What I really, really want …

Concern about the long term state of the world, including the environment, and how to achieve work/life balance are among the top issues for women, suggests an international survey.

Women spend a significant amount of time and energy, often during working hours, working out how to achieve a satisfactory work/life balance, according to a survey of more than 400 women aged from 18 to 94 by Next Generation Coaching.

Many highlighted the stress involved in attempting to create this balance. Coaches can help their female clients analyze options for dealing with stressful situations, understand the physiological affects of stress, think about stressful events in a constructive way and learn to deal positively with negative thoughts.

The recession means longer working hours for many. The challenge for coaches is to help their clients to identify measures that will help them feel able to do this and engage fully during working hours, rather than being distracted by personal or home issues. This includes extending coaching into the family arena.

Women of all ages expressed concern about the long term state of the world and environment, suggesting coaches need to help organisations consider the business implications of this, say Kim Morgan, Sonya Shellard and Robin Edwards of Next Generation Coaching.

“Put simply, is it enough to be “green”, or do companies need to do more to portray an ethical image on company and recruitment websites to attract top female talent?” said Shellard.

Women attribute equal weight to the importance of home and work, suggests the survey. Respondents of all ages confirmed that career can simultaneously have both a positive and a negative impact on their home lives.

The survey underlines the importance of coaching the “whole person” when working on professional issues, stressed Shellard.

The survey highlights how women’s priorities change according to age, stage of life and career goals. One solution will not fit all ages or career stages, which is significant for coaches working with organizations on talent management and succession planning.

The survey underlines the importance of coaching the “whole person” when working on professional issues. Whether the coaching is around performance or promotion, getting to the crux of the matter means coaching around the client’s personal circumstances and aspirations. This will help clients to put aims and objectives into an overall life context, thus ensuring they are realistic, say Shellard, Morgan and Edwards.

“It is not by chance that the wheel of life/balance wheel is to be found in many coaches’ tool boxes!” said Shellard.

Next Generation Coaching asked women what they most enjoy and see as their greatest achievements in life. And what tends to be uppermost in their thoughts and about their greatest concerns. Two themes emerged:

Work-life balance.

Whether in their twenties or sixties, career and work appeared at the heart of women’s answers to all the key questions. All spoke of the challenge of pursuing a career and balancing this with home life. The nature and relative importance of various commitments alter with age, from caring for children to looking after aging parents, or simply having some free time for outside interests or to adopt a different lifestyle.

As one woman in her late 30’s put it:
“I get stressed about not being able to get everything done on time, whether at home or at work. Life is passing too quickly and I never leave enough time to do the things I want to do – like spending quality time with the children, my partner – well, just relax really and keep my sense of humour!”
Thoughts about career were frequently “double edged”. For example an important promotion would be celebrated, but also count as a concern as women puzzled how to juggle the commitment and energy required with the impact on home life.

Concern over the world economy, political state and environment

It is no surprise that the majority expressed concern over the state of the economy and “green issues”. Apprehension about funding retirement was cited by many, particularly in the 40 plus age group. Next Generation was struck by the heartfelt concern expressed by women of all ages about the long term state of the world and environment. One respondent said:

“I worry about where we are going as a country and the mess we are getting in! Not just this but the worldwide recession. I worry about my children’s future and what they will have to cope with, what the world will be like in 30 years time with terrorism and global warming. Closer to home I am concerned about the value of my pension and how I will fund my old age. Everything seems to be so volatile …”

Issues through the ages of women

20s – acquisitive/hiring decade
The majority found most enjoyment in securing challenging work, citing gaining qualifications and career success as their greatest achievement. This outranked relationships and socialising.
The main concerns were whether they would be able to “have it all” and about fulfilling their potential. Job security, everyday issues at work and future prospects occupied thoughts prominently.

