The Benefits of Coaching

“Vision without action is merely a dream…
Action without vision is merely passing time…
Vision with action can change the world”

Nelson Mandela

The term Coaching is often used to describe the process of helping a person develop or improve a skill or behavior. To understand Professional Coaching and it’s benefits it is worth looking back at how Coaching became a developmental intervention. To do this I will briefly recall the history of coaching and how it has evolved over the more recent past. I will outline the driving forces behind the growth in demand for coaching, the reasons clients choose coaching and examine the differentiators that make coaching successful as a support intervention.

To identify and understand the benefits of coaching it is important to first look at how the concept of coaching originated. Coaching has strong roots in developments, over the past century, in the disciplines of psychology, social science and business. The evidence of a coaching style approach to people development in the workplace began to emerge in the 1960’s with the onset of the Humanistic Movement. This brought with it a new outlook by employers to treating employees well and as individuals replacing the “command and control” approach of previous eras. In the decade that followed this new management style grew in popularity as the benefits began to show in improved performance. Timothy Gallwey’s groundbreaking book “The inner Game of Tennis”[i] (1974) in which the author found that the player created their own mental blocks, which prevented them improving their game, ultimately changed the style of sport’s coaching. The new concepts which put the focus on delving into the player’s life and mindset to unlock greater capacity to achieve improved performance became popular in sports coaching. The benefits of the new sports coaching model were noticed by the business world where a similar framework of individual and team, performance and goals exist and this led to the beginnings of the Business Coach model. It is apparent that the common thread from the coaching approach of the 1960’s to the professional coaching methodology of today is the belief that the individual is capable of unlocking great potential and achieving great things when the right supports are in place. The International Coaching Confederation (ICF) defines Professional Coaching as “An Interactive process that helps individuals and organisations improve their performance and achieve extraordinary results.”

Causes of the growth in demand for coaching

Evidence of the growth in demand for coaching can been seen in the ICF’s 2012 Global Coaching Study[ii] which cites a significant increase in the numbers of professional coaches worldwide from an estimated 30,000 in 2007 to an estimated47,500 in 2012 representing an increase of58%.

An article published in the International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring [iii] as far back as 2004 cited the following three interrelated forces for the increase in demand:

coaching experience

The increasing entry of professionals into coaching

The increasing sophistication of management and Human Resource (HR) professionals.

I believe the same reasons can be said to apply today but can be expanded upon to explain the growth in demand for coaching in more recent years. Over the past 15-20 years businesses began to realise the need to develop their peoples’ soft skills as well as the more traditional training of technical skills. This was particularly relevant as employees progressed in their careers and moved into leadership roles. Increased awareness of the benefits of coaching led organisations to broaden and increase their use of coaching as a people development tool. Research carried out by The Henley Business School[iv] in 2014 which names individual (83%) and team (55%) coaching as the top two Learning & Development tools reinforces this. Over the same period the coaching industry has grown in professionalism with significant accredited research undertaken and a framework of core competencies, entry requirements and a code of ethics. This in turn has attracted high calibre individuals with significant experience in large organisations to become coaches and to a strong focus on quality coaching. More recently the drive for “success” in all aspects of life along with an increasingly competitive global business and workplace environment and the associated affects on personal life have been significant contributing factors to the growth in demand for coaching.

Key reasons clients choose coaching today

There are many reasons why a client chooses coaching today. These can be grouped under the general headings of

Business/Career and

Life.

These are not mutually exclusive as there can be overlap with issues in a client’s work life that impacts his/her personal life and vice versa. Large organisations typically provide coaching for their top executives and leaders to help improve their performance and ultimately achieve improved results for the business. The coaching may be to help the executive work on achieving certain goals or to help improve their leadership skills. With greater awareness of the benefits of coaching and the recognition of coaching methodology, organisations are broadening their use of coaching making it available to high potential performers as a self development tool to help in areas such as developing people oriented skills, emotional intelligence, and self awareness. CEO’s and top business entrepreneurs often use coaching as a “sounding board”. It gives them the opportunity to get perspective and feedback on themselves as a leader and to sound out new ideas or changes they may be considering for their business in a relationship where there is accountability for actions. Eric Schmidt said, during his time as Chairman and CEO of Google, in an interview with Fortune Magazine[v] that the best advice he ever got was to get a coach. Other reasons why clients seek coaching are generally associated with important decisions such as career changes or retirement. Sudden change in a client’s life which can bring stress or loss of confidence and a feeling of lack of control is also a reason to choose coaching. Clients can also turn to coaching to help bring balance or harmony into their lives or to help them deal with difficulties in personal relationships.

The benefits of coaching

The benefits of coaching are wide and varied. The ICF’s definition of coaching (above) cites the very powerful benefit of helping individuals and organisations “achieve extraordinary results”. The coaching methodology, through the interactive process, empowers the client to use their own resources to map out the steps and actions towards achieving their goal. That in itself gives the client a tool or a new perspective which can be applied to other aspects or topics in their life or in their organisation. The coach’s skills and competencies and the correct coaching environment are equally important in helping the client derive the benefits of coaching. Specifically the benefits of coaching, when used within an organisation, are seen in improved performance and better communications, behaviours and decision making skills by the individual(s) and the organisation. Underlying these outcomes are personal benefits to the coachee such as clarity and focus, confidence and motivation. Similarly the benefits of life coaching such as, having more balance in one’s life, growing as a person and improved relationships are closely linked to the underlying benefits offeeling empowered, improved self confidence and having a feeling of control of the future.

Core differentiators that make coaching successful as a support intervention

The ICF in summarising the findings of it’s Global Coaching Client Study[vi] states that “virtually all companies and individuals who hire a coach are satisfied” and support that claim with specific data showing percentage levels of satisfaction in the high nineties.

There are a number of characteristics of professional coaching which differentiate it from other types of support interventions. These contribute to the success of coaching which is evidenced in the results of the above study. A fundamental differentiator is the coaching environment borne out of the ground rules for the coaching relationship and the coaching process. Confidentiality within the relationship allows for the creation of a “safe place” in which the client has the freedom to take risks and to explore areas of their lives and possibilities which may be normally outside of their comfort zone. Another Important differentiator is the inter active process where the coach helps in establishing clear goals with vision and purpose and evoking transformation through an action plan while the client is empowered to draw on their own resources, to own the process, take personal responsibility and to take action.

I used the quote by Nelson Mandella at the the beginning of this article because I think it captures succinctly the power of Coaching.

Gallwey, T (1974). The Inner Game of Tennis

2012 ICF Global Coaching Study. Executive Summary

Grant, A. Cavanagh, M. (2004). Toward a profession of coaching: Sixty-five years of progress and challenges for the future. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring Vol. 2, No. 1, spring 2004.

Corporate Learning Survey (2014) New research sees move to developing collective leadership capabilities,. Henley Business School

July 2009 Interview by Adam Lashinsky, Best Advice I ever Got, Fortune Magazine

2012 ICF Global Coaching Client Study. www.coachfederation.org