Making the most of your talent through coaching


Correctly regarded as a powerful management improvement tool, coaching enables individuals to significantly raise their game. Joyce Tombs explains how it works.


Coaching is a specialist technique used by a trained person to help an individual achieve his or her objectives, solve problems, or improve performance through structured conversations.


There are numerous benefits to being coached, especially the freedom to focus on your business role – sometimes at a time when you can’t talk about sensitive issues with colleagues. This is not to mention the insights or ‘light bulb moments’ that are revealed during the coaching process, as well as the reward of seeing a real difference in the business.


Those who benefit most obviously from coaching are business leaders who typically don’t have a board of directors to bounce their ideas off. In a coaching situation, the coach provides a framework to enable the leader to formulate his or her thinking and is able to challenge or test underlying assumptions.


Business leaders who do have a board can also benefit. Often, they don’t understand why members of their senior management team don’t think, or behave as they do. In this type of situation, the coach can help the leader to work out strategies for more effective communication.


For business leaders who want to plan or revisit their business strategy, the coach provides a structured environment in which he or she facilitates the discussion – making sure the right issues are addressed, relevant options considered, and appropriate actions identified.


Business leaders from the managing director down can use coaching techniques to motivate their staff and realise their potential. By working with the managing director first, the benefits are quickly understood and the behaviours can be cascaded through the organisation.


In difficult economic times, effective management is more important than ever, both strategically and operationally. Working with a qualified business coach can give any business leader valuable insights into how to manage more effectively.


It’s interesting to reflect that the more successful the leader, the more he or she gets out of this process. This isn’t to say the coach is a better manager, but rather is a better communicator of the management mindset. For example, Andy Murray’s coach clearly can’t play better tennis than Murray, but he can work out how Britain’s number one can raise his game even higher.


On a practical level, a series of one-to-one coaching sessions, typically of three hours, work very well at monthly intervals. This gap allows business leaders time to reflect on what has come out of the session, and to implement ideas between sessions. Often this leads to working with other members of the senior team to clarify roles and improve performance.