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Coaching: the case for active development

Every year, global consulting firms and research houses investigate and publish reports about the status and future of Talent Management. The sections on learning are always particularly interesting for me, and while very useful, I was recently struck by how many themes are repeated every year. In particular, themes of leadership, and skills needed to manage others in the workplace. In fact according to the latest Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, Leadership is “urgent and growing in importance” and the stats show that 89% of respondents rated it as a critical issue.

With the amount of money invested into corporate development programmes each year, we must ask ourselves why such gaps in development still persist, and in fact continue to grow?

I think the changing global landscape is a certain factor, however I also believe that there is a contributor that is much closer to home; namely, that learners are still too passive when it comes to their development. The energy, time and dedication given to development still sits unequally with the developers and facilitators, while the learners are not actively engaged enough.

This is a very important point in my opinion, for the simple fact that true growth and behavioural change, requires input, reflection and persistence from the individual; it is a journey. Yet our training interventions are not often designed to support this. While application is built into many programmes, it still does not support and address the depth of application and deliberate practice required to allow people to develop their skills, especially in the leadership space.

In my experience, one answer may be coaching.

As a qualified Integral Coach, I have experienced first had the true secret of coaching; that being, the power of people. The first lesson of being a great coach, is that it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with your coachee. It’s all about them. Coaching recognises that growth, development, change and ultimately performance, comes from placing the individual at the centre of their journey. Our role as a coach, is to empower and mobilise them to bring about the changes they want to see in themselves. The trick is, that only they can do this, and we help them to get there.

In my mind, this methodology of learning is what is required for us to truly develop our employees, especially those in the leadership arena, for the simple reason that it flips the learning dynamic on its head. The learner is required to be an active participant; to set the direction, to think about their areas for growth, to practice their new skills, to fail, reflect and learn from their mistakes; while the coach guides them, equips them, and holds them accountable.

There are numerous studies that show the impact that this coaching philosophy has on individual growth and skills development. The results are very impressive. One need also only think about the ripple effect that this form of development has – A manager who learns to communicate more positively with his/her team, or shows more empathy, or is more assertive when required etc.  If every person improved as an individual, the cumulative effect would be profound.

Many companies have already discovered the impact of coaching, and its role in leadership development has begun. But the depth and scope of coaching required at all levels is the key. Also to think carefully about how coaching can be incorporated and inculcated into the culture, and philosophy of learning within an organisation.

As such, here are a few keys points to consider:

  • Understand what coaching truly is, what it entails, and research the various philosophies/methodologies that exist. Find one that suits your organisation, the people and the culture.
  • Consider how coaching can be built into current development programmes, to enhance them or to exist as standalone interventions.
  • Think about the pros and cons of internal vs external coaches. At a senior level, I would advise on external coaches, while at more junior levels internal coaches may suffice.
  • Be sure to align yourself with qualified coaches. Look for recognised qualifications and institutions aligned to formal coaching bodies (i.e. the ICF).
  • Track and measure the impact of your coaching interventions on development, performance, and even related measures like retention if possible.
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