Coaching at Work

Final session for me at the L&D Show with David Clutterbuck. Which coaching techniques help improve business performance.

Not easy to put financial numbers against benefits but it’s seen that colleagues who experience more coaching and mentoring –
– feel more engaged
– will stay with their employer longer (a third more people stay)
– understand how what they do fits with the strategy and the difference they can make
– knowledge is transferred and retained better within teams
– organisational reputation because there are open conversations about whats going on

So direct cause and effect is difficult
Also hard to say the duration of benefits
Although certainly the highest performing senior teams are coached and have a coaching mindset

And there’s no one best coaching approach to make a business difference. As with counselling, it’s the competence of the coach that makes the difference, not the approach they use. And in fact, the more approaches they employ the better the coach they’re likely to be.

There’s an evolution of coaching capability –


Then Systemic Eclectics, which feels akin to Nancy Kline’s very calm approach. They look at the whole, guiding the client through the conversation with very subtle interventions. These mature coaches constantly develop themselves through experimentation, personal reflection and supervision.

David’s asked the room to discuss together that these stages of competence mean. And it appears he’s challenged the thinking in the room about their potential development needs around coaching. Delegates recognising that they’re at the lower levels of competence. I’m delighted that this session has already prompted that discomfort for someone to develop!

However this is a worry for me about the number of people experiencing ‘coaching’ at work and not gaining the most from it that they could possibly gain because it’s been over simplified as a one dimensional ‘process’ to be followed.

A solution to this is internal supervision to maintain internal standards but managers could still be getting themselves into situations they can’t help the coachee resolve. A little knowledge can be a bad thing! How do you get that balance?

Now looking at goals in coaching and the development from
1. SMART – signing up to specific goals too early can be damaging because when things change they can’t let go of the goal, focused on short term
2. Solutions of which goals become part
3. Focussing on philosophy, free of goals
4. Transcendence of goals – trusting that goals will emerge and change with time and to help see the context and bigger picture, focused on longer term

I’m not sure these need to be mutually exclusive. Start in a transcendence space but if necessary bring that to a level of specificity to raise levels of self commitment to what they plan to do.

SMART goals don’t motivate – no, you need to have a big ‘reason why’ for what you’re doing to get stuff done. And you need to have the self belief that you can do it.

What does this mean for performance plans? What’s the connection to the purpose of your org?

Audience discussion on goals….agreement that SMART goals can be dangerous. Replace with purpose or vision. SMART goals can cause crazy behaviour because people are trying to hit targets / numbers for the goal.

Team coaching now increasing because being seen that effective coaching cultures are created by developing that approach together, collaboratively, as a team.

Line managers developed in isolation is like sending them back into work to dance with their team when only the manager knows the steps.

Coaching’s a mindset, not just a skill. You need to learn the skill and then develop the mindset.

Team Coaching isn’t just team building or team facilitation. They help teams develop the characteristics of a coaching team culture –


And team maturity can impact on how you introduce team coaching. How long has team been in existence, what skill level are we starting at, what are the different extraversion/introversion preferences in the group.

Team coaching needs to
– create new norms, new neural pathways, new habits so that a change to a coaching culture is embedded and sustained
– create shared purpose and strong alignment on how those goals are achieved
– create new approaches to team meetings with strong future and purpose focus to the agenda, keep it short bursts of sessions with frequent breaks, slow people down – e.g. what do you want to say about this topic, what do you want to hear, what do you want to achieve – write these answers for 5 mins before anyone speaks. Then each person answers in turn. Makes conversation focused, shorted and respectful of all contributions.

Get people thinking about how their team operates –


Group discussion has lead to appreciation that some simple interventions can help save time – coaching culture should create time not drain it.

The ultimate would be to have everyone engaged in coaching themselves and others around them – not a leader-only responsibility.

I’m now reflecting on how we start to shift organisations to move to this new world. How do we help orgs see that if they step off the ‘doing’ wheel into a ‘thinking’ environment so that they can change their own performance and the performance of those around them. There’s something in it for them because it shifts them to leading instead of managing (a la Covey or Steve Radcliffe’s FED) and helps them get people around them doing their jobs better and more autonomously.

Listening – without agenda, to understand
Questions – personal, resonant, incisive, reverberating, innocent, explicit
Purpose – use your wisdom to help your coachee grow their’s

With so much talk over the last two days about coaching and bringing it into the role of a line manager, I wonder how the profession will evolve over the coming years.

It feels as though there needs to be greater understanding of the different depths coaching can reach so that, even if you’re just having an ‘in the moment’ coaching-style conversation as a manger you appreciate your limitations. And that you equally value what the most competent coaching approach can bring and how you can access that for yourself, and develop yourself to bring that to your team.

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