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Study Shows Coaching Culture Alive in Workplace

Submitted by  on October 22nd, 2011

Male coaching female in outside settingBusiness owners are discovering that traditional management tools aren’t as effective as they used to be at boosting performance. After years of layoffs, cuts and increased workloads, employees are hitting the wall. How can you raise the bar in this high-pressure environment?

A number of organizations are tearing pages out of the playbooks of sports coaches and instituting many of the same techniques in the office. Workplace coaching is very different from traditional management, where the boss is the expert, the enforcer or the instructor. The workplace coach guides, asks questions and inspires the employee to the next level, tapping a reservoir of talent and strength that wouldn’t have been known without the coach’s help.

A recent survey by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) reveals that the coaching culture is taking off. The survey of development managers was conducted by phone in February 2011 and covered 250 UK organizations. Surveyed organizations represented a range of industries with no more than 20% in the public sector. Each organization employed no fewer than 230 people and two-thirds of the respondents were female.

A key revelation of the study is that coaching techniques are finding widespread adoption. It also found organizations are realizing a variety of benefits to the coached individuals and the overall business. The findings make a lot of sense. Many organizations have been pushing workers to their limits in recent years. Not unlike an athlete who has hit the wall, employees feel like they can’t do anything more to boost their performance. Some, including top performers, may be ready to give up and accept failure. In cases like this, a coach is what’s needed to raise the bar.

How prevalent is coaching? ILM’s study found that 80% of the companies surveyed have used or are currently using coaching as a development tool while another 9% plan to do so in the future. Though ILM’s study was limited to UK companies, I suspect that the results would be comparable in many other countries.

ILM reports that there are two primary reasons organizations offer coaching: personal development and the sharing of business knowledge or skills. Respondents reported their companies were more likely to offer coaching for personal development (53%) than to improve specific areas of performance (26%). This is no surprise given the personal nature of coaching. The best coaches unlock capabilities that are difficult or impossible to realize without the help of a facilitator.

The benefits cited by the respondents reflect this skew toward personal development: 43% reported improvements in self-awareness while 42% said coaching boosted self-confidence. Other benefits include the development of leadership, management and communication skills, better conflict resolution, higher levels of motivation and improved preparation for a new role in the organization.

In all, 95% of respondents said they believe coaching benefits the organization while 96% said it benefits the coached individual. Even at organizations that don’t engage coaching, 93% of respondents were able to identify some of the practice’s benefits.

The wide adoption and benefits of coaching are no surprise, but the ILM researchers also found areas of concern. There’s a shift toward using internal coaches who may not be prepared for the job. The tools for measuring the success of coaching are inconsistent. And, most significantly, not everyone in an organization has access to a coach. I’ll take a closer look at each of these issues in future posts.

Has your organization adopted a coaching culture? If not, why not? If so, what benefits are you seeing from this management tool? Please share your experiences here.


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Posted in Research, Talent, Training | Comments (3)

3 Responses to “Study Shows Coaching Culture Alive in Workplace”

  1. Peter Spence Says:

    Hello Les,

    As you mention, Coaching is emerging as a key personal development strategy for both indidviduals and the organisation. Coaching facilitates self development, providing ongoing feedback and support to build confidence and motivation. Coaching is particularly relevant to ongoing rather than the more traditional or favored one off short term learning activities – hence more effective in the transference of learning to the individual and organisation. Your post highlights the key benefits that Coaching provides the organisation and the individual.


  2. Leslie Allan Says:

    Hello Peter, Thanks for your positive words. Yes, coaching is most suitable for changing deeply embedded behaviors, something that a short training program can’t do.

  3. Anna Chipperfield Says:

    I have seen the true benefits of coaching individuals as part of of a broader team, to gain results.
    Great Article!

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