While getting promoted means you’re probably good at what you do, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have the requisite skills for leading others in doing what you do. Yet, whether right or wrong, most corporate career paths lead to a role in management, and the skills required of managers – everything from evaluating performance, conducting tough conversations, dealing with conflict and motivating teams – aren’t necessarily ones that come naturally. This is where an executive coach can make all the difference.
There’s a saying that consultants give their clients a fish, so they can have a meal. Coaches, on the other hand, help their clients to learn how to fish, so they will never go hungry. Here, George Phipps, an Executive Coach at GLC Consulting who lectures the “Coaching Foundations & Communication” and “Facilitating Learning & Results in Coaching” modules that form part of SACAP’s extensive coaching courses, shares his views on business coaching and its many benefits:
Q: Ten years ago, most companies engaged a coach to help fix toxic behaviour at the top. Today, most coaching is about developing the capabilities of high-potential performers. Would you agree?
A: The workplace has undoubtedly changed. Most organisations are less hierarchical than they were ten years ago. What this means, though, is that younger people are holding managerial positions without the developed skills gained through working their way up the ranks. With companies struggling to stay afloat financially, most have had to streamline their staffing and do more with less. Typically, in these kind of budget cutbacks, in-house training is the first area to go; the second being cuts to mid- and low-level supervisory positions (where, traditionally, employees were able to develop managerial skills before moving into management positions). We also now have as many as five generations simultaneously in the workplace. Older people are hanging onto jobs for longer and younger people are not interested in the lower-paid positions. Instead, they change companies in search of the kind of positions they want, making the retention of staff more difficult than it was ten years ago. Coaching then, is essential in assisting with skills development and managing relationships across diverse workgroups.
Q: Is coaching personal? Do personal matters creep in?
A: Personal matters can creep in – it really depends on the relationship between coach and coachee. It is important for the coach to contract the purpose of the session and keep it on track, though. I think that if a personal matter is getting in the way of business or skills development, it is necessary to discuss it and create awareness around it. Ultimately, the role of the coach is to help the employee identify and remove barriers to success.
Q: What should a manager or employer look for in a coach?
A: First and foremost, someone who has the background and experience to get the job done. Experience and knowledge is key to producing successful outcomes. From my experience, most companies will not entertain a coach without certification – you wouldn’t hire an electrician to fix a broken water pipe, would you? As far as psychological training goes, most coaching-training programmes are based or touch on some form of counselling; however trained coaches know where the lines are when it comes to supporting their clients.
Q: What are the key ingredients of a successful coaching relationship?
A: A relationship based on trust and the development of a rapport between client and coach. The coach is there to support the client and provide the space for them to reach their own conclusions and ways forward. A successful coach will also provide honest feedback and help the client stay on track through, for instance, goal setting and self-monitoring.
Q: How does coaching borrow from consulting and therapy?
A: Like counsellors, coaches are taught about brain function, body language, and appreciative enquiry. A good coach knows how to listen at deeper levels, ask supportive questions, remove judgment and use silence to provide the space a client needs to reflect and think. Coaching, as an essential workplace skillset, helps employees have more effective conversations with each other. And coaching training also provides the individual with the ability to recognise and remove ego from the workplace equation.
Q: How does the application of fundamental coaching competencies enhance management and leadership aptitudes?
A: Good managers or leaders are there to provide a function and keep their businesses running smoothly. They are far more effective if they support their staff, hold them accountable, and assist them to move forward and build their own skillsets. This is where applying a coaching approach has huge benefits.
Q: How can those trained in the coaching process cultivate a presence in their own job roles?
A: I believe coaching training gives one the skills needed to be more effective not only in the workplace but also in life. Who doesn’t want to be supportive, empathic and be more socially aware? If you know your values and can live them in daily practice, you are a presence to be reckoned with. In short, the coaching process helps you to walk your talk.
If you are fascinated by understanding people and helping them move forward, or simply want to do something more fulfilling in your own life, consider studying with SACAP. The South African College of Applied Psychology offers a number of specialised coaching programmes, from an introductory short course to a full-blown Postgraduate Diploma in Coaching, available at both its Cape Town and Johannesburg SACAP campuses.