaching over the last 12 months – and anecdotally, talking to my colleagues at The Network of Consulting Professionals, they are reporting a similar increase. So here are my own, and my colleagues’, observations on why this is happening (and it’s not just because we’re getting better at it, I promise).
Coaching is for everyone – at all levels of an organisation
Historically we would refer to coaching as “Executive Coaching” at DST people. The inference being that only senior executives would qualify for coaching. “Qualify for coaching?” I hear you say? The only explanation that I could give here is that we only saw the value of coaching very senior people. Which when you read it sounds pretty silly doesn’t it? Many organisations are seeing individual coaching at all levels as a great way to develop skills and behaviours, retain people, clarify and drive succession planning as well as a great way to keep their teams engaged.
It could also be, as Ian Florance suggests, that there has been a shift away from group programs as a source of development. That is, emerging, younger or developing leaders would historically attend group programs. While still effective, and a great way to learn and develop, on-line or individual learning is the preferred development option of many organisations. While group programs can be great, they are not typically tailored, and they are rarely individualised. Coaching is both! Individualised and tailored content can be employed at every level, and with any staff member.
Increased recognition of the value of Human Skills
Simon Sinek tells us not to call them “Soft Skills”, but rather “Human Skills” and I wholeheartedly agree. How are skills such as learning how to have a difficult conversation or managing conflict “Soft”? They are not, but they are “human”. Typically, organisations that value developing and retaining their people also understand the importance of developing these “human skills”. Coaching is a great way to achieve development in both skills (listening, empathy, how to have a difficult conversation etc) and behaviours. And by engaging with the use of Psychometrics, and/or great coaching skills from a great coach, highly valuable and achievable goals can be attained.
There are also growing expectations at all levels of an organisation that there will be development focus on human skills, not just technical skills. How long have we put people into management and leadership roles, without teaching them to lead, or developing them as leaders. Organisations are realising that the shortest path to successfully retaining their teams and to grow as a business, is to develop their people. Coaching is a great way to do this.
The power of Listening
Stephen Covey tells us to “listen with the intent to understand, not to respond.” This statement is rooted in the principle that there is great power in just being heard. This is at the core of what a good coach does: listens. The coachee feels heard, validated and empowered. Tactful, appropriate follow up questions can then add to the learning and growth experience. I have met and worked with many great leaders and managers in both my consulting and coaching careers and also in my corporate life. I would have to say that managers and leaders who actually listen are few and far between. I am not laying blame here. A lack of listening is often a function of limited time, conflicting priorities or a filter on the issue or scenario. Sometimes the issue isn’t even with the leader/manager – they may be listening, but the employee may not be able to convey the message in a way that the receiver understands.
I recently had lunch with one of my great friends from high school, and he had just lead his organisation through a major acquisition. This process was pretty open to his senior leadership team, and he had very high expectations of his team during the sale process. He was espousing the incredible value of engaging a coach for his team during this stressful time. The benefit was the trusted advisor, confidant, and sounding board that his appointed business coach provided. His team were able to “download” with the coach, air and clarify their concerns and fears, and receive coaching on coping tools and techniques during a busy and stressful time. Another benefit he highlighted was that the coach was able to give him a “heads up” on any deeper issues or challenges that may be present. That is, “hey, go easy with Will this week, he’s going through a particularly bad spot currently”. These “heads up” conversations did not breach confidentiality, but provided some great support for both team members and their managers. My coaching experience tells me that these “heads up” conversations are actually often with the approval of the coachee.
“It takes a village to raise a child”
The phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” originates from an African proverb and conveys the message that it takes many people (“the village”) to provide a safe, healthy environment for children, where children are given the security they need to develop and flourish, and to be able to realize their hopes and dreams. An environment where the child’s voices are heard, taken seriously and where multiple sources influence the child’s development.
A coach can be a member of the village with respect to personal, and professional development. An external, impartial and unbiased ear. An advisor.
As mentioned previously, the motivation to write this story was Ian Florance’s session on the use of Psychometrics in Coaching. One of the coach’s primary roles is provide an external, impartial and unbiased ear; to listen and ask questions. The coach’s role can also be to support development and growth goals. My experience aligns perfectly with Ian’s in that we both agree using a psychometric assessment to help recognise and establish development plans is a perfect way to be impartial and unbiased. That is to say, most psychometrics or personality profiles will identify areas of personality where they differ from others. Good tools will also identify strengths and weaknesses aligned with different areas of our personality. This unbiased, impartial (and presumably valid) information provides a brilliant launching pad for development. Many organisations are recognising and leveraging profiles for selection, development, and many other purposes. Our favourite tool at DST people is Facet5.
I’m sure that there are many other reasons that we are seeing a rise in the demand for and use of coaching, and I hope that my reflections have sparked you to think on some of them.
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