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Feature: When Coaching is Destined to Fail


Tony Dixon, co-author of The Performance Coach, examines the conditions that contribute to coaching success.

At any level in almost all organisations there is a serious shortage of talent. This contrasts somewhat paradoxically with the greatest number of coaches practicing in corporate life. So we have to ask the question, are coaches failing their clients and the organisations that ultimately pay their fees?

I have observed numerous coaching sessions. They often run along the lines of fixing a problem the employee or manager cannot figure how to solve for whatever reason. I firmly believe coaching is such a powerful tool it should be reserved for people who have both the motivation and capability to do the job. People who fall into these categories know how to fix problems they do it every day. The coaching they need is about developing their leadership potential.

This view of coaching changes the whole sense in which we engage in the coach client relationship. But there is still a missing piece to this puzzle. Most managers and leaders are unaware of what the values and expectations are of the job they have been given to do. This has nothing to do job descriptions.

Levels of leadership
I am thinking here of the six levels of leadership identified in Ram Charan’s book The Leadership Pipeline. They are:
* Managing self
* Managing others ( first line supervisory )
* Managing managers
* Functional manager
* Business manager
* Group manager

Organisations that sign up to this concept are providing their leaders with a steer on the values that go with each of the levels of leadership and hence are setting a bench mark that a coach can also embrace both to develop capability in the job now and prepare the leader for the next turn in the leadership pipeline.

Organisations that cut training budgets and then buy in expensive and much sort after leadership talent are being short sighted. The business pages of the daily papers say it all with stories of yet another executive leaving because he or she has failed to understand what is really expected from them. The problem of replenishing the almost totally dry pipeline can only be solved by organisations that are prepared to think strategically about people.

High performance
If I were to start to prepare my organisation to become a high performance culture I would want to introduce a Balanced Score Card. Then I would want to identify the capabilities that are needed at each leadership level. I would also want to know what talent I had and what potential was waiting to be developed.

I would need a matrix that gave me a picture of capability as measured by the scorecard with potential and inclination as discussed with the individual and observed over time.

Then I would open the doors to the coaches. I would talk about my plans, discuss the potential waiting to be developed and the performance standards that I need for survival.

As a coach I know which format would give me the greatest stretch. I would have a clear target, and with the client I would be free to discuss how we were going to achieve it. That is the only worthwhile problem that needs fixing.

Finally, if you are a coach write down the format your coaching takes.

Further reading:
* The Leadership Pipeline, Ram Charam, published by Jossey-Bass
* The 18 challenges of Leadership, published by Pearson Prentice Hall

Tony Dixon is co-author of The Performance Coach published by Gower.


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