Coaching: does it add value?

Coaching has become a fad in many businesses, with little consideration given to organisational outcomes and little measurement of how it affects future business needs. Too often it is implemented to address specific personal development needs, and becomes a ‘soft’ patchy interaction that meanders for months, making the coach money and the individual happy, but producing little or no organisational benefit.

We need to get tough on coaching. We need to kick into touch many of the traditional cosy one-to-one secretive sessions and apply rigorous, metric-driven platforms, with appropriate coaching solutions, that are anchored in business reality.

I am tired of the ubiquitous GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) model. I challenge all who tell me that coaching with triangulation (using several perspectives to get an assessment) is a measured and appropriate intervention. We need to be able to analyse whether the coaching intervention is appropriate. We need to be able to ascertain what form of coaching should be used: one-to-one, by group; by phone or online? Most importantly we must be able to measure the business change that is needed and to have the measurements that will tell an organisation where it is at any moment in hard metrics.

The concept of business coaching is not a new one, but is coaching for real? Can it really change the course of a person, never mind a business?

When I first entered the dark and secretive world of coaching I was underwhelmed by the snobbery associated with professional coaching and the serious disconnect with business bottom-line value. However, I have seen a continued evolution in coaching as we move away from the armchair experts who believe in the art of one-to-one dialogue without measures, to a more business-orientated engagement that is anchored in business strategy and is measured in hard metric deliverables.

Some trends we see and track in the coaching sector are:

  • Face to face coaching is now the preferred method of delivery used by less than 45% of coaches
  • Private pay clients provide 8% of coaching revenues 
  • One third of HR professionals do not view coaching as credible
  • Leadership or leadership development accounts for almost 50% of all coaching
  • Senior management accounts for 25% of coaching

These trends are important because the face of executive coaching is quickly changing. But these trends do not capture or represent the new considerations we are beginning to see in executive coaching – and here are some examples:

  • Business knowledge must be added to the coaching mix.
  • Use the type of coaching that is applicable to the situation. Face-to-face coaching works for some, while the generational jump means technology will be the preferred platform for many.
  • Anchor the change you are trying to effect into the business and learning agenda. We need a measurable start and finish point that is not a rosy blend of soft behaviours that leave plenty of wriggle room.
  • Use technology and its applications, such as simulations and real-time scorecards, especially for the new generation of leaders, who are web-savvy. Do coaches really need to see the whites of the eyes?
  • Set new exacting standards for executive coaching that moves leaders forward now rather than “let’s cover that in our next session”. If coaches can’t speed up and are not truly wired in then they are just bald men selling hair restorer. And the nature of coaching must move from the counselling model of helping and creating space, to the enabling model of questioning and creating forward momentum.

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