Essential Elements of a
Successful Organisational Coaching Skills Program
Summary of an article by Grant and Hartley1 on practical strategies organisations can use to more effectively embed and sustain leadership coaching skills in the workplace following participation by executives and managers in a coaching skills development program. This scorecard can assist in a go/no go decision on organisational readiness to implement a coaching skill program into the organisational culture and to prioritise factors that contribute to successful leadership development.
Global HR leaders are increasingly delivering coaching skills programs in their professional development to facilitate the adoption of coaching competencies. Research shows that coaching can increase goal attainment, solution-focused thinking, develop greater change readiness and leadership resilience (Grant 2009). The authors worked with the fifth largest bank in the world (over 52,000 employees), where 3000 leaders completed the ‘Leader as Coach’ program. The authors found eight key factors which increase the likelihood of successfully embedding coaching skills in the workplace.
Research has shown that while coaching skills are one of the more powerful leadership competencies, this vital skill comes naturally only to a few (Goleman, 2000). Worker resilience must be strengthened to protect from burnout and to better handle relentless change and economic pressure to do ever more with less. Gen Y and Z are demanding a new style of leadership and if their present organisation/manager won’t coach them, they will find somebody else who will.
With increasing demands being placed on workers, organisational leaders must become more competent at engaging, inspiring and listening to their talent than ever before. A tool is needed to assist the HR decision maker to assess both if a coaching skills program has the required elements to realize a substantive shift in coaching competencies and to asses gaps in present organisational receptivity that can be redressed to assure the investment delivers on the expected changes in organisational culture.
All too often, organisations invest effort and money into developing the coaching skills of their leaders and managers only to find that, despite initial high levels of enthusiasm, they fail to adapt the taught coaching skills to their workplace.
How do we transfer skills mastered in the classroom into the workplace?
Such transfers are difficult enough with technical skills. It’s even more challenging with highly personal thinking habits such as knowing when to challenge the coachee instead of telling the answer, how to re-create trust, or how to expose unspoken concerns or hopes for example. Coaching skills are not superficial techniques which can be wedged into any conversation. Students require time to integrate the skills seamlessly into their own style with repeated, live practice and patience from the organisational perspective.
The tips below are insights gained following completion of the Leader as Coach Program by over 3000 professionals in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA). The authors propose that organisational coaching skills programs will more effectively embed the competencies when as many as possible of the following eight factors are implemented.
1. Proven, evidence-based design
‘Once-and-Done’ style single workshops, minimal hours of practice or where the teacher spends more time talking than the student spends practicing do not support integration of coaching behaviours as well as do longer-term mentoring, feedback and integration of the desired habits (Grant 2012). The authors found the most success with programs which:
a) Are theoretically grounded and extremely practical
b) Use varied settings to diversify practice conditions
c) Provide cohesive group support ad follow up
d) Supply supervision as skills are progressively embedded
2. Program content includes live skills, performance and developmental coaching
Formal coaching sessions with explicit goals and a clear beginning and end are rare compared to the more likely in-the-moment coaching opportunities seized in the midst of a busy project. The program must also address the important distinctions between Skills Coaching (task), Performance Coaching (strategic approach to the work itself, over time), and Developmental Coaching (personal growth such as emotional/social competencies and effective relationships)
3. Ensure that the program is internally culturally relevant
For a coaching program to be integrated, the authors found it should align explicitly with the specific values/language and unique situations and challenges faced in the client organisation.
4. Use respected figures internal to the organisation as champions
The role modelling of desired behaviours by leaders is one of the most powerful influencers. Enthusiastic and consistent messaging about the importance of the program from respected figures (such as the CEO) send a clear signal that the organisation is serious about developing a positive, supportive culture. The value of such overt high-level support cannot be understated.
5. Use attraction rather than coercion
It is easy these days for people to justify not allocating the time needed for developmental activities. While the temptation is to mandate participation, the authors found that fostering attraction, rather than compelling attendance is a more successful strategy. Develop enthusiastic, influential early adopters in the initial stages and train them to carry their message and experiences to the workforce.
6. Monitor and evaluate: the Personal Case Study approach
The Personal Case Study approach (Grant, 2013) has the participants write about a leadership issue they are facing, rate how close they are to their goal of solving it and their and level of confidence in dealing with the issue. Participants re-rate themselves at the end providing data which will answer “Is the program actually working?”. The authors found a 40% increase in goal progression and a 70% increase in confidence in being able to deal with the issue.
7. Mobilise a competent HR team
Program success and longevity depend on the HR team’s professionalism and ability to champion this work. HR’s ability to manage the logistics of a complex program while keeping senior managers enthused are key factors in determining the successful implementation of a coaching program (Long, Ismail, & Amin, 2012).This is not an easy task and some organisations may not have the required HR capacity.
So how does one choose and implement a coaching skills program?
Like training for a marathon, strengthening coaching skills can’t be done in one workshop no matter how brilliantly it is designed. While powerful when done right, accept that coaching skill acquisition will be a slow process (months, not a day or two) and that the outcomes must be followed up and measured. Otherwise, to be blunt, it is a just another binder on the shelf and a waste of money.
Not all coaching programs can deliver (measured) results, and not all organisations are ready to embrace a leadership culture with a coach approach. The processes listed in this scorecard normalise and deepen effective leadership competencies (coaching specifically), and strengthen connection, engagement and loyalty to the workplace.
SCORECARD: ORGANISATIONAL READINESS FOR A COACHING SKILLS PROGRAM
If your organisation is considering a coaching skills program, here are some key factors that will each contribute to increasing the strength, penetration and durability of your program impact. Each will assist to more effectively transfer the coaching skills from the classroom into workplace leadership activities and habits which drive a healthier, more cohesive and productive organisational culture.
Weak, or not executed = 1
As strong as it can be = 10
||Proven, evidence-based coaching program design?Strengths/weaknesses?
||Content includes skills, performance, and developmental coaching? Strengths/weaknesses?
||Ensure the program is internally culturally relevant?Strengths/weaknesses?
||Uses respected figures internal to the organisation as champions? Strengths/weaknesses?
||Uses attraction rather than coercion? Strengths/weaknesses?
||Monitors and evaluates: the Personal Case Study approach? Strengths/weaknesses?
||Mobilises a competent HR team? Strengths/weaknesses?
||Robust follow up processes? Strengths/weaknesses?
Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review, March-April, 70 90.
Grant, A. M., Curtayne, L., & Burton, G. (2009). Executive coaching enhances goal attainment, resilience and workplace well-being: A randomised controlled study. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 396407. doi:10.1080/17439760902992456
Grant, A. M. (2012). Australian coaches’ views on coaching supervision: A study with implications for Australian coach education, training and practice. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 10(2), 1733. Retrieved from http://businessbrookes.ac.uk/commercial/work/iccld/ijebcm/documents/vol10issue2-paper-02.pdf
Grant, A. M. (2013). Can research really inform coaching practice? Paper presented at the International Coach Federation conference, March 2013, Sydney, Australia.
Long, C. S., Ismail, W. K. W., & Amin, S. M. (2012). The role of change agent as mediator in the relationship between HR competencies and organizational performance. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24, 2019_2033. doi:10.1080/09585192.2012.725080
Sue @wisdomcollective.ca : Inspiring excellence, purpose and learning through your courageous, resilient leadership. Providing individual and group leadership coaching leveraging neuroscience research, powerful accountability to your own objectives and the support of a team to more easily and efficiently attain your goals than on your own.