Business Coaching – All Talk and No Action?

By Ken Brophy, AlignOrg Solutions, Asia Pacific and Reece Notton, Director, Grafton

If you have experienced being coached and have felt ‘underwhelmed’ due to lack of objectives and outcomes, you are not alone. Coaching has multiple meanings and associations and is used by everyone, or so it seems, from the neighborhood soccer coach through to life coaches. So what is business coaching and is it worth considering in your business tool kit? What value can it add for individuals and companies?

“Business coaching can add real value both for individuals and for businesses and achieve tangible results. Done well by trained professionals who understand people and business and how to get the best out of both, business coaching can turn an ineffective manager into a real leader and positively impact a company’s bottom line. Conversely, it can help good managers move to the next level through developing greater self -awareness and specific leadership skills.

“Coaching focuses on guiding an individual to identify their vision, urging them to achieve excellence and most of all empowering them to get where they need to get to. Achieving their goals and reaching their potential,” says Ken Brophy.

“Coaching helped in my transition to a new role within the business; it challenged me to identify my strengths and weaknesses. It allowed me to work through what I wanted to achieve and look objectively at my skills and what motivates me. Together with my coach we came up with a plan to build on and further develop my existing skills, which enabled me to align effectively with the business,” commented an acting CTO at a utility company who worked with a coach for 6 months.

Coaching isn’t a quick fix solution to a problem it’s a high-quality tool that can deliver tangible, measurable results for individuals and businesses. The bottom line is coaching, done properly can increase a business’ effectiveness. People are a business’ most valuable resource so investing in your employees to ensure they are performing at their best is an important part of growing and sustaining a successful organisation.

Ken acknowledges that there is a plethora of ‘coaching’ options available however; he stresses the importance of taking your time and doing your homework before engaging a coach.
“Look for someone who has a solutions-based focus and can demonstrate prior experience in business. It’s no good having coaching with someone who doesn’t understand business and the challenges that it can present. Getting the right person is critical to ensuring a successful outcome.

So how does it work? Typically, coaching is provided on a one-to-one basis, although it may be valuable for the coach to facilitate a few sessions with the team that the individual either manages, or is part of. Gathering data is an important first step.

“We have a range of models and tools which we regularly use to help explain our approach. These include: psychometric testing, 360 assessments, and various behavioural tools and others which we tailor to suit the situation and the needs of the individual.

“However, it’s important to stress that the information gathered from these tools should act as a guide for coaching, it’s not a step by step process. Having a formulaic approach to coaching is extremely limited and won’t deliver the results individuals and companies desire. Equally, following a purely organic model, as in letting things happen as and when they will, also won’t deliver the tangible outcomes business demands.

“Maintaining a commercial focus with the business’ goals and outcomes continually top of mind is imperative to ensuring coaching works for individuals and businesses,” stresses Reece Notton.

Coaching may be raised as a useful tool during a career development conversation as part of an organisation’s regular performance management process, or it could add value during a period of change i.e. promotion to a new role assisting the employee to identify their existing skills and what areas they need to develop.

Employees who have lost their way, but their performance is ok may also benefit from some coaching sessions to assist them to either re-engage with their role, or look at other ways they can add value to the organisation by unlocking their latent potential. Individuals who need to up-skill to perform better in their current role, and or take on a new challenge will also find coaching useful.

So is coaching a nice to have rather than a need to have? Everyone acknowledges now is not the best time for business, with companies continually needing to be mindful of spending their budgets wisely. When times are tough and resources are scarce surely it makes sense to focus efforts on investing in and securing your most valuable asset – your people?

Ensuring they have acquired the skills they need to be a resilient effective team member, fully aligned with the business strategy and positioned to perform at their best no matter what challenges they may face is sensible business practice. As author Robert H Schuller pointed out, “tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”