This thought paper will explore insights, questions and approaches that may help those of us in the coaching field to better understand and manage success when implementing coaching practices in the workplace.
Dr. LaBier’s observation is that the results and perceived value from coaching gets blurred because what CEO’s want from coaching is not what studies show they need, nor what they think coaching provides:
- “What they want includes more tangible and measureable skills such as conflict management or communications.
- What they think coaching provides feels soft to them, less tangible, not measureable and hard to link to performance results. “Areas such as compassion, relationship and persuasion skills are far down the list, ancillary at best.”
- What they need are core coaching elements that grow all skills and effectiveness; increased self-awareness, honest self-knowledge about motives, personality, capacity and values.” What they need is what drives long term talent effectiveness, tied to profitability and employee retention. Most companies want these in their business but don’t envision how coaching relates to that.
In studying these wants, provisions and needs of coaching so companies understand and support coaching as a business enabler, several themes will be explored based on publications and references that seem connected:
- Dr. LaBier’s article which provides findings from several published studies on corporate coaching results.
- ‘Coaching That Counts’, by Dianna Anderson and Merrill Anderson, published 2005 by Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0’, by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.
- Johari Window-A model for Self-Awareness, Personal Development, Group Development and Understanding Relationships” adapted from www.businessballs.com © copyright Alan Chapman.
- An example vendor coaching program and my personal experience as a certified facilitator for training leaders as coaches of their sales employees.
Understanding the Gaps between Coaching Wants, Needs and What Companies Think it Provides
Successful and sustainable coaching programs come from delivering solutions that solve gaps between coaching wants and needs. They also align and validate costs and benefits for companies, coaches, coaching program leaders and clients. It gives the coaching profession much to think about and many opportunities to implement successful and sustainable coaching programs that can drive company profitability, senior leadership engagement and the benefits to clients through the leaders of the programs.
Dr. LaBier believes that “the failure of some coaching programs is that they don’t provide the infrastructure for demonstrating that successful leadership vision and behavior is heightened self-awareness about one’s motives, personality traits and values.”
He summarizes that:
- “The higher you go up in companies, the more you are dealing with psychological and relational issues.”
- “Successful senior leadership requires astuteness about the personal, self-interest, emotional and strategic drivers of self and others which lead to leadership self-knowledge and self-awareness.”
- “A key part of self-awareness is empathy.” The author also points out that several studies have shown that increased power reduces empathy. “As power increases, power-holders are more likely to assume that others’ insights match their own.”
- Based on research and studies by the Stanford Business School, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and a recent Canadian research study, self-awareness and the growth it supports, combined with business strategies, practices and perspectives, can and should be at the heart of executive coaching and leadership programs. “Deep down, many leaders do not believe it is they who need to change.”
For over 30 years in corporate roles within Human Resources, training, business leadership and communications, this dilemma has interested me because I have personally witnessed different coaching approaches and solutions depending on what companies are trying to solve for. Whether delivering solutions to satisfy for coaching wants, needs, or what they think coaching is, I have personally observed that there is rarely a link between coaching participation and leadership effectiveness or rewards. Senior leadership effectiveness is often rewarded when business results are delivered through relationships they have with their leaders and/or they provide specific expertise needed at the time.
I have also observed and been a part of implementing coaching programs and approaches that try to enhance leadership effectiveness while mingled with training them to be better performance managers and communicators. This is similar to the research findings that show that is what leaders want. If leaders want it, the programs tend to be purchased or supported. However, if goals and measures are not developed and aligned strategically, events or training takes place that can be checked off the list by attending sessions rather than demonstrating new proficiencies. This leads to coaching programs and processes becoming flavors of the month, adding individual value along the way, but not perceived as strong important drivers of culture and business goals or respected and sustainable.