How effective coaching can help in the digital age

Effective coaching involves unleashing the individual potential and expanding the capacity of employees to stretch and grow beyond self-limiting boundaries.

This is extremely important in a country like South Africa where differing levels of education and backgrounds may hinder finding the right skills.

Businesses today face countless challenges both externally and internally. The way they identify these challenges, face them and bring them under control can be the difference between success or failure. While a company cannot control most external challenges, internal challenges can present the opportunity for a company to revitalise, inspire and stimulate both staff and the organisation itself. The question is: How do companies capture these opportunities and use it to their advantage?

Successful organisations like MCI, IBM and Hewlett Packard have recognised that coaching promotes creativity and resilience and can promote a quantum leap in performance. This gives organisations a competitive edge especially in an environment of continuous change. These companies have identified coaching as a critical leadership and management competency and have included coaching in their management and leadership development. Although it was once used as an intervention with troubled staff, coaching is now part of the standard leadership development for executives in companies such as IBM, Motorola, JP Morgan Chase, Hewlett-Packard and many others. Companies such as Merrill Lynch and sales-based organisations like insurance firms use coaches to bolster the performance of people in high-pressure, stressful jobs.  

In some cases, coaching is still  geared towards correcting management behavioural problems such as poor communication skills, failure to develop subordinates, or indecisiveness. More often, however, it is used to sharpen the leadership skills of individuals with high potential. Coaching can also help ensure the success or decrease the failure rate of newly promoted managers.

“People are in a legitimate state of doubt about galloping technology, globalisation, heightened competition and increased complexity,” says Warren Bennis, who teaches leadership at the University of Southern California. They need someone to help them face these challenges. Effective and timely coaching can make the development and implementation of a business strategy less daunting and more successful especially an environment that is highly competitive, fast-paced and uncertain. External and internal facilitators/coaches can add value with new insights and provocative lines of enquiry that can increase personal development and individual accountability. Coaching people to break old and bad habits, stimulate creative thinking and establish integrated processes setting clear goals to achieve sustainable results and increased profits is essential to business strategy development.  

A MetrixGlobal study for Merrill Anderson on the impact of coaching showed that coaching produced a 529% return on investment and significant intangible benefits to the business. When the financial benefits from employee retention were included, coaching boosted the overall return on investment to 788%. These powerful insights into how to maximise the business impact from executive coaching are simply too significant to be ignored.

Many organisations are critically dependent on recruiting, motivating and retaining good, talented people. It stands to reason, therefore that they have no option but to focus on their people. Good people are also in short supply. Baby Boomers are moving into retirement and there are fewer people in the generations that follow. The battle for talent means that organisations that do not look after their workforce will quickly find that they cannot attract and retain the kind of people they need.

How internal coaching is experienced by people in organisations, however, is not always clear. There is a great difference in the coaching experience that depends on whether the coach is perceived as independent or not. Through coaching, employees do feel supported and encouraged by their immediate manager and the company, they build the knowledge and valuable skills they need for career-advancement and experience the pride and satisfaction that comes with overcoming new challenges. While formal training is an “event,” coaching is a process which ensures that new knowledge becomes learned behaviour. All in all, it is a win-win situation for all.

Whether internal or external Effective coaching involves unleashing the individual potential and expanding the capacity of employees to stretch and grow beyond self-limiting boundaries. This is extremely important in a country like South Africa where differing levels of education and backgrounds may hinder finding the right skills. We are all totally unique individuals and respond differently to our environment, upbringing and the events we are exposed to. People who want to accomplish great things often get stuck along the way. Quite simply, coaching helps them get “un-stuck.”  

The current economic climate is tough businesses need to get the most out of their employees and South Africa has the added challenge of racial and cultural diversity, where the underlying concepts or mental models that a person uses to create meaning and the assumptions and beliefs that determine behaviour may be very different from the expected. The truly effective coach knows that no two coaching assignments are the same and that whilst models and frameworks are important it is actually the quality of the relationship that has the greatest impact on success. Finding the “right” coach is therefore critical.

Different generations have different attitudes to work. People in generations X and Y are likely to be looking for more meaning in their jobs. Unless they find it, they will move on. Potential recruits have much more choice than they had in the past and are more aware of the ethical and environmental stance of large companies. Some base their career decisions on these things.

People are the raw resource around which business success revolves. No business strategy, however well designed, will work unless you have the right people, with the right skills and behaviours in the right roles, motivated in the right way and supported by the right leaders otherwise billions of dollars of company investment will be wasted.

Four competencies of emotional intelligence emerge as the unique strengths of star performers. Not one of them relates to technical or purely cognitive strengths. The following four abilities distinguish those managers who are star leaders and whose growth in revenues and return on sales put their performance in the top 10% to 15%:
• the drive to achieve results
• the ability to take initiative
• skills in collaboration and teamwork
• the ability to lead teams

These are the kinds of competencies that coaching can help an employee to achieve. It is clear that coaching plays an enormously important role in building and sustaining great organisations and extraordinary workplaces.

Susi Astengo, Managing Director of CoachMatching.

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