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  • Writer's pictureThomas E. Anderson, II

At the Heart of Workplace Coaching

For decades, great focus has been placed on the benefits of executive coaching and leadership coaching for managers and leaders. It is no doubt that leadership coaching is crucial for organizational success. The discipline of coaching also benefits entire organizations by creating an atmosphere of engagement when integrated into organizational life. So, what is coaching? And more importantly, how does it benefit organizations?

What is Coaching?

Coaching is a skillset that many companies are integrating into their company culture. The International Coaching Federation (ICF), officially defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Coaching functions in various ways within organizational life. One way to think about coaching is through the following seven functions:

  1. Coaching is a service that supports achievement of business and personal goals.

  2. Coaching is a solution that keeps clients moving forward toward their agenda and growth goals.

  3. Coaching is a set of techniques and skills including open questions, the G.R.O.W. model, unpacking, reframing, and S.M.A.R.T.Y. goals.

  4. Coaching is a set of competencies that focuses largely on co-creating relationships, communicating effectively, facilitating learning, planning and goal achievement.

  5. Coaching is a capability that organizations integrate into business operations to improve performance and achievement.

  6. Coaching is a discipline that co-exists alongside counseling, mentoring, consulting and facilitation.

  7. Coaching is a movement that is transforming communication culture, one conversation at a time.

The Role of Coaching in the Workplace

Employees want managers to engage them in meaningful conversations, and not only about work and job performance. A study by The Institute of Leadership and Management (2011) found that coaching works best when coaches center goal-oriented conversations on the broad scope of work-life topics.

This approach to workplace coaching inspires a shift in organizational communication culture. Why is that? When people interact with each other over time, they begin to form a culture. A way of doing things. A system or process for getting the best result with the least amount of resistance. Through coaching, organizations not only build the type of cultures they can be proud of, but also create cultures that produce engagement, and most importantly reengagement, without putting undue strain on managers, employees or executive leadership.

Fortune 500 companies, such as Walt Disney, Apple, Continental, and Harley Davidson, have integrated coaching for executives into HR operations. Other companies have successfully integrated coaching at lower levels of the organization to guide employees in making positive change on their jobs, in their lives and in their careers.

Workplace coaching has a positive effect on organizational culture when it produces healthier relationships between both customers and organizational members. In Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott (2002) makes a bold claim that “the conversation is the relationship” and if an organization is made up of people and their relationships to one another, conversations serve as the barometer measuring the quality of interactions among organizational members. Communication that satisfies employees begins with authentic conversations.

Coaching for Change Leadership

Coaching is a change leadership skill that managers can use to increase engagement among employees. As organizations change, personal change must take place. Coaching is designed for personal change. However, it produces organizational outcomes. Coaching provides a way for leaders to respond to the complexities of change and accelerate the pace of change by preserving the level of engagement in highly motivated workers and increase the level of engagement for demotivated workers.

A coaching culture provides workers with key communication and relationship outcomes. A coaching culture empowers leaders, managers and co-workers to engage each other in authentic conversations that strengthen working relationships. The democratization of coaching throughout an organization harnesses the cascading effect of employee and manager engagement.

Organizational leaders mobilize coaches, along with their accompanying coaching skills and techniques, as a way to address the complexities of change through practices such as collective intelligence, strategic thinking and conflict resolution. Several coaching skills and techniques align with employees’ values and often subconscious desires for such things as satisfying communication, and timely, actionable feedback. Coaching skills such as mindful reflection, quality feedback, and building trust lead to outcomes such as shared decision making, encouraging learning, and communication satisfaction.

Coaching has emerged as an alternative to the top-down communication model. It accounts for the relational dynamic and produces various outcomes that align with not only humanistic thought, but also factors that lead to higher employee productivity such as highly engaged employees with a thriving sense of wellbeing.

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