The coaching industry has grown significantly in the past decade with increasing awareness of what coaching is; more organisations using coaching as a people development strategy; more university programs and more PhD’s being undertaken into coaching related research.
All this is good. This growing interest though brings with it greater questions and challenges about the impact of coaching.
A recent research paper published by Jericho Partners in the UK (Gilkes, 2010)* sought to identify current practices in organisational coaching. A qualitative survey and interview process involving senior HR professionals in 17 leading UK firms across different industries concluded that... “The organisations surveyed were generally found to be using coaching in a relatively unsophisticated way. Executive coaching was often tactical rather than strategic and the systems and processes remain quite under‐developed.”
In response Gilkes developed the Coaching Maturity Profile as a framework for thinking through some of the strategic and system issues that can impact coaching effectiveness. He proposed that organisational coaching be evaluated against 9 criteria:
- Strategic or Tactical?
Is coaching positioned to support broader organisational strategy or is it more a response to immediate needs?
- Organisation based or Individual based?
Is coaching positioned with an organisational wide improvement methodology or is just something that selected individual leaders experience?
- Integrated or Stand Alone?
Is coaching incorporated into existing leadership development initiatives or does it operate apart from these?
- Controlled or Chaotic?
Is coaching established and monitored in a structured way or does it just happen?
- For Many or for Few?
Is coaching positioned as a broad development initiative that many participate in via external and internal coaches or is it just for a select few?
- Investment or Cost?
Is coaching seen as a longer term investment in people or is it viewed as just a cost?
- Outcomes Measured or Outcomes Assumed?
Are the results of coaching interventions evaluated systematically or are anecdotal positive comments seen as sufficient evaluation?
- Professional Selection or Contacts Led Selection?
Are coaches engaged on the basis of rigorous selection criteria or is it who happens to know someone with whom they had a good experience in the past?
- Focused on Benefits or Focused on Disappointments?
Is the focus on how to maximise and extend the benefits or coaching or more on the challenges associated with the organisational factors potentially undermine coaching effectiveness?
While this brief report was based on a small sample it does raise key questions about the strategic context of coaching in organisations and offers some suggestions about how to move forward on some of the challenges.
Currently we are in the process of undertaking some of our own small research projects evaluating the impact of several coaching interventions in which we have been involved. Watch this space for more the results and trends emerging from these studies.
Those of us committed to coaching will do well to consider these questions and better still integrate responses to them as we set up coaching projects so that we can ensure that coaching retains a place as a legitimate and valued people development approach.
*Gilkes, John (2010) The Challenge of Coaching in the Current Climate. Jericho Partners. London: UK To view full report click on this link