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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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How to provide coaching for your employees on a really tiny budget


I was fortunate enough to start my career in learning and development when coaching was in it's infancy. Most coaches at that time were struggling to get businesses to see the value of coaching. I think that we can safely say that most of us now recognise the value of coaching. However, it's not the cure-all-panacea that some people within the HRD and coaching community would like.

What coaching is good for?

Think back to the last time you were coached. What is that was actually going on? My suggestion is you were mainly:

  1. increasing your self-awareness
  2. helping you with your decision making, particularly prioritisation
  3. increasing your confidence
  4. helping you reflect and think
  5. helping you change behaviours in the long term

What you were not doing in the actual coaching session was learning any new skills. 

How does coaching help with these five things?

Typically, coaching helps you get these benefits because you tend to have coaching drip fed in over a period of time which helps you build your own self-awareness and make the changes. Because of the continual 'drip-feed' nature of a regular coaching conversation, you get sustainable behavioural change because your coach keeping you focused on the change and keeping your accountable to this.

Does your firm have the luxury of money and time to support everyone with coaching?

Don't be daft. That's the problem. To get these great benefits via coaching, you need to be able to give the employee lots of time for coaching sessions. Then you will need to dig deep into your pockets to either pay for an external coach, or provide a high quality internal coach, plus pay for any opportunity costs being lost because your employee is being coached. None of these options come cheap. No wonder, there is such an huge interest in building an internal coaching culture. (see 3 steps to building an internal coaching culture in your firm)

Is there another way?

Yes, there is another way. You can forget about providing coaching to all your employees, just the really important senior ones in critical roles.... or you can get clever.

If you look back at the stats quoted in Here's how to get real value for your learning and development budget you can surmise that to get learning to take place you need 2 things:

  • an experience (workshop, new project, observation, meeting etc)
  • to be able to extract value from that experience

This is where coaching is comes into it's own - helping people extract value from their experiences. It's also why many learning interventions, such as a workshop, fail to bring about sustainable behavioural change, because people are not given the opportunity to truly extract value from their experience.

Use a simple framework for learning

Typically, people identify their development needs by this simple framework:

"self awareness + understanding of strengths/weaknesses"

Very often coaching is used organisationally to help people with their self-awareness. The level of coaching skill is often directly linked to how deep and quickly the individual being coached improves their self awareness.

HR processes and tools such as performance reviews, 360 degree feedback and competency frameworks help an individual (very often combined with coaching) to understand their strengths and weaknesses.

If you are to be able to build an internal coaching culture without spending large amounts of time or money, then the first difficult nut to crack is how to quicken the pace at which the individual gains their self-awareness.

If you look around at most of the trait based, developmental psychometric tools, there tends to be a problem. They tend to be unreliable and difficult to translate into the business environment. This is why we use PROPHET with our clients, as it very quickly gives them an incredibly accurate picture of:

  • how they take decisions
  • how they are motivated
  • how this plays out in the workplace
  • where their strengths and talents lie

We find that when our clients have done their PROPHET profile, everything speeds up because the self-awareness box is 'ticked'. We (and they) can then focus on helping provide them the relevant experiences and use our skill as coaches to help them extract value from those experiences. (In case you are wondering, PROPHET can be done for as little as £100 per head)

Provide the right experiences

Part of our skill as advisors (rather than true coaches) is helping our clients have the right experiences to help them achieve their goals. The question is how many firms are good at providing the right experiences for their employees?

My view is that most firms are great at providing experiences for short-term learning needs, such as:"can you help me write this proposal", but not the long-term development of firm-wide capability to help the firm achieve it's long term vision and plans. 

How to help your employee's 'extract value'

Let's assume that your employee does do the right experience to help them develop themselves. Now what you need them to do to effectively and sustainably develop themselves is help them extract value. This doesn't need to be complicated, or need a coaching qualification course to be able to do. For example, value can be extracted using these simple models:

  • GROW
  • 'what went well?', 'what didn't go so well?', 'what will you do differently next time?'
  • Let's talk about 1 topic, tell me 2 things you know about this topic, and 3 things you will now do as a result of this knowledge?
  • ....

In summary

This blog post has been about helping you provide the value of coaching to your employees, without the typical time and money investment. The key to being clever is to help your employee gain a deep level of self awareness via PROPHET and organisational tools such as performance reviews, 360 feedback, competency frameworks. Then, give your supervisors, managers, associates and partners very simple coaching tools such as GROW, to help their people extract the value from their experiences.

Training Zone Author Credit

Heather Townsend helps professionals become the Go-To-Expert. She is the author of the  award winning and best-selling book on business networking, the ‘FT Guide To Business Networking’ and the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’. Over the last decade she has worked with over 300 partners; coached, trained and mentored over 1000 professionals at every level of the UK's most ambitious professional practices.

Heather blogs regularly at Partnership Potential, How to make partner and Joined Up Networking

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Heather Townsend


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