Globalisation of business; flatter, leaner organisations; rapid changes, restructuring and cost-cutting strategies; and the inadequacy of training on its own have been some of the driving forces behind the greater need for coaching.
The demands placed on organisational leadership in the new business environment has expanded greatly; talent, skills and leadership have been lost through downsizing. In the mean-time, those left in charge often do not have the years of experience needed to inform their decision-making.
According to Valerio and Lee (2005), coaching emerged as the preferred “just-in-time” learning to help leverage the areas that would have the greatest impact on results.
There is much confusion as to what coaching really is and how it differs from counselling and mentoring. The general definitions of coaching suggest that a coach works with an individual to unlock their potential with a focus on taking an individual from their current state, to a positive desired future state.
Counselling, from a psychological perspective, addresses historical issues of the past and focuses on understanding and working on how past experiences impact on an individual’s current behaviour.
Mentoring is the transfer of skills from an experienced and skilled individual on a specific subject to another requiring this skill. A coach does not need to be a subject-matter expert to coach an individual.
It is the technique of questioning, listening and motivating as well as being goal-oriented that is key to the coaching relationship.
In South Africa coaching has been introduced in organisations for a number of reasons. Retaining talent, refining leadership style, enhancing and supplementing training, and addressing under-performance are among the many outcomes an organisation anticipates from coaching. And what transpires as coaching is often a combination of teaching, mentoring, counselling and coaching.
In organisations where it has been introduced as an under-performance improvement measure, coaching as a positive tool is often tainted by negative perceptions, where people shy away from the experience. When clear and measurable objectives are not set by coach and coachees for the coaching intervention, imprecise outcomes are formed that call the value of coaching into question. In this way and for this reason, some organisations are reluctant in creating a coaching culture.
However, research confirms that coaching taps into the natural way the brain functions, improving and enhancing individual performance. Because of this, coaching is certainly valuable for underperformers, talented individuals or anyone wanting to change behaviour or achieve a goal. Creating a coaching culture empowers every individual in the organisation to take on a leadership role by applying the coaching methodology in their leadership style.
In addition, the move away from instructions and authoritarian styles of management means that individuals are respected for their contribution through an ingrained belief that they have the answers to their problems. As such, coaching is powerful and effective, because individuals reach their own conclusions, deciding on actions that they willingly commit to. This culture creates a climate that empowers individuals and teams to generate results.
Furthermore, research shows that training supported by coaching is significantly more effective than coaching alone. According to a survey by the International Personnel Management Association, the impact of training on productivity is 22.4%, whereas, training plus coaching achieves a dramatic 88% increase in productivity. Hence, coaching in the workplace has a positive impact on the bottom line.
The International Coaching Federation (2009) reported that executives who were coached for a minimum of six months experienced a 77% improvement in their working relationships with direct reports; 71% with supervisors; and 63% with peers. Additionally, job satisfaction rose by 61% and organizational commitment went up 44%.
Coaching is not a fad, nor the latest trend in management, neither is it seen as a ‘feel-good’ exercise unrelated to business objectives. Coaching is increasingly recognised as a methodology for creating effective conversations, assessing and reformulating values and goals, and reaching solutions (Zeus and Skiffington, 2002).