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Trust me, I am a Coach

A report by Dell Technologies back in 2017, estimated that “85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 hadn't been invented yet.”*(1) While this claim still remains unsubstantiated, the rate of change is ever increasing, as companies continue to advance from “Digitisation” through to “Digitalisation” and onward to true Digital Transformation.

The Near Future

Spare a thought then, for the worker in the not-so-distant future, who will need to step continually outside their comfort zone. Employees will need to be increasingly agile in a context where their capacity to perpetually learn, acquire new skills and adapt quickly will be of prime importance.

As companies rise up to these fundamental shifts in the tectonic plates underpinning the work landscape, broader knowledge and innovation will be confirmed as the most important competitive advantages. And one of the most impactful means to achieve that is by creating a holistic coaching environment.

A coaching culture contributes greatly to the development of the growth mindset necessary for companies to embed a true learning orientation resulting in a constant skill upgrade combined with the wider knowledge range.

Coaching Clarified

Before we go on it’s important to clarify what we mean by coaching.

Misconceptions about coaching can lead to apprehension towards the practice. Indeed, some of the claims made by practitioners in the increasingly crowded coaching space, should and do invoke skepticism rather than inspiration. The key lies in a realistic assessment of the process and its benefits for the coachee and their organisation, rather than overly focusing on the exaggerated claims of the few.

The best way to think about coaching is of a combination of tools and techniques some of which will hold more appeal to one individual than another. It’s not a one size fits all approach, rather a process where the coach asks questions and listens intently to the responses in order to encourage the coachee to speak through their own thoughts, goals, values and reasoning.

Give me Your Undivided Attention

The coach’s undivided attention is critical to ensuring the obscure verbal and non-verbal cues are picked up and followed up on. This process of heightening self-awareness is the true key to unlocking the coachee’s internal blocks and obstacles, bringing their ideas to the fore with increased clarity that can be then worked through and acted on.

Do not expect the coach to be an expert on an industry, one’s career or, even more spuriously, on life in general. Nor will they give you the right answers to act on and fix whatever challenge you are facing.

On the contrary, a good coach will never give advice, while a great one will have also let go of any pre- and mis-conceptions they might have about the coachee. The best advice the coachee can get is most likely hidden inside them already while the coach helps to open the doors that are so often neglected or we are too fearful of opening.

Creating a Safe Space

This leads to one of the most important pre-requisites for a successful coaching environment – creating a psychologically safe space for the coachee, a place where they can be “comfortable with their own vulnerabilities, weaknesses, inhibitions or emotions.”*(2)

Passing judgment would run counter to any attempts to encourage the coachee to engage in an open exchange that fosters honest conversation about themselves. Without this, the hidden doors will remain hidden and progress will prove elusive.

Leadership and Coaching

In an organisational setting coaching can be instrumental in developing leadership and culture, concepts that are inextricably linked. Leaders need to develop their own emotional intelligence before they can positively influence others and being at the top can be a very lonely place.

Good coaching is invaluable for executives as it acts as a sounding board and is a means to stay self-aware and grounded. Employees are known to feel a lot closer to the leaders of their firms when they show humility.

Leader as Coach

The coaching approach is of benefit, then, to those in leadership ranks across all disciplines and will help them to nurture cultures of continuous improvement where employees are encouraged to express their points of view and be authentic even if they are unsure of something.

Leaders who believe firmly in human development cultivate learning cultures in their companies that lead to improved creativity and innovation. Developing a growth mindset will empower employees to keep up with the aforementioned technological advances and adjust their skills and way of thinking to what will be a completely different work landscape.

Not only does a coaching-type leadership lead to more engaged, empowered and motivated employees, at the other end of the scale it is vital to reducing the ever-growing incidence of “burn-out” and other increasing absenteeism from anxiety related issues.

Command vs Coaching

Conversely, organisations with the more traditional “command and control” approach often result in toxic blame environments which cause “interpersonal fear.”*(3) Such working cultures “do not foster the psychologically safe working cultures that individuals need to truly thrive.”*(4)

The sooner such firms embrace the individual centric and growth oriented coaching culture the better they will be prepared for the fluid nature of the future job specifications. And they will end up with a much more motivated workforce along the way to boot.

*(1) Dell Technologies and Institute for the Future report 2017.

*(2) “The Fearless Organization” – Amy C. Edmondson

*(3) “The Fearless Organization” – Amy C. Edmondson

*(4) “Mindset” – Carol S. Dweck

If you would like to know more: Leadership Coaching and Leader as Coach

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