An executive summary and an evaluation were sent back to reward their effort in the case they filled out the return email address field. Also a LinkedIn group was created for the further discussion and opinion exchange about the findings.
The questionnaire consists of six questions, starting from strategic perspective, which is the company’s main direction, towards the middle management development. The 2nd and the 6th questions ask for a rating between 1 and 4, where 4 was the biggest difference. The other 4 questions are open ones without limitations; there are no lists or examples behind, which would direct the answers.
The questionnaires were collected via email and analyzed with the help Microsoft-excel program. Within two months from the survey announcement the results were sent back to the participants.
Main findings and results
The survey was to discover the local corporate market relation to the middle management leadership coaching. Overall, the responses to the questionnaire clearly show that the corporate sector and corporate decision-makers are aware of the contribution range of middle managers to company results. From the open answers it is also obvious that the development of this management layer is a part of business thinking, even with such relatively new method as coaching. However, is typically not employed.
95% of the respondents stated that behavioral change is needed to achieve the profit after a change of strategic objectives (Appendix, Table 3). As to the responders, the basic criteria of a successful behavior change are the following:
- the behavior change can be seen in the profit only in long term
- the influence is not easily detectable and measurable
- importance of the extent of the behavior change, the amount of participants and their position in the organization
- clear and accurate communication towards the participants is essential – the exact expression of the expectations and priorities
- the company’s commitment to a high degree of organization
- KPI indicators need to reflect the program’s expectation
- participant need to have commitment toward changes
Regarding the above mentioned statements, business partners see the link between behavior change and profit, if it is managed by the criteria they listed.
They also have a very strong answer on the importance of the middle management competencies towards the results, since 89% of the respondents (Appendix, Graph 3) stated that ”front-line“ management competencies affect the results significantly (Appendix, Table 4). Not only do they know its importance but they are also very clear about their needs and expectations related to these competencies, as shown in question 3.
In the cases where there were no pre-defined answers to choose (Appendix, Table 5), the answers present the company’s most important competencies ranked in a frequency, in which these are expected from a middle manager. Each answer contained 3-4 competencies, which reflects the company’s current culture and strategy. The answers covered both skills and knowledge (Appendix, Table 6). Communication is far the most frequently mentioned skill, more than 50% of the respondents quoted it as a required competency. There are some really relevant competencies for the future leaders in middle management (Appendix, List 1), which were mentioned by less than 9% of the participants.
Even though the participants of the survey know the connection between middle management behavior and the company’s result, they are hindered by many obstacles, this is why they are not developing them with coaching. The mentioned obstacles can fall into three groups: The first one can be the corporate framework, organization and culture. The second can be the coachee’s problem. And the third can relate to poor coaching experience or not understanding gaps. It is worth mentioning, there were also respondents who wrote they do not have any obstacles for developing middle management competencies.
The most often mentioned obstacles were money and time (Appendix, Table 7), these appeared in almost all the answer. The second most popular barrier was the question on return on investment (ROI) and the measurability at all. All the rest, falls into the first group can derived from these obstacles, e.g.: the support of executives. The obstacles of the second group are based on distrust towards a company-paid service and fear of change. Also it mentions the resistance or difficulty to change such competencies at the middle management group and the lack of motivation. The third group of obstacles lists general statements about coaching. It shows a mirror to coaches (in Hungary) about the general view on the profession (e.g.: lack of understanding of its value, generally the coach is expensive, bad experience, takes long time to feel its effect, etc).
All of the respondents are listed based on what would be their expectation to such a development project. There were not any predefined answers or pattern for this question (Appendix – Question 5) so the answers reflect their current business demands, i.e. companies clearly want to have measurable results in competency development and grow in corporate efficiency. The answers were separated into two dimensions, one dimension is the corporate metrics and the other one is the employee metrics. Within the corporate index (Appendix, Table 8) there were some differences between sectors. The industrial sector focuses on productivity, fluctuation, quality and cost reduction. Also they had more answers showing appreciation of team-work than the service and commercial sector did. The service and commercial sector focuses more on customer satisfaction and revenue. Fluctuation and efficiency were also important indicators for them, just to a little lower extent than in the industrial sector.
Those who have influence on strategy (HR management, business leaders), they are more keen on fluctuation, team-work and the already mentioned coaching techniques as taught method.
Within personal development requirements (Appendix, Table 9) the industrial sector focuses on initiative and the independence of a middle manager, clear role design, the individual development plan (IDP) and higher commitment. The service and commercial sector emphasizes personal motivation, effective problem solving and project management.
