Coaching continues to evolve, and it is rapidly becoming a cultural intervention process across the organization. Instead of benefitting the people at the top, it is benefitting all of the organization's human capital.
By Ingrid Johnson
Business coaching is like any other business function or process. It is impacted by technology and evolves over time. Once it was a process used primarily to develop executive leadership abilities, or it served as an intervention when an executive needed increased self-awareness concerning things like management style and team building. In the technology-based environment focused on relationship building, it is important to build a culture of positive energy in which all people can thrive and perform at their best level as individuals and team members; this is the introduction of "positive psychology" to the coaching process.
Coaching is evolving into an organizational cultural intervention process that helps everyone from managers to employees to teams perform to their capabilities. As coaching transforms, so do the methods for measuring success, moving from individual executive assessment to organizational evidence-based results.
Enabling Employees to Succeed
Coaching is flourishing but in a new way. For decades, it was an executive perk that was awarded for one of two reasons: To promote a higher level of performance or to correct performance deficiencies. In either case, coaching results depended on the person increasing self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses.
The transformation first saw coaching programs applied to teams and managers right below the executive level. As the evolution of coaching purpose and process continues, it is increasingly focused on a broader goal: Improving the organization's culture to enhance performance of all human capital. The overarching goal is to help all organizational members thrive, achieve career goals, develop supportive networks and, in the process, develop effective managers and a positive culture.
This may sound like an ideal goal, but coaching for non-executive leaders makes sense. Executives can only be effective when they have managers at lower levels who can execute strategies and provide team-building guidance to their employees.
Coaching is still often thought of as a process reserved for executives and senior leaders when it should be a process embedded in the organization's culture. A coaching culture is one in which people can fully express themselves in terms of their capabilities and creativity. It is a culture of collaboration, learning and development, and it supports the ability of employees to pursue career goals.
Positive About Success
One of the limitations to developing a coaching culture in the past was lack of general employee access to the information and feedback system needed for an effective coaching program. The cost of contracting an experienced executive coach limited the ability to extend coaching to others.
Technology has changed that scenario, enabling the involvement of any and all employees in coaching programs so they can develop their personal and professional potential. Coaching technologies can present real-world business challenges that develop people and leadership skills. The new technologies enable employees to collaborate with co-workers, express creative ideas and work on stretch projects.
Most importantly, coaching technologies enable ongoing feedback and regular evaluations of the learning process. The feedback and evaluations promote effective leadership development with the ultimate goal that the organization's leaders will embrace coaching as a management style, encouraging their staff to maximize their potential also. The leader-as-coach is an emerging trend as businesses recognize the importance of developing a high performing employee team in a dynamic business environment of rapid change.
One of the new developments in organizational coaching is an increased focus on positive psychology. Positive psychology is a scientifically rooted approach to helping people in the organization thrive by utilizing their strengths and psychological capacities to improve performance and effectively manage stress, work challenges, and other difficulties.
The theory is that relying on a person's strengths when they are needed will lead to higher levels of well-being. A person, through coaching, develops a way of thinking and behaving that enables effective performance in any given situation.
After going through the coaching process, people learn the art of appreciative inquiry to inspire positive change, how to ask questions in a way that leads to progress toward goals, communicating to generate insights, empathetic listening, problem-solving thinking processes, self-compassion, and creating goals and action plans.
A basic assumption of this approach is that people are not resistant to change, but rather they are adaptive and resourceful. People can flourish, the theory says, when they know how to utilize their positive attributes.
The science part of positive psychology refers to the fact the strengths and capacities to be developed are measurable and manageable. Measurements come from data from validated strengths-based assessments, goal achievements, adherence to coaching protocols, and quantitative and qualitative measurements of the coaching effects on the coachee's outcomes. There are numerous validated assessments available, like the Values in Action assessment and the Psychological Capital assessment.
Transformation of the Coaching Process
Developing a coaching culture does not happen overnight. It is a process.
The first step is letting key influencers in the organization experience coaching and its results. As they become coaching ambassadors, of sorts, managers and supervisors are brought into the coaching system to develop their coaching skills.
Coaching should be an element of the talent and leadership development strategy, so that future leaders develop the coaching mindset. Developing a system to ensure coaching conversations take place is another important step in creating a coaching culture.
Technology enables the coaching conversations to easily take place, anytime and anywhere. The trends in coaching include digital coaching like app-based coaching and micro-learning sessions. Webinars enable participatory events. Automated coaching can quickly teach people the art of holding coaching conversations, and business leaders should encourage people to practice their new skills. In the future, technology is likely to radically change the business coaching system through the use of artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Executive coaching will remain an important development strategy in a global business environment where things change rapidly and unexpectedly. It also sets the tone for the rest of the organization by sending the message that coaching is a learning process and everyone needs development in order to maximize their capabilities. A coaching culture will only develop with the support of the C-suite.