Friday, 27 May 2011

Coaching for Performance

By Mark Evenden @ Developing People Limited

Coaching can be an extremely powerful way to help managers to improve their performance. A recent study by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) identified that 92% of managers who received coaching said that their performance improved as a result.

My own personal experience supports these findings too. When I took on my first Director’s role in the late 90’s, I struggled with balancing my time, making sure the manufacturing and distribution part of the business was performing on a weekly and monthly basis as well as looking at ways to improve productivity, reduce costs, and meet ever changing and increasing customer demands.

My coach helped by ensuring that I took regular time out to sit back, take stock of what I had achieved, and think about what I needed to do next. They helped me clarify my own personal as well as business goals, and supported me to overcome the inevitable barriers and obstacles I met on the way. They didn’t tell me what to do (although they occasionally offered up ideas and guidance), but they encouraged me to question what I was doing, to challenge myself, and to develop solutions that I was committed to. They also gave me honest feedback about how I spent my time, which encouraged me to focus on those priorities that were most important.

While many organisations provide coaching for senior managers (as with myself), I believe that the greatest benefit will come to organisations that enable coaching to become part of everyday management. With commercial and competitive pressures continually rising, organisations whose managers have coaching skills will be able to help their staff develop and perform at their peak, and therefore will be much better placed to meet their business challenges.

The final word should perhaps be left to the ILM, who believe that developing managers coaching skills is the single most cost effective development investment that a business can make.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Does coaching suit everyone?

by Dave Marchant @ Developing People Limited

As with most things in life - some it does and some it doesn’t!

In my experience as a Coach, if I get the chance to talk to a leader about their role and the issues that they are faced with, then I often get to coach them. However, they rarely approach me to ask to be coached – it seems that there needs to be some other stimulus that prompts their interest. It is very rare that anyone responds to our website to specifically ask for personal one-to-one coaching. This interest usually comes from another source – for example, a person who is currently or has been coached by me then referring my services on to them. This could be one of their friends, peers or even reporting staff who recognise that there is a potential benefit to be accrued by them from this coaching. It can also be through me initiating a conversation with them about what I do – but more importantly what they do and what they might be struggling with.

When we have this initial conversation it usually becomes clear to me whether or not a person may be interested in being coached by me or by someone else. The sorts of signs that encourage me come from the leader’s openness, uncertainty, interest in their performance and relationships, flexibility of thinking, and interest in their own learning and development. It is also encouraging when they show an interest in what I do and what I may have to offer them. Signs that discourage me are over confidence, arrogance, superiority, taking a fixed judgemental view on things, not listening, inflexibility, absolute certainty and a clarity of vision and purpose that cannot be changed – in short, some of the classical characteristics of a driving “A” type leader. These characteristics do not mean that this type of leader cannot be helped and coached, but more that they are less likely to want to be supported and challenged about their issues, goals and approach. Once I have had the first coaching session with anybody, whether they are a significant leader in an Organisation or not, it is usually clear to me whether or not they are likely to respond positively to me and my coaching style. If they do not “buy into me and my approach”, then we are both able to have the discussion about not continuing the sessions without fear of any recriminations.

It should also be said that we are all leaders in our lives and spheres of influence in our work, and I treat everyone as such. It is interesting to note that many Organisations are now taking this approach with their employees and can see the benefits of treating all employees as empowered leaders in their own right.

In practice, it is has been very rare that I have cancelled or not completed coaching sessions once we have started. I suspect that this is because any leaders who are reluctant to be coached would not put themselves into this position and start to be coached in the first place.