Executive development is a critical aspect of all organizations. In 1996, training and education efforts aimed at managers totaled $14.5 billion in the U.S. ( Vicere, 1998). One of the more recent approaches to executive development has been called coaching. Distinct from other forms of training, coaching focuses on the method of learning. Under a coaching paradigm, it is believed that “the more an individual is involved in identifying problems, in working out and applying solutions for them and in reviewing the results, the more complete and the more long-lasting the learning is. This form of self learning tends to bring about learning with a deeper understanding than learning that is taught.”(Redshaw, 2000, p. 106). To give this more perspective, “coaching is very different than teaching or instructing. It is best described as facilitating. The coach encourages the learner to learn for him/herself…As well as acquiring new job competencies, the learner gradually develops new and more effective learning skills. He/she becomes a proactive learner, capable of learning from almost any experience encountered.” (Redshaw, 2000, p. 107).
Coaching is most effectively employed when it is used to do one or more of the following:
- support individual and organizational change performance, possibly by increasing congruence with the mission;
- provide adequate support to enable personal transformation and career role transition;
- support the development of future leaders for the organization via enhanced ability for strategic thinking, providing vision and direction, accelerating change, intellectual honesty, integrity motivating and energizing people, teamwork, and partnering, influencing, delivering results, valuing all people, and/or developing people;
- provide an adequate container to address a specific problem area or challenge; and
- support and facilitate the creation of an organizational culture that values learning, creativity, and continuous improvement.
What’s the Difference
Business coaching includes principles from sports coaching such as teamwork, personal excellence, and “going for the goal.” But unlike sports coaching, business coaching is not about competition or based on win/lose. A business coach focuses on helping an individual “learn what it takes” for him or her to improve existing capabilities, set meaningful goals, and be accountable for his or her results. A coach helps an individual understand and eliminate barriers to more effective performance.
Besides the confusion around coaching as a sports metaphor, coaching is often confused with mentoring, counseling/therapy, and consulting. The differences are discussed below:
Mentoring – A mentor works closely with an individual to help develop the skills, knowledge, and relationships needed to perform better in the current position and to advance his or her career. A mentor is usually at a more senior level in an organization and has the professional and personal competencies to pass on organizational culture, norms, and traditions through skill and example. The mentor shares personal experiences through dialog, and often gives advice.
Counseling or Therapy – Counselors and therapists focus on an individual’s psychological well-being and may spend time analyzing the past. In contrast, coaches concentrate on personal and organizational success, how well the individual is functioning within the organization, and is future focused.
Consulting – A consultant gives expert advice and is hired for specific technical expertise.