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HOW STRONG IS YOUR COACHING CULTURE?
New Executive Team member, Niamh Ní Bhéara – Managing Director for UK & Ireland – discusses coaching and the fundamental role it plays in improving performance in organisations today.
In my career I’ve worked in many functional disciplines, across all levels of an organisation. One topic that I’m particularly passionate about is promoting excellence in leadership development – having seen first-hand the significant impact it can have on organisational performance. My knowledge and experience of the human resource and employee lifecycle has led me to the conclusion that organisations need to be doing more to promote a culture of continuous development – whether it’s soft skills training, technical development, long-term leadership programmes or coaching. This not only improves employee engagement, it also enables people to be truly innovative in their roles, to challenge themselves, to grow personally and as part of a team as well as supporting the identification of strategies to deal with change and the pressured environment we work in. However, in many companies I’ve worked with, I’ve noticed there is not a strong enough culture of on-going coaching to enable this.
A 2013 Stanford Business School report into executive coaching found that “lonely at the top” resonates for most CEOs with nearly two thirds of CEOs and almost half of senior executives are not receiving coaching or leadership advice. Interestingly, 100% of the CEOs questioned said they actively enjoy the process of receiving coaching. I believe it is a truly vital part of the development journey for CEOs and Senior Management Teams.
The report also found that Boards are also eager for CEOs to improve talent development. Being coached as an individual helps to initiate a coaching culture and it’s essential we equip our leaders with the tools to coach their own teams effectively.
A Senior Management Team is usually made up of people who are brilliantly technically experienced, but may require help to develop their skills to be effective as leaders. When I work as a business coach, initially I help the individual align themselves with the company strategy and vision as well as looking at their own personal development aspirations. I then support them creating an actionable plan that identifies how they can maximise their performance, increase productivity and have a positive impact on achieving the objectives set out in the strategy. We then work together over a period of time implementing the plan.
Introducing coaching at the top of an organisation helps to engender a culture of coaching and people can really begin to see the benefits. I would encourage all leaders to actively learn coaching skills in order to maximise the benefits of continuous learning and development throughout the organisation. I believe that coaching skills training should be made available to anyone that manages or supervises people as it can harness the outcome of other learning and development activities. Additionally, a leader who coaches, develops a self- asserting and pro-active team thus reducing the need to manage.
Interestingly, the 2013/14 Supply Chain & Logistics Employment Market Survey Report, published by Logistics Executive this month, revealed that more than 63% of the respondents (in excess of 5000 Logistics professionals from 80 countries) had never been offered coaching as part of their career development. And of those, 85% advised that it would be something that would be of interest to them. This, unfortunately, is no surprise to me, and further confirms that we must embrace coaching as a tool to engage our people and focus performance.
I also run ECMR International where we regularly use one-to-one coaching to follow up our soft skills training courses. This really helps to embed learning because it allows each delegate the opportunity for one-to-one support and coaching from the person who delivered the training. It is also a fix for the current gap in management skills, which means many delegates don’t receive post-training follow-up from their own line manager. Additionally, there is also a higher rate of learning transfer from training to ‘back at the desk’, which subsequently increases the return on training investment.
Coaching requires very specific skills that need to be honed over time. These include: staying neutral to another person’s position; high quality listening, questioning and communication skills; and being professionally agile to respond to changing requirements. Managers and executives need understand what coaching can deliver and how powerful the impact can be. I find my experience as a business coach extremely rewarding. It’s about empowering people to think about things differently, helping them look at things through a different lens, opening doors and giving people choices.
Change is essential for survival in any organisation and when I see a lack of coaching culture that could support that change process, it concerns me. When the Senior Management Team puts a cohesive coaching programme in place to harness the potential of its Board, Leaders and Managers, it really does reap rewards. Unity in a common purpose, with first-hand knowledge of strategy and an eagerness to be the best we can be is fundamental to success. Coaching can play a key role in achieving this and can also equip us with a resilience to deal with the challenges of today’s business environment.