A round-up of articles to help managers adopt a coaching style.

Coaching helps police cope

British Transport Police (BTP) is extending its cascading internal coach development programme nationally. BTP kicked off its Coaching Cascade programme in its 900-strong London Underground force but is now rolling it out across the 2,900 members of its organisation. The Association of Chief Police Officers has estimated that some 28,000 police jobs will be lost over the next four years. Coaching is seen as one way to help police officers do their jobs well amid these swathing job cuts. “The public cuts mean a reduction in police officers. If we go in the direction of Canada, for example, where they […]

L&D a priority, despite cuts

Although public sector employers have cut back on learning and development (L&D), e-learning, coaching and in-house programmes are on the rise, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s annual 2011 Learning and Talent Development survey. Coaching and mentoring occurs in more than four-fifths (86 per cent) of organisations, up from 82 per cent in 2010. In two-fifths, line managers have the main responsibility for delivering coaching. Internal coaches have the main responsibility in a third of organisations, while for one-fifth it lies with external consultants. Businesses have increased the use of less costly development practices, such as e-learning […]

Viewpoint – learn to unlearn

Kelly Walsh and Jonathan Zneimer In sport, as in coaching, unlearning ‘weaknesses’ can lead to a real step-change in performance Coaching and sport go hand in hand. From the Inner Game to the GROW model, we have seen companies transferring lessons and transforming performance as a result. In sport, where the smallest of margins separate winners and losers, performers and their coaches seek to develop mindsets that make game-changing shifts. Inevitably this involves learning, but we’ve noticed that real step change occurs when they embrace the principle of ‘unlearning’. Unlearning is the process by which we discard obsolete or misleading […]

TroubleShooter – care to join us?

A group of managers are to be trained in coaching, along with their CEO. Participants must practise together between sessions but the CEO is not keen. How can he be persuaded to take part? I have been asked by a medium-sized organisation to train a group of managers in coaching skills. The training will be spread over three months, in pairs of days, and a key aspect is for the participants to practise with each other between training sessions. This is an essential part of the programme because people learn best by making mistakes, and working with a course buddy […]

Sharp practice

Coaching at the sharp end or consulting at the high end? The CIPD’s Learning and Talent Development survey has thrown up some searching questions. John McGurk explains why

Coaching is growing as a central part of manager skills and behaviours. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Learning and Talent Development (L&TD) survey 2011, indicates that coaching and mentoring occurs in more than four-fifths (86 per cent) of organisations, which is a very high and consistently stable level (2010 was 82 per cent). Aside from 2006, where it dropped slightly, the ‘incidence’ of coaching has never been higher. This is consistent across sectors and sizes of organisation.

The primary objective of coaching and mentoring is reported as supporting performance management (43 per cent), followed by preparing and supporting people in leadership roles (33 per cent) and supporting learning and development (21 per cent).

In two-fifths of organisations, line managers have the main responsibility for delivering coaching. Internal coaches have the main responsibility in a third, while for one-fifth it lies with external consultants.

Responsibility for coaching appears to be particularly mixed in very small organisations (up to 50 people). Half (50 per cent) report that line managers have the main responsibility, while more than two-fifths report that it lies with external consultants (46 per cent) and internal coaches (44 per cent). It may be that in very small businesses it is outsourced at leadership levels only.

Some companies are using coaching and mentoring as a high impact low cost intervention in these hard times. Some are bringing to fruition strategies to develop coaching capability where it has cascaded through. It’s an indicator of the value and assumed impact of coaching that they continue.

What is the role of the external coach/consultant in all of this? Many tell me they would love to have coaching, but that an executive coach is not what they need. That’s because they want the coaching to be delivered through line managers and teams.

I was recently invited to speak at a major Financial Services Authority conference aimed at financial service professionals. They wanted to know how coaching and mentoring could help them deliver what they call Training and Compliance (T&C).

Help or hindrance?

Drawing on CIPD research such as our Developing Coaching Capability project with Ashridge, and our Coaching at the Sharp End research with Portsmouth, I explained that coaching was an ideal method for delivering T&C.

I put this in terms of structuring powerful, productive conversations around the three Cs: compliance, competence and customer. These are the critical ‘needs’ for learning in the financial services sector.

I introduced them to some projects involving coaching in financial environments, particularly our work with Zurich Financial and M&G Fund management. I also related coaching to the SMEs and micro-business climates, which many small independent financial advice firms operate within. I used basic techniques such as GROW, OSKAR and CIGAR to relate coaching to them.

I also explained that coaching linked to L&TD and to organisational development offered a systematic pathway to sustainable organisation performance, especially in times of adversity.

This audience seemed engaged and energised by the idea of using coaching and mentoring. This caused me to reflect:

Is the executive label leaving you behind the curve when the real issue is coaching capability?

What’s our market?

Earlier in the week I had been approached by a leading coaching academic to help him gain an idea of the size of the executive coaching market in the UK. I explained the difficulties in estimating this.

