Business coaching: how to make it stick

A few pointers.

How do you make coaching stick? This is a question I get asked a lot and whilst there's a lot I would need to know about your particular organisation before I could give specific advice, I thought the following pointers might be helpful:

Follow up initial training

Whilst a typical one or two day coaching skills training course will equip managers with the basic tools and techniques it will only address a change in behaviour. Where behavioural change is not accompanied by a similar change in thinking and attitude it will not stick. A series of follow ups to any initial training is useful particularly where the participants are required to be coached on an ongoing work issue and to regularly report back on their progress.

Include a coaching module on all 'people skills' training

In order to move away from coaching as 'task' to coaching as 'style' it must be seen as part of the overall approach to managing people. It is therefore useful to reflect this need on all people skills training and not just specific coaching workshops.

Get the support of the most senior person you can

Where coaching is seen as merely a skill to learn the involvement of the training department is all that is required. However where coaching is seen – as it should be – as part of organisational and cultural change, it becomes a policy decision that requires the full support of the senior team. However, it is not necessary to get the whole team on board from the start, target the most obvious champion and work from there.

Coach the senior team so that they get the benefits

Many of my coaching skills training projects had their seed in a senior executive being bowled over by the benefits of being coached and wanting that experience to permeate throughout the organisation.

Make sure high performers are coached too

Too often coaching is seen as remedial and people understandably shy away from being seen as needing “special lessons”. We can overcome this through coaching by stealth, i.e. by not labelling it as such – but this seems counter-productive if we are really trying to increase the take up of coaching. An alternative is to very deliberately coach already high-performers. They are highly likely to welcome the initiative and become strong advocates for the approach.

Share coaching success stories loudly and visibly

As above, the positive aspects of coaching should be shouted from the rooftops as much as possible.

Publish the results so that the Executive's greed outweighs their conservatism

We can tie ourselves in knots in trying to evaluate coaching with a degree of precision an academic would admire. However, simpler means are available which nevertheless highlight the sheer irrefutable logic and power of the coaching approach. Some raw statistical evidence backed up with stories and anecdotes of meaningful performance will often be enough to convince even the hardened skeptics.

Include a coaching related KPI in managers' performance reviews

“What gets measured gets done” so the saying goes so if we really want managers to give as much energy and attention to people and well as task matters we should measure their results with equal seriousness

Deal with excuses:

I don't have time...

..yes you do, just differing priorities

The culture works against coaching...

...which is exactly why you need to adopt coaching

My boss doesn't coach me...

...but that is no reason not to coach your people. You may wait a long time for your boss to change but you can change today

I already manage my people this way...

...not according to them you don't

Matt Somers trains managers helping them to become ‘coaches’. He is the author of several books, and his title Successful Coaching in a Week, £6.99 is published by Hodder Education: www.hoddereducation.co.uk

Photograph: Getty Images

Matt Somers trains managers helping them to become ‘coaches’. He is the author of several books, and his title Successful Coaching in a Week, £6.99, is published by Hodder Education. His website can be found here: www.mattsomers.com

Paul Farrelly
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I represent a Leave constituency - but I want to delay triggering Brexit

Unlike most of his colleagues, Labour MP Paul Farrelly refused to vote for starting Brexit negotiations in March. He explains why. 

Not quite top marks, but eight out of 11 will do - for the justices on the United Kingdom Supreme Court, who have ruled that our country remains, indeed, a parliamentary democracy. 

Furthermore, they have ruled that legislation is necessary to trigger Article 50, which starts the Brexit process, not simply a plebiscite, nor a government diktat fancifully dressed up as a "royal prerogative".

Last June, my constituency of Newcastle-under-Lyme in the area home to the historic potteries industry voted 61 per cent to 39 per cent to leave the European Union. Yet in December, I was one of just nine Labour MPs to vote - twice - against rushing for the door by the end of March, come what may.

It was the third time since 2015 that I’d defied the Labour whip (quite modest compared with our leader’s record). The last was when - with the Tories’ true statesman, Ken Clarke - I refused to vote for the legislation paving the way for the referendum in the first place. 

