How to help democratise coaching in 6 tips
It's International Coaching Week, which is great. But what does that means in the long list of 'international X weeks' that we become so used to? Well, according to the International Coaching Federation, it is "a week long celebration that educates the public (that's you) about the value of working with a professional coach (like me) and acknowledges the results and progress made through the coaching process." You'll no doubt have seen more than the usual number of useful articles in your Linked In feed on the benefits of coaching (for work, for personal goals) and the increased application of coaching in the workplace.
I wanted to help celebrate International Coaching Week by sharing a few thoughts on how those well documented and proven benefits of coaching can be shared with more and more people. You see, especially when it comes to executive or work-based (and funded) coaching, the recipients of this still tend to be the C-Suite in the main. And there are very sound and rational reasons as to why this is. Coaching is an investment in the present and future. A good, qualified, and experienced executive coach comes at a cost - like any consultant to your business. So it's not that surprising that most organisations will focus that investment at those team members in the most senior positions. With the rationale that members the board or executive committee etc offer the best chance of return on investment for those coaching hours.
This could, of course, be debated ad nauseam, but I don't want to get into that particular can of worms right here. Instead, I wanted to share six ways I've seen coaching democratised in the workplace. I fundamentally believe good professional non-judgmental and confidential coaching sessions can help anybody and everybody with their own particular thing and the stuff we are have going on and want to make more sense of. Yes, this can be how to have more impact with very senior clients or colleagues on your board. But equally this could be having more confidence to be yourself in team meetings, to present authentically and get over performance inhibiting thoughts. Coaching can help navigating change and transformation at any level in a business as we all have the same fears, hopes, anxieties - maybe just a little less experience to draw on.
1) Have more trained coaches in your workplace. Well that's a nice obvious one to kick off with isn't it. More coaches = more coaching = more benefits of coaching spread around. I see more organisations investing in training their own teams in coaching techniques, indeed more former employer Wavemaker (part of WPP) trained over 30 people with help of The Coach House. Not to do away with the impact that an external coach can bring, but to ensure more and more managers (and this was very much not the C-Suite getting the training) feel confident to take a coaching-approach to their everyday management style. The result; more listening, more understanding and great way to motivate and retain staff. Smart stuff.
2) Invest in coaching clinics. Another smart method I've witnessed to allow more people to experience coaching. Here the business brings in the services of an executive coach for say a day per month. And then opens up individual sessions of up to an hour. The coachee brings in a topic or area they really want to work on, something that a catch up with their line-manager won't quite be suitable for. Could be a confidence issue, a co-worker relationship challenge. As long as it's not "how do I get another job away from here" as this would surely breach the contract with the funding company. And if there was some workplace dissatisfaction, a good coach can help an individual better understand the root causes and for them to go away to work on them. Often, of course, this feeling might indeed have nothing to do with the employer but sit somewhere else in the coachees system.
This clinic approach means 10s-100s of your team can experience the positive impact of coaching over time for a relatively low entry cost.
3) Use an external coach as part of your 360 Appraisal process. This was a brief I fulfilled recently for another WPP agency. A forward-looking People & Culture team wanted to ensure their 360 process was entirely future development needs focused, rather than what can happen; a bit of a 'who said that about me' inquisition. By working first with a coach on the feedback from the 360, the team member can think more expansively about the feedback. What are the themes that are emerging vs what does a specific comment (made at a certain point in time after all) mean to me.
I've had and delivered many many 360s during my career and I wish I'd have had access to coach in this process. Coaching can be extra beneficial at key pivot points in careers and surely the annual appraisal is one of those. Yes, some companies are moving away from annual appraisals to make them more real time, but every employee deserves really clear and honest feedback at least once a year.
4) Coach in times of change and transition. Focusing a coaching relationship at key points in an individuals career progress is good way to see more immediate benefit. These inflection points could be organisationally driven - such as new clients to work with, a new line manager relationship to develop, new skills to try out and master. Or, of course, they could be wider areas of change in our lives. I've seen great results from companies who invest in maternity coaching for back to work Mums (and Dads, as longer paternity leave becomes a reality vs the current blink of the eye).
In these scenarios, as the goal is so clear, the coachee (and funding business) can extract value from coaching really quickly - and it's possible that fewer sessions are required. So instead of the fairly standard six sessions, perhaps 3 or 4 will achieve the goal required.
5) Coach-in-residence at events. Something I'm doing for the first time at Festival of Media in Rome later this month. Two things tend to happen at conferences and events. Firstly, there is loads of inspiring material that gets your brain fizzing with ideas, and then there are gaps in agendas when we have a tendency to fill that time with email or social media catch ups (only me?). Well, instead use that time by having a coach-in-residence at your event to help attendees extract maximum value from the event by coming away with a clear set of goals and actions. All that's required is a sign up sheet and a quiet room. Essentially the coaching clinic approach is replicated and people who perhaps have not experienced coaching can see if it's for them. This approach creates a three sided value equation. Nice.
6) Pro bono coaching. Last but actually the most vital in many ways. Coaching is an investment and good coaches will have invested in their own abilities to ensure you have really impactful and meaningful coaching sessions with them (indeed this is an ongoing cost for us). So the entry level for coach coming in can be cost prohibitive for some organisations and of course, non-profits are potentially in the toughest position. Why not ask you coaching partner if they are open to some pro bono work. It can be another win-win-win. Great for the coachee of course, getting some valuable coaching they would not have normally received. Great for the charity/non-profit, as they are also working hard to hold on to their best talent. And yes, this can be great for the coach too. As you will be exposed to scenarios and challenges you might not get from a corporate client, and yes, giving something is simply good for the soul. I treat my pro bono work exactly as I would my paid for work - no compromises, no short-cuts. And I love doing it.
There you have it. Six ways we can all work together to get more people exposed to executive coaching and thereby spread out the undoubted benefits of coaching and that way grow the coaching industry. All in all, a good outcome of International Coaching Week.