065 069 Tj May 2012


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An article for the Training Journal about the role of coaching - and ways to coach - in our challenging economic climate

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065 069 Tj May 2012

  1. 1. coachingCoaching inhard timesExecutive coaching is not the only way, says Dorothy NesbitR ecent economic challenges have to one-to-one executive coaching, as well as some resulted in pressure within some alternative ways to structure one-to-one coaching Reference organisations to reduce levels to maximise the return on your investment. 1 www. of investment in coaching. The International Coach Federation defines coachfed eration.org Regardless of our current coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-economic situation, would coaches – and their provoking and creative process that inspires them toclients – benefit from being more imaginative maximise their professional and personal potential”1.about the way they work? You may think of a one-to-one relationship when you think of coaching. However, not all coachingThe one-and-a-half- to two-hour coaching session takes place between a single coach and a singleevery six to eight weeks is a well-established client. There are times when alternative approachesmodel of executive coaching, but it’s not the only – which include team coaching, group coaching andoption available to organisations commissioning peer coaching – can be more suited to meeting thecoaching. This article explores some alternatives needs of your organisation. www.trainingjournal.com May 2012 65
  2. 2. coaching Over time, trust builds This project came at the right time for the school.” As a team of volunteers, we created a structure and group members that provided intensive coaching for members of the school’s senior leadership team while risk more minimising the investment on the part of the coaches: each coach provided a weekly half-hour coaching call to a single client. We found that having clear aims for the project – and staying with Team coaching, for example, happens when a them – was key to the project’s success: when we coach or coaches work with members of a team. strayed from those aims, our impact shifted from It usually comprises coaching sessions with the building leadership capability to a more diverse set whole team and it may also comprise – or include of agendas. In addition, experience suggests that – coaching for its individual members. It can having sponsorship at the right level is important provide effective support to the team in pursuing a for successful team coaching, together with a clear shared agenda. If, for example, you set aspirations coaching agreement (or ‘ground rules’) that is for your leadership team that they communicate consistent with, and supports, the aims of more openly and honestly with each other, team the coaching. coaching can help define what “more openly and Group coaching, by contrast, brings people honestly” means. Your coach can also help the team together who have a shared agenda but who are turn aspirations into practical results. In times of not members of the same immediate work team. If significant change, team coaching can help whole you have a group of new supervisors, for example, teams make plans and co-ordinate effective action, or high- while supporting individual team members in navigating the personal implications of change. Lorraine Manford, who was head teacher of a West London primary school at which I led a team coaching project, was clear about her aims: “Sometimes what needs to be done is bigger than what you can do on your own. I knew that I had to build a strong leadership team which would take us into the future.66 May 2012 www.trainingjournal.com
  3. 3. Case study Coaching with Nigel: an evolving practice I first worked with Nigel Reeve in 2004 when he signed up for coaching as a private client. We held an initial two-hour coaching session to lay foundations for our work together. This face-to-face session was followed by eight one-hour telephone coaching sessions over three months. The model of coaching I offered to private clients worked well for Nigel so that when, four years later, he decided to sponsor further (executive) coaching through his employer, he asked to continue coaching by phone. After an initial face-to-face foundation session (like the one we’d held first time round), we started having a weekly half-hour telephone conversation. This approach worked well over an 18-month period. After a second break, Nigel decided to renew coaching. This is how he described the benefits: “Coaching has helped me develop ideas for improving business performance and put them into action. It’s also helped me crystallise my thoughts on my personal development – what areas I want to address and how best to address them.” Looking at his pattern of coaching, I suggested a six-month renewable coaching agreement, with a percentage reduction in fees that reflected his previous usage. As his coach, I found that signing up to work together for a period of six months reduced the focus on invoicing and payment of fees while maintaining a focus on the return on investment for Nigel. His verdict? “My