Coaching the top team

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Wendy Reeves takes a comprehensive look at how an organisational coaching culture can help companies and individuals to remodel themselves.

Current trends

The credit crunch has certainly been a wake-up call for many. With redundancies and job insecurity praying on so many peoples’ minds, the recession has meant that large numbers have taken the opportunity to really think about, and focus on, a career that is both more fulfilling and rewarding.

It appears that now is the time for many in jobs that do not stimulate or fulfil to change their career direction. People are no longer content to simply turn up and put the hours in. This has fuelled a move towards the search for more meaningful work, and alignment between what we do for a living with what is important to us in life.

These days, people change jobs more frequently and finding a role that is right for you requires self awareness, focus, effort and determination – qualities that are not so easy to work on individually. Coaching can help individuals to get to where they want to be much quicker than if they are trying to achieve this on their own. It challenges peoples’ habitual thought patterns and behaviours, and encourages them to think creatively and experiment with more effective ways of being and acting in a supportive environment. We all have a deep psychological need to find purpose and meaning to our lives; something that makes it worthwhile getting out of bed in the morning. 

Best practice

Today, companies need to work smarter and leaner, and – more than ever – they need to retain the crème de la crème of their workforce. 

The economic downturn has had a major impact on business, and on staff morale. Saving on expenditure is being explored across every part of business, and employees’ outgoings are being scrutinised. But isn’t this just good practice in any event? We all appreciate that the key to a successful business is the people behind it, and the most switched on employers understand that looking after their employees will always be a worthwhile investment.

"We all have a psychological need to find purpose and meaning to our lives; something that makes it worthwhile getting out of bed."

Increasingly, companies are seeking the assistance of coaching, because they recognise that it can help as part of a programme to keep their top performers healthy and balanced, in order to maintain their high-level contribution to the company. Never has there been a more important time to be pro-active. 

Stress in the workplace

As we know, stress can cause problems with health, both physically and emotionally. An article published on Health Discovery website states: “A feeling of powerlessness is a universal cause of job stress. When you feel powerless, you're prey to depression's travelling companions, helplessness and hopelessness. You don't alter or avoid the situation because you feel nothing can be done.

Secretaries, waitresses, middle managers, police officers, editors and medical interns are among those with the most highly stressed occupations — marked by the need to respond to others' demands and timetables, with little control over events. Common to this job situation are complaints of too much responsibility and too little authority, unfair labour practices and inadequate job descriptions.”(1)

Too often companies offer support, such as counselling to its employees, when the stress has become so apparent that it is resulting in absenteeism. To ignore the wellbeing of your staff, particularly those that hold demanding roles and are key to the company’s bottom line, can be self-sabotaging.

Stress in an employee - signs to look out for:

  • A normally outgoing individual becomes withdrawn and less interactive

  • Working long hours

  • Downturn in performance

  • They often look tired and pale

  • Tend to catch colds and flu regularly

  • A loss of a sense of humour

  • Mood swings

  • Defensiveness

Of course, an easy assumption to make is that there could be personal problems, which shouldn’t negate the help and support offered by employers. Our work and personal lives dovetail, and whatever the long-term cause or problem, our performance in the work place will eventually be affected.

A company’s aim should not only be to address problems or under-performers, but also to unleash employee’s potential. Business owners and managers need to help successful staff become even more successful. Sports coaching offers a good example – top performing athletes all have coaches to keep them at the top of their game, and I would argue that there should be no difference in business.

Organisational coaching culture

No one benefits if systemically an organisation has a parent/child ‘tell’ culture. The cost is poor motivation, lack of creativity and disempowerment. Every organisation would say it wants its people to get on, but it can be hard to develop them consistently well. 

A coaching culture nurtures employees’ confidence, motivation and development, by creating a foundation of trust. Not only will it bring out the best in people, it will help to align company values and its individuals.

For a healthy, open and dynamic culture, there needs to be a strong belief in others. Senior leaders need to demonstrate coaching skills, so that a coaching principle becomes embedded within the organisation. It should be a natural process, a way of being – a behaviour. 

A company’s aim should not only be to address problems or under-performers, but also to unleash employee’s potential.

Empowering individuals in a supportive, transparent environment gets the best out of them. A thinking environment is a thriving environment. People can think for themselves and take responsibility, thereby being less dependent on line management. It’s a win/win result. By tapping into employee talents and skills the organisation gains by improved and sustained performance, line management can be more strategic, and the employee is fulfilled through development and achievement. 

Coaching is not always about developing people to the next level. It can be about just dealing with the day-to-day issues in the workplace. Particularly, in this current climate, organisational change is inevitable. Redundancies, mergers and acquisitions, have a huge impact on employees, and they will be asking themselves ‘what does this mean to me?’ During transitional periods, coaching needs to be adopted and adapted to suit.

Conversations with open questions, good listening skills without interruption become more powerful, as the quality of the exchanges improve. Just asking, 'how is this affecting you?' or, 'what are your concerns?' can and will make a big difference.  

1. http://health.discovery.com/centers/stress/articles/stressinworkplace/stressinworkplace.html

After a successful career in human resources, Wendy Reeves now runs her own coaching practice helping individuals on a personal level, sole traders and small business owners. As a consultant she has coached management at organisations, including: Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Tesco’s and United Biscuits. More details can be found at her website: www.lifegoal.co.uk  

About Verity Gough

About Verity Gough
Verity Gough is deputy editor for TrainingZone.co.uk, HRZone.co.uk, and MyCustomer.com and writes the ever-popular Apprentice blog on BusinessZone.co.uk. Previously Verity was a feature writer for a raft of women's magazines and national newspapers before turning to business writing and last year won the specialist media prize at the Avanta Press Awards for her work on HRZone and TrainingZone. She has now added video-journalism to her skillset and regularly produces video content for her sites. Her areas of expertise include HR, training, social networking, leadership and business.

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