What kind of coaching are you talking about?

The CIPD’s latest learning and development survey has found that 69% of organisations are now using coaching as a development tool. Are you using coaching as a tool in your organisation? If you answer yes, you could still mean something very different by that answer from your counterparts in other organisations.

I think there are three different ways that people in organisations can experience coaching, and managers can be involved in two of them:

1. A coaching style of management, in which managers coach staff when that is the appropriate style for the circumstances, to empower the individual and leverage their own ability to get things done. This seems to be the main focus of the CIPD report. It is probably the best way to build a relationship with a member of staff, and to develop them, but I agree with others that there will be circumstances in which the coaching style may not be the best management option, or when coaching by the manager may not be welcomed by the individual. Training for the coaching style of management may be in the form of a one or two day course.

2. Managers as coaches of people other than those they manage. I see this as a coaching scheme within an organisation, where managers are trained as coaches with a longer course and with supervision. They are then available to coach staff from other departments, providing some confidentiality and working with the individual’s agenda.

3. The external coach provides a level of confidentiality and expertise which will rarely be available from line managers. External coaches are not part of the organisational culture and can therefore help the individual to think outside the organisational box when that is helpful. Individuals at all levels are much more likely to ‘open up’ to an external coach in a way which will enable deeper forms of change, where that is what is needed. I think it is always likely to be the best coaching option for middle and senior managers, although they too will benefit from a manager with a coaching style.

These are all valuable forms of coaching, and I am involved in providing the first and the last, but I think it’s very important that people in organisations understand the different benefits they bring.

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