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Coaching Demystified – The what, when, why and why not

August 22, 2013

A few weeks ago I was privileged to be a guest on the #indiahrchat forum on Twitter, which is run by @tanvi_gautam, on the subject of coaching. It was a very rich discussion that led to a lot of insights on coaching, around the following questions:

1. Why should organizations pay attention to coaching as a tool for L&D ?

2. What is the difference between coaching and mentoring ? Which one should be used when ?

3. When should coaching not be used ?

4. What does it take to be a good coach ? 

5. What is an ideal coaching candidate like ?

6. What are the challenges of establishing a successful coaching culture in a firm ?

I realized that there was tremendous interest on the subject and decided to document some of the key messages and learning highlights so that they are available to the HR/OD and Leadership community at large for future reference.

In this first blogpost of the series, I will address the first question viz. Why should organizations pay attention to Coaching as a tool for Learning and Development?

Context: The world as we know it, has changed. It has moved from a predictable, straight-line, definable state into a highly dynamic state. And this state is going to stay. The new world, as we know it is going to be volatile and unpredictable. Perhaps the best definition of this state is rendered by the term VUCA, a term that was coined by the military and stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. And the armed forces in general can’t manage VUCA, since they are a command and control, define the environment and respond mechanism. They created the SAS, Marine Corps and other similar specialist divisions to manage VUCA situations.

In a VUCA world, the ability of any one leader to manage this level of complexity and turmoil is limited. As a result known and standard methods of development tend to be challenged. And one clear development mechanism that emerges head and shoulders above others is, Coaching.

Uncertain times call for personalized support for leaders. No one person has all the answers. A coach helps provide insight and open up new dimensions that the individual may not have considered.

The primary advantage of Coaching over other traditional forms of L&D, is that coaching is personalized. Hence, it is bespoke and customized to the specific development needs of an individual.

Here are some insightful tweets that highlight the impact of coaching:

Learning is social. Coaching is the oldest form of social learning from @sundertrg – The oldest training methods come to us from the apprenticeship process where older, maturer experts adopted apprentices and transferred both skills and attitudes for success. Metalsmiths, Swords instructors and Tutors were the oldest forms of coaches. Drona comes to mind. As does Aristotle as the coach to Alexander the Great. And how can we forget the mythical coaching moment on the battlefield between Krishna and Arjuna, where Krishna enabled Arjuna to see a perspective he had not considered. Not only did Krishna, Drona and Aristotle impart education, but they questioned, challenged, provoked and inspired their proteges.

Aristotle tutoring Alexander

Aristotle tutoring Alexander (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because different individuals have different learning styles from @rajeshMTHRG who speaks to the bespoke and individualized nature of coaching.

Coaching takes the baton where training leaves it! Coaching complements training and induces behavioral change says @tnvora who helps illustrate the value that a personal coach can bring in ensuring that the coachee/protege confronts her challenges and demonstrates lasting behavioural change. A sentiment that is echoed by @justcoachit when she says  Sticky training means having collateral support, coaching that is aligned with training initiatives

And @sujitsumitran illustrates the role of provocation and challenge in coaching when he says that Coaching goes where the coachee hasn’t gone before

@meetasengupta highlights the supportive and partnering role a coach can play in what can be a lonely and difficult journey when she says that Coaching is about creating a journey of professional growth with a trusted partner

All in all, while training is designed for a cohort and addresses general learning needs, coaching is specific to the development needs of an individual. It is targeted at preparing the individual for a role or objective and is an intimate process where the coach partners the individual in order to help attain success.

Including coaching as a development tool for specific high performers or key executives/managers will enable L&D professionals to enhance the developmental impact they can demonstrate.

YSC recently partnered with SKM and Dr. Anthony Grant at Sydney University to evaluate the impact of YSC’s coaching on a global cohort of executive and senior managers. The Results were compelling and the study demonstrated that Executive Coaching in times of Organizational change has significant business and personal benefits. For the results, click here.

Research by Bersin and Associates demonstrates “that senior leaders who coach, develop and hold others accountable for coaching and development are three times more effective at producing improved business and talent results than those who do not.”

I would love to hear your stories and anecdotes of the impact of coaching in your organizations. Please leave a comment, so that we all can have access to your experiences and maybe reach out to you for more! Thanks!

My next blogpost will focus on answering What is the difference between coaching and mentoring ? Which one should be used when?

You can follow me on Twitter @joyandlife

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2013 8:20 pm

    I Love the statement from @meetasengupta “Coaching is about creating a journey of professional growth with a trusted partner” I’d only add that it is about personal as well as professional growth but I appreciate professional is more appropriate in this context


  1. Coaching Demystified – What does it take to be a good coach? | Life, Leadership and Change
  2. Training Sales Managers To Coach Without Context Will Not Deliver Improved Results |

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