Sounding out your ideas

Many companies are taking advantage of independent advice on offer, Elaine
Essery looks at how training coaches are benefiting some business people

No serious sportsperson would be without a coach to help them develop their
talents and bring out the best in them, but many business people are missing
out on the benefits. Far from giving you the answers and telling you what to
do, a coach acts as a powerful sounding board, enabling you to decide for
yourself on the best course of action.

Coaching can help the individual and the organisation to grow. Some training
professionals are lucky enough to have a coach, others would like the chance.

We asked: what is a coach doing for you or what would a coach do for you?

Carol Madeley
HR director, Autoglass

My own experience of having a coach, and those of the managers I work with
in the company, is that a coach is an objective aid to facilitate problem
solving. Coaching offers process support rather than focusing on content.

An external coach has the advantage of not being caught up in the company
culture and a good one can bring reference points from outside experience,
which is particularly helpful for managers who have grown up within the

In terms of performance management, when you have an agreed work plan and
contract with a coach, it gives you challenges over and above those set by your
line manager, so having a coach is not a soft option.

Ian Lawson
Director of training and development, Lyreco UK

If I had the opportunity to have a personal coach it would enable me to
stand back from day-to-day operations and look at key aspects of the job and
whether I’m on target to achieve my personal and business goals. It would help
me focus on my long-term vision and develop a future plan. It’s good to do a
‘health check’ and see what skills you need to brush up on or what extra tools
you’re going to need for your toolkit to continue to make a difference to the
organisation in the next few years.

Another benefit of coaching is having an independent evaluation of what
you’re doing, with someone asking you challenging questions to make you think
about your priorities.

Aileen Downie
Training and development manager, GNER

We actively encourage coaching as a management style within our culture and
have appointed coaches for some managers.

The benefit I would get by having an external coach is that they bring more
objectivity and encourage a better work-life balance and prioritisation.

As the training and development manager for the company, I liaise with
others across the business who have training and development as part of their

It would be useful to speak to somebody about training and development
without any slant or bias about what is needed in this business, which would
allow me more objectively to think through some options. But a coach is not the
person who would be able to then give you solutions.

Tim Martland
Head of HR and training, Hammicks Bookshops

Although training is often seen as something outside the workplace – like
going on a course – for us, by far the most important thing is the internal
side of the operation. If we had people who could coach new managers, it would
make an enormous difference.

It would depend where the coach came from, but I think I’d use a coach to
help with training needs analysis, particularly in the areas of the business
which I’m less familiar with, so I would be spending a limited budget wisely. A
coach would, hopefully, help me ask the right questions, make the right choices
about what was required, then choose the right suppliers of training to match
the need.

Alison Clarke
Divisional learning and development director, Whitbread Restaurants

I go into a coaching session either with a difficult business decision I’m
facing or with something behavioural I want to talk about.

Having a coach helps me structure and test the rigour of my thinking. It’s a
way of rehearsing something in private because a coach can put all sides of the
argument, the potential objections and emotions, so you can test how you’re
going to respond.

It’s also a de-stresser, as you can download things in a safe, confidential
environment to help you get to the nub of the issue and start to resolve it.

A coach is an objective facilitator, whose role it is to draw your own
thinking, encourage you to search your experiences and come up with your own

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