chosen pattern of coaching – a half-hour telephone session a week – is perfect for me. It fits comfortably into my timetable and gives me the flexibility to explore and develop ideas as they arise, supporting practical improvements in the business as well as my self-development. It’s excellent value for money. ”potential leaders, group coaching can be a highly peer coaching can range from the occasional briefsuccessful vehicle for supporting individuals’ conversation in the corridor to a more formaldevelopment alongside members of their peer agreement that could be between two individualsgroup. Group members meet regularly – by or between members of a ‘coaching circle’ (in whichteleconference or face to face – and explore issues individuals coach one person and are coached bythat affect them. The agenda may take the form of another). The quality of peer-to-peer coachinga predetermined curriculum or be set by members can vary enormously, as can coaching by leaders ofof the group as part of each session. The group’s those they manage. Coaches can provide valuablecoach typically works with volunteers in the support by providing training in coaching skills orpresence of the group, taking care over time to by offering coaching supervision to members of amake sure each individual has the opportunity peer coaching group. This approach is particularlyfor coaching. effective if an organisation’s aims for members Group coaching offers some of the benefits of the peer group include aims for the process ofof good training. Group members learn in a safe coaching (developing the coaching skills of groupenvironment away from work and often feel less members) and maybe even for the culture of thealone when they learn that others face the same organisation (developing a coaching culture) as wellchallenges. In addition, it is highly tailored, helping as for each member of the group that can be met bygroup members identify the questions that they providing coaching support.want to address and providing support as they find Despite the range of coaching and non-coachingnew ways forward. Over time, trust builds and options that are available, some clients still havegroup members risk more, benefiting both from the reasons to prefer one-to-one executive coaching.personal coaching they receive and from observing This is commonly true, for example, when a clientthe coaching of their colleagues. They also build is in a senior role, or has an agenda for coachingrelationships of trust that continue after coachinghas finished: this can contribute to a changingculture in an organisation and increasethe willingness of group members to collaborate Coaching is predicatedwith colleagues. A third alternative to one-to-one executive on the belief that allcoaching is peer coaching. This is the coachingof individuals within a peer group by members clients are creative,of that group and can be an alternative (or takeplace in addition) to group coaching. In practice, resourceful and whole www.trainingjournal.com May 2012 67
  4. 4. coaching Seven steps to creating an effective coaching programme • Identify clear aims for coaching Like any other project, the root causes of a failed coaching programme often lie in the actions taken to set it up, including a failure to identify clear, desired outcomes. Identify with as much precision as possible the aims you have for coaching in your organisation. This will help you identify the most effective approach for meeting your aims as well as providing a firm foundation for effective coaching • Take account of where you’re starting from If your organisation is new to coaching, it may be more open to new approaches than one in which coaching has an established format or purpose. Equally, the willingness of coaching clients to share openly with their peers will be influenced by the culture of your organisation. You need to take these and other factors into account when shaping your general approach to coaching or designing a particular coaching assignment • Establish appropriate levels of sponsorship within your organisation Coaching sponsorship is not just about who pays the bills – it’s also about who wants change to happen and what change they want. If, for example, you want to provide coaching to support women returning to work after childbirth, ask yourself why. If you mean to be supportive, you may need to do more than offer the coaching, arrange it and leave it at that – asking each woman returner what additional support she would value can pre-empt the view among some coaching clients that you’re ‘off-loading’ the issues they face by commissioning coaching. Equally, if your aim is to build leadership capability at senior levels, think through the key messages you need to convey to members of your leadership team and what monitoring and progress is needed to symbolise and reinforce the importance of the programme, as well as to support the people being coached • Establish an appropriate level of involvement by key parties in the decision-making and coaching processes Coaching is predicated on the belief that all clients are creative, resourceful and whole – able to find their own answers. So it may help you to make progress towards your aims