In earlier articles, we have looked at coaching from an independent coach’s point of view. What I want to do with this article, mainly because my area of coaching is primarily in the executive domain, is explore what coaching means for an enterprise at large where coaching is an integral part of the company’s functioning. And when we speak about a coaching culture in an organisation, we talk about the democratisation of coaching.
What does the democratisation of coaching mean?
Initially, coaching was something that was reserved for the senior-most leaders in an organisation. Coaching was considered for the ‘top performers’ or the ‘most important members of an organisation only. Another reason for this was the cost: an excellent executive coach could cost upward of $3,000 dollars/hour! And when we’re talking about coaches here, they were only external coaches as the concept of internal coaching didn’t exist.
However, things have changed over the last several years. Today’s more flattened, less-hierarchical organisations and the recognition that engaged & developed employees add significant value to a company’s performance have led to the raised awareness that coaching should be utilised to improve performance at all levels. According to research by the Human Capital Institute, 54% of organisations classified as ‘high performing’ have a strong coaching culture as compared with 29% of all other organisations. The cost of coaching has come down, and accessibility has gone up – thus leading to the continued democratisation of coaching.
Characteristics of democratisation of coaching
Let us dive deeper into how the core characteristics of coaching have also shifted in tandem with the democratisation:
1. From exclusively senior levels to mid-level management: Coaching has now moved from the preserve of top & senior executives and is now more evident in mid-level managers across organisations. What I mean by this is that coaching (corporate coaching, specifically) has become an organisation-wide process in the way of day-to-day functioning – just like how an organisation undergoes frequent and regular performance reviews. Whereas in the earlier days, it was only seen as a yearly or one-off initiative.
2. From 1:1 to team coaching: Initially, coaching started as a one-on-one process, wherein the coach and the coachee would meet up for a couple of sessions every month over several months. As we have seen organisations adopting coaching with more vigour in recent times, we have noticed an upsurge in team coaching. For instance, I coached the Head of Product Delivery, along with five of his first-level reportees all together in a team coaching setup, for nine months; in this engagement, there was a mix of individual and as team objectives. Another example of group coaching is when various individuals at the same level across the organisation would be coached as a cohort.
3. Improved accessibility to become a coach: Before full-fledged democratisation of coaching, organisations would reach out only to external coaches for their services. A couple of things lead to a pivot.
A. Leaders with organisational context proved to be good coaches and set up the trend of internal coaches (aka manager as a coach).
B. From a commercial perspective, it was not cost-effective to continue these efforts at scale – this led to more & more internal managers and senior executives being certified as coaches.
4. Coaching as part of the organisational culture: A coaching culture involves organisations using coaching as a significant intervention. Indeed, many large companies worldwide are attempting to do so. Coaching is starting to be seen not as a separate activity but as an integral part of people management and normal day-to-day working. One of my ex-bosses often referred to specific moments when addressing issues as an excellent ‘teaching moment’ or an incredible ‘coaching moment’ – a sign that coaching was being successfully adopted and imbibed into the daily part of an organisation’s functioning.
Can a coaching culture truly transform the way an organisation functions? Find out here.
5. Coaching needs to be more measurable: Initially, the benefits to be expected from the coaching engagements were not discussed in detail or sometimes would even be ad-hoc – it was more on the qualitative side, if at all. As coaching becomes more widespread in organisations, it is important that proper metrics are in place. A lot of methodologies are there for this; for instance, ICF talks about the ROI (return on investment) on coaching. Good coaching management platforms such as Simply.Coach also provide methods for managing, setting and measuring the required coaching metrics.
In conclusion, all these are very positive for the coaching industry at large as they tell us that with an increase in democratisation, there is a demystification of coaching taking place that is changing the perspective of this practice as being seen from being super elitist to something that is needed and necessary in the workplace for everyone. The ultimate scenario would be that everybody will be a coach in the organisation, and everyone will also be a coachee!
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