The Power of Corporate Coaching
There is without doubt an increase in demand for coaching generally, but especially in the corporate space (Bersin 2021). Coaching is big business. Arguably, organisations invest in such interventions because they see the power of coaching to transform people and therefore, business outcomes.
Defining Corporate Coaching
The clue to the definition of corporate coaching is in the name. This type of coaching takes place within the corporate space where organisations invest in coaching in the workplace to develop the workforce. This may include coaching executives (executive coaching) or may involve the implementation of coaching programmes which makes coaching accessible to more levels within the organisation beyond executive and c-suite.
Benefits of Implementing Corporate Coaching Programs
The benefits of implementing corporate coaching programmes include:
- Scalability – the ability to reach a wider audience and make coaching accessible to the whole organisation.
- Development – provide a tailored approach to personal development.
- Cost efficiencies – delivering coaching programmes in-house makes coaching more affordable across the business.
- Standardisation – in-house coaching programmes means that the programme can be customised to the direct needs of the business and embed the organisation’s culture.
Understanding the Fundamentals of Corporate Coaching
What is Corporate Coaching?
Corporate coaching is coaching which takes place within the organisation.
Distinctions Between Coaching and Mentoring
Coaching differs from mentoring in that the coach is not required to be a subject matter expert like a mentor. However, the coach is required to be an expert in the delivery of coaching. A mentor typically is guiding a more junior colleague in a specific field of expertise, where they ‘show, guide, instruct’ the mentee. Good examples of this would be the barrister with their pupil, or the consultant physician with the junior doctor.
Whereas, the coach is more of a facilitator of learning, development and growth, in the belief that the coachee has the answers within them. Through expert techniques and questioning the coach supports the coachee to find their own solutions.
Different Approaches to Corporate Coaching
There are many different approaches to coaching generally, which applies also to corporate coaching, 4 key categories include; democratic, autocratic, laissez faire and holistic.
The Role of Corporate Coaching in Organisational Success
The role of coaching within the corporate space should not be underestimated in terms of its contribution to organisational success. Coaching has many benefits, in particular, for enhancing leadership skills and empowering the workforce more broadly.
Enhancing Leadership Skills
In terms of developing leadership skills, there are 3 core benefits to highlight.
Developing Effective Communication
Coaching can have a significant impact on developing more effective communication. Communication skills are one of the core components of successful coaching (Kilburg, 1996; Bush, 2004) and essential as part of the feedback process generally. Effective communication in the corporate space has been well researched, where effective managers have been shown to have a strong repertoire of interpersonal skills (Clampitt, 2016).
Fostering Emotional Intelligence
A further benefit of coaching for leadership skills must include emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a term first popularised by the psychologist Daniel Goleman (1995) who describes this as a person’s ability to manage and express their feelings appropriately.
Building Self-Awareness and Self-Reflection
Furthermore, it is recognised that coaching has a significant impact on building self-awareness through self reflection, which is an essential ingredient when developing leadership skills. If you’re looking to improve the leadership skills of your business leaders, then be sure to explore our leadership coaching. Our leadership coaching programme takes leaders and managers through individual and team coaching sessions remotely, to gain insights into their mindset, identify barriers to change and develop an action plan for drive business success.
In terms of its ability to empower employees, coaching can have a profound impact. This can be for several reasons.
Cultivating a Growth Mindset
Coaching has the ability to cultivate a growth mindset, which as we know from the work of Carol Dweck, can have an important effect on how people approach work and life. With a growth mindset, we are more likely to learn from mistakes and see skills and attributes as developable, rather than finite. From a learning and growth standpoint, developing a growth mindset within an organisation will be an important and worthwhile investment.
Encouraging Innovation and Creativity
Additionally, coaching has the ability to cultivate innovation and creativity by encouraging critical thinking and exploring ideas, concepts and situations beyond what is immediately presented. Innovation and creativity are relevant to any organisation, especially those within the corporate space, looking for competitive advantage. This will promote cutting edge ideas and thought leadership, where people are empowered to solve problems through innovation.
Increasing Motivation and Engagement
Coaching also has the ability to motivate and empower people to perform at their best. With a motivated and engaged workforce, people are willing to apply extra effort and unlock their full potential.
Implementing an Effective Corporate Coaching Program
Establishing Coaching Objectives
In order to implement an effective corporate coaching programme it is important to first establish the coaching objectives and primary goals. This gives direction and ensures programme outcomes are measurable.
Identifying Key Stakeholders and Participants
It is equally important to ensure that any key stakeholders are involved at the beginning of a programme as they will be the key sponsors for the programme. Without ownership from above, it is more difficult to gain adoption and engagement across the organisation. Corporate sponsorship brings credibility and authority to the programme and will make an important contribution to any programme success.
