Managers Value Coaching -- But They Don't Do It

Last Updated Nov 12, 2008 4:25 PM EST

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Ten years ago, the current economic forecasts would've had UK businesses reaching for their sharpest downsizing tool. But there's much more feistiness today, according to Tom Barry, European managing director at BlessingWhite, the engagement, leadership and coaching specialists. "Businesses are saying, 'let's fight and innovate our way out of this'," he says.

So the findings of its report, The Coaching Conundrum 2009, are baffling. After surveying over 2,000 managers and employees worldwide, then following up with interviews of 60 HR and business leaders, BlessingWhite found that the majority of employees (87 per cent) like to be coached.

Likewise, the majority of managers -- 84 per cent -- love to coach.

Yet one in two employees receive no coaching at all.

"It's a bit like charity and world peace," says Barry. "We think it's great, but we're not doing anything to achieve it."

Among the "believers" in management, there's a general consensus that coaching is fun and important. Managers said that scheduled one-on-ones pay more dividends than anything else they do and that they make the difference between good and great performance -- 70 per cent believe coaching leads to better bottom-line results.

So what's the problem?

There are also a couple of commonly held beliefs that get in the way of more regular coaching.

  • It takes too long.
  • I don't have all the answers.
  • I have to know the job I'm coaching someone to do inside out.
"I don't think we're very good at role-modelling the job of coach," says Barry. What's more, coaching is often mixed up with mentoring. A coach may or may not have done the job they're helping someone else with, whereas a mentor is likely to be an expert in that role.

Coaching is about helping another person to achieve their goals or enhance their skills for the good of the business. It's not telling people what to do, nor stepping in to do their work.

It can be a positive boon for a manager to be unfamiliar with a role he's helping to coach an employee in -- the challenge comes when a manager has done the role and thinks they have all the answers.

So it's essential, says Barry, to persuade managers that coaching doesn't mean having all the answers and that it shouldn't take up 'extra' time, but be part of their day-to-day role. There also needs to be more connection between inputs and output -- only 24 per cent of those surveyed had a portion of their pay directly tied to coaching.

"We haven't yet made the financial connection," says Barry. "We should be saying, 'your bonus is reliant on coaching and performance improvement'."

So while managers need to become coaching leaders, organisations, too, need to develop a sympathetic culture where people are incentivised to make it a priority.

Managers can and must coach -- it's integral to their role, not a nice-to-have. But there's only so far that tools and training will take a manager. Coaching is fundamentally about trust. It may mean doing different things for different people, tailoring your approach to the individual. It's not just a process, it's a relationship at heart. Says Barry: "It's not a pill you can take. It's about doing the right things at the right time."

There's also one more issue for to consider when it comes to coaching: do you hire 'coachable' employees -- and how would your rate your own 'coachability'?

(Photo: Irish Philadelphia, CC2.0)