Many organizations are facing an unpredictable market that will require rapid change management and coherent strategies and solutions to catalyze the gradual transition towards digital transformation into top gear. Along with guiding teams through a quick and smooth change management process, managers have the added challenge of learning how to continue engaging and developing completely remote teams.
At the same time, hiring freezes and the increased demand for digital talent is putting pressure on HR business partners and L&D managers to develop learning and development programs that can onboard new talent, and coach existing talent with more effective internal mobility programs.
Professional, or executive, coaching has been employed by businesses, leaders, and teams for some time now, and it has continuously evolved with each successive era. And in the increasingly complex and rapidly changing work environment, we’re facing now, professional coaching is becoming more popular than ever.
That’s why we’ve assembled this easy-to-use guide for managers, teams, and leaders to understand the basics of professional coaching and how they can harness the benefits it can bring.
What is professional coaching?
When done right, professional coaching has been the secret ingredient L&D managers and HR business partners have been using to develop key talent, engage and retain top performers and mold effective leaders, who in turn have the skills they need to develop high performing teams.
But, even if we’re all familiar with the term professional coaching… just what is it exactly?
The International Coaching Federation describes professional coaching as the process of “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” In the business world this is a collaboration through which employees and managers can develop new skills, create a clear career path and improve their performance with the help of a certified coach.
There are a number of different coaching formats to choose from including: group coaching, 1-on-1 coaching, and even online vs offline coaching.
One distinction in coaching formats is between individual coaching and collective, or group, coaching. The difference between these two is really dependent on the goal you want to achieve.
If you want to help a high performing individual, a new manager, or an executive either improve soft skills or overcome certain problems they’re facing in the workplace, individual coaching is best. Especially in the latter situation, you’ll want the individual to feel comfortable and open to change. This can only be achieved in a 1-on-1 setting.
If you want to successfully introduce a wider change within your organization, whether you’re going through an organizational transition or want to improve diversity and inclusion throughout your organization, collective coaching will help you shape attitudes and mentalities in the same direction.
We’ll go more in depth into the different goals of professional coaching in the section: When does your organization need professional coaching?
But, whether it’s 1-on-1 or in a collective group, the process rarely deviates from the principal objective and definition of professional business coaching – which is to maximize potential through a thought provoking and creative process.
Each style of coaching is dependent on the needs and objectives of the business or individual seeking them, however, if a team or business is working remotely the obvious option is digital coaching.
What professional coaching is not?
While the definition provided by the ICF is straightforward and the idea of professional coaching may seem clear, it’s often misunderstood and misconstrued by those who confuse it with other forms of coaching.
First, it’s important to explain that professional coaching is not personal coaching. Personal coaching is for those who need it in their private life, even if this sometimes also includes their approach to work. A business coach, on the other hand, intervenes only within the framework of a professional organization and the objectives inherent to that company.
Professional coaching is not therapy – the coach, unlike a therapist, is not there to prescribe anything, but instead, to help facilitate the process of working and accomplishing objectives in a better way.
Finally, professional coaching is not training. This is a common misconception. Training implies that a coach shares and teaches some knowledge and then the student must practice, or train, to master and learn it. In professional business coaching, however, the coach works together with the client or clients to help them improve in their own ways.
Who is professional coaching for?
Executive coaching is perhaps one of the most common practices in organizations. Why is that? Well, even if you’re a top performer in your field and even a great manager, once you reach the executive level the stakes change significantly.
At the executive level, you are shouldering the responsibilities of managing a large team, or a department, and are responsible for its successes and failures. This can bring on added stress and anxiety that can often inflict progress and action.
That’s why executive coaches typically focus on helping their clients unlock levels of self-awareness, define their goals, assist on the progress of their objectives, and ultimately enable them to reach their full potential while steering the organization along the right path.
Your leadership pipeline is critical for creating an effective and sensible system to identify talented candidates with the potential to rise within the organization. Yet, according to a study by Deloitte, 86% of HR leaders don’t believe they have an adequate leadership pipeline.
Middle management is perhaps the most important, but often the most overlooked department in many organizations. These managers are tasked with overseeing and developing high-performing teams, but where do they go when they need help themselves? Or when they’re unable to train junior staff to maintain a high level of productivity and performance?
There is a lot of focus on upskilling and developing senior staff or frontline workers to boost productivity, but making sure that middle management is also equipped to handle the rigors of their job is of vital importance.
For any business or organization, coaching middle management can buttress the talent pipeline and ready more able individuals to rise within the company, while also making sure that the company’s goals are being met.
Employees and key people
Every business wants its employees to be performing at their best levels. This is not revelatory stuff, it’s simply a necessity in such a competitive marketplace. Coaching employees can bring them in line with the company’s vision, boost their productivity, allow them to take on more tasks, and enable them to work more efficiently.
