By Carole Trépanier, DBA, and Anne Mathieu, Ph.D.
We are presently in the midst of a full-scale coaching boom. According to recent research, books on the topic are being published at a rate of more than one a week and there now are more than 18,000 professional personal and business coaches registered as members of the International Coaching Federation compared to 11,000 in 2006 (http://www.coachfederation.org/about-icf/).
International coaching experts Perry Zeus and Suzanne Skiffington assess that, despite the proliferation of coaching definitions, many of us are still unclear about what coaching is (Zeus, P., and Skiffington, S., 2000, “The Complete Guide to Coaching at Work,”Roseville: McGraw Hill Book Company). Knowing what we are talking about is fundamental because in the absence of such clarifications, the individuals involved would be unable to agree on which elementsthe coaching program should offer and the basis for evaluating its benefits.
The main objective of this article is to help overcome these issues by clarifying the notion of coaching in the organizational context and to assist the person responsible for coaching (human resources director, sales director,or manager) to identify the most appropriate form of coaching in the circumstances.
At a minimum, coaching can be seen as a meansto develop potentials (Gautier, B., and Vervisch, M.-O., 2008,LeManager Coach. Paris: Dunod). We propose a four-step approach for determining which type of coaching is most suitable given the situation (download PDF below).
1. What is the context of the coaching? The desired objectives of a coaching program may be extremely diverse. Consider the following questions:
Do you want to:
All of these objectives are important and commendable, but some of them fall morewithin a personal context than a professional one. We agree that the main objective of organizational coaching concerns the professional context to the exclusion of private issues. Matters of personal development or needs that have no connection with the organization are the responsibility of the employee. However, you may provide information about resources available through the firm’s group insurance program, employee assistance programs,or social committee, for instance.
The person responsible for coaching also must ensure the coaching program he or she wishes to implement is designed to satisfy a professional need that is connected to the organization’s objectives.
2. Who can be coached? Is the coaching program intended for an individual or for a team?Coaching may be carried out on a one-on-one basis or in a group. Coaching a team oftenis called “teambuilding” (Lenhardt, V., 2002,Les responsables porteurs de sens. Culture et pratique du coaching et du team-building. Paris: Éditions Insep Consulting) and generally involves assisting a unit in reaching a common objective by introducing a cooperative structure. In this type of situation, the individuals must work as a group and meet together. In contrast, when an individual requires assistance for his orher professional needs, the program is implemented through one-on-one coaching meetings. The person responsible for the coaching program also must consider who will be coached, that is, upper-level managers (executive coaching), intermediate managers (leadership coaching),or non-management staff (coaching or sales coaching when dealing with representatives). The individual skills to be developed may vary based on the nature of the employment.
3. Who can be a coach? The coach is the individual who performsthe coaching service (Bennett, J. L, 2006,“An Agenda for Coaching-Related Research,”Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research , 58(4), 240-249) . The coach must assume various roles depending on the main objective, the context in which the coaching occurs,and the number of coachees involved.
Is the coach internal (i.e.,an employee of the same organization who holds a full-time coachingjob) or external to the organization in which the program will be implemented?
Will the program be entrusted to someone who will assume the role of coach on occasion? In that case,the coaching could be done by an immediate supervisor, as in the case of organizations in which the sales supervisor has a coaching function and a supervisory role, or will be carried out by a peer.
The person responsible for coaching must select a coach in light of the responses obtained in the previous steps, the roles of the organization’s employees,and the available budget. For example, it may be difficult to ask immediate supervisors to coach their employees if their job descriptions do not include responsibility for developing their employees’ skills. In this situation, the choice of an external or internal coach would be best.
4. Has the coaching program generated the desired results in the organization? This evaluation must be carried out at the individual, team,and organizational levels. Tools for measuring the success of the program,therefore, must be considered from the outset. Have the program’s quantitative and qualitative objectives been reached? In which major areas has progress been made? Which areas should be targeted next? Should the program continue or be suspended?
By reflecting on the various steps and questions outlined above, you will be in a position to implement an effective coaching program that will allow you to reach your organizational objectives.
Carole Trépanier holds a doctorate in business administration (D.B.A) and has conducted research examining sales managers’ coaching of employees and its effectiveness in the sales context. She has more than 25 years’ experience in managing and coaching and is currently senior manager, Business Development at Caisse Desjardins de Saint-Hyacinthe (Quebec, Canada).
Anne Mathieu, Ph.D., is a full professor at Sherbrooke University (Quebec, Canada). Her research interests are sales management issues. She published in the Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, International Journal of Evidence-Based Coaching and Mentoring, andMarketing Letters, among others.