If you work in the corporate world or indeed any large organization, you would have likely discussed the need for coaching before. Something used as a short hand to refer to a process of leadership/team development to fill in skill gaps or to help propel you to the next stage in your professional growth. An attempt to bring out utmost potential in an environment that’s impeded by a lack of morale or other obstacles.
Every year, companies spend huge sums of money on coaching to try and get their employees to enhance their performance. More often than not, they fail.
It doesn’t matter who the coach is or how they talented they are. Either the participants simply enjoy a temporary burst of productivity only to settle into the previous status quo or it all just flies over their heads entirely.
Why does this keep happening? Is coaching even a worthy investment?
Firstly, yes it is. Effective coaching has the power to be transformative. Secondly, that power depends entirely on how far the coach is willing or allowed to go with their diagnosis of the problem they’re employed to solve.
Most importantly, coaching is about a lot more than motivation. Confusing the two as synonymous is just one of the reasons it can be ineffective. Let’s go over them.
“Lack of Clarity”
Perhaps one of the most obvious reasons why coaching doesn’t work is because coaches don’t know what they’re coaching for.
Whether it’s an individual candidate being groomed for CEO or a team in need of sharper skills, coaching would be utterly useless on either if the criteria for development isn’t specific. More often than not, the reason for such vagueness is simply embarrassment. It’s no exaggeration to say that avoiding critically honest conversations about an organization’s obvious weak points is somewhat of a feature in the corporate world.
Nobody said introspection would be easy, but it is necessary if you ever want to take that next step forward.
The less honest you are about your blindspots and failures, the more business coaches are unable to perform their best and the more coaching becomes nothing more than an exercise in motivation. Some thing that inevitably subside if the reasons it was lacking are never addressed in the first place.
Coaching is more of a partnership between mutually respected equals than it is a ‘student-teacher’ relationship. As such, the sessions between the two parties shouldn’t feel like a prolonged lecture. Those that do, with a few exceptions, have a tendency to have less breakthroughs.
A study conducted by the Coaching Research Institute found that 50% of coaching conversations only lasted between 30-39 minutes. With the second most popular length being just over an hour. These are the lengths of short, focused meetings.
While it’s true that the duration of any coaching session will differ due to differently desired outcomes, deadlines are always important guidelines. Both coach and client should try to substitute longer sessions with more frequent sessions if the solutions simply demand more time.
There’s always room for flexibility , but always remember that results come from respecting the process.
“Problems Are Systemic”
When a business engages a coach, regardless of how talented they are, one should understand the essential reason for their presence; guidance.
If you hired a coach in the hopes that they would be able to create a “silver bullet” for your problems, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Coaches do not have the intimate knowledge of your enterprise’s inner-workings or the people within them to make that happen. Only those who hire them do and a coach’s mission is to make them realize how.
On many occasions, the reason an organization, team or individual isn’t able to perform is because of “systemic obstacles“. Such as a toxic workplace pervaded by prejudice or misogyny, or a top management attached to outdated strategies or failed policymaking In these contexts, all coaching will prove ineffective until these obstacles are addressed and removed.
A coach isn’t a miracle worker. They can’t be parachuted into an organization, not be allowed to address the elephants in the room and still be expected to somehow create a straightforward solution. Their entire mission as an external third party is to be a fresh pair of eyes to investigate what one’s overlooked strengths and weaknesses are and how to break out of those limitations.
The onus is entirely on you or your management to follow suit or keep the status quo. At the end of the day, business coaching is only as effective as you are willing to comply with its best recommendations.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a senior executive looking to take things to the next level or a team in need of development, coaching is an excellent way to find your bearings and break out of the box. It is however, a two-way street.
If you want coaching to work for you, you need to be radically honest about where you’re stuck, what’s keeping you there and what it will take to move forward. Coming up short on any of these counts is a telling sign that what you wanted wasn’t a coach, but a ‘yes-man’.
Thank you for reading our piece. We hope it was useful for you. Are there any other aspects of business leadership you would like to read up on? Let us know!