This week’s letters

Coaching as a way of life

Margaret Kubicek’s article – Is coaching being abused? (Training, May 2002)
– rings a number of alarm bells for companies considering introducing a
coaching culture into their organisation.

I am afraid that Myles Downey’s comments on the reality of the situation are
also all too common. I understand the frustrations and experiences both
contributors refer to.

The formation of a professional association of coaches is good news, but
organisations themselves can very easily take steps that will ensure their
initial investment in the training of coaching skills will reap rewards.

Downey asserts that a "mere three days of training" is not enough
to develop coaching skills. But experience has shown me that even two days’ on
a well-structured workshop can work wonders. In my previous organisation, I
received countless calls from managers who had attended two-day workshops, and
who, when testing these skills in their own environment, were amazed by the

The biggest problem came with the lack of ongoing support for managers. What
happens when the manager slips back into old ways? Or when new managers are
appointed and the old coaching skills programme is no longer available?
Organisations need to sustain the culture or it will become just another fad.
To sustain the benefits, we need to treat it not just as a management style,
but as a way of life. It is not only the responsibility of the professionals to
ensure coaching is successful; it is the ongoing responsibility of the organisation
to ensure it stays that way.

Moir Ferguson
by e-mail

Don’t patronise call centre staff

Your May edition’s report on improvements in call centres made interesting
reading. However, according to a separate recent report*, poor career prospects
are to blame for staff turnover in call centres. This patronising conclusion
trades one set of fallacies for another.

‘Excessive stress and poor pay’ may not be solely responsible for driving
staff out of call centres, though there is no doubt that these factors still
play a part in what is now one of the UK’s biggest employment sectors. But it
doesn’t follow that the answer is to take a more career-minded approach to the
problem, as the report suggests.

Call centres don’t offer career paths because they can’t. Most call centre
staff don’t think of their jobs as careers in communications any more than bus
drivers think of themselves as future transport ministers.

Call centres have flat management hierarchies with a small number of bosses
and a large number of workers. Most of these are part-timers, mothers returning
to work and students.

The trick is to combine the needs of the business and the needs of the
individual. Get it right and staff retention will improve.

Shubhrajit Naha
Commercial development manager, Datapulse

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