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

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Leader: Corbyn’s second act

Left-wing populism is not enough – Labour must provide a real alternative.

Since Jeremy Corbyn first stood for the Labour leadership he has been fortunate in his opponents. His rivals for leader ran lacklustre campaigns in 2015 and failed to inspire members and activists who longed to escape the tortured triangulations of the Ed Miliband era. Later, at the 2017 general election, Mr Corbyn was confronted by a dismal Conservative campaign that invited the electorate’s contempt. Theresa May’s complacency – as well as Mr Corbyn’s dynamic campaign –has helped propel the Labour leader to a position from which he could become prime minister.

With greater power, however, comes greater responsibility. Mr Corbyn’s opponents have for too long preferred to insult him or interrogate his past rather than to scrutinise his policies. They have played the man not the ball. Now, as he is a contender for power rather than merely a serial protester, Mr Corbyn’s programme will be more rigorously assessed, as it should be. Over the months ahead, he faces the political equivalent of the “difficult second album”. 

Labour’s most electorally successful – and expensive – election policy was its pledge to abolish university tuition fees. Young voters were not only attracted by this promise but also by Mr Corbyn’s vow, in an interview with the free music paper NME, to “deal with” the issue of graduate debt. The Labour leader has since been accused of a betrayal after clarifying that the phrase “to deal with” did not amount to a “commitment” to wipe out student debt. In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, he explained that he had been “unaware of the size of it [graduate debt] at the time”. (The cost of clearing all outstanding student debt is estimated at £100bn.)

In fairness to Mr Corbyn, Labour’s manifesto said nothing on the subject of existing student debt (perhaps it should have) and his language in the NME interview was ambiguous. “I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that [graduate debt], ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off,” he said. There is no comparison with the Liberal Democrats, who explicitly vowed not to raise tuition fees before trebling them to £9,000 after entering coalition with the Conservatives in 2010. Yet the confusion demonstrates why Mr Corbyn must be more precise in his policy formulations. In a hyperactive media age, a single stray sentence will be seized upon.

At the general election, Labour also thrived by attracting the support of many of those who voted to remain in the European Union (enjoying a 28-point lead over the Conservatives among this group). Here, again, ambiguity served a purpose. Mr Corbyn has since been charged with a second betrayal by opposing continued UK membership of the single market. On this, there should be no surprise. Mr Corbyn is an ardent Eurosceptic: he voted against the single market’s creation in 1986 and, from the back benches, he continually opposed further European integration.

However, his position on the single market puts him into conflict with prominent Labour politicians, such as Chuka Umunna and the Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, as well as the party membership (66 per cent of whom support single market membership) and, increasingly, public opinion. As the economic costs of Brexit become clearer (the UK is now the slowest-growing G7 country), voters are less willing to support a disruptive exit. Nor should they. 

The worse that Britain fares in the Brexit negotiations (the early signs are not promising), the greater the desire for an alternative will be. As a reinvigorated opposition, it falls to the Labour Party to provide it. Left-wing populism is not enough. 

The glory game

In an ideal world, the role of sport should be to entertain, inspire and uplift. Seldom does a sporting contest achieve all three. But the women’s cricket World Cup final, on 23 July at Lord’s, did just that. In a thrilling match, England overcame India by nine runs to lift the trophy. Few of the 26,500 spectators present will forget the match. For this may well have been the moment that women’s cricket (which has for so long existed in the shadow of the men’s game) finally broke through.

England have twice before hosted women’s World Cups. In 1973 matches were played at small club grounds. Twenty years later, when England won the final at Lord’s, the ground was nearly empty, the players wore skirts and women were banned from the members’ pavilion. This time, the players were professionals, every ticket was sold, and the match was shown live around the world. At the end, girls and boys pressed against the advertising hoardings in an attempt to get their heroes’ autographs. Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Tammy Beaumont, and the rest of the team: women, role models, world champions. 

This article first appeared in the 27 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Summer double issue