25 Feb Organisational Coaching – what is it and what’s trending
Head of Coaching & Coach Accreditation, Coaching and Leadership
Jane is the head of coaching at IECL, a role that leads and advises on the strategy modeling and approaches for coaching development.
She oversees IECLs large scale coaching programs for public, private, and not for profit clients. And also lead the development and delivery of IECLs, ICF accredited coach training pathways, and ongoing professional development.
Jane is passionate about increasing the professionalism of the industry and its strategic impact on organizational life.
Jane, brings a wealth of knowledge and vast experience as an ICF master coach, educator, supervisor, and mentor across the Asia Pacific region.
There are a number of types of coaching including life, business, career coaching, and there are niche offerings and new areas of expertise emerging all the time.
Organisational coaching happens in organisations of course, and in an organisational coaching engagement or relationship, there’s the person that you’re coaching, but the organisation also has a stake in that piece of work and the stakeholders side of organisational coaching might be one person, it might be a line manager for example, but it may be a number of people.
If you’re the CEO of an organisation, for example, the stakeholder might be the whole board. There’s more than just the coaching counterpart in the engagement, work and in the relationship. As an organisational coach, you are also there in service of the individual that you’re working with and you are there in service of that broader stakeholder system.
When we come into the actual coaching, it’s a series of structured conversations that are focused on generating different thinking for the individual in the context of organisational focus areas and goals that have been agreed together with the stakeholders.
Jane Porter, welcome to Coach Cast. We are delighted to have you as our guest today. Jane, you are the head of coaching at IECL, a role that leads and advises on the strategy modelling and approaches for coaching development. You oversee IECL’s large scale coaching programs for public, private, and not for profit clients. And also lead the development and delivery of IECL’s, ICF accredited coach training pathways, and ongoing professional development. You are passionate about increasing the professionalism of the industry and its strategic impact on organizational life. Jane, you bring a wealth of knowledge and a vast experience as an ICF master coach, educator, supervisor, and mentor across the Asia Pacific region. Thank you so much for being with us today.
Thank you Renee. Good morning.
Good morning. Okay, so Jane, there are a number of types of coaching including life, business, career coaching, and there are niche offerings and new areas of expertise emerging all the time. How do you broadly define organisational coaching?
Let’s come at that from a number of different ways. So organisational coaching happens in organisations of course, and in an organisational coaching engagement or relationship, there’s the person that you’re coaching, but the organisation also has a stake in that piece of work. And the stakeholder’s side of organisational coaching might be one person, it might be a line manager for example, but it may be a number of people. So if you’re the CEO of an organisation, for example, the stakeholder might be the whole board. So there’s more than just the coaching counterpart in the engagement, and in the relationship and as an organisational coach, you are there in service of the individual that you’re working with. But you’re also there in service of that broader stakeholder system. When we come into the actual coaching, it’s a series of structured conversations that are focused on generating different thinking for the individual in the context of organisational focus areas and goals that have been agreed together with the stakeholders.
As we move through those structured conversations, we’re looking to help the individual generate new insights, access more of their potential, more of their strength at work in order to be able to experiment. Try some things differently. Perhaps build some new thinking patterns, perhaps build some new behaviours in terms of how they engage with their teams and the broader system, and it’s all in service of performance. Performance for the individual, performance for the organisation and also beyond performance, wellbeing. Wellbeing of the individual, which is, I’m sure you’re well aware is an increasing topic of conversation in organisational life. So in our world at IECL it’s in service of performance and wellbeing of the individual.
Okay. You used the word coaching counterpart a moment ago. Can you talk to why you use that phrase or that term?
Yeah. Yes. It’s an interesting choice of language. Thank you for picking that one up. Because out there in the world of coaching, generally we talk about the coach and the coachee, so an IECL, we like to use the word counterpart and what that word does for us is it shows the intention in the relationship of partnership. When you start a coaching relationship, there is a power dynamic often in place in the room. Particularly if you are somebody’s manager and you’re coaching a direct report.
And language can be really powerful. So we like to choose language that insofar as you can, it minimizes that power differential, at least in intention when you’re working with somebody. So that’s why we use the language of counterpart.
