Six important reasons why you need to put coaching first in your business
Learning, developing, growing – there’s a reason these three words go together. You can’t have one without the other. They depend on each other. I’ve worked in businesses that place a high value on coaching and ones that don’t. And the ones that don’t are the businesses that stagnate.
An organisation’s capacity to grow is defined by its openness to learning, which needs to be embedded from the top to the bottom. From the CEO to the most junior administrator, there needs to be a commitment to ongoing training and personal development.
But why is coaching so crucial to business growth? What are its main advantages?
It’s not expensive.
Yes – really! A good peer coaching programme will cost nothing, but it can turn things around really quickly. It shouldn’t need specific rules or training. Some of the best we’ve seen are the simplest. Every staff member can pick someone as their coach or volunteer to be a coach, agreeing on how often to meet.
When coaching clients through this process, we suggest they structure it so that the time commitment is no more than an hour every fortnight. Don’t make it onerous for any member of staff. Coaching relationships shouldn’t last more than six months, and it’s entirely up to the team member whether they want to participate. That’s the beauty of it. It’s not being imposed on you. Take it or leave it!
If the programme isn’t working for either the coach or the coachee, then it needs to stop. Kill it and start again.
NextJump’s approach to staff development is a great example. Harvard Business Review identified them as a DDO (Deliberately Developmental Organisation), and they put a strong emphasis on candid feedback. Any perceived weaknesses that impact a member of staff’s ability to do their job are flagged up. They call it your ‘backhand’ – such a great name.
Opportunities are then created for staff to work on their backhand outside their regular day job. For example, any team member who struggles with speaking in public is asked to lead culture tours around the company. By doing this, they deliberately practice their public speaking skills in a way that isn’t revenue-impacting. Fantastic idea!
Coaching enables forward planning.
In organisations that are scaling quickly, one factor that will restrain future growth is the availability of more managers. You need to avoid the trap of promoting someone because they’re the least-worst candidate or they’ve been with you a long time. A person may be a first-rate developer but a lousy manager. Just because they were the first person through the door doesn’t mean they should step into management if they don’t have the right skills.
When we work with clients on their strategic goals, we look at projected turnover, future org structure, number of employees needed and core capabilities. At that moment, the scale of the future problem reveals itself. And that moment when they realise they need to make coaching a priority. A peer coaching programme like the one I’ve mentioned above could be an excellent first step. Then I’d recommend a full-blown management development programme to fast-track employees who’ve shown potential.
Coaching identifies true talent.
People who are naturally drawn to management do it instinctively. When I was MD at Rackspace, we hired Lucy, who sat next to two of our sales team. One of them, Clarissa, stayed later and came in early to coach her. We didn’t ask her to – she just did it. Clarissa had naturally displayed her management tendency. Needless to say, when the promotion came up, it was Clarissa who got it. She turned out to be a superb manager!
It’s often the softer skills that are key to good management – and they’re the hard skills to measure. Creating opportunities for these qualities to shine through is essential – this will help you root out people with potential.
A peer coaching programme will provide these opportunities. Staff can show their mettle around coaching because that’s the core skill you want. It will also give your leadership team priceless data on who has a growth mindset – whether they’re the coach who gets picked more than once or the person who wants to be coached. You’ll tap into all that crowd-sourcing information about who the organisation believes has the skills to coach. If you give participants a 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice of coach, you’ll get even more valuable data.
I’m fascinated by Gallup’s work on self-perception in the workplace. They found that the top quartile of staff (for management ability) know that they’re better than some people in their company but don’t know how good they are relative to the rest of the universe. On the other hand, the bottom quartile thinks that they’re better than average. So, the A-Players don’t know they’re genuinely A-Players, and the C-Players have no idea they’re not As!
Keep this in mind when people put themselves forward for promotion. They might think they’re suitable, but often, they’re not!
Coaching drives team member engagement.
The Gallup Q12 is an excellent metric for staff engagement, as is Friday Pulse. If you become a coaching-first organisation, it will turbo-charge your score in these tests! Increasing engagement can unlock up to 40% more discretionary effort from your staff. Think of that!
Through a peer-coaching programme, you tell staff, ‘We value you. Here’s your opportunity to develop and grow.’ Hopefully, you’ve built a systemic culture of praise and celebration alongside this. The coaching programme supports this, providing opportunities for positive feedback and confidence-building. It’s a win-win.
Coaching makes staff accountable.
By putting the onus on the team member to volunteer to coach or be coached, you’re asking them to look at themselves. To think, what is that I do that I need to get better at, whether functionally or personally, and what are my objectives? Staff become accountable for their development.
Back to NextJump. They give four people group accountability for specific areas of the business. Each group has a captain, two team members and a coach. It’s the captain’s job to train one of the others to become good enough to be captain, at which point the captain becomes coach. By passing on the baton, they’re responsible for replacing themselves. Every manager should see their job in this way. Their goal should be to make themselves redundant so they’re ready for the next challenge.
This builds respect and accountability, particularly in bigger companies. It always staggers me how people stop pulling their weight when a business goes over roughly 35 staff. The dirty cups stack up in the kitchen, and no one washes theirs up – so frustrating. These things may seem insignificant, but it indicates something else is going on. People lose their shared accountability, and it becomes ‘someone else’s job’.
Coaching strengthens relationships.
I’m a great one for building the neural networks of businesses. I’ve made this a priority in the organisations where I’ve been MD. By introducing a peer coaching programme, you’ll see new pathways being forged and relationships being strengthened. It can be so powerful for social cohesion in your business. You can go as far as ensuring coaches come from other functional areas or teams to make this aim explicit.
As well as neural networks, coaching will ensure DNA transfer from old hands to new ones. This keeps your culture tight. When you’re growing, it’s easy to lose that founder mentality, but here you have a way to retain the essence of your company and ensure everyone understands and feels it.
One of the questions in the Gallup Q12 is about having a best friend at work. It’s based on research showing a concrete link between a best friend in the workplace and high-performing teams. If you’re coaching someone as a peer, there’s no management hierarchy. It frees the relationship to focus entirely on the individual, without any company agenda or hidden motive.
Something that worked well with one of my clients was getting all the coaches together at the beginning of the programme so they knew who else was involved. This proved successful, allowing staff to ask questions and form a support network.
Coaching is all about mindset. To become a coaching-first business, everyone must understand the importance of learning and growing. It takes deliberate practice and effort before becoming ingrained.
It’s not surprising that I feel it’s so important – you wouldn’t expect anything less from a business coach! But occasionally, I’ll come across someone who refuses my help, saying they don’t want coaching. That’s their decision. But it’s like saying you’ve closed your mind. Ultimately, we never stop learning.
- NAVIGATING AND COMMUNICATING CHANGE
- BUILDING COMPANY CULTURE
- CHOOSING THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITIES
- ORGANISING YOUR A-TEAM