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The development of corporate coaching

corporate coaching, executive coaching France

Build a stronger team with corporate coaching

The rapid development and acceptance of the coaching profession, beyond sports and music, is no mystery. It has evolved out of the void left by corporate down-sizing, which has eliminated traditional in-company mentors – senior persons who used to “groom” younger employees over the years for certain functions and responsibilities in the company. Now those traditional mentors are put into retirement at an early age and “grooming” is at best haphazard. This, combined with more rapid personnel turnover than in the past, has prompted management to seek the services of outside contractual professionals known as “coaches”.  Coaching has thus become part of corporate value-added strategy as well as a smart investment in an individual’s personal life and career.

Evolution of the profession

Coaching, which actually has its base in the 1970s development of Neuro-Linguistic Programation (NLP), is one of the fastest growing and most democratized professions. It is an efficient short-term aid with staying power for individuals who otherwise might find themselves forced to resort to expensive, long-term psychotherapy, for lack of another solution, even though psychotherapy for most would be expensive overkill, like taking antibiotics for a headache.  Coaching also offers beleaguered corporations, whose very cultures (and bottom lines) are threatened by high personnel turnover or costly redundancies, an efficient, economic means to problem-solve on the individual or team level, with personalized aid that is considered a perk rather than a punishment.
The popularity and prevalence of coaching cannot be explained away as a fad.  Athletes have long used coaches to help them focus, benchmark and optimize practice in order to prepare them to win (and lose) in competition. Now, organizations who are dedicated to their employees’ pursuit of excellence (“winning”), have discovered the benefits of coaching for staff members at all levels.  Maybe it’s to assist the new GM to “assimilate” corporate culture; or to sensitize the marketing staff to master cross-cultural understanding with their overseas subsidiaries; or to re-energize the company’s star salesperson who’s been having a low batting average recently; or to help stabilize the head of PR, whose diplomatic skills have disappeared mysteriously in recent times.

What is coaching?

Coaching is an interactive goal-oriented process of one-on-one dialogue focused on performance or behavior. It is practiced in the short-term but produces long-term, measurable, sustainable benefits to the individual or, in the case of executive coaching, to the corporation.  The coach accompanies an individual or a group in identifying and attaining vision, goals or desires.  Professional coaching uses a variety of dialogue methods such as meta-questioning, mirroring, or reconstitution to build a reassuring relationship in which the individual’s or the group’s level of awareness and responsibility in his/her/its own present and future is transformed to positive action.
As such, coaching is a powerful tool of personal and professional empowerment with long-term efficiency. Coaching differs from psychotherapy in that it deals with the present and future instead of the past. Coaches do not have “patients”; they have clients known as “coachees”. There is also a distinct difference between coaching and consulting. Unlike consulting, in which the client passively receives information or a service from the active consultant, coaching assumes that the client-coachee already knows what he needs to know to attain the task or goal at hand. (The GM has an MBA, the marketing team has had formal marketing training, the salesman knows how to sell, and the PR person has a track record for successful project management and expert negotiating skills.)  He’s just not doing it for reasons which maybe even the coachee can’t understand.
The coach’s role is to catalyze know-how into action and break through certain information-to-action barriers that we all create in our brains. The coach does not provide expertise in content.  He is simply the catalyst, the all-important link between “knowing” (savoir) and “doing” (faire). Symbolically, he is the hyphen in savoir-faire. 

How does coaching work?

Most coaching begins with an initial alliance-establishing appointment of twenty to thirty minutes for  individual “coachees” or two to three hours with human resource people or management in corporate coaching situations to establish the overall mission.  If it is decided that the alliance is to be pursued, the rules of practice (confidentiality, mutual respect, assiduity, intent, punctuality, methods and rhythm of payment) are explained in detail and a contract is signed for a personalized program.
Initially, momentum and focus are maintained through weekly appointments which can vary in length, according to the individual’s resistance threshold, from 45 minutes to two hours. The number of sessions are usually 10 to 20 over a period of three to six months.  Once breakthrough has been achieved, maintenance sessions of once a month may be helpful to reinforce good, newly acquired patterns.
Coaching is at its most effective in face-to-face sessions but may also be conducted by telephone in certain instances, providing it does not represent a loss of value to the coachee-client.
Clarity of purpose is essential from the beginning in all coaching relationships.  The triangular relationship between the corporate employer, the coach and the employee-coachee requires total three-way cooperation and understanding.
How is the coachee to be held accountable for moving toward his goals? What happens when corporate goals are in conflict with the coachee’s personal goals?  What are the employer’s perspectives? the coachee’s? What is the most effective use of the coaching time? As the relationship evolves, methods, rhythm and techniques may be altered, changing radically from one individual to another, from one corporation to another.
All coaching, be it individual or corporate, is hand-tailored.

