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The Tale of Two Clients, or The Coaching Conundrum
“Engaging in an executive coach for your high performing talent tells them that they are valued and that you are investing in their future. A coach builds awareness around successes and failures and provides a supportive partner who reflects the commitment to your executive’s personal and professional long-term success.”
Senior Vice President
Head of Human Resources
Executive coaching has often in the past been used to remediate damaging behaviors demonstrated by those with enough institutional authority to do significant damage to people and to the organization that employs them. When powerful executives behave badly by making ill-advised financial or organizational gambles, their organizations suffer. When an organization suffers, the suffering trickles down to a variety of constituency groups. Profits can be lost, benefits can be lost, jobs can be lost, and whatever good things customers and the community at large derive from the organization’s goods and services are diminished or disappear altogether. Anything, such as coaching, that helps managers and executives make good decisions is worth the investment, whether that means turning around a manager’s or executive’s thinking and/or involving them in more productive habits, skills, and activities.
The emerging trend that is eclipsing the mostly remedial approach to coaching is to identify high-potential leaders inside organizations and engage them with skilled coaches early on. The emergent practice is to use the guidance of a business coach to make high-potential individuals more effective businesspeople the same way a sports coach improves the performance of a gifted athlete: transforming natural talent and ability into highly refined skills and capabilities. While coaches in business and sports spend time reprogramming bad habits, addressing skills gaps, and establishing the most productive and efficient activities to enhance the businessperson’s or athlete’s ultimate goals and objectives, coaches prefer to (and should) enter the equation sooner rather than later.
The Coaching Connection is, in part, about connecting the dots between the need for highly skilled, knowledgeable, and wise coaches and the exponentially increased benefits of preemptive managerial and executive skill and competency building as opposed to reactive, after-the-fact interventions. If we have learned anything from the history of coaching, it is that effective leadership does not come naturally to the vast majority of people who are promoted into leadership positions and are paid to lead. We have also learned that leading is not easy for anyone facing high-pressure demands from employee, customer, and the board, internal and external economic challenges, and complex marketplace competition.
Who, then, is the coaching client? Is it the individual or small team receiving the coaching or the organization that is paying for it? Reread the opening paragraphs of this introduction and note how many times the individual manager’s or executive’s fortunes are tied directly to the fortunes of the organization and vice versa. Throughout this book you will hear us discuss this symbiotic relationship, this interdependence, if you will, between the organization and the members of its organizational population. That makes our final answer: The individual and the organization that employs the individual are co-clients. We are not talking about someone who has been referred to professional therapy by the human resources department to be treated for depression or to receive marriage and family therapy, although even those referrals have a potential benefit to the organization by helping to develop a happier and healthier employee. We are talking about the growth and development of individuals specifically in how they do their jobs and interact professionally with others now and in the future, both of which are directly and inexorably linked to the health and well-being of the organization that employs them.
Conundrum solved. The tale of two clients unfolds. In marriage counseling, neither partner is the client. The relationship between them is the client. So it is with business coaching. The highest value a coach or a manager who coaches can bring to the individual or to a small team is to find the place where the best interests of both converge.
The diagram of the contextual coaching process illustrates how the individual and the organization are considered separate at first but begin to merge as the coaching process progresses. Ultimately, if the coaching is successful, the individual’s and the organization’s interests become one—-or as blended as humanly possible. A well-coached employee who has experienced such convergence will be able to articulate how his or her function adds value to the organization.
Look no farther than a commonly held definition of organizational culture to discover why the organization functions the way it does. Organizational culture is the driving, guiding—-often unspoken—-force that defines how an organization conducts business, treats its internal and external customers, and positions itself in the marketplace. Organizational culture is also defined as the shared beliefs, values, and behaviors that inform the real organizational environment and the real organizational conduct behind the rhetoric.
If espoused organizational goals and objectives are consistently aligned with organizational culture, an organization has a reasonable chance of achieving those goals and objectives. If organizational goals and objectives are at cross purposes with the shared beliefs, values, and behaviors that constitute organizational culture, the best efforts to act in spite of the culture or in ways contrary to the true culture are likely to produce entropy as the organization grinds to a halt (productivity-wise) in its own inertia. The AMA/Institute for Corporate Productivity Corporate Culture Survey 2008, commissioned and published by the American Management Association, concluded, among other things, that organizations with cultures that considered the individual needs of their employees tended to prosper more than those that did not. The bottom line is this: You cannot coach a culture. But you can coach the individuals who create and sustain a culture. As a result, both individual and organization can, and should, win. Such is the basis of the Contextual Coaching process model.
Excerpted from THE COACHING CONNECTION: A MANAGER’S GUIDE TO DEVELOPING INDIVIDUAL POTENTIAL IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ORGANIZATION by Paul J. Gorrell and John Hoover. Copyright © 2009 Paul J. Gorrell and John Hoover. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission. All rights reserved. http://www.amacombooks.org.
Chapter 1 A Coaching Culture 1
Chapter 2 The Basics of Contextual Coaching 28
Chapter 3 Area of Behavioral Focus: Strategy 52
Chapter 4 Area of Behavioral Focus: Structure 67
Chapter 5 Area of Behavioral Focus: Culture 86
Chapter 6 Area of Behavioral Focus: Communication 102
Chapter 7 Area of Behavioral Focus: Talent Systems 122
Chapter 8 Area of Behavioral Focus: Talent Solutions 149
Chapter 9 Area of Behavioral Focus: Development 170
Chapter 10 Area of Behavioral Focus: Team Dynamics 190
Chapter 11 Area of Behavioral Focus: Career 211
Chapter 12 Area of Behavioral Focus: Competence 232