The Coaching Conundrum Research Overview

By BlessingWhite , a Division of GP Strategies

Many organizations aspire to develop a ‘coaching culture’ in which each manager shares experiences and insights with their direct reports. Especially in organizations overhauling performance management approaches, coaching is the preferred way to boost performance, effectiveness and personal satisfaction at work. Organizations that have achieved the lofty goal of developing a coaching culture report increases in both contribution/productivity and satisfaction.


And yet, the ‘Coaching Conundrum’ is alive and well: While most managers say they love to coach and see the benefits of coaching others – and while direct reports value their manager’s coaching – coaching remains an underutilized approach. BlessingWhite’s most recent research on coaching provides valuable insights to help address this gap – for example it points to the strong correlation between a manager receiving coaching from their manager and their commitment to, in turn, coach their own team members.


Listen to Fraser Marlow, Head of Leadership and Research at BlessingWhite and special guest presenter, Professor Peter Hawkins, co-founder of Bath Consultancy Group on this 60-minute coaching webinar where they discuss findings from the recent coaching global survey.



Coaching Webinar Q&A


Q: ­Do employees understand what coaching is as well? I think expecting managers to coach is critical, providing them with training, etc. but don’t employees also need to understand what it is, what to expect, and how to be a good “coachee?”­


Prof. Hawkins:  Workshops for coachees exploring how to get value from your supervision can be really helpful, so everybody realizes that coaching is a joint activity, not just something done by the coach.


Fraser Marlow: As the research indicates there are some differences in expectations between coaching manager and coachee-employee.  I would recommend doing some internal data collection to understand what your internal audience is looking for from their manager so that you may emphasize these outcomes or behaviors in your own training.  This does not mean overhauling any training, but simply informing the facilitation so that the right emphasis can be applied.  Helping Others Succeed (the BlessingWhite coaching solution) was designed to be modular specifically to allow for this difference in emphasis.


Otherwise, having all employees committed to the process is a key ingredient in building a coaching culture – it does not work so well if coaching is something that is “done to” employees – it has to be a partnership.


Q: ­What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?­


Prof. Hawkins:  coaching is a sort term focus on current challenges and development in your current role.  Mentoring has a long term focus on how you pursue your career over time and how to start to develop the capacities you will need later in your career.


Fraser Marlow: I think a key distinction is that Mentoring would infer that the mentor has experience and insights to confer.  A mentor has to have ‘been there’ to provide value to the mentee.  This is not the case with coaching.


Q: ­What exactly is meant by “delivering on promises made?”­


Prof. Hawkins:  Doing what you said you would do, by when you said you would do it.


Fraser Marlow: Yes, in this context it points to the importance of commitment to the coaching process.  Many managers may make commitments during a coaching conversation, but then get busy and not follow up.  Both managers and direct reports recognize the importance of follow-up and action if coaching is to have an impact.


Q: ­Out of curiosity, while 76% of managers say they love to coach, what is the percentage of employees who report that their managers are good coaches? If this is a relational dyad the follower may not view their respective manager as a skilled or good coach.­


Fraser Marlow:  Interestingly enough we did not ask people what they thought of their current manager as a coach.  We do know that employees see the benefit when they are coached, and they are generally in agreement on what actions make for effective coaching.


For the most part direct reports are appreciative of coaching efforts from their managers, but the focus of coaching development efforts need to be on fostering that relationship and providing context and support to help more productive conversations occur.


Q: ­Enfuse coaching into the culture … can you speak to higher level barriers: how to shift executive mindsets as to the importance and value of coaching in a non-coaching culture.­


Prof. Hawkins: You can use the book “Creating a Coaching Culture” by Peter Hawkins, to show them why other organizations are developing such a culture and the value it creates.  You can also listen to the vision and the strategy they are trying to pursue and ask them what they believe needs to shift in the culture to deliver that vision and strategy. Only then might they be hungry enough to want to learn from you about how a coaching culture might help.


Q: ­How do you measure the effectiveness of coaching at the organizational level?  Or asked differently, how do you measure the effectiveness of an organization’s coaching culture? ­


Prof. Hawkins:  In Creating a Coaching Culture there is a whole chapter on evaluation and its importance.


Fraser Marlow:  Our client, JPL, used a straightforward and powerful way of tracking progress on coaching, measuring the impact and value coaching added to the organization.


Q: ­Hello Fraser, we often hear that managers say they are coaching, but employees say they are not being coached…. How do you address that perceptual gap?


Fraser Marlow:  I think the quick answer is that this is where “coach the coaches” comes in.  It is obviously in the interest of the manager for the coaching efforts not to fall on deaf ears.  By using a coaching profile (which forms the basis of the Helping Others Succeed program) you can train managers to look at coaching through the eyes of the coahee, based on desired outcomes and coaching preferences.  One size will not fit all direct reports, and a manager who has great success with one staff member may not land so well with others if they do not alter their approach.


Q: ­We have 100+ engineers in our organization. Are there any differences in approach to: 1-educating these strong technically oriented managers on the value of coaching, and 2-coaching these technically oriented individuals?­


Fraser Marlow: I would also encourage you to check out our work on ‘leading technical people’  which provides insights into the needs and learning preferences of technical employees.


Prof. Hawkins:  Yes helping them shift from fixing problems to starting with the end in mind and thinking ‘future-back’ is a big mind-set shift for many technical people moving into Leadership.  William Torbert’s work on Leadership development has a lot to offer on this.


Q: ­For that feedback loop, do you include measurements of this coaching culture coaching model?­


Prof. Hawkins:  Yes we talk about this in the evaluation chapter (Ch. 13) – Creating A Coaching Culture – Open University Press 2012.


Q: ­How would you recommend that an executive team who is receiving coaching share the results of their coaching conversations with those under them who are not receiving coaching (formally)?­


Prof. Hawkins:  They need to speak about their own learning journey, their insights and changes they have made and openly ask for feedback.  This is great role-modelling.


Fraser Marlow: I would also recommend that they avoid projecting their own situation onto others – they should share their own learning journey for sure, but then be sure to ask the coachee what he or she may be looking to get out of their own respective coaching, and how the executive might best help achieve those outcomes.


Q: Are companies providing managers the tools to develop their team? E.G. creating individual development plans and access to programs?


Prof. Hawkins:  A number are and we are providing trainings in “How to coach your own team”.


Fraser Marlow:  Interestingly we see many companies focus on team dynamics, leading change in teams, dealing with team inefficiencies or team conflict.  Approaching team dynamics as a coaching exercise is growing in popularity, but may be quite new to many organizations.  It redefines the role of the manager to a certain extent. While making the transition to more coaching in a one-to-one situation is fairly safe for most managers, doing so in a team context requires a bit more confidence on behalf of the manager.


Download the slides from this session.


Download the research report.