Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Why coaching is misunderstood

I used to think that coaching was something I hadn’t done very much of. Even though I wrote about coaching, mentoring and related activities in my first book, A Guide to Management Development Techniques, offering a couple of coaching case studies along the way, I still felt it was something I hadn’t practiced much. I’ve recently learned this is a common misconception.

I’ve been looking more closely at coaching recently, as a result of writing a short contribution on the subject in the CIPD’s Learning and Development manual. John McGurk, CIPD’s Learning, Training and Development Adviser, writes in the August 2009 issue of Impact, Quarterly Update on CIPD Policy and Research, that “if we identify the behaviours of coaching rather than the concept of activity, we find that coaching is already much more embedded through the activities of line managers than might be expected”. In other words, managers already do a lot of coaching – they just don’t recognise it by that name. Frustratingly, McGurk doesn’t go on to give examples of this, but they can be found in the report he references, Coaching at the Sharp End (CIPD, 2009).

The report highlights some characteristics of a coaching style of management, including:
# Development orientation (I help them develop themselves as individuals)
# Planning and goal-setting (I help them express their own action plans)
# Mutual support (If any of them has a good idea, I always use it)
# Effective listening (I spend more time listening rather than questioning)

..and the lesson for learning and development professionals is that we need to engage with people at this level of detail rather than speaking our own code of “coaching” that we mistakenly assume others implicitly understand.

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