Coaching in business – Essential in our times while time is of the essence

I guess I started business coaching about 18 years ago, and I did not know. It started when I had my first management job, and instinctively knew that my subordinates’ ideas were different but not less valuable than mine. It started when I trained them to speak in a meeting, instead of speaking on their behalf and I proposed them for the challenging business trips, while I remained ‘at home’ dealing with the politics. It started when the concept of ‘coach’ was referred to sports and, in business, at most you had a trainer or an HR counselor.


coachingimage articleAt that time, I had all the time in the world to learn.  Without much thinking, a coach is what I have been ever since – fundamentally believing that everybody already has the answers, that diversity brings richness and that people who execute their own ideas (read: not spoon-fed what to do) are much more likely to succeed, remain engaged in the process and are willing to swallow the occasional bitter bite. Over the years I came to realise that our success was not due to my knowledge and experience, but to the engagement and ownership displayed by my team.

I was just their coach. Coaching has become ubiquitous. In the form of life coaching (I admire and revere life coaches, for their wisdom and courage) and business or executive coaching, spreading from America to Europe and the rest of the world.

Recently, while helping my daughter applying for university, I stumbled on coaching in schools and universities – in my home county, which I left a quarter century ago, schools are advertising coaching hours for their students, and the ministry of education makes it a compulsory activity. Fast forward a couple of years, these students will expect nothing less when they join their employers. And their managers will have to deliver. In the meantime, our existing employees will want and will have to catch up somehow. 

Coaching is essential in our times. In my programme ‘coaching skills for managers’ I explain how the ever increasing demands of the work place, with globalization, distributed teams, multi-dimensional matrix organizations makes the traditional role of managers insufficient and inadequate: we don’t have the time and the bandwidth to teach and guide our junior step by step and compensate when work is not done to our expectations! We must work to develop them to find their own confidence, data, courage, motivation, solution, pathway, engagement, gravitas, ideas, collaborations.  It doesn’t stop!

Unless we want to burn-out and miss on targets, modern managers must develop into coaches, to enable their people to find their own answers and their own solutions. And again, unless we are ready to accept lower than desired level of employee engagement and accountability from our teams and face high attrition, we must facilitate them to set their own targets and seek alignment between the company goals with their own goals, so that people are self-motivated and in love with what they are doing.

Wait a minute, we expect our managers to become coaches without having themselves never been coached and without knowing the ABC of how to do it?  Hence, coaching is essential in our times.coachingimage 2 article

Now on the second point: timeliness. I often get a call when the patient is ‘very ill’. Ah, and by the way, can you make sure he/she gets results quickly? The first couple of sessions are as good as an aspirin, they get your back on your feet and give you enough mental wellness to face the challenge. When the contingent pain has been dealt with, we can think of strategies for getting stronger and victorious. But it takes time. In my in-between time (i.e. between being a banking manager and a business coach) I thought I’d pick up some basics of psychology. The concept we, coaches, rely upon is neuroplasticity: the ability of our brain to ‘rewire’ a new habit, or forget an old one. For example: learn to speak in public confidently, or ask questions before drawing conclusions, or seek the middle way when engaging stakeholders (familiar anyone?).

The good news is: it’s real, it’s possible, it’s proven, it can happen. The second good news is – it takes 30-60 days of regular ‘purposeful practice’, like when you learned to drive and your foot had to find the brake-pedal instinctively, remember? The third good news is that there is no bad news ... unless the patient is terminal.

If you call me when a guy or a girl is burn out, feels pressure from every side, has already been told that he will be fired, has been reported for abusive language or whathaveyou, my energy will be devoted to pulling the coachee back up! All that work, before we can even start feeling a bit better. It might be too late. There is an ideal time for engaging a coach. Now.

You might think that this person can embrace the next challenge, gift him with a coach now and make sure he strengthens his muscles before the marathon. You see that she could polish certain skills, but you don’t know how and don’t have the time, get her a coach to take her through that journey. Someone is very good and wants more, give her the gift of mindfulness to fully savour their achievements and become a source of positivity. The investment will pay off a million times – a good employee won’t burn out, will perform more, will give back to others, will become the coaching manager your organization needs.

“In a recent study, training alone improved leadership skills by 22%. When combined with Executive Coaching, improvement jumps to 77%." Fortune Magazine