if you involve potential clients of coaching early in your decision-making process. To do this also brings forward a dialogue that often happens only after coaching has been commissioned, between a client of coaching and his sponsoring manager, for example. It can help clarify aims amongst all parties, generate options that are most likely to achieve those aims and achieve high levels of buy-in for any decisions you take • Consider the practicalities Make sure you understand the practical constraints on coaching clients before you make final decisions about your approach. Discuss with them the practical implications of face-to-face versus telephone coaching or weekly, fortnightly or monthly meetings. Or consider the likelihood that, at your current rate of turnover in the job, your supervisors will commit to a six- or 12- month group coaching programme • Explore your options before commissioning coaching In some cases, coaching may not be the best way to meet your needs. Consider training if you want people to acquire pre-determined skills or, if the issue is a ‘problem’ employee, check first to ensure the need is for coaching for the employee rather than coaching for the line manager or even mediation to address relationship issues between the two. In addition, consider multiple formats for coaching before deciding which approach best meets your needs. Coaches expect clients to meet with multiple providers, so invest time in meeting potential coaches and exploring with them how best to structure coaching • stablish a clear agreement for coaching Establish a clear structure and agreement for any coaching E programme that specifies who will do what and with what aims to contribute to its success. Include a clear statement of its aims and ‘ground rules’ for all parties that are consistent with its aims. Take care to agree ahead of time how you will monitor progress: coaches expect to maintain confidentiality though many willingly facilitate feedback between coaching clients and their sponsoring managers. that others don’t share, or has practical needs (such also meeting my needs as a coach. This can be a as tight timescales) that don’t marry well with other delicate balancing act: in one client organisation approaches. Even here there is room for coaches with a standard practice of commissioning six and their clients to look for new ways to meet months’ coaching for clients (that’s six monthly clients’ needs. sessions, or an overall budget of 12-14 coaching My own practice has been to experiment over hours), I noticed that clients tended to spread out the years in search of approaches to coaching that their coaching sessions with gaps of up to three give high return-on-investment for clients while months between sessions. In some cases, this was68 May 2012 www.trainingjournal.com
  5. 5. Not all coaching takesplace between a singlecoach and a single clientfor practical reasons – some clients were finding ithard to make time for a 90- to 120-minute face-to-face coaching session. In other cases, clientssimply wanted to make coaching last as long aspossible – like eating your ice cream slowly to makeit last. Monitoring results over time, I became awarethat, while I missed the momentum and speed ofprogress experienced by clients with whom I meetmore regularly, feedback suggested high levels ofsatisfaction among clients in thisparticular organisation. Even so, with pressure on fees and pressure onclients for their time, I have increasingly adaptedan approach for corporate clients that has workedwell over the years for private clients: a regulartelephone coaching consultation (see case study).After laying foundations for coaching – oftenin a three-way meeting with a client and hissponsoring manager, followed by a two-waymeeting with my client – clients schedule acall most weeks for just 30 to 40 minutes. Thisapproach provides a regular ‘time out’ for clients,who are able to step back from the pressures ofa busy diary, to reflect and then return to workwith renewed clarity of purpose. It also helps tobuild momentum, as clients gain new insightsand translate them into effective action. It canbe easier and more cost-effective for clients tobook out regular half-hour slots without havingto travel. This, in turn, can encourage time-poorclients to think creatively about how best to usetheir time. Coaching can help people in your organisationsteer a path through uncertain times, but it isa significant investment. You can increase thereturn on your investment by tailoring your Dorothyapproach to meet your budget. (By now, I hope Nesbityou are having thoughts about some alternatives is a leadershipto your current approach to coaching, including coach andthoughts about some options that are not even director ofmentioned in this article). Equally, your ROI Learningcomes from designing your approach to target for Lifethe specific aims you have for coaching. (Consulting). She can be In case you are eager to explore and wondering contactedwhere to start, the tips left (see “Seven steps to at dorothy@creating an effective coaching programme”) will learningforlifehelp you to find the right way forward in consulting.your organisation. co.uk www.trainingjournal.com May 2012 69