Coaching in organizations

Coaching has become a buzz-word and the use of coaching in companies is still rising sharply. According to a 2020 survey by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) there has been a 33 per cent growth in coach practitioners globally and a 50 per cent increase in managers using coaching skills since 2015. Coaching is no longer seen as simply a remedial tool or perk for a few top managers but it is recognized as a key contributor to an organization’s success and growth.

Why use coaching in organizations?

From nearly 40 years’ experience working with leading organizations globally, we see two key drivers behind this growth. The first is the need for companies to respond to a complex, fast-moving environment and the second is the changing role of work in society.

Command and control management and leadership is no longer tenable in a fast-moving and VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. People across the organization need to be able to make rapid decisions and respond to changing conditions on a moment-by-moment basis.

With the decline of the ‘Company Man [Person!]’ and ‘A Job For Life’, the function of work is no longer just to provide money but also purpose and passion. More and more, existential questions are asked about the meaning of work and how to achieve purpose in one’s professional life. In our global workshops, we ask people how much of their potential they bring to their workplace. The average answer, 40 per cent, demonstrates a huge global productivity gap and an untapped reservoir of talent.

Coaching creates the conditions in organizations to best meet these challenges. These include: agility, so companies can respond quickly in a fast-moving world; open communication, so that any problems can be communicated and action taken; increased trust and for staff to be more self-responsible; and for people to be fully engaged in their work so that they find fulfilment at work.

“An organization’s success depends on its human capital. Leaders who coach can unlock massive reserves of potential, build high-performance teams and deliver extraordinary results.”

Mark Hoijtink, President EMEA, Hasbro

How is coaching used in organizations?

Coaching is used in organizations firstly through formal coaching sessions provided by a coaching professional and secondly through managers and leaders using coaching skills.

Formal coaching using external or internal coaches

Coaching takes place in a series of formal coaching sessions or workshops with a certified coach. The coach asks questions which help create insights and clarity. Goals and actions are agreed and attempted in between sessions, for review and reflection at the next session.

Senior leaders, high potential talent and individuals in new or challenging roles often receive 1:1 coaching as part of their development. This can be as several dedicated hours of coaching per month with an open remit, or as part of a development program where the coaching focuses on the adoption of specified new skills and learning.

“Coaching cultures are better performing, fairer, and more sustainable than those arising out of traditional management systems.”

Ludo Van der Heyden, Professor of Corporate Governance, INSEAD

Formal coaching is well-known to boost performance and help individuals navigate challenges successfully.

As organizations recognize the benefits of coaching they want more of their people to experience it. So we have seen an increase in team and group coaching and major investments in building internal coaching capability.


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Register for our free Coaching for Performance webinar to find out more about coaching in organizations

Internal coaches or external coaches?

So they can have coaching “on tap”, some companies employ or train full-time internal coaches (think of the tv show Billions!). For greater diversity or spread, other organizations create a network of part-time internal coaches. Selecting people with a passion for coaching and from across business areas, the company invests in their coach training in exchange for them spending a percentage of their time coaching alongside their day to day role. Network members become “champions” who promote the benefits of coaching and role model coaching skills in their day to day job.

An external coach is independent of internal politics and power structures and brings insights from other organizations and industries. Often with experience of senior leadership themselves, they can partner with very senior leaders in a way that internal coaches can not.

Rather than contract with individual external coaches, organizations may look to partner with global coaching organizations who can provide a global pool of quality coaches and manage the overall programme.

Leaders who coach

Rather than leave coaching to the expertise of the few, organizations all over the world are choosing to maximize the benefits by helping their leaders and managers to develop a coaching leadership style.

Coaching skills and a coaching mindset are now a core part of prescribed Leadership Competencies in many organizations and we see growing investment in training managers and teams in coaching skills. The ICF estimates an almost 50 per cent rise in the number of managers/leaders using coaching skills since 2015.

We often see a change in leadership style in leaders and managers who have received coaching themselves. Having experienced the benefits first hand, they act as ambassadors, adopt a coaching approach themselves and pass the skills down the chain to their teams.

You can hear more of Sir John’s thoughts on leadership and coaching in this playlist:

“Coaching is much bigger than coaching. Anybody who is going to be an effective leader in the world today needs to do so in a coaching style.”

Sir John Whitmore, Founder, Performance Consultants

What is a coaching leadership approach?

With a coaching approach, managers ask non-judgmental, open questions, listen to the answers, and nudge team members to take their own decisions about next steps. The result is sustainable behaviour change and empowered employees who have discovered their own way of addressing challenges by drawing on their own particular strengths.

A coaching management style:

  • Improves alignment;
  • Creates empowerment;
  • Increases engagement;
  • Develops people and performance;
  • Improves creativity;
  • Raises responsibility in employees.

How does coaching add value in organizations?

An ICF survey of over 500 of the largest companies in the USA showed that coaching increases employees’ skills and competencies and has a long-lasting systemic impact on the ability to retain talent and the financial sustainability of an organization.

From our evaluations of the many coaching programmes we run, we consistently see improvement in both financial performance and in employee engagement. We know that coaching makes a huge positive contribution to both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ measures.

Meeting today’s challenges in the long term

In an interview for The Guardian, Tiffany Gaskell, our Global Director of Coaching & Leadership, explains how the result of adopting a coaching approach is sustainable behaviour and empowered employees who are able to discover their own way of addressing challenges by drawing on and developing their own particular strengths … ]

“Our responsibility as leaders is to create an exciting but safe adventure for our people, worthy of them devoting their lives to it. … Ultimately, our inner mindset and our outer leadership style determine how alive, energetic, and purposeful our organization is.”

John McFarlane

What is a coaching culture?

As the pioneers of coaching in business, our ambition is that coaching skills become the norm, replacing old habits that keep people small and disconnected. As more and more organizations embrace a coaching style of leadership, organizations will become the platform through which people achieve their potential, and the relationship between organizations and people will finally evolve to become symbiotic.

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How can you bring a coaching leadership style into your organization?

Sir John and his colleagues at Performance Consultants were the first to take coaching into the workplace and coined the term “performance coaching” in the early 1980s. We continue to lead the field in performance improvement through coaching leadership training.

Select one of the options shown. Or get in touch and one of our world-class leadership development consultants will work with you to create a tailored programme that meets your specific needs.

  • Attend a Coaching Course – experience the benefits of coaching first hand. See our Global Training Calendar to find the right course for you
  • Transformational Leader Pathway – learn how to be a leader–coach with a coaching leadership style that creates a culture of high performance for you, your team and entire organization
  • Performance Coach Certification – become a coach or take your coaching skills to the next level so that you can practise transformational leadership coaching
  • Individual Coaching (1:1) – take your leadership to the next level with a tailored, fast-track professional development coaching programme
  • Team Development – unlock the next level of potential in your team with team coaching