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Leadership Coaching still a ‘cottage industry’

Tuesday 17th November 2009


Leadership Coaching still a ‘cottage industry’, white paper argues


Leadership coaching must be better aligned to business outcomes and more effectively measured if it is to mature beyond a cottage industry, according to a Right Management paper launched today.

The white paper, Aligning Leader Coaching to Business Outcomes, says that while coaching generally receives positive feedback, there is no proven methodology for measuring its ROI or impact on business.

“Moves are underway to establish a true profession of coaching, endorse a set of academic fundamentals and establish accreditation guidelines – but the industry is not there yet,” said Right Management’s Regional General Manager, Ms Bridget Beattie.

Yet anecdotal evidence is overwhelmingly positive. Ms Beattie said, “Our own experience in collecting leader feedback, client reviews and evaluations shows that all the stakeholders involved - the individual, their manager and the organisation - believe the value of the coaching program is much greater than the investment.”

In speaking to HR professionals, Right Management found there was limited tracking of effectiveness either before or after coaching. Of those who do track it, the focus is on measuring leader satisfaction and the impact on behaviour; very few measure business outcomes.

“Of course the impact on an individual is important, but to really stack up, coaching needs to translate into business outcomes such as increasing market share, revenues and profits. We need to anchor coaching firmly in this context,” Ms Beattie said.

Right Management has developed its own methodology for ensuring a coaching assignment meets strategic objectives. This approach retains the one-on-one coaching format but factors other people into the process, while identifying goals in terms of leader competencies, organisation capabilities and business outcomes.

Ms Beattie points out, however, that coaching is just one of a suite of tools that can be used for leadership development.

“Coaching is not the only way to build high-performance leaders, but it can be particularly useful in executing strategy. For instance, if you find that everyone walks away from a leadership retreat with great intentions, which they promptly forget about, then a coach can help keep their feet to the fire and make sure they follow through,” Ms Beattie said.

She adds that this goal-based approach is more likely to achieve hard business outcomes.

“Some leadership coaching looks more like ‘feelgood’ life-coaching – and if that’s what you’re after, then it’s fine. But the key is to be clear on the reasons you’re doing it: if it’s to support the business strategy, then coaching must be clearly aligned to that strategy from the outset,” Ms Beattie said.

Smart companies, according to Right Management, have moved on from using coaching as a remedial tool for ‘problem leaders’, and now focus on fast-tracking high performers.

“In a rapidly evolving business environment, organisations have realised they can’t rely on time and experience to develop leadership talent – instead, they need to move high potential candidates into positions of greater responsibility, with maximum efficiency. Coaching is one of the tools they use to build bench strength at the top,” Ms Beattie said.


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