In recent years business coaching has become the training and development tool of choice. It is being used to address a host of people related organisational issues such as performance, retention, people development, employee well-being and succession planning. But what is the quality of coaching being rolled out in organisations? Given the profession has yet to formerly organise, its demand-driven growth has attracted practitioners from diverse backgrounds including Management, HR, Organisational Development, Counselling, Psychotherapy, Sport and other life experiences. The impact of this has been considerable variance in the coaching experience making it difficult to define or evaluate effectiveness. In an attempt to unravel the somewhat chaotic nature of coaching, research I recently conducted revealed three distinct approaches being adopted by business coaches. Each approach was influenced and defined by the background of the coach, their assumptions about the purpose and reach of coaching and how they perceived stakeholder relationships. The below table summarises the three approaches:
Far from being a stable, predictable and linear process, the reality shows that, in practice, coaches tend to cross boundaries and move between approaches as a means to cater for the needs of the client, the contracting organisation or to manage their own ethical dilemmas. So does variance mean compromised standards and effectiveness? A survey conducted by the Coaching at Work journal in 2013 reveals a profession divided; 40% of respondents came out in favour of establishing a professional regulatory body for coaching, 33% against and 27% did not know. While pursuit of consistency in standards and approaches emerged as the leading argument in this debate, there were counter arguments for embracing diversity within coaching and catering for differing needs. What does this mean for coaching in organisations? I believe that as coaching continues to establish itself, variances should be embraced. Difference should not be presumed of lesser value or effectiveness. Surely the ends must justify the means? Coaching is effectively a personal relationship between the coach and the coachee for which trust is paramount. This makes the contracting phase hugely important. Bringing clearer process to this, focusing on how the coaching need is identified, outcomes quantified and the relationships managed, will allow coaches and organisations deliver a tailored and meaningful experience for individuals. Like any good marriage, its effectiveness is compromised by the interference of a third party. The same is true of coaching. To fully experience the benefit of business coaching; organisations need to step out and trust the process.