Great, thank you. When you’re actually in those coaching sessions, how does it work? What’s happening in there?
Well, I think before we even get to the coaching sessions, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that generally happens. It’s what we call the engagement process. So we will be taking a brief from an organization in terms of what’s to be achieved and then we’d be finding out who the key stakeholders were in this brief. And we’ll be having dialogue together with the coaching counterpart, with the organisational stakeholders to think about where we are and where we want to be at the end of the piece of work, so we can start to put some measures of success in place right at the very beginning. Now, depending on what’s to be worked on, we might engage in some 360 degree feedback, perhaps some stakeholder interviewing, and perhaps there are already data inputs that are in place for the counterpart based on other professional development that they’ve been doing, that we might then feed into the coaching space. So all of those things are taken into consideration before the coaching starts.
The coach also looks at the organisational context. So what’s happening in their industry at this time and how is that specifically impacting the organization? For example, you would be well aware again that we’ve got some royal commissions either happening in our world at the moment or being talked about happening. So if we were coaching in an organisation where that was relevant, we’d be looking at that as a coach to see what’s going on in that world and how that’s impacting that organisation. And we’ll be asking the organisation some questions around that so we can understand the context in which we’re working.
And then the coaching would start. And as the coaching starts, that’s really where the confidential relationship begins. And when we step into a space where we’re building trust and rapport with the individual so that we can actually create a safe container to really challenge the thinking, and really push the person’s thinking beyond where they can take it themselves.
Fascinating. So if that’s what coaching is, then what isn’t it? What are you seeing is often sort of confused with coaching or in other words, what won’t you get if you engage an IECL coach?
That is such a great question and I think as an industry we’ve come a very long way with this, but I still think we have a way to go as well. As many of the listeners would know, we’re not a regulated industry. So there’s nobody out there at this point saying this is the single definition of coaching and this is what you need to look for in a coach. There’s a lot of dialogue and conversation about what it is, what it should be. And there are some very strong organisations like International Coaching Federation and Association of Coaching that have gone out into the industry with competency frameworks that at least attempt to say this is what it is.
It is, and set a benchmark in the market in terms of what you will not get. So yeah, our view of the world and I say it like that because there are other views of the world, is that the coach is not the subject matter expert on the content. What the coach is an expert in are coaching processes. Process to get you to think differently, behave differently, experiment differently so that you learn and grow from the potential base that you have within you. So, I’m not going to come in as an organisational coach, particularly as an IECL coach and tell you what to do. I’m not going to give you advice, not going to share my worldly wisdom, assuming that I have any in your field. Because very often when we’re coaching we’re not coaching in a field that we might have worldly wisdom in.
So we’re really coming in as a facilitator of your thinking, your mindset, your behaviour, how are you operating in the world of leadership? How well is that working for you and your team and what can we do together in terms of your growth, and your strengths to enable you to do more with what you already have?
And that leads nicely into my next question because you train a lot of coaches.
And you hire a lot of coaches and oversee their work. So I would guess that gives you a pretty good insight into the qualities that you feel make a great organisational coach.
Well, I would hope so. Certainly when we’re looking for coaches to work for us, we have some pretty rigorous processes around that. So firstly there’s the usual things that you would expect in any kind of recruitment process, where there are conversations to just check that there’s alignment around interests, ways of working, values and that kind of thing. It’s really important for us to assess the skill of the coach and we do that whether they have trained with us or not because we are as you know a training provider, but there are other great training providers out there as well. So, we want to assess the skill of the coach and we do use in that assessment the ICF competency framework as a way of benchmarking, coaching skill.
Qualities that we’re looking for. So I would say there’s competencies and there’s qualities. So the competencies are things like the ability to create great coaching agreements. To contract and recontract through the coaching engagement because things shift and change every time you start prodding somebody’s thinking. And the goals that are created at the start rarely stay exactly the same as they were and defined in the way they were at the start.
