Make the most of coaching

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 20 June 2008



Heald, G. (2008), "Make the most of coaching", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 7 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Make the most of coaching

Article Type: How to … From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 7, Issue 4

Practical advice for HR professionals

The employment of business coaching as a management resource is increasing, with the global coaching market estimated to be worth around $1.5 billion and modest estimations of at least 30,000 coaches operating worldwide (International Coach Federation and PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2007). With a market this size and so many different types of “coach” to choose from, there can be some confusion over what is actually meant by the term “business coaching,” and how it differs from consultancy or mentoring. By considering the five steps outlined below, HR professionals considering the coaching option should be able to realize its benefits for their organizations.

1. Understand what is on offer

Some coaches focus purely on the individual with personal development as the main aim, as distinct from business improvement. Businesses, however, usually seek performance improvement through business change, and so the coaching needs to link the individual with the actual business situation. There are almost as many different coaching methodologies as there are coaches. So, it is important to check exactly how the coach proposes to work with your organization, what results are expected and if there are any criteria for measuring achievement of goals. One definition of what a good business coach is and does is: “Coaches work alongside their clients, identifying issues and providing the client with the skills to develop the strategies that will address their issues successfully” (Shirlaws, 2005). It is this transference of skills that is the important consideration. A good coach will guide the client to find solutions and keep a project on track, identifying any knowledge gaps and looking at ways to further learning.

2. Have clear objectives

A business coach can work with a company, division, team or individual, helping them understand and tackle commercial and cultural issues, both of which are important to the success of the business. Typically, a business coaching company would be engaged because there are commercial aspects to be addressed, such as profitability, efficiency or turnover. In other cases, the executive team may want some support and guidance regarding increasing margins, or how to structure the business to achieve the next stage of profitable growth. Some organizations bring in a business coach for cultural reasons – perhaps there is an issue regarding employee engagement, and the challenge is to work with the business leaders to help them improve their team building and communication skills. The commercial and cultural issues within a business impact on each other – every commercial decision affects human interaction, and vice versa – which is why the value of coaching is only maximized when it addresses both aspects.

3. Be clear about the benefits

A good business coach will help improve bottom line performance and generate business growth by working with and coaching an individual, a team, a division or the whole company. The types of people who can benefit from coaching are:

  • Individual leaders. Coaching can be a sounding board for personal development and effectiveness.

  • High potential individuals. Coaching helps them progress more quickly.

  • Project leaders and project teams. Coaching can help them deliver new initiatives.

  • Teams. During times of major change, such as restructures and mergers, coaching can help with teambuilding. Similarly, a business coach can work with a team to help them overcome business performance problems.

4. Evaluate coaching providers

When looking for a coaching organization, consistency is one of the most important selection criteria. If your organization is located on multiple sites you may need more than one coach to work with your people. In this case it is important to check that the coaching organization’s coaches are trained to work in a consistent way, so that your people receive the same messages. Only if the coaching organization has a quality control system in place can you be confident the coaching delivered to your sales team in one location will be consistent with that given to the customer service team in another, for example.

Coaching at its best:

  • provides business clarity about the role of the person being coached and the role of others;

  • gives feedback in a manner they can understand, accept and use to adapt their behavior;

  • creates new insights so the person coached can see their situation in a different way that helps them to “un-stick” and move forward freely with new alternatives; and

  • discovers how to get the important things done and make real business progress.

5. Summarizing the steps to coaching success

In summary, the following will help you gain the most from coaching:

  1. 1.

    The term coaching can mean different things in different organizations. Make sure you understand what is on offer. Is it coaching, mentoring or consulting?

  2. 2.

    Work with the coach to define what you want to achieve on each project and how success is to be measured.

  3. 3.

    Check how the coaching session will improve bottom line performance and generate business growth.

  4. 4.

    Are all coaches trained to consistent standards and do they use the same coaching materials?

  5. 5.

    Remember cultural and commercial issues impact on each other in a business.

Glyn HealdGlyn Heald is based at Shirlaws UK.

About the author

Glyn Heald is an experienced business coach and the CEO of Shirlaws UK. Prior to joining Shirlaws in 2004, he directed his own executive coaching company, which he set up after leaving Mars (now Masterfoods), where he was involved with sales, training, marketing and client services across Europe. Glyn Heald can be contacted at:


International Coach Federation and PricewaterhouseCoopers (2007), “Global coaching study”, February

Shirlaws, D. (2005), Shirlaws Global Conference 2005

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