Half the time we don’t know what executive coaching is. Is it coaching ‘masters of the universe’ and executive teams – as in a minority of cases? Is it coaching leaders, whoever we believe those to be, through internal coaches? Is it the majority activity of helping organisations and individuals develop coaching capability? Many coaches – primarily internal – are involved in the latter.

The executive label, with its elitist connotations, concerns me. If we mean business and organisational coaching – as opposed to life coaching – why don’t we just say so?

Overuse of the ‘executive coaching’ label gets in the way of showing the real value of coaching – as do some executive coaches.

We must understand the organisations we are delivering to and their needs. The fact is, organisations need coaching skills and they need coaches who can help deliver them. However, many coaches position themselves at the apex of the coaching pyramid. It is easy for firms to dismiss them as suppliers of this coaching capability.

Yes, I know that some of the best coaching delivery has come from consultants helping organisations build capability. Yet, as the case study of Signet Trading in our L&TD survey shows, much good practice is driven internally by enthusiastic L&TD practitioners.

I suggest that the label is used because some people think, like the bank robber asked why he robbed banks, that executive coaching is “where the money is”.

For me the value is in building whole organisation capability, embedding it and proving its impact.

Let’s ask ourselves searching questions. I’d like to hear yours too – the best will be used in Taking the Temperature of Coaching 2011.

Here are my questions:

  • Now coaching is becoming essential to the line manager’s people management skills, what, if anything, can external coaches add?
  • Are internal coaches now the pivotal resource in delivering coaching capability and how can you help them? Do they need your help?
  • Is it time you stopped confusing people by putting the ‘executive’ tag on coaching with all its mixed messages about both costs and access?
  • Is all good work going to be squandered anyway by poor evaluation across the board?

What can you do to tackle that?

These are genuine issues you need to address. In September at the CIPD Coaching At Work conference we will be discussing the results of our Taking the Temperature of Coaching survey, building on our 2009 results. This is a two-yearly look into coaching which allows us to go further than our learning and developments survey. In it I will be asking L&TD people how internal and external coaches are used, how mentoring is being practised as a distinct approach, and whether they think the labels and signals we put on coaching are getting in the way of effective coaching capability.

We need a real debate about what external coaches do around building coaching. Let’s choose the sharp end – not just the high end.

John McGurk is CIPD adviser on learning and talent development
Email him at: j.mcgurk@cipd.co.uk

Coaching at Work, Volume 6, Issue 3

Channel changer

In two years, Sky has overhauled its coaching to such an extent that it’s now woven into all its leadership programmes. It’s been a huge leap forward, discovers Liz Hall Coaching psychology is now well-established, but business people still joke about psychologists wearing sandals and being overly thoughtful when a thrusty business response is required. Certainly in a buzzy, fast-paced organisation like Sky, there has been less of an opportunity to match leaders and managers with coaches who have a strong psychological learning, says Rebecca Grace, talent development consultant with responsibility for coaching and mentoring at Sky. Recently, Sky has […]

Organisations to step up ‘informal’ learning

Organisations are planning to increase cheap internal activities such as peer mentoring and informal knowledge-sharing, says research by Henley. The majority of organisations will step up their learning and development activity in 2011. However, there has been a shift towards them doing it for themselves. Sixty-two per cent will increase informal knowledge-sharing among peers and 59 per cent will do more mentoring between peers, revealed the survey of more than 2,500 HR and non-HR managers from organisations with more than 500 people. Meanwhile, there has been a drop in the percentage of organisations planning to focus on leaders and coaching […]

Congress in brief

Spotting strengths The essential characteristics of an effective ‘strengthspotter’ have been identified for the first time. According to a study of 528 people by strengths expert Professor Alex Linley, they are: making connections between people and instinctively making links and introductions; creating conditions for people to grow and develop and providing fair and accurate feedback. Professor Linley’s paper, “The strengths of the strengthspotter: individual characteristics associated with the identification of strengths in others”, is due to be published this month (March) in International Coaching Psychology Review. Steppe change Russian CEOs need coaching to enlarge emotional competency, strengthen strategic thinking and […]

Bang on target

Continuing our series looking at coaching tools and techniques, Coaching at Work road-tests Firework Career Coaching 1 The tool: What is it? Firework Career Coaching is a flexible programme for coaches developed by Marianne Craig and Kate Edmonds. It consists of a one-day training module and a compendium of tools and exercises to help clients work out what they really want to do – and take action accordingly. The tools can be used either in a linear way, guiding clients through a 12-week programme with homework and 12 coaching sessions. Or it can be used as a reservoir of great […]

The best of health

When the NHS Institute decided to invest in supervision for its internal coaching it turned to Peter Hawkins of Bath Consultancy Group. Liz Hall finds out how the Seven Eyed Model has both enhanced coaching skills and saved money too Investing in internal coach supervision was the next logical step for the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement (NHS Institute), after having successfully built internal coaching capability and put in place a register of approved NHS external coaches.The business case was clear: it would enhance coaching skills, maintain capability, create regional pull for supervision and offset the cost of buying […]