Then we look at how does the person build trust in a relationship and how do they maintain relationship over a period of time and how do they manage themselves in that. Because as coach, I might know a lot of stuff about what we’re coaching on, so how do I manage that? How do I keep that out of the dialogue? Because the dialogue is for the counterpart and for the organisation. It’s not for me. We also look at how they are able to build coaching presence with an individual. So, are they able to notice more than the words that the person is saying and they are able to work much more holistically? Are they able to work with emotion, with energy, with pace, with tone? Do they have a mindset of curiosity and inquiry rather than a mindset of knowing what the answer is and moving to get to that answer?
If we stay with that frame, how well can they listen and what do they hear when they listen? Because the listening and the level of listening will inform the kind of questions that get asked. And then there’s the idea of are the questions leading to new insights? So, are the questions that the person asks powerful enough to push the person’s thinking beyond where it has been thus far? Which then creates new awareness and when we’ve done all of that and what we want at the end of the day is some action. If we don’t generate action out of those coaching conversations, then we may as well not have had them, so really wrapping up tightly at the end of the conversation so that insight turns into action. And action that’s applied in the real world in the workplace today.
I’m also curious to know because you’ve run your own coaching practice before taking on this role at IECL.
Yes, I did.
And a coach can have all these great qualities and made the competencies and I’m sure there’s plenty of other things that you see sort of sits around that that helps them to build and grow a coaching practice. I’d love to hear your insights around that.
Yeah. Again, my mind goes in two different directions. It seems to be what it’s doing this morning. There’s the, how do you build yourself as a coach but then how do you build a business as a coach? So, I’m going to go to the first one if that’s okay. Because, as a coach you can learn the competency frameworks, you can do some great study, some great courses, but how you apply it and how you develop yourself as a coach I think is absolutely critical. Now the biggie for me in there is coaching supervision. Certainly, in my own practice and in the coaches that we hire here at IECL, it’s a not negotiable. You need to be in coaching supervision.
And coaching supervision is the place where you as coach can go and focus on your own development. It’s also a place I think where the coach is able to take care of themselves. So when things are happening in coaching that might be triggering the coach for example, or the coach is finding it really, really difficult to keep that wisdom out of the room or they’re moving away from a session with a level of discomfort about something, or a particular style of coaching counterpart is difficult for them, or they get a messy ethical dilemma or a mental health consideration in this space. It’s not clear what to do with that. Then that’s where supervision comes in. It’s the safe space for the coach to be able to put that down and explore it in a professional capacity with someone who’s trained to help them with the thinking processes to come to a place of either reconciliation with whatever it is that’s happening or a place of action.
So reflective practice, if I were to sum it up for the coach, I think is critical for the coaches growth and development. And almost a duty of care then to the counterpart, and the organisation.
All right, thank you. Jane, what are some of the ways that a return on investment in coaching can be measured?
Yeah, another great question. Lots of different ways and I talked earlier about the engagement process that would happen in organizational coaching before the coaching starts. So this is one of the things that will be discussed at that point is what’s to be achieved and how would we measure it? There are a number of different ways so we can measure it quite formally. We could put a 360 degree feedback processes in place at the beginning of the coaching and then again at the end of the coaching, often referred to in diagnostic world as test, retest.
There are some limitations with that. I think that the coaching engagement needs to be long enough to enable behaviours to change and then for that change to be noticed by the respondents of the 360 degree tool. And also often we find in those situations that it’s a different set of respondents the second time around because people have changed roles or left the organisation or been promoted so there are some limitations with doing that. Another thing that we do is stakeholder interviewing. So once we are clear on who the key stakeholders are in the… Either in the coaching or in the person’s organisational world, in their role, we’ll do some interviewing pre and post, around a couple of key questions that are focused on the coaching objectives. In our world, we always recommend a three-way dialogue with the key stakeholder in the organisation, which is often the person’s line manager.
And in that conversation we set up not just what the goals for the coaching are, but also what the measures of success for the coaching will be. And we agree on how those things will be measured. And some of those things might be formal, and some of them might be more subjective and less formal. So for example, how might a manager notice that a person’s behaviour has changed? And what will they be noticing in the system? What would they be noticing that the individual is doing that they’re not doing now? And we would craft some key points around that, that we would then revisit at the end of the engagement. And we would get together again with that key stakeholder together with the counterpart. So that we can discuss what was agreed to be measured and then what we’re seeing from all three perspectives, and sometimes if it’s a particularly long engagement, we’ll also do that part way through so that we can check that we’re on track.
