Coaching: The State of the Art

Reading the International Coach Federation (ICF) research study entitled Building a Coaching Culture*, I am naturally inclined to reflect on the past 17 years of growing The Coaching Project Inc. We began in 1998 to work with organizations who were interested in building coaching cultures in order to develop their leaders and improve performance and engagement in their employees. We had very little to go on in terms of precedent but coming from our organizational development backgrounds, it seemed clear that a variety of elements were required.

First, we needed to have some support for our initiatives in terms of business need and available resources. This led us to marketing and sales organizations and financial service firms, both of which were in highly competitive environments and already had histories of supporting leadership development. We coached individual executives and executive teams, providing coach training so that Leader Coaches, as we called them, not only got coaching on their own leadership development but also coached their team members for performance and development as well.

As part of our training programs, we paired participants up so that after the workshops, they would have a ‘buddy’ to reinforce the learning and sustain the new skills over time. We tried to train at least 2 to 3 levels in the organization’s leadership population in addition to the internal coach practitioners, most from Human Resources, who would support them once we had left the scene. And we offered an online program for new leaders entering the organization or those wanting a refresher or to dig into some aspect of coaching in which they felt they needed additional practice.

All of these initiatives were necessary in our experience to create a culture of coaching in an organization. This new research report confirms our experience with data from 544 organizations across all sectors of the economy and around the world. 65% of employees from companies with strong coaching cultures rated themselves as highly engaged. 60% of respondents from organizations with strong coaching cultures report their 2013 revenue to be above average, compared to their peer group. And coaching is now an intrinsic part of progressive organizations everywhere.

“Once a luxury strictly for executives, coaching is now being extended to employees at all levels of the organization for developmental purposes. In fact, 43% of organizations report employing internal coaches to work with all employees, and 60% say coaching is available to their high-potential employees.” This internal coaching is often provided by Human Resources professionals in the role of business partners to their line leaders.
The challenge for managers is often getting the training necessary to feel comfortable taking on the coaching role. For many managers, becoming leader coaches requires not only new skills but a new frame of mind. The report states, “Managers’ training requirements now have shifted to include a coaching skills component that was not required in the past. Now, there is a stronger emphasis on managers using soft skills such as empathy to develop an employee as an individual, focusing on building employee strengths through a collaborative, problem-solving style of leadership. Organizations now see coaching as a way to transform the top-down management approach into a more interactive, team-based mentality.”

The companies in the study report they will increase the scope and offerings of their coaching programs in the next five years to increase engagement, teamwork, on-boarding and employee retention.
These studies provide a good punctuation point to assess how your organization is doing. Here are some questions to consider:

• How does your coaching program shape up?
• Do your leader coaches need a refresher?
• Do new leaders need training to catch up?
• Are your internal coaches trained to support leaders in their coaching?

If you have a need, read on to see how City University in Vancouver is planning to integrate coaching into their leadership development programming.

*Building a Coaching Culture, ICF Research Report, 2014