30s – juggling/engaging decade
The emphasis shifts in this decade, with the ability to juggle career and family life successfully emerging both as a source of great satisfaction and as the greatest challenge. Raising families, gaining qualifications, career successes (such as promotion) and achieving work life balance were all important achievements.
Job security, identifying a fulfilling career, work problems and direction ranked alongside family concerns as the most pressing thoughts.

40s – reinforcing, rediscovery decade
The ability to identify a different kind of work, possibly in a new field, to fit with values and lifestyle resonated with this decade.
Raising a family and pursuing a successful career ranked as the top two achievements.
In addition to career choices and difficulty of working part time, women placed more emphasis on time spent worrying about debt and finances, in particular retirement funds. Health starts to worry women in their 40s.

50s – fulfilment decade
Women valued their independence and personal freedom resulting from the ability to work part time or change direction and fewer family ties.
The greatest achievement identified was financial independence/security and enjoying fulfilling careers.
Financial security and health in retirement became the number one concern.

60s – recognition decade
Women valued the opportunity to study and begin new careers. The ability to adopt a less stressful or desired job or lifestyle also featured strongly. Health and adopting a healthy lifestyle coupled with money and care in old age were the top concerns and women commented that they spent much time thinking about these factors.

Public spending cuts have far-reaching impact on coaching

The drastic cuts in UK public spending announced on 20 October in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) will impact coaching in myriad ways.

UK Chancellor George Osborne has set out around £83 billion in public spending cuts, the largest cutbacks in Government expenditure since the emergency budgets of the post World War II era. In the wake of the CSR, coaches and coaching buyers interviewed by Coaching at Work predict growing numbers of clients presenting with stress, anxiety or depression.
This will make greater demands on coaches who will need to ensure they have adequate training and supervision to cope and be of service to the client.

However, they also predict greater opportunities for those coaching around redundancy, careers, transition and change, resilience and setting up new businesses, for example.

Public sector coaching offerings across the UK will feel the pinch. Ken Smith, co-ordinator of the Coaches in Government Network, said the use of external coaches in central government is likely to continue to be very restricted and: “The deeper underlying trend, within the current austerity measures and rationalisation of L&D, to run down the internal L&D capability in the sector will continue and carry with it a sharp decline in the investment required to sustain and further develop internal coaching, within and across departments.”

However whilst cutbacks or worse in public sector coaching schemes are inevitable, many predict coaching will hold its own. It is seen as an asset to support radical structural and other change in the public sector, according to a report by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council and Institute of Business Consulting, External executive coaching: a joint study of sponsors´ experiences and perspectives, by Paula Roberts, a member of both the EMCC and the IBC’s Steering Committee for Coaching.

Kathy Ashton, people development manager at Leeds Metropolitan University, said the university had already cut back from six to four faculties, with other restructures in areas including HR in the pipeline as it geared up to deal with the CSR.

However, she said:
“Coaching is being viewed by our university as something that will support organisational change, rather than as something which might be affected by it in a negative way.”
Ashton is defining the offer as “coaching in transition”, and offering it to managers affected by change, during their transition either into a different role within our university, or indeed a transition towards voluntary redundancy.
“It can be really useful in supporting staff needing to make decisions about future roles too,” she said.

Many public sector leaders such as Sue Mortlock, associate-leadership at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, felt as their organisation had many coaching successes under their belt, it was unlikely that coaching would now be abandoned. Instead there would be opportunities for doing things differently.
“There are opportunities to be creative there for the taking,” said Mortlock.

Smith said: “Coaches are likely to be working in the short to medium term with clients on agendas focussed on transition, either out of their organisations or into new roles in substantially reshaped ones. This will bring consequences for coaches’ skill set and even for their personal resilience and well-being, as they find themselves working more often with more emotional content.”

Public sector executives are “rabbits in the headlights” as they face having to implement radical cuts for the first time in their careers, according to a respondent to the EMCC/IBC report.

Two coaches told Coaching at Work they had public sector clients who feared they would never work again. Others were already encountering much more stress, anxiety and even depression, including suicidal thoughts in clients. Coaching supervision is and will be a lifeline, said one.