Selecting Qualified Coaches
For the programme to succeed it is also important to ensure that there are enough qualified coaches who are onboarded to run the programme. It would be unreasonable to expect an unqualified manager, or internal coach without adequate training, to deliver fully on a coaching programme.
Designing Coaching Frameworks and Models
Another important consideration when designing a corporate coaching programme are the models and framework for the coaching. Some areas that may be included are:
- One-on-One Coaching – as the name suggests, an individual approach to coaching between the coach and an employee.
- Group Coaching – this coaching supports a team or group of people and can be focused on specific group / team goals.
- Peer Coaching – this is where peers provide each other with coaching support, engaging in constructive and challenging coaching conversations.
Creating a Coaching Culture
A further aspect to consider is how to create and embed a coaching culture when developing a corporate coaching programme. There are some relevant factors to consider, which include:
Gaining Leadership Support
For any programme to be fully adopted across an organisation, gaining leadership support is important. This ensures that the people at the senior levels are onboard and willing to invest time and resources to make the programme a success.
Aligning Coaching with Organisational Goals
It is important also to ensure that coaching is aligned to the organisational goals. This ensures that strategic objectives are considered and central to the coaching design.
Overcoming Resistance to Coaching
Another important factor to consider when designing a coaching programme is anticipating potential resistance. This will ensure that a strategy is in place to deal with and overcome resistance by using concrete facts and coherent arguments. Developing a good business case and focusing attention on addressing potential concerns will go a long way to overcoming any initial resistance. Far better to anticipate and overcome than to neglect and avoid and face the consequences of derailment further down the line.
The Process of Corporate Coaching
To optimise the impact of corporate coaching there are some useful steps to include, as follows:
Setting Clear Coaching Goals
Start with the end in mind. Establish clear goals for the programme and where possible try to align these with broader strategic goals of the business. This will create a joined up approach and ensure that coaching addresses and delivers on business goals by developing leadership and workforce capability across the business.
Conducting Effective Coaching Assessments
To optimise any coaching programme the recommendation would be to use validated assessments to provide a robust benchmark from the beginning. Adopting an evidence-based approach will not only inform the design of a programme by identifying areas of focus and removing any guesswork, but it will also provide individuals and teams with accurate insights as a foundation for the coaching.
Be sure to explore our coaching programmes, such as our coaching training for managers, aimed at businesses who may want to train their managers to take a coaching perspective to their leadership. You should also be sure to explore our accredited coaching foundation course, aimed at those who may wish to implement coaching into their daily life, or potentially have a change in career.
Developing Personalised Coaching Plans
Another important step when implementing a coaching programme is to ensure that once the overarching goals of the programme have been established, that there is a tailored approach for each individual. One size does not fit all. Everyone has a different personality, context, skills, attributes and mindset. To optimise the effectiveness of the coaching it is important to unlock this potential.
An effective way of doing this is to use relevant diagnostics that provide insight into personality and mindset. This facilitates personalisation of the coaching and allows the coach and individual to hone in on the right priorities from the start. A generalist approach is likely to deliver general results. A personalised, tailored approach will fast track results.
Implementing Coaching Sessions
The next step is to implement the coaching sessions. This requires scheduling of diaries and making sure that the correct contracting process is followed. Contracting is an important step in the process which creates a foundation for trust, an essential component for success. Without trust people are less likely to engage fully in the process or reach their full potential.
Active Listening and Powerful Questioning Techniques
Two fundamental skills of a coach are the ability to actively listen and ask powerful questions. Active listening is more than just reflecting back what has been said, it goes deeper, in that it underpins the next, powerful question. When a coach actively listens, they acknowledge listening through their body language and use their insights to explore ideas on a deeper level by asking powerful questions. This facilitates a deeper level of awareness for the coachee.
Providing Constructive Feedback
Constructive feedback is another important component of any coaching process. This involves providing insights that address gaps or areas for development in a positive and constructive manner. More sensitive feedback that may be perceived as negative can be avoided for fear of offending or because the coach is unsure how to approach this. Delivering all feedback with a constructive approach is a very important skill of a coach.
Facilitating Goal Setting and Action Planning
The coach also has an important role in facilitating goal setting and helping people create an action plan. These are crucial steps in any coaching process and create a clear structure and framework that leads to goal attainment.
Measuring the Impact of Corporate Coaching
Without doubt, measuring coaching impact is complex and not without its challenges. However, it is a very valuable step that should not be missed. Measuring impact supports a more effective process and enables progress to be measured and tracked over time.
Identifying Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
An important first step in measuring coaching impact is to establish the criteria for success by creating the KPI’s. What does success look like, what type of outcomes is the programme aiming to achieve.
Collecting and Analysing Data
Measuring impact requires data collection. There are 2 key types of data, quantitative which involves numbers and qualitative which is more subjective data often language based. A combination of both is ideal. This may be achieved using diagnostics at the beginning and by collecting tangible evidence of change at the end. This can be obtained from the individual and from an impact rater, which typically would be the line manager.