It’s also a sound investment for any business to provide professional coaching to all of their employees, from the front line to the very top. Professional coaches can help employees master the soft skills needed to perform their tasks at their highest levels and motivate them to take on more initiative and responsibilities for themselves.
When does your organization need professional coaching?
Research by McKinsey and Company shows that 70% of change management ventures fail. There are a number of reasons for this but, without a doubt, one of the key components you need for a successful transformation are change ambassadors at the middle management level who can motivate teams and make change happen from the bottom up.
However, most people don’t have experience being a ‘change agent’. And, depending on how ingrained your company’s practices are, this can be even more difficult than one might expect. This is especially the case when working in a larger organization that requires a large group of change agents to work towards a coordinated approach.
Developing soft skills
Soft skills have always been essential for developing effective leaders. But today, with teams spread out and working from home, they’re even more important than ever. Managers are now being faced with new challenges from keeping communication lines running smoothly to maintaining an engaging team spirit online.
As new concepts like ‘Zoom fatigue’ emerge and parents struggle even more to balance work and family life at home, managers need to step up as leaders providing guidance in these uncertain times.
While so many are focused on attracting and hiring new talent, retention and internal mobility are occasionally, to the detriment of the organization, being neglected. As previously mentioned, investing in your talent pipeline and coaching your existing employees can buttress your organization from within.
Making sure that the existing talent in your organization is being coached, managed, and guided properly will ensure that these employees embody the company culture in the right way and in turn help the company grow.
More and more organizations are realizing the need to create more diverse and inclusive company cultures. Unconscious bias, sensitivity, and traditional norms have for too long impeded many businesses from hiring or training people from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and genders.
Many studies show that women and employees from minority backgrounds receive less opportunities for mentorship and professional development, meaning that executive and leadership teams continue to be largely homogenous. For instance, according to a study by Deloitte, women and minorities still only hold 35% of c-level positions in the Fortune 500.
Whether you want to help your leadership team to embrace new challenges, adapt to new experiences, and bring aboard a more diverse group of people, or you simply want to create professional development opportunities specifically for diverse talent, professional coaching can and will help.
How to finding the right professional coach for your organization?
When you have decided that you or your business can make use of professional coaching it’s important that you take the time to properly understand what kind of coaching you need and vet the right coach or coaching platform to get the results you’re looking for.
Here is a step by step guide to help you choose the right professional coach:
The first step is to decide how you want to use professional coaching and determine how you want that coaching to be undertaken. For example, if you want to get the most out of a team or multiple teams that are working on a big project then a group coaching format would likely be the best option because it leverages the skills and experiences of the group, pooling resources to find the best way to work together.
If you want to get the most out of yourself or a key individual within your organization then individual coaching will be salient, as it focuses on improving the individual and understanding how they work in such a way that they perform most effectively.
Now, if all of your employees are working remotely, the natural choice for professional coaching would be to do it online. It’s best for remote workers because online coaching is often flexible and amenable to each individual’s schedules.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but in a world full of charlatans, the professional coaching industry has sometimes been muddied by those practitioners who lack the proper certifications, knowledge and experiences to properly coach you or your employees.
In fact, there are a slew of examples of professional coaching gone awry. Some of these “coaches” do not have the understanding or education to handle the rigors of proper psychological training. When they do not, these coaches have actually not treated the real problems or coached their clients in the correct ways to become better and happier employees.
What has been seen instead, are instances in which these ill-suited coaches actually end up reinforcing negative behaviors in their clients by treating the symptoms rather than the causes. And if this client is in a c-level or upper management position, this could have dire consequences for the entire organization.
So, make sure that, when you’re looking for a professional coach, you take the time to do your research and make sure they have the right credentials for the job.
It’s easy to say that you want a professional coach to come in and help your people and your business reach their full potential, but if you don’t know exactly what you want to improve or where you want to see improvement then you might just end up wasting your money and time.
That’s why it’s paramount that you assess what you want to get out of professional coaching services or platforms – do you want to train key people? Or prepare for an organizational shift? Just be honest about your needs and then choose accordingly.
Lastly, there is not a one size fits all approach to professional coaching, sometimes a coach and a client simply won’t gel and your goals will not be met. But don’t worry. This is just part of the process.
Give your professional coach a trial period, measure the effectiveness of their results and decide whether or not you want to continue or change direction. The choice is always up to you.
Professional coaching can be a boon for you or your business, helping you unlock potential and get the most out of your talented workforce. Just remember to be vigilant and aware when choosing your professional coach, and take the time to really understand what you need. That way you’ll increase your chances of success – but you know that by now!
Go forth with this guide and find the professional coach, model, or coaching program that’s right for you and enjoy the process along the way!