I thought it a reckless gamble with our country’s future, which profoundly disregarded the lessons of the past. Six months down the line, I now realise that, of the "December nine", I was the only one with a Leave majority (though not a majority of all voters) in my seat.

Why? Was it a political death wish? A deliberate slap in the face for my electorate, who have returned a Labour MP now since 1919?

No, it simply made no coherent sense to hand the government a blank cheque before Christmas, before we'd seen what Prime Minister Theresa May wanted to achieve, and given our verdict in the national interest. 

Does that make me – like the judges again, no doubt, according to Ukip, some Tories and the Brexit press - an "enemy of the people"? Certainly not. 

My parliamentary next door neighbour Sir Bill Cash, doyen of the anti-EU lobby, has spent the last 40 years defying the "will of the people" from the overwhelming 1970s referendum. So I think we "rebels" can be cut a little slack for wanting to ask a few hard questions to hold the government to account.

On the face of it, Labour’s continued, official support for the government’s timetable renders today’s Supreme Court verdict of little practical consequence - in the Commons, at least. 

In December, our front bench had tried to be clever, crafting a mild motion calling for debate on a published plan before Article 50, to stir a Tory rebellion. But the PM smartly agreed to the demands, tacked on her timetable and Labour got trapped into riding her coat-tails. 

But at least now, through amendments to a government bill, we’ll have the chance – and so will the Lords – to influence the terms of departure, and who in the future has the final say.

In the PM’s speech a fortnight ago, I was pleased with her commitment to protecting the UK’s science base. Last week, I was at the opening of the fifth Innovation Centre at Keele University’s Science Park on my patch, for which European funding has been vital. That’s been hammered out, until 2020, but what happens further out is wholly up in the air. 

I was happy as well, of course, with the passage on workers’ rights. Ten years ago, I introduced the Private Member’s Bill to stop abuse of agency workers – a Labour 2005 manifesto commitment – which was then delivered at European level. That was aimed directly, too, at tackling the sort of levelling down that, all those years ago, was already stoking anger at immigration in areas like mine.

But these were, really, just warm words for the wider audience. The key concerns for our industry, local and national, about tariff-free trade and access to the single market are still there in spades. And in the 21st century economy, we have not squared "control of our borders". The demand for skills, not least when incomers from outside the EU – the element the government ostensibly can limit – formed the majority in the last statistics.

The reality is that, once Article 50 is triggered, the government will not control the agenda.  That will be in the hands, like it or loathe them, of the other 27 member states. 

The PM’s statement was workmanlike, with no real surprises; but what hardly helps the negotiations are the frenzied Noises Off-style gaffes. For Boris Johnson to liken any French President, on his way out or not, to a Colditz camp guard just stores up more trouble for tough times ahead.

In my formative years, way before politics, I organised international youth exchanges. Every summer, teenagers from all over Europe gathered to tend war graves in Berlin – where wounds of conflict were still fresh, and the Cold War divided the city by the Wall. 

My involvement came from growing up in Newcastle - in Staffordshire, where the German cemetery from both world wars lies next to the Commonwealth memorial on Cannock Chase. I grew up believing that the European Union and its forerunners, for all their frequent frustrations, were part and parcel of the architecture of peace, not just prosperity. 

Those loftier arguments, however, got lost sadly in the bewildering trading of facts and fictions in the referendum. "Turkey, population 76 million, is joining the EU. Vote Leave." Well no, it’s not, but those huge, bright red posters certainly changed the tone of the debate in the last few weeks on many a street last June, not just in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
 
After a narrow 52 per cent to 48 per cent Leave vote, we are now, though, where we are. 

For Labour, on our front bench Keir Starmer has been trying to make the best of a bad hand. Thanks to the Supreme Court, he now has an extra card. But I still just don’t like the way the dealer has stacked the deck.

Paul Farrelly is the Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme. He has sat on numerous select committees, and currently sits on the Culture, Media and Sports committee.