Assessing Return on Investment (ROI)
Quantifying return on investment for coaching is complex and not easily obtained. However, this does not mean that it isn’t possible or desirable. Considerations should be made for what a return on investment means with the corporate environment. This will vary from organisation, but programme designers should consider what type of indicators contribute to this, and explore how this type of data can be collected.
Often, there is an over-emphasis on commercialising this proposition, which would be an obvious aim. However, the incremental and compound effects of coaching on mindset that drives behaviour change, should not be under-estimated. Making the link to commercial targets alone can be misleading. Additional consideration is to link internal metrics with external measures such as net promoter scores, which can be a helpful way of measuring impact.
Continuous Improvement Strategies
A truly effective way of embedding coaching within a corporate environment is to regard this as an ongoing and continuous strategy. Rome was not built in a day. Humans are complex beings and for everyone there is always room for growth.
Overcoming Challenges in Corporate Coaching
It is important to ensure that resistance to any coaching programme is both anticipated and addressed. It is useful to see resistance in a positive way. Resistance will have some basis and understanding the root of this will enable programme designers to create a solid business case to eliminate any concerns. Avoiding or ignoring resistance is likely to derail and interfere with progress.
Dealing with Confidentiality and Trust Issues
A crucial step in creating a robust coaching programme is to address issues relating to confidentiality and trust. The importance of this should not be under-estimated. Confidentiality means that people are reassured of their privacy and data protection, which is an increasing obligation for any business. Without this reassurance, it is difficult to establish trust. Without trust, coaching is likely to be less effective.
Managing Time Constraints and Priorities
Managing time constraints in a world which is increasingly pressured by ‘time’ can be a challenge. People are consistently time poor. This is an important consideration and therefore, coaching should be treated as a priority so that sufficient time is allocated to make this a success.
Handling Resistance to Change
People often don’t like change. They may like the idea of change, but are less willing to engage in change often. Handling this type of resistance is an important skill. This involves sensitivity and transparency. Understanding the root cause of the resistance is necessary so that concerns are dealt with and people receive the necessary reassurance and time to adjust. Recognising that people adjust to change at different stages is important.
The benefits of corporate coaching are multifold. Executed well, coaching is highly effective in bringing scalability, development, cost efficiencies and standardisation to develop important leadership skills and workforce capabilities.
People are at the heart of any business, results are delivered by people. Therefore, investing in corporate coaching to develop the most important asset of the business will be the fastest way to achieve organisational growth.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?
Mentoring is typically more directive than coaching and relies more heavily on a mentor having specific expertise which they impart to their mentee, e.g. a consultant physician with a junior doctor. A coach is more of a facilitator of growth and development for the coachee.
How long does a typical corporate coaching engagement last?
Typically a coaching programme within a corporate environment might be designed to last 6 -12 months. Individual coaching sessions typically last between 1-2 hours.
Can anyone become a corporate coach?
With the appropriate training and qualifications anyone would be eligible to become a corporate coach. Experience, familiarity and insights into the corporate world are a distinct advantage.
How can coaching benefit employees at all levels?
Coaching executed well is a highly effective way of unlocking individual and team potential, by developing the skills, mindsets and attributes that drive success.
What are some common coaching challenges and how to overcome them?
Some of the common coaching challenges include:
- Not establishing clear goals and objectives
- Poor contracting and communication
- Lack of accountability
- Being too directive and not enabling empowerment
- Not treating coaching as an organisational priority
- Time management and not having sufficient time allocated to deliver results
- Unrealistic expectations
How can organisations measure the effectiveness of corporate coaching programs?
To measure the effectiveness of coaching programmes it is helpful to:
- Establish clear indicators for success
- Establish benchmark data
- Align with business goals and strategy
- Measure team impact
Bersin, Josh. “The Explosive Growth in Coaching: One of the Biggest Trends in Business.” JOSH BERSIN, 8 Oct. 2021, joshbersin.com/2021/10/the-explosive-growth-in-coaching-one-of-the-biggest-trends-in-business/.
Kilburg, R. R. (1996). Toward a conceptual understanding and definition of executive coaching. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 48(2), 134–144
Bush, M. W. (2004). Client perceptions of effectiveness in executive coaching. (Doctoral dissertation). Pepperdine University. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. Bantam Books, Inc.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jodi is the founder and driving force behind Engage. She is an occupational psychologist and executive coach with a PhD in Coaching Psychology, who for over 20 years has dedicated her career to helping people thrive and be the best version of themselves.
As a leading expert in coaching, she has worked globally with blue chip clients. She combines this wealth of experience and passion for human development with the scientific rigour of evidence-based research which underpins the Engage toolset.