The first time I got in contact with coaching was more than 20 years ago. At the time, I worked for an international company, which wanted to grow its European business. We engaged a Coaching team to develop our culture and specifically the culture of the European leadership team. In the end, we have cascaded the learnings down to more than 1,500 leaders using the train to trainer methodology. This has changed the culture in such a way that we doubled the business in less than 12 months.
The second time working with coaching was when the company I worked for needed to improve their profitability. As a management team, we started a three-year journey to change the culture, starting with the top management. I was learning about how coaching can become a very effective leadership strategy.
However, a question which I get asked a lot is: what is coaching?
There are many definitions, so adding another one.
Coaches share their experience with their coachees. The intent is to challenge their thinking to make their own choices by sharing different views and thoughts.
There is no intent to direct the coachees on how to do it.
Sometimes, this can be a challenge. In a coaching session, the coach may be confronted with a situation they may feel they can solve and have a solution at hand. However a coach gives advice, they do not give orders. This is how they make a difference.
It is a challenge to use coaching as a leadership strategy. How to avoid directing a view and allow the team to find their own way?
By using coaching techniques, a fundamental question to the coachee is:
What do you want? What do you want to get out of this session?
These are such powerful questions because it helps the coachees to develop their own solution. Adding the coach’s opinion based on experience will add another dimension to the discussion.
The results are outstanding. Using the method of coaching when we had to cut cost was very successful. The operational cost was already slim, and finding more ways to cut cost did sound impossible. Using the leaders and their people ended up in a group of more than 100 people. Now imagine allowing the team to identify any possibility; the results will be outstanding.
My experience from the corporate world enables me to effectively coach startups seeking my support.
Using the same way of working, sharing the view based on experience, and helping the teams find an answer to the problem.
Ultimately the venture needs to decide how to go forward.
Coaching isn’t consulting.
If an answer to a specific question is needed, a suggestion could be talking to an expert – an introduction to someone being able to consult in this specific area.
As a coach, I would not answer specific questions but would share how I dealt with it in my past using real examples.
It might lead to frustration if a coachee is desperately looking for an answer to a problem.
In the long term, coaching helps the coachee to grow and become independent of the coach.
I experienced with coaching; you can develop high performing teams by building on their strengths and helping them to accelerate their business.
Reinhard Eschbach is a leading Coach on Cambridge Judge Entrepreneurship Centre’s Accelerate Cambridge programme.