A Coaching Power Tool Created by Michail Vasiliou
(Business Coach, GREECE)
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes, Marcel Proust (The Captive, 1923)
Businesses and individuals tend to focus on financial strategies and outcomes, to remain competitive through profitable results. In this process, success is defined by deliverables that demonstrate authority, innovation, and an unquestionably high turnover in the respective field and in given time frames. In my long-term experience in a multinational organization, I have often seen upper management talk numbers without looking further ahead. But can numeric results -such as monthly evaluations- guarantee great performance in the long run? How could we ensure a steady growth in both financial and strategic planning, all the while creating and preserving a healthy and productive workforce?
Studying coaching has helped me discover the importance of change in mental processes and attitudes. The following Power Tool aims at finding the right balance between getting what you want and carefully choosing how to get it. The scope here is to incentivize as per the long-term benefits of personal empowerment and development through a change in perspectives. By taking into account the way that things get done, rather than seeking exclusively numeric results, businesses can maximize their competitiveness through long-lasting improvement measures. Although this may, at first, seem more time-consuming and uneconomical, it can actually increase performance and results in the long run. Moreover can ensure self-balance within the process.
The “What” Philosophy
The capitalist economy promotes hectic and result-oriented business models that are expected to ensure the best financial outcomes. In these models, performance and success are measured in direct proportion to quantity results, which are examined during fixed and often very short time frames. Such rapid operational rhythms ensure maximum profits and competitive advantages for businesses. Setting precise goals allows the creation of clear organizational steps, and, therefore, it makes a well-defined business plan possible. Accordingly, the “What” philosophy is ideal for business agendas that are strictly based on measurable results and that make high financial projections. Focusing on the “What”, however, means that the respective business has the potential to implement all the necessary strategies and to take all the possible risks. In this context, leadership focuses primarily on the endgame and gives lesser roles to smooth operations and its employees’ wellbeing.
In goal-oriented businesses, managerial practices often become more authoritative, or even intimidating; leadership is, in that sense, considerably detached from the personnel’s chances for growth and development. Strict result-orientation can collide with healthier models of sustaining productive personnel and good vibes in the workplace. This, in turn, can threaten the organization’s stability through ‘broken’ or unmotivated teams: it can harm cohesion in project management, and, ultimately, it can annihilate the organization’s consistency, by destroying fundamental bonding elements, such as team spirit and trusting relationships. Subsequently, several risks lurk over organizations and their respective teams, such as low morale and poor coordination, extra cost, and inevitable prioritization of certain projects at the expense of others. Overall, goal-oriented practices can lead to personal distress through demoralizing and exhausting leadership, as well as to other measurable damages with immediate impact on business structure and performance.
By focusing on what they are pursuing, businesses can end up wasting valuable resources of both human and economic capital. Studies have shown that the fixation over financial objectives can lead to an over-use of human power, as well as to unanticipated expenses when executive coaching is absent or does not aim at changing behaviors that affect the business impact (Levenson, 2005, p. 20). This is a short-sighted approach that can delay other projects, and potentially create obstacles or deficiencies in future steps. As a result, the desired quantity/result will eventually harm the quality of the working environment, its dynamics, and its future potential to grow and succeed. Result-orientation can, in that sense, create and perpetuate a vicious circle of stress ad disappointment, and gradually lower productivity and efficiency by establishing a negative mindset on employees. Is it worth achieving your monthly goal, if you cannot ensure the same -or a better result for the next month and/or year?
The “How” Philosophy
‘A stitch in time saves nine’, says an English proverb: it implies that a timely response to deeply-rooted problems or deficiencies can save a lot of time and trouble in the future; therefore, it can be seen as more beneficial and, ultimately, more profitable. The “How” Philosophy consists of pursuing consistency and gradual development in the long-run, through the resolution of workforce-related problems in the present. This approach transcends the strictly financial and measurable objectives, and questions procedural tactics that affect employee mentality and attitudes.
The scope here is to find durable solutions for common and re-occurring obstacles usually related to employee distress and/or team malfunctions. To achieve this, experienced and savvy leadership needs to provide their teams with proper support, training, and motivation. As is the case with successful sports teams, so do business settings require intensive training and skill development; they can also benefit from challenging situations, and, surely, they need confidence boosts through skillfully designed time and work-load management (Martens, 2004, p.202). In this approach, success is interlinked with sustainable trustworthy relationships, upon which one can rely now and always. This may ensure smooth functioning, as well as steady growth and development at both individual and group levels.
