Managing Director Always Consult Ltd
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Why Do Coaching?

14th Oct 2016
Managing Director Always Consult Ltd
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If you’re a provider of leadership and management training as we are, you’ll no doubt recommend coaching as a key ingredient in the recipe for successful leaders and managers. But what can you say if someone asks the king of the open questions: “Why?”

This article will spell out some of the amazing benefits of coaching, overcome some of the objections that people might raise – and help you to answer the dreaded “why” question.

First, let’s take a look at the skills we can help with as coaches. One way of categorising skills is to split them down the middle into hard skills and soft skills – a very relevant distinction for coaching providers as you will see.

This is our favourite definition of hard and soft skills:

  • Hard skills are what you do with things.
  • Soft skills are what you do with people.

Well, pretty much! Each employee gets to know the hard skills they need for the job very early in their employment. These make up the nuts and bolts of technical and procedural knowledge used day in, day out to actually get the work done. Without hard skills, nothing would be produced and no service provided. Nobody would be able to operate the grinder, process payroll, graph the quarter’s sales, pack the burgers or connect the fire hose.

The 'hands-on' approach

Any deficiency in hard skills is very easy to detect, because there will be a very visible and real correlation between that and a lack of productivity, accuracy or excellence. It’s easy to manage and assess hard skills, because they are very measurable and almost tangible.

To acquire hard skills, people will often receive training as well as coaching. Training is often away from the workplace, maybe involving something like “going on a course”. Coaching on the other hand is more “on the job” and hands-on. This is often called training, but it’s really a form of coaching.

The point here is that hard-skill coaching is not really what this article is about, because that kind of coaching is industry-specific, not universally transferable, and it’s less relevant when it comes to leadership and management roles. So let’s talk about soft skills, those skills that the professional coach can really help with. How can you sell the idea of acquiring soft skills to a budding manager or the person responsible for sourcing training?

How can you sell the idea of acquiring soft skills to a budding manager or the person responsible for sourcing training?

It’s not as easy as selling the idea of training for hard skills, that’s for sure. Soft skills, as you will know, are used whenever you have an encounter with another person – communicating, cooperating, influencing, delegating, encouraging, motivating – and much, much, more! This means that soft skills are not as visible as hard skills and don’t have such a direct effect on productivity. They’re trickier to measure, assess and put a value on. Until recently, you would be forgiven for thinking of soft skills as “fluffy”, pet-like, nice-to-have distractions from the “real” work. Even now, it’s easy to find people who, during their long stretch in yesterday’s education system, were never taught anything about soft skills at all.

And yet, when it comes to leadership, these skills are arguably more important than those nuts-and-bolts hard skills.

So what are the real, concrete benefit of soft skills in the workplace?

The value of soft skills

Let’s first of all consider the new manager as an individual. When people are promoted into a leadership role, often having come up “through the ranks”, they will suddenly find themselves spending less and less time doing work at the coalface and more time negotiating, influencing, delegating, motivating etc. – all of which require well-developed soft skills.

These poor souls may well find themselves surrounded by hopeful faces waiting for the new leader to “man up” and actually take the lead. Imagine the sinking feeling as our new manager realises at that moment that he or she hasn’t the faintest idea how to even begin to lead the team let alone make a success of it.

The people with the best soft skills are the ones who tend to succeed in management and get promoted fast.

This is almost certainly not the fault of the newly appointed manager, who, often as not, has been promoted into a soft-skills-oriented management role because of a successful application of hard skills at the sharp end of things! The good news is that our floundering manager, once provided with the soft skills so essential for the brave new world of management, can soon grow in stature and serve the team with confidence and panache.

If that’s not enough to persuade managers and leaders that they need soft skills coaching, this might do the trick: The people with the best soft skills are the ones who tend to succeed in management and get promoted fast. That’s simply because they know how to play the game, how to enable their colleagues to give of their best; how to lead; how to influence.

Climbing the ladder

The managers who lack these skills may eventually come to the sad realisation that they are being overlooked for promotion. This is not because of a lack of technical competence in their field, or because of a lack of productivity, but because they are viewed as weak leaders; promoted out of their comfort zones; hard to deal with.

