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So, You Think Coaching Is A Waste of Time?

So I’ve heard through the grapevine that you think coaching has little value in your organization and that there will be little return on investment if you introduced coaching to your leadership. Why have you come to that conclusion? Did you know that without coaching, the opportunity that training provides for permanently improving behavior, and for the improved results that could have followed, is lost?[1] And did you know that coaching helps managers acquire the tools they are often divested of as a result of downsizing and organizations becoming flatter? Contrary to what is most often believed, coaching is not just for executives in trouble.

Coaching for executives in trouble is passé. Today it’s most often applied to top performers whose leadership and growth-potential are highly valued by the organization. Taking high potential managers, making them the best they can be, and positioning them to work more effectively and cohesively in their environments, is the utility of coaching in today’s business environments. Coaching has the great potential to transform managers into leaders who are equipped with the ability to lead strategically and interpersonally.

Still think coaching is a waste of money? How will you address the following scenario?

Last week you learned, during a senior management meeting, that the board has approved the Chief Strategic Officer’s proposal for the expansion of its operation into the Singapore market. The decision has been made to start the operation quickly, as now is the time to move if the company is to have a competitive advantage over its competitors. You’ve been informed that you have less than three months to build the team, including finding the division’s Sales Director. This week two executives approach you to recommend a particularly visible high potential manager, who you in fact learn, covets the position. This is exciting news! You thought the search for Sales Director was going to be much more arduous. Who knew that a manager would fall right into your lap, and a high potential manager no less? However, as you review this manager’s credentials you learn that politically, he is the right person for the position, but his skills and experiences do not qualify him for the position, yet. Maybe given a few more assignments, within a year or two, he will be ready. However, you know that telling the executives no, or suggesting this is the wrong time for the manager, would be politically incorrect. Doing so may actually put your job in jeopardy, so you reluctantly inform the manager of his new assignment.

Politically, your hands are tied and you know the manager will be the Sales Director for the new Singapore division. But you also know he’s not ready for the position, as he is loud and brass, says what he’s thinking, without thinking, and doesn’t make much time getting to know his employees. Singapore’s culture is much more relational, intuitive, and collectivistic in nature, completely opposite of the manager. However, your task now is to prepare him for the assignment. What do you do to give him the most opportunity for success?

Think leadership coaching!

There are several areas of development that must be considered. Of course there’s the language, cultural dynamics, and meeting etiquette that will have to be addressed, but what about leadership skills? How are his interpersonal skills? His past three performance reviews were rated low in empathy, listening and the ability to effectively impact his followers. Skills needed to influence his Singapore colleagues to excel in their work. Since Singapore is a new market for the company, there are no repatriates within the company you can use to mentor the manager. Development will have to ensue in a relatively short timeframe, for skills that perhaps would have been developed over time throughout various roles. Without the benefit of planned development, whether formal or informal, it’s almost guaranteed that the acquisition of those skills will be limited. So again, what will you do?

You’ve probably noticed that training alone, does not guarantee behavior change. That often times, the newly learned behavior is disregarded several months, perhaps even weeks, after the training session. Employees, who continue in their old behavioral patterns, do so for a myriad of reasons, perhaps out of habit or because of resistance to the new behavior. Whatever the reason, a leadership coach can provide the follow-up needed to refine those skills, ensuring sustainability of the new behaviors learned.

How can coaching help?

Consider the fact that coaching is a flexible, adaptable, and fluid way of achieving measurable results.[2] The following list highlights how exactly a coach might help her client achieve those results.

The coach:

  • Helps the executive to gather and interpret performance feedback gathered from psychological profiling instruments and/or organizational feedback tools

  • Is a guide through the executive's own thinking processes, helping him or her discover what next steps to take toward his or her goals

  • With permission, the coach probes and challenges these thought processes to clarify and strengthen the executive's ideas

  • Acts as a conscience, supporting the executive in remaining accountable for his or her choices

  • Provides emotional support for the process of change and thereby bolsters the courage and resolve needed to initiate and sustain positive changes

  • Assists the executive to connect his or her thoughts and actions and create a balance between personal and professional goals. The coach helps the executive take action on what is known or has just been discovered

If your organization has a training and development budget, it would behoove you to consider adding leadership coaching to your development efforts. Coaching is being associated with higher performance by the 52% of North American companies who employ coaching practices. And of the companies that do not yet employ the technique, 37% of them report that they will implement coaching in the near future.[3] If you still think coaching is a waste of time and money, then continue to do nothing and watch your competitors soar.

[1] Crane, T. G., (2001). The Heart of Coaching: Using transformational coaching to create a high-performance culture. San Diego, CA: FTA Press.

[2] Morgan, H., Harkins, P., and Goldsmith M., (2005). The art and practice of leadership coaching. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

[3] American Management Association, (2008). Coaching: A global study of successful practices. Retrieved August 30, 2012 from,


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