This blog talks of the origin of Coaching, how it differs from other professions, common definitions, role of a coach and his relationship with the coachee, the focus of coaching and whether coaching is effective
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime (Italian proverb).
Common (mis) understanding –
What do you understand by the term Coaching, especially when it comes to Executive or Leadership or Business Coaching?
There are several misconceptions regarding Business Coaching. Firstly, everyone is a Coach these days, from a fitness trainer to a financial advisor to an image consultant. You have life coaches and even happiness coaches. Secondly, people often associate business coaching, especially in India with Tuition centres who help prepare students for competitive and entrance exams. Actually a better analogy is from the world of sports wherein Coaches help successful sportsmen or sports women become even more successful. I will return to this point shortly.
Coaching is often confused with mentoring but we will soon see that it is quite different.
Modern day coaching was born in 1974 when Timothy Gallwey,a Harvard educationalist and tennis expert wrote The inner game of tennis . The word inner was meant to indicate the player’s internal state or the opponent within one’s head which is more formidable than the one on the other side of the net. Gallwey went on to claim that if a Coach can help a player remove or reduce internal obstacles to performance, an unexpected natural ability to learn and to perform will occur without the need for much technical input from the Coach. This is Coaching’s association with the world of sports.
Sir John Whitmore, known as the father of performance coaching wrote Coaching for performance, in 1992. This still is the definitive book for coaches and leaders. Quoting from this book, “In essence coaching is about partnership, collaboration and believing in potential. Coaching and high performance come out of awareness and responsibility. Coaching is the mechanism of transformation. To achieve this requires the foundation Coaching skills of powerful questioning and active listening”.
Difference from other professions –
As mentioned earlier, coaching differs from other professions such as mentoring in that the coach teaches you how to fish. Refer Italian proverb at the beginning of this article. A Mentor tells you the solution, a consultant tells you the problem, a therapist or a doctor asks you what your problem is, while a Coach asks you for the solution. In other words, a Coach nudges you towards the right solution.
Now let’s turn to some popular definitions of coaching –
Coaching is facilitating positive change by improving thinking (Neuroleadership Institute)
Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential ( ICF- International Coach Federation)
Coaching is enabling successful leaders to lead / behave more effectively, through positive behaviour change, that is sustained, recognised, and acknowledged by others (Marshall Goldsmith)
Coaching is known to bridge the knowing doing gap. In other words, helping turn knowledge into action and results. How can a coach help bridge this gap?
Role of a Coach and relation with Coachee –
The role of a Coach is to act as the accountability partner or a Mirror throughout the coaching journey and to facilitate the process of leadership growth on the job by asking powerful questions and pointing to necessary resources. The Coach pushes back if he finds the Coachee slackening in his or her commitment.
The Coach is neither a domain nor a functional expert and is not expected to provide ready answers. It is the person being coached ( coachee/ client/ leader/ businessman) who has to do the heavy lifting by committing to the process and taking necessary action.
The relationship between the Business coach and his client is one of trust and Confidentiality is the cornerstone of business coaching programs. In other words, the Coach will not divulge the detail of his conversations with the Coachee, even with the latter’s boss, employer or sponsor of the business coaching programs. This enables the Coachee to open up and speak his mind while talking to his Business Coach.
Finally, the Coach is not a crutch, in that Coaching is for a finite period of time (8 to 12 sessions spread over a maximum period of one year, is typical) and the Coachee should not expect life-long support from his Coach.
Coaching themes or focus -
Finally, what are the typical Coaching themes or Leadership growth areas where Coaching is effective? Here are some – Communication ( including listening better, decision making, managing conflict, being more assertive, influencing) ; Developing Organization Culture and Leaders ( including managing diversity, cross-cultural management, collaboration, building trust, driving culture change, self-confidence, executive presence) ; Managing performance ( including delegation, execution, strategic thinking, being more entrepreneurial, taking risks, holding others accountable). Essentially, it is all about Leadership change and sustained growth in behaviors that are visible, measurable and constructive. Also, Business coaching helps accelerate business performance and results by helping the business grow profitably.
Is Coaching effective?
Given the long history of Coaching, especially in the western world, the ROI of Business coaching is beyond any doubt. Business coaching program is indeed a powerful way to expedite a leader’s ability to impact business results. A coaching intervention is beneficial both to the individual as well his organization, as seen below. Research has shown that Companies that resorted to Coaching interventions reported a ROI of anywhere between 4X and 8X for every dollar they spent on Coaching. Behind these results were tangible as well as intangible factors. Tangible factors were areas such as increased productivity, higher levels of overall employee performance, reduced costs, growth in revenue and sales, higher employee retention, and higher engagement of employees. Intangible factors were increased confidence of those being coached, improved communication, stronger employee, and peer-to-peer, and key stakeholder relationships. Please see my article on Why Coaching can be a game changer?