Razor-sharp, top-flight coaching can help just about anyone gain a veritable toolbox full of valuable soft skills. Once acquired, this toolbox can be carried anywhere. The soft skill “tools” are not specific to any particular role or industry. They can be applied with amazing results just about anywhere. Soft skills are “life” skills. Say a person moves to a new company.

Granted, they will need to learn how to use different software packages. Their monthly report for the board may well be in a new format to what they are used to. But their soft skills – their attitude; their self-awareness; how they get their ideas across; how they “win friends and influence people” – these skills can be used “out of the box” in pretty much any leadership role. Once acquired, they are for keeps, forever useful.

Proving ROI

So now we’ve given you some useful benefits of coaching for the people on the receiving end of it, but what if you are selling the idea to an organisation, or more specifically to the person responsible for commissioning coaching in that organisation? Here is some powerful ammunition to help justify the investment to the powers that be: Put simply and somewhat coldly, coaching will give any employer a solid return on investment.

In a survey conducted by the Institute of Leadership & Management in 2011, 95% of the 250 organisations questioned said that coaching was worthwhile. That’s the vast majority of organisations giving coaching the thumbs up based on their own direct experience of it.

The proportion of organisations offering coaching, according to the survey, is also impressive: A solid 52% made coaching available to staff at all levels and no less than 63% offered coaching to management-level staff. Only a miserly 20% admitted to not offering coaching at all, to anyone. Hopefully if you come across an organisation in this last group, it won’t be for long, once you have pointed out some of the benefits in this article.

An organisation’s people have the potential to make that organisation sparkle and fizz

Put simply, nowadays we know that for best results, like the pink lettering in a stick of Blackpool rock, coaching needs to run right through any organisation, available to all. This is why: In these commoditised, e-commerce-driven days, it’s getting harder to differentiate one organisation from another in the same field. Pricing is all over the internet, comparison sites and similar products and services are all around. But the one single thing that can ALWAYS differentiate an organisation, the one characteristic that will always be unique, is its people.

People are amazing; they are the key to organisational identity and flair. People are not their job titles; they are far more complex and every single one of us has something unique to bring. An organisation’s people have the potential to make that organisation sparkle and fizz – if only their employer will enable them to do so. Coaching can provide that enablement.

Taking control

There are so many benefits. Embracing a coaching culture first of all shows that an organisation cares about developing its people far beyond their job titles, preparing them for future successes over the horizon. Coaching makes people feel like they belong to a very special club.

Coaching gives people the tools to take control of their own destinies; enables them to express ideas and bring creativity to the workplace; gives them greater autonomy and responsibility; and enables them to enjoy, truly enjoy, their days spent at work. This self-reliance frees up management time to get on with management of the organisation rather than management of its people; people who will simply not need very much managing any more.

When an organisation shows that it cares, through coaching, there is a surge in morale. In no time at all, an effective coaching programme can have an impressive effect on sickness levels (£), productivity (££) and staff retention (£££!)

Growing its people through effective coaching shouts out a hugely important message about an organisation.

Pound signs aside, growing its people through effective coaching shouts out a hugely important message about an organisation. It will soon become known as a “good” organisation, a “great place to be”. You’ve only to look at Zappos in America and Happy.co.uk in this country to see real examples of this in action. These companies have the very best people in their fields queueing up at the door to get on board and join in the fun.

This leads us to a satisfying bonus benefit. The person responsible for acquiring or managing training, in actively promoting the development of people through coaching, can breathe the clean, crisp air of the moral high ground. That’s because on a personal level, by offering people the chance of genuine development through coaching, they are playing a valuable part in improving their lives and helping them to do their thing in the world to the best of their abilities. Job satisfaction doesn’t get much better than that!

Armed with these benefits of coaching, to individuals and organisations, we hope that the next time a coaching prospect barks out the dreaded “why” question, you’ll have all the ammunition you need to get them up on their hind legs veritably begging for your coaching services!

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