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The importance of coaching to social business

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The importance of coaching to social business

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Last week I attended the Happy Workplace Conference at the Google London headquarters.  Prime attraction for me personally was the ever interesting Julian Birkinshaw from London Business School (and Management Lab).  He spoke about many of the changes in organizational behaviour and management that I’ve discussed here on this blog, such as the desire amongst leaders to craft more adaptive and responsive organizations, and the need to be both innovative and flexible in order to do so.

He went on to discuss how difficult this is in most organizations, especially those with a long, and often proud, history of doing things a certain way.  Changing those habits of a lifetime is a real challenge, and he spoke about the support required in making those habitual changes.  Central to the provision of that support is a culture of coaching.  It’s much the same as our attempts to get better at a hobby or lose weight.  A bit of coaching and support can go a long way.

It’s a hypothesis that has been reinforced by the latest report from the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp).  The report, called Creating a Coaching Culture, highlights the current state of play with regards to coaching within our organizations.

The report reveals that just 20% of organizations believe they’re currently using coaching in an effective way, which given the strong desire to become more adaptive and responsive to shifting market conditions, is perhaps not ideal.  The report goes on to highlight four strategies organizations can deploy to improve their coaching competencies.

  1. Establish the importance of coaching – An obvious first step is to regard coaching as important, and something that should thrive throughout the organization.  Whilst coaching is often regarded as a service provided by someone external, in essence it is simply about helping one another, which is something we can all do more of.
  2. Transfer knowledge via coaching – Central to this culture of helping one another is of course the frequent exchange of knowledge.  The report suggests that regular coaching can “accelerate collaboration, improve performance, boost engagement and help retain institutional knowledge”.  Heady stuff.  It goes on to say that high performing organizations are five times as likely to have a coaching culture as their lower performing peers.
  3. Get early adopters involved first – As with many cultural initiatives, it’s helpful to get senior managers on board, and it’s no different when trying to promote coaching with the organization.  The report highlights a lack of executive support as one of the key obstacles to overcome.  Solace can be found in a recent Stanford study found that whilst 2/3 of executives don’t engage in coaching themselves, nearly 100% would like to.
  4. Build coaching accountability, capability and measurement – The report outlines three key barriers that prevent organizations from establishing coaching cultures: a lack of coaching skill; a lack of coaching accountability; and a lack of clear measurement.

One of the interesting findings from the Stanford study was that there was a gradual shift away from regarding coaching as something designed to overcome problems (ie providing remedial action) towards one designed more to support high performance.  An analogy used was in reference to the coach of an elite athlete.

“Even the best-of-the-best CEOs have their blind spots and can dramatically improve their performance with an outside perspective weighing in.” the report says.

It is in this vein that I have recently joined Betterworking to provide executive support, coaching and mentoring to those organizations wishing to keep both on top of the changes invoked by social business, and how their organization can go about making that shift.

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