Posts From August, 2014

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Maximize Your Coaching Investment

Workforce Magazine was in touch recently to get my input on the subject of how best to demonstrate coaching’s impact for developing leaders. It’s an issue we’ll see more and more in business — as clients come under increasing pressure to develop leaders faster and across more areas of the enterprise.

But the impact and value an organization receives from its investment in coaching depends a lot on how and why that coaching is used. In my experience working with dozens of organizations over the years, I have found there to be five basic types of organizational approaches to coaching — each of which has advantages and challenges — and all of which provide at least some value to the organization.

The five types are:

1. Corrective — This is fix-it coaching; these organizations primarily provide coaches to executives in remedial situations in an attempt to improve performance or correct problem behavior. Often, coaching is used as a last-ditch effort to save a derailing leader. Even most organizations that do not have a formal coaching practice or processes have at least had some of this type of coaching taking place. A pitfall is its tendency to create the perception that being provided a coach is an undesirable signal of weakness and failure. Many organizations that have taken one of the more advanced approaches to coaching do retain this ad hoc offering. They often re-label it as “performance consulting” or similar, and use a different cadre of resources, in order to distinguish it from developmental coaching.

2. Responsive — This is order-taking; these organizations have begun to put some of the infrastructure in place to support an ongoing level of developmental coaching activity, systematically responding to inbound requests from across the enterprise in accordance with defined processes. They have often identified central points of contact for coaching, qualification standards for coaches, pools of pre-vetted coaches, coaching process requirements, and criteria for determining who can be coached. They work to promote coaching internally, educate others on coaching processes and expectations, coordinate coach-coachee matching, monitor coaching progress, ensure adherence to requirements, and approve invoices.

3. Proactive — These organizations have developed a “menu” of coaching offerings – expanding on their responsiveness to inbound requests for coaching by building organizational buy-in for a more proactive stance, targeting one or more populations of leaders to promote and offer specific forms of developmental coaching. These may include specific circumstances (executives on the succession plan, new leaders being on-boarded into the organization, leaders in transition, newly-formed teams, executive sounding board, etc.) or programs (participants in a leadership development or training program, participants in a 360-degree feedback program, etc.). One of the temptations is to create too broad a menu which can be confusing to the leaders and to the HR community.

4. Strategic — These organizations have limited the coaching that is available to their organizations and have linked those limited offerings to the organization’s talent priorities and business strategies. They apply coaching selectively to accelerate the development of successors and high-potential talent, implement targeted coaching initiatives for leadership populations, and integrate coaching elements into key management and leadership development programs and people processes. Coaching goals are linked to business outcomes and impact. Their top executives understand the importance and value of coaching to its talent strategy, and advocate for its effective use.

5. Mission Critical — A growing handful of organizations at the vanguard of coaching are able to leverage coaching as an essential element supporting its business strategy. They have transcended the traditional uses of coaching for supporting development and transition by applying it to business strategy implementation. It has become a powerful tool supporting such mission-critical priorities as operationalizing shifts in strategy into needed behavior change, breaking down barriers and resistance to change, facilitating successful strategy execution, and fostering innovation and openness to new ideas. In these organizations, coaching has emerged from purely the development space to become a vital resource supporting the success and sustainability of the enterprise.

Ultimately, coaching has the most impact when it’s aligned with an organization’s strategy and mindful of industry and business realities confronting the organization. A critical bottom line: Coaching needs to be managed as a strategic initiative tied to other developmental initiatives such as core leadership training, talent review (including developing high potential leaders), and succession — which is largely about preparing people for the next big job.

Coaching’s value can’t be maximized if it’s viewed as an administrative function — where coaching requests are matched to available resources. And in order to scale coaching so that it has maximum impact, organizations need to develop cadres of internal coaches and managers as coaches.

Read full details of my advocacy in creating coaching programs for maximum impact in Workforce Magazine, which includes these six specific directives:

  1. Target High Performers
  2. Involve Managers
  3. Give it Time
  4. Measure Key Results
  5. Aim for Advocates
  6. Generate Great Stories
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Ellen Kumata is a recognized thought leader in the field of executive coaching, and specializes in working with the CEOs and senior leadership of complex global organizations.

Democratizing Employee Development

General Electric’s former CEO Jack Welch famously once said,

An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.

If that’s true, why do so many organizations — perhaps including yours — evaluate employees purely on performance instead of their ability to learn, and translate the learning to action?

We know that tracking performance without regard to how it is achieved is problematic. We’ve all known someone who gets results but leaves destruction in their wake, and is toxic to the organization. Some organizations have tried to mitigate this by looking at competencies — how someone does what they do, but this tends to be secondary, most organizations are focused on just getting the results.

What if you shifted your whole evaluation and reward structure to focus on how people are applying what they learn to challenges they face at work?

What would this look like?

  • You would document and measure how learning has been leveraged — including providing a way for employees to share their learning experiences and tell stories about how their training, mentoring, coaching or other experiences have helped them with a challenge on the job.
  • You would reward those employees who show they are making the most of available resources by providing them access to additional opportunities (assignments, projects, job changes) and resources (experts, mentors, coaches, training courses and programs). For example, an employee who shares the story of how mentoring helped them make a leap to a new role is a good future candidate for executive coaching.
  • You would make access to high potential and leadership programs contingent on demonstrating ability to learn, and would make the process transparent and accessible to all.
  • You would encourage employees to act as experts and mentors, and make it easy for them to connect with people they can help.

What effects would this have?

  • You could measure how the organization is improving its ability to learn so the organization can “learn how to learn”.
  • Employee engagement would improve significantly because you’d be providing clear learning opportunities and development paths.
  • You would have a continuously reinforcing development loop — truly creating a learning culture in the organization.

Can you change the way you evaluate performance? Is your organization already headed on this path? Can you achieve the ultimate competitive advantage?

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Scott Simpson helps organizations effectively leverage technology to assess and develop talent.