The other thing that we recommend is that with the rhythm of the sessions, which may be every three to four weeks, depending again on what is to be achieved, is that the counterpart and the key stakeholder having regular dialogue around progress. So, we talk about how that’s going to be structured and what role the manager or key stakeholder needs to play in the process because all three parties are needing to contribute to the success. I think sometimes in organisational coaching it can be perceived that the coach and the counterpart go off and do their thing and then they come back and report back and the manager hasn’t played a role at all and that can impact the output of the coaching. So we believe that all three parties have a role to play. And so we discussed that upfront. What role is everybody playing and how will we measure how each person is inhabiting that role and what they’re doing. So I’m sure there are others I haven’t mentioned, but yeah, lots and lots of different ways you can measure return on investment.
Great, thank you and mindful. We have a few minutes remaining and this next question is one that we could sit here and discuss all day. I’d love to, I’m sure our listeners would be very keen to hear all of your thoughts around where you see coaching as an industry changing and evolving. Where are we heading to?
Where are we heading to? The ultimate question. If I think about the conversations that are being had in the industry at the moment, I think that points us into some of the directions we may be heading in or at least some of the things we need to be looking at as an industry. I don’t have a crystal ball. When I find one I’ll let you know, but I think the question of professionalisation of the industry is a big one. Should we seek to become a profession or not? I tend to think in terms of professionalism rather than profession because with profession there’s regulation and there’s a school of thought that that would be a great thing for the coaching industry and there’s a school of thought that says that would really limit who we are, what we do and how we continue to evolve.
So I’m certainly interested in the professionalism of the industry rather than us necessarily becoming a profession. Other things that are being talked about a lot are coaching in its formal sense as in the way we’ve been talking about it today versus the applied coaching techniques. There’s a lot of dialogue in the industry around leaders and managers learning some coaching skills as part of their leadership and management portfolio. That is a growing part of the industry and dialogue around we need to become perhaps more like that and focus less on the formal structured coaching so that is going to be interesting to see where that conversation leads. There’s also a conversation around artificial intelligence. And many listeners will know there are already products out there in the market that can work with structures, simple structures like [a grow 00:20:20] and a number of grow questions and take a human being through a thinking process to get them to think differently and act upon it in a basic way and get a result without any coach needing to be anywhere near the counterpart.
So very interesting to see where that goes. There’s a school of thought in that camp that says that artificial intelligence will never be able to build the kind of relationship that needs to be in place for the kind of developmental coaching and deeper work to happen. Some of which we’ve referred to today, but who would have guessed that AI is where it is now? So I don’t think we can afford to be complacent from that perspective. And a more recent conversation I’m hearing in the industry is how do we do more with less, which is a very common dialogue in organisations generally. But the coach is being challenged to achieve stronger results with counterparts in less time. And this idea of long nine, 12 month engagements being challenged and how do you get me the same result in three to six months? So those are some of the themes that I hear discussed around the future.
And I hope the debates continue because it’s from the discussion and the debate that we evolve. And one of the things that keeps me fully engaged in this industry is that it isn’t fully formed. It isn’t static. We do discuss, we debate and we evolve and we grow. And I think if we are in the business of working with others to enable them to reach more of their potential and grow in service of their roles in their organisations, then we need to be doing the same as individuals, as coaches, but also in terms of our practice and the profession.
Well I for one, and I’m sure our listeners hope that you continue to stay engaged in this industry and leading it in the way that you do. Thank you for sharing your insights today in particular. We’ve covered off a lot of things from how we’re really defining organisational coaching. Some of those things around what it’s not. We looked at the coaching counterpart, qualities of a coach and those competencies that you referred to, and the things that sit around that. And we looked at some of those benefits and returns on investment for the individual and the organisation. So thank you for sharing your time and your insights and for being with us today. Thank you, Jane.
Thank you for having me.