As a result of the first 5 questions, there are some differences between sectors about their expectation of such a development project to the middle management, but they are clearly defined by both represented sector. The differences derive from their business character, the requirement of the company’s efficiency. The answers also show that strategic leaders focus more on the company direct result, while the others are more concerned about individual “happiness”, like personal motivation or desire for learning.
Generally business partners have clear expectations; they know that the company results depend on human behavior to some extent, but they see a lot of obstacles to use development instruments, such as coaching for the middle management in Hungary. 79% of the participants indicated that coaching is not a currently-used tool among its competitor to develop middle management (Appendix, Graph 4). Only 5% of them stated that “it is a frequently used tool” for the development of such an organization layer. The service companies heard more of this tool being used by competitors in the industry (Appendix, Table 10), their average was 2.53 against the industrial sector, where the average was 1.63.
The questionnaire helped to discover the current state of the subject, how partners see middle managers’ contribution to strategic goals and profit, how they value coaching as a tool, and how much or little they use it.
This discovery helps to draw out the “contribution map” and a suggested way of partnership.
The contribution map
Currently, companies recognize the relevance of resource management in competencies and its contribution to results. However, they are somewhat uncertain of the way they should employ this. As the survey showed, the reason is mostly the lack of evaluation methods linked to business results. How can a coach and the business parties be partners in such a situation?
The listed obstacles within the survey show that HR partners should have a deeper understanding of the coaching process and results, in order to present it to business decision makers. This would help them to overcome the rest of the barriers, such as clear communication and measurement of the effect. Other barriers, like time and money for the project derive from the direct ones. Company lies upon those barriers. If there is a higher level commitment towards the program, not only the common effort within the management to declare expectation, job roles, organizing the project, time for control and evaluation would be solved.
For deeper understanding coaches should make their work more transparent, communicate in business language, and demonstrate what results the coaching process can bring. This common understanding would be the first step towards the next level of partnership. After these survey results the “contribution map” could be drawn as shown below (Graph 5)
It is a really complex relationship, coaches can help to discover the exact needs and present how the coaching process would bring the desired results. This knowledge helps to “sell” and present the project to the company’s decision makers. When the decision makers “buy” the project it creates commitment from upper level that gives money and time for organizing the project and creating the detailed expectations. Knowing and expounding the exact needs towards the coach establish a stable and result oriented relationship.
The transparent and business oriented approach from coach and partners leads to a clear communication to middle management. Clear communication is the basis of their openness. Their objectives built into their performance reviews (Key Performance Indicators – KPI) help them on the motivation side even before the coaching starts.
The 5th step is when the coach and coachee have the common language and trust. The process starts after this step. The contribution map helps to understand the complex work of all the parties even before a coaching process starts.
During the process a coach has high responsibility as ICF (International Coach Federation) declares, a coach should:
- Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve;
- Encourage client self-discovery;
- Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies; and
- Hold the client responsible and accountable.
Also a coach has to keep tight finger on the business goals and keep contact with her/his partners. There could be changes that both partners should know. For the continuity and the long term effect the company should communicate the project results to the middle manager.
Partnership is built before real coaching starts but the coaching period can deepen it and make it stable for the future.
This model of partnership focuses on a real discovery process of the involved partner, and on the contribution map that helps to understand how a coaching project for the middle management development at the local corporate level could be established.
Partnering lies upon knowing and understanding the partner. A survey could be a good tool to gather accurate information about them. Learning from the answers the coach can share some suggestions while speaking the partner’s languages. That builds trust and the business partner is more willing to share information about its current issues. After this good start both partners work on the process. The business side explains its exact needs and with the coach, they link the coaching project to the business results. Meanwhile the coach can display more about his profession, which helps the business partner’s communication to both the upper level and the coachee itself.
In the presented content, it is not necessarily the business savvy where the partners should improve, as the CIPD survey suggested, but more the deeper understanding of each others’ operation. Business partners clearly want to have measurable results in competency development and grow in corporate efficiency as survey results showed it. The metrics like, money and time are hidden in the business process details. Understanding each others’ operation helps to define them. As a conclusion both partners are responsible for the measurement outcomes, which is also the key for future partnering. The above described model can help them to build up such a partnership step by step.
Ray William (2007): The second- fastest growing profession National Post Wednesday, April 4, 2007: www.coachfederation.org/includes/docs/063Thesecondfastestgrowingprofesion2007.pdf
Work/ Life solution, Inc. (2001.04.01): Executive Coaching Yields Return of Almost Six Times its Cost!
ICF: Frank Bresser Consulting Associates – Excellent coaching solutions (2008): Result of the European coaching survey 2007/2008: www.coachfederation.org/includes/docs/065-europeancoachingsurvey2008.pdf
CIPD, The coaching climate Survey 2011: www.cipd.co.uk/binaries/Coaching%20climate%202011.pdf