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Creating A Competitive Advantage Through Coaching

Managing is to have responsibility for some aspect of execution within the business. Leading is to influence direction, action and opinion. Coaching is to inspire commitment and high performance, to stimulate creativity and to model accountability. Clearly, establishing a culture built around coaching is one way that organisations can create a powerful competitive advantage. Traditionally, however, business leaders have spent far too much time managing, some time leading and very little time coaching.

In the past, coaching was primarily reserved for executives and there was little emphasis on cascading coaching skills throughout the organisation. According to a recent study, nine out of ten employees want coaching and only three out of ten receive it. And, what they generally receive is not true coaching, but evaluation. Implemented at an organisational level, coaching can result in dramatic results and significant financial impact to the bottom line. A recent study of 100 leaders from Fortune 1000 companies, by Manchester, Inc. determined that a company's coaching investment typically realises an average return on investment of almost six times the cost of the coaching.

Competitive sports (professional as well as amateur) offer the most visible examples of coaching success stories. When a sports team moves from being competitive to winning and ultimately to becoming a dynasty, success can often be attributed to the head coach and what is often called the coaching system.

Just as athletes utilise coaches to achieve greater performance, employees in successful companies expect to be coached - not just managed - against goals and objectives within the framework of a coaching system.

There are two primary types of coaching - evaluative and developmental. Evaluative coaching is the most common form of coaching and offers a snapshot or picture of the past through a performance assessment process. Developmental coaching looks forward to the future and allows a leader to develop a plan to capitalise on already existing strengths and improve areas that may be getting in the way of greater success. Developmental coaching is about action and results.

Companies large and small have established an evaluative coaching process complete with tools for purposes of promotion and reward. However, most organisations fail to create and implement a developmental coaching system. This creates risky gaps in organisational performance and the retention of future leaders.

So, where do you begin to create a coaching system?

Set a Strong Foundation
Ensure commitment exists at the leadership level to create a coaching culture and determine whether participants are ready, willing, and able to be coached and to coach others. The process begins by defining what coaching means within the organisation and why it is critical to future success. It expands to include what it means to individuals and their roles in making this vision a reality.

Build a System for Self-Awareness
Barriers to effective coaching include the participant's fear of change or the exposure of areas needed for improvement. In order to overcome these barriers, utilise an assessment tool or performance management tool to obtain information that allows the participant to understand strengths and performance gaps that may exist.

Integrate Content and Tools
Integrated coaching tools and training make the coaching process much more effective. By connecting coaching to learning, participants can readily apply the benefits to their daily work, and organisations can receive more out of their investments.

Begin the Coaching Journey
By asking discovery questions, the coach will work to stretch the participant's current thinking. From this, a time-bound action plan can be developed to drive future performance.

Effective coaching doesn't just happen. Sure, there are natural leaders who instinctively lead through continual coaching and can inspire managers to coach, but they are very rare. The best way to ensure continued success is to implement a coaching system.


Norman Schippers and Ken Carnes, Capital H Group. Capital H Group is a consulting firm that takes a value-based approach to helping companies manage, and invest in, their human capital. Partnering with our clients, we focus on creating value through their people. For further information, please visit web site: www.capitalHgroup.com
First published: 14 November 2005.


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