Independent coach Marianne Craig has worked for many years with career changers but working with people who are being forced to change sector or career is very different for both client and coach.

“I believe that coaches have much to offer the thousands of people facing redundancy as well as those managing the changes. The huge scale of the change presents both a challenge for coaches and an opportunity – for example to become skilful in working with anger, fear and grief.”

Independent coach and occupational psychologist Lynne Spencer, who runs the CIPD´s open course, Career Coaching, agreed career coaching redundant employees is very different.

“It needs a health warning attached. Along with other medical and addiction related topics, it is perhaps the main area of work psychology which can involve life and death or severe mental health risks.”

Spencer warned that coaches need to be able to pick up on signs of depression and anxiety and to know both when to refer and to whom and when coaching around careers, they need to be realistic about work options.

Many coaches are responding to the climate by getting more training under their belt, in redundancy coaching, for example. Santander´s Caroline Curtis, who works with external clients on a pro-bono basis, plans to take a course in psychotherapy.

How you think public sector cutbacks will affect coaching

Many coaches and coach supervisors will need more training to help them work with stress, anxiety and depression and to know when to refer on

Increased need for coaching supervision to help coaches work on their own resilience

Many public sector coaching schemes cut back or disbanded

More creativity in surviving schemes

More demand for coaching offers including:

  • redundancy coaching
  • transition coaching
  • careers coaching
  • stress and wellbeing coaching
  • coaching supervision
  • coaching around change
  • leadership coaching

More pressure to evaluate coaching and show return on expectation

Coaches need to ask themselves whether their fees are too high

Businesses find it hard to identify fit-for-purpose coaches

Senior talent professionals find identifying external executive coaches with the right mix of skills and experience a frustrating experience.

This was one of the key findings of a study by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) UK and the Institute of Business Consulting (IBC).

Coaches need to explain and distinguish themselves with greater precision and subtlety and buyers need to show greater finesse in drawing up person specifications for coaches and in their approach to coach selection and recruitment, says the report, External executive coaching: a joint study of sponsors´ experiences and perspectives, by Paula Roberts, the report’s author and a member of both the EMCC and the IBC’s Steering Committee for Coaching

Diane Newell, managing director, EMCC UK, said, “It is clear that in selecting coaches buyers are looking for surety around their practice and ethics as a base line, through qualifications and accreditation. To find the coaches who really meet the organisation’s need they also want to be able to differentiate at a higher order for example around a coach’s general business acumen, sector specific experience and the ability to work credibly and effectively at a senior level”.

The study set out to gain a better understanding of corporate buyers’ perspectives on coaching and the coaching profession through interviews by experienced coaches with 20 senior decision-makers.

Structured reflection, raising self awareness and confidence were highlighted as the most significant benefits of external executive coaching. Other benefits include better strategic working and networking, and countering loneliness in leadership. Concerns include sustainability of behaviour change, risk of dependency and that some types of intervention originating in therapy are unsuited to business context.

There was wide divergence in perspective as to “the right conditions” for effective and cost-effective coaching, particularly between the public and private sectors.

Public sector sponsors tend to be more “light touch”, with heavy reliance on robust coach selection procedures for quality assurance and accountability. There was often an assumption that business benefits would naturally follow wholly client centred coaching programmes although this is shifting.

Private sector sponsors were highly conscious of value for money, with robust contracting and close sponsor involvement the cornerstone of ROI. There was strong support for a non-directive approach in coaching, with emphasis upon vigorous challenge and skilful feedback and unwavering focus upon agreed agenda and outcomes.

There was little appetite generally for formal and quantitative ROI evaluation and widespread frustration that line managers are insufficiently engaged in contracting.

The IBC was created by the merger of the Institute of Business Advisers and the Institute of Management Consultancy, previously two separate organisations within the Chartered Management Institute.

