Announcing The Coaching Conundrum
Organizations and leaders worldwide are struggling to reap the rewards that coaching promises. We found a puzzling mix of good intentions, missed opportunities, and conflicting messages about the importance of coaching of employees by managers. We’re faced with a coaching conundrum.
Many organizations provide lip-service to the value that managers’ coaching activities have on the business, workforce engagement, and strategic talent management. Few have succeeded in creating cultures where coaching of employees is a regular, fully supported, and rewarded managerial practice.
Individual leaders, meanwhile, seem to experience a similar disconnect between words and daily behaviors. Some are true believers in the power of coaching to drive team productivity, effectiveness, and engagement. They coach employees regardless of organizational mandates because it is simply their style of leadership. The majority of leaders, however, appear to be caught up in a tug of war of competing priorities, well-meaning goals around coaching, and an ambivalent organizational culture. They like to coach, know they should, but don’t get around to doing it with any regularity.
Our report, which reflects interviews with 60 HR and line leaders, survey responses of 2,041 individuals in North America, Asia, and Europe, and analysis of coaching profile assessments for more than 8,000 managers, can be downloaded from the research report section.
It presents the following disconnects:
|Most managers love to coach, and most employees like to be coached.||BUT||Only 1 in 2 survey respondents in North America and Asia receive coaching (even fewer in Europe).|
|Organizations, managers, and employees appear to believe in coaching’s contribution to their success.||BUT||Managers sheepishly admit they don’t spend enough time coaching. In fact a third believe it takes too much time.|
|The large majority of managers are expected to coach.||BUT||Only one-quarter have compensation tied to their coaching activities.|
|Managers who coach regularly describe tangible benefits (e.g., increased team productivity)? and? two-thirds of employees who receive coaching say it improved their satisfaction and performance.||BUT||Coaching is often described as an almost-altruistic behavior to support employee needs or a strategy for building a talent pipeline. It is seen as something to do in addition to managers’ daily work.|
|Managers worry about having all the answers.||BUT||Employees want to be stretched and want help sorting through problems. They don’t want advice.|
|Organizations and managers talk a lot about coaching skills and processes.||BUT||A trusting, supportive relationship appears to be the most important ingredient in effective coaching.|
The coaching conundrum is troubling. Without strong manager-employee relationships and trust, coaching techniques can fall short or even backfire. Without accountability and reinforcement, organizational expectations are hollow and training investments deliver disappointing ROI. Moreover, the disconnects in what employees want versus what they’re getting can lead to discontent and disengagement — at a time when organizations need all employees applying all their talents on all the right things.
Solving the Conundrum
Many organizations that participated in our research are making progress in building more effective coaching cultures. They’re not tackling every issue at once. Instead, they have figured out which initiatives will provide the most traction, and which pockets of their organization can be leveraged to greatest advantage. Our report presents the following best practices gleaned from our interviews:
- Tackle your next business problem with a coaching initiative. Don’t just tell managers to coach. Give them a compelling reason that is tied to organizational success.
- Set new managers on the coaching track. Define coaching for them and help them establish effective working relationships with each of their team members.
- Think beyond coaching skills. If employees don’t trust their managers, address that problem now. Lack of trust will undermine any coaching initiative you employ. Encourage employee-manager dialogue.
- Coach the coaches. Set the tone at the top through executive coaching and reinforce managers’ efforts with peer and internal coaching support.
- Build belief and backbone into your culture. Make sure the messages of senior leaders and workforce practices (e.g., recruiting, performance management, and compensation) align with the espoused belief in coaching.
In addition, managers need to stop thinking of coaching as an event they schedule after their own work gets done or a reaction to a performance issue. The role of “coach” isn’t something that they should turn on or off. They need to adopt coaching as a daily leadership practice and focus on creating a supportive, encouraging, and trusting environment for their teams.
Coaching of employees by managers can be — and should be a key business, employee engagement, and talent management driver. Of all of the options you have for building a stronger organization, the one bond that remains reliable is the manager-employee relationship.