Coaching at workHave you experienced the benefits of coaching? Years ago UK business leaders appeared to just see this as an American business fad (for a culture who have also embraced the benefits of therapists and given us great TV like “In Treatment”). However, over the last decade more & more UK businesses have embraced executive coaching and the academic evidence for efficacy has grown substantially. Even in 2005, 88% of UK organisations reported using coaching and by 2009, 93% of US organisations.

The next revolution in coaching for businesses is the expansion of coaching to a wider leadership population. Once the preserve of CEOs or main board members, progressive businesses are now seeing the benefits of expanding to all directors, talent pipeline candidates or in some cases team coaching for the wider organisation. My personal interest is in the benefits of coaching for the rising star that is today’s Customer Insight Leaders. As I have blogged before, there is a growing trend to create Customer Insight Director or Chief Knowledge Officer roles, often for individuals who have never held C-Suite level responsibilities before. Such leaders are ideal candidates for coaching, not because of any deficits, but rather to ensure that they perform as well as possible and achieve the challenging goals for this new strategic focus.

So, what does coaching entail? Very briefly, the term covers a multitude of approaches and has many possible definitions. But most experts now agree that executive coaching can be defined as: “A relationship based intervention. Its focus is on the enhancement of personal performance at work through behavioural, cognitive and motivational interventions used by the coach, which provide change in the client.

That more academic definition hints at the fact of multiple models or techniques which can be used, where helpful, to facilitate sessions. The qualification that I’m completing on Executive Coaching includes learning coaching models including: Goal-Orientated; Cognitive Behavioural; Positive Psychology and Neuro Linguistic Programming. My own experience of coaching executives has taught me that different models can be appropriate at different times, with different clients, in different organisational contexts. The most important skill is still genuine active listening, but frameworks to help guide sessions and clear goals to be achieved do both help.

I’m encouraged by the positive messages being given by a number of organisations with regard to the importance of coaching (including ones as diverse as Network Rail and Mencap in this month’s “Coaching at Work” magazine). However, I have not yet seen this commitment applied to the Customer Insight leadership population. I hope that change will come and I am focussing part of my business on helping to meet that need.

Have you seen the benefits of coaching or mentoring in your leadership role? I’d love to hear more about your experience of this emerging profession.