The “How” philosophy focuses primarily on the company’s culture: the “unwritten rules, values, norms, behaviors, and other practices that collectively define how work gets done” (Anderson et al., 2009, p. 20). Although it can prove to be very beneficial for working relations and employee morale, focusing on how the work gets done does not necessarily mean that the work actually gets done. The “How” can block progress and it can severely affect the desired business results, as it can stagnate over behavioral issues at the expense of work performance. This suggests the need for finding the right balance between efficacy and performance, and this is exactly where coaching gets -if allowed- to play a great role.
Use Coaching to Find the Golden Mean
Ideally, the company culture connects competencies and knowledge with all the dynamics that influence group effectiveness and the overall business performance (Levenson, 2005, pp.11,12). Although there are many ways to measure organizational success through strategic and financial evaluations, careful consideration of the complex business dynamics and interactions can, indeed, create procedural improvements that will, ultimately, benefit business competitiveness (Levenson, 2005, p.15). Coaching has the potential to nurture the necessary momentum that an organization needs, to gain durable positive results. In several types of research, statistics have shown that savvy coaching aiming at organizational modifications through behavioral and mental shifts has improved business performance (Vidal-Salazar et al., 2012, pp.15,17). This is because coaching increases awareness in its recipients, through deep introspection. Such processes, once revealed, can transform one’s mindset and lead one towards constant improvement and growth. By opening new horizons in people’s minds, coaching can support individuals that are not only equipped to detect problems and deficiencies but, also, to respond effectively and manage all possible challenges –albeit on their own or in a team.
How can we shift focus from the strictly financial objectives of today (the “What”) towards strategic tactics for tomorrow (the “How)? How can we ensure that result-orientation does not collide with procedural elements and, thus, harms the fabric of the organization and a person himself? Improvement and sustainability in business may come if we ask the following questions:
- What is your goal today? How its success contributes to tomorrow?
- What is urgent for you and what is important? How do you define priority between the two?
- How do you gain competitive advantages in the long run?
- What momentum does your company need?
- What are the elements you recognize or acknowledge in a process of achievements?
- How do you define patience in the process?
Result-oriented leadership can intimidate the personnel and spread negative psychology in the workplace. This will inevitably result in uninspired and emotionally exhausted personnel with questionable performance and efficiency. Ask yourself:
- What will make both the company and the personnel happier?
- What is the true value of a precise measurable objective?
- What is the true value of implementing measures that boost trust and productivity?
- How do you define a solid investment that will last forever?
For the personnel to be content and productive, they have to feel empowered, through a strong sense of belonging in a team; they should also be confident that they constantly have proper training and all the necessary tools to respond to challenging situations.
Many clients find it difficult to pursue their goals and reach their financial objectives without sacrificing strategic factors that affect the work environment and morale. In this way, they expose themselves to several risks that can affect performance, as well as the very foundations of their respective organizations. Similarly, clients that over-concentrated on behavioral practices are prone to significant measurable damages. In both cases, coaching can be beneficial, due to its practical implications in business organization and performance.
The present Power Tool has focused on seeking the right balance between what the client wants and how they set out to get it. Coaching encourages changes in perception so that the client envisions success and growth through sustainability. By granting more value to the process that leads to success rather than just fixating on numbers, I have linked the maximization of competitiveness to the promotion of skills and training, as well as to the prevention of damage through awareness. In doing so, I have insisted upon the predominance of long-lasting improvement measures, over hectic and unilaterally result-oriented strategies.
Coaching is a valuable tool that can enhance business results. However, for it to fully reach its potential, it requires strong insight and scrutiny as per the complexities and the variables that are inherent to each business. Coaching practices need to evolve along with the business world, and they have to adjust to changing models and/or changing realities. More importantly, coaching practices have to offer personalized solutions that can alter and/or improve the dynamics in given situations and environments. If embraced, coaching can do miracles both in team-building and in result-orientated contexts.
Anderson, M. C., Frankovelgia, C., &Hernez-Broome, G. (2009). In focus/coaching: Business leaders reflect on coaching cultures. Leadership in Action, 28(6), 20–22.
Levenson, A. (2005). Measuring and Maximizing the Impact of Executive Coaching. PsycEXTRA Dataset. https://doi.org/10.1037/e519612013-017
Martens, R. (2004). Better practice planning. Successful coaching (3rd ed., pp. 202–210). Human Kinetics. https://bit.ly/3pscVfd
Vidal‐Salazar, M. D., Ferrón‐Vílchez, V., &Cordón‐Pozo, E. (2012). Coaching: an effective practice for business competitiveness. Competitiveness Review, 22(5), 423–433. https://doi.org/10.1108/10595421211266302