What kind of coaching works best?

We often use different adjectives to define specialties within coaching: life coaching, executive coaching, professional coaching. career coaching, corporate coaching, team coaching, etc.  The truth is that a well-trained professional coach can do all or any of that.  He or she is simply “a coach” with a mastery of the tools of his or her trade that produce results.  A “good” coach is one with specific coaching training, a broad mastery of specific coaching techniques (listening, questioning, mirroring, NLP and Ericsonian hypnosis, for instance), a broad range of personal life experience (therefore often an older person) whose open, positive attitude allows him or her to establish strong rapport with the coachee in an atmosphere of trust and acceptance, and who can convey enthusiasm for personal achievement, thereby obtaining and sustaining the coachee’s momentum toward a specific goal.

Executive coaching

Executive coaching is about taking know-how from theory into practice in a professional setting.  Corporations resort to coaching more and more, with an estimated 40% of the Fortune 500 companies using it routinely.  The purpose of coaching is to enable capacity, develop or sustain favorable behaviors, help people overcome momentary obstacles and challenge them to invent and execute their own success.
According to two major studies (MetrixGlobal and Lee Hecht Harrison HR Surveys in 2002), the return on investment of executive coaching was 529% in the sample group of companies, or 788% if employee retention is included.  In another study on the Michigan telecommunications industry, return on investment reached 1000% for regional and district sales managers who had received coaching.  This is an indicator that executive coaching can be a specific boost for sales as well as add to productivity of new managers, reduce executive turnover and avoid costly redundancies for managers who may just be suffering from temporary “downs” in an otherwise satisfactory career.

Surveys show that the areas that benefit the most from executive coaching are:

  • direct report and supervisor relationships (70%)
  • teamwork (67%)
  • optimization of management and leadership potential
  • peer relationships (36%)
  • modification of behavior (54%)
  • executive productivity (53%)
  • job satisfaction (52%)
  • organizational strength (48%)
  • customer service (39%)
  • executive retention (32%)
  • speech or presentation preparation (11%)

Coaches may be called in to help deal with problems of alpha-type, domineering micro-managers who lower staff morale and increase costs through duplication of effort and increased personnel turnover; salesmen who seem to have lost their punch; PR managers who must make difficult value-driven decisions that touch on the company image.  All of the above, if not addressed seriously, will result in loss of market share or higher personnel turnover.

Generally, coaching is received by executives as a benefit.  Attitudes toward coaching are extremely positive with 96% of executives stating that they thing that every employee should benefit from the service to 80% who say that they, personally, would benefit from it.  In general, there is consensus that coaching increases team morale, generates personal responsibility and engagement in one’s work, facilitates putting learning into practice and that these results are quantifiable on the bottom line.

Executive coaching involves a more intricate relationship than one-on-one personal coaching.  While the latter is obviously part of executive coaching, it is essential that traditional hierarchy be flattened to a same-level triumvirate power base where the commissioner of the coaching (the employer), the coachee (employee) and the coach all establish clear goals, expectations and working methods at the initial meetings.  The notion of confidentiality must be honored in all cases between the coach and the coachee, and the coach may report to the commissioner only what the coachee authorizes expressly.  Otherwise, direct observation of behavior or performance will be the only indicator that coaching is working.

  • Ivey Business Journal Online, London (May-June 2004)
  • Harvard Business Review (May 2004)
  • The British Journal of Administrative Management (May-June 2001)
  • Credit Union Management. (May 2004)
  • MetrixGlobal, LLC Survey (2002)
  • Hay Group HR Survey (2002)
  • Chartered Management Institute and Campaign for Learning (May 2002)
  • Lifecoaching Company “Coaching Today Survey” (2002)
  • Lee Hecht Harrison “HR Survey (2002)

 

 

 

 

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