Before I get any further into this let me clarify something, coaching occurs in the business world in two particular ways: Executive Coaching, the provision of a service to, typically, senior managers and leaders by an external (occassionaly internal) coach and, secondly, the coaching provided by a leader or manager as a function of their role.

Coaching in both cases has not delivered to its’ potential – a delicious, if frustrating, irony.

In the case of Executive Coaching this is mostly because it is seen to be a learning and development solution – not an approach to increasing performance.  When the focus of coaching is about ‘being a better leader’, not much changes.  When it is ‘deliver this challenging result’, the result is delivered and the behaviours shift, congruent with the challenge.  Putting learning and development to the fore is the same as putting the cart before the horse. Cart crash!

Recently I spoke with the HR Director of a significant multi-national business.  They are considering training the leadership cadre in coaching skills.  He said; “Intellectually, I understand the proposition, but we’ve been here before and coaching has not delivered”.  My response was thus, “The issue is not whether coaching works – it does.  But it requires a change in behaviour.  It is not about having ‘another tool in the toolbox’.  It is a fundamental shift in the way a manager sees his role in relation to the employees to whom he is responsible – it is a culture change.  And that cannot happen through a two-day workshop, no matter how well delivered.

So who is responsible;

HR professionals who simply want to tick a box that says the executive coaching has been commissioned or the training delivered at the lowest cost.

HR Directors who delegate the coaching agenda to the Learning and Development Manager who in turn delegates it to someone who is too inexperienced to understand the strategic implications.

Professional coaching bodies and associations who are unwilling or unable to define what proficiency, let alone excellence, in coaching is.  The issue here is that a professional body needs to have members in order to have clout, a vote.  So they are inclusive – overly so.  Excellence and inclusivity are mutually exclusive!

And then the providers of coaching services: too intent on growing their business or, more likely, surviving, to say ‘no’.  By the way, not many coaching providers know how to consult; to identify the needs of the client organization.  Not much hope of a result there.

And me too.  I have said ‘yes’ to engagements when I should have said ‘no’.  And I should have written this earlier.