For a copy of the report, contact Paula Roberts: paula.roberts @ felicitasassociates.co.uk
See X, pages 12 and 13 (Selection report)

Charity coaching in motion

Two coaches have joined forces to set up a not-for-profit venture to bring high quality and affordable coaching to charities. Anne-Kathrin Alaoui and Richard Griffiths who are currently studying the first year of a Masters in Professional Coaching with i-coach academy, are on a mission to change what they say is a common attitude in charities, that coaching is a luxury which is justifiable only for senior executives. Cocomotion also offers students on coach training programmes the chance to access diverse coaching clients and coaching experiences as well as charities access to quality coaching. Anne-Kathrin Alaoui said: “We believe that […]

Mounting pressure to tackle stress to bring opportunities for coaches

Pressure is mounting on employers to step up their stress prevention and management strategies and coaching is likely to be just what the doctor ordered.

Ignoring responsibilities in stress prevention and management can expose employers to a number of legal risks, warns a guide produced by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) with support from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), advisory body Acas and the cross-government Health, Work and Wellbeing programme. The guide spells out employers’ legal obligations in identifying and preventing stress at work.

As the pressure increases, increasing numbers of organisations are turning to coaching to help them improve employees’ wellbeing. Balfour Beatty is one such organisation- within its Plant & Fleet Services division, coaching is at the heart of a multi-pronged wellness programme. The programme focuses on peak performance, emotional intelligence, wellness and use of the HeartMath resilience tool (“Balfour Beatty rolls out executive ‘wellness’ programme to all staff”, Coaching at Work, Volume 5, Issue 4)

Coaching can not only help indentify stress but can help employees develop strategies to tackle existing stress and prevent unhelpful responses in the future, as well as increasing wellbeing generally. Profesor Stephen Palmer, director of City University London’s Coaching Psychology Unit and author of a number of studies and books on stress, said:

“ When we set up the Coaching Psychology Unit at City University London, stress and coaching was a specific area that we decided to research and it’s remained high on our agenda. One item that coachees report is that coaching helps them manage or reduce stress. The research appears to back this up. What has interested us is how stress levels are reduced and wellbeing are improved even if they were not goals to be addressed in the coaching conversation. These are the hidden benefits of coaching which may be overlooked by employers. Solution focused and cognitive behavioural coaching are ideal approaches to assist in stress reduction and enhancing performance at work.”

Coaching can also help improve communication between managers and their direct reports- open communication makes it easier for managers to notice telltale signs. Jane Bird, director of operational policy and performance, Acas, said: “Effective line management is key to preventing stress where possible and managing it when it does occur. If managers create and maintain effective, two-way communication, they are more likely to notice when someone is struggling and intervene.”

The CIPD’s guide, Work-related stress: what the law says, was written by John Hamilton, head of safety, health and wellbeing at Leeds Metropolitan University. It highlights recent cases where employers have faced significant compensation payouts for failing to identify and prevent stress adequately, as well as providing advice on how employers can tackle stress through good people management.

Dame Carol Black, national director for health and work, commented: “It is in employers’ interests to manage stress at work proactively and not just assume all staff are coping, particularly in a tough economic environment where many employees are under pressure to do more with less.”

The CIPD’s quarterly July 2010 Employee Outlook survey showed almost half (49%) of staff have noticed an increase in stress at work as a result of the economic downturn.

Ben Willmott, senior public policy adviser, CIPD, said stress at work can have a significant impact on business performance. “Employers that fail to manage stress effectively risk losing key staff through high absence levels and employee turnover. They will also suffer from low staff morale and risk higher levels of conflict and accidents in the workplace. In addition, they potentially face costly personal injury claims, as well as damage to their employer brand.”

Managers misjudge their strengths and weaknesses

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ICF gauges global awareness of coaching

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Bottom-line measures ‘undermine’ coaching

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Top talent value coaching, mentoring and networking the most

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Nasa’s rocket scientists hone people skills

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