• Akeel Kazmi

Creating the Coaching Business Case

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

While there has been less of a need for crafting a business case for formal training courses like PRINCE2 or Leadership, this post looks to create the business case for coaching.

Unfortunately, there is a perception that coaching is a form of intervention and used when someone's performance is lagging. However, in my own experience, it is quite the opposite - it's actually where employers have identified emerging talent which they want to nurture and develop for more senior leadership roles. Additionally, where clients have self-funded their coaching experience, this shows that they have taken an empowered approach in their career development and invested in themselves for the better.

Coaching Business

Business environments can be dynamic, volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Businesses compete globally, and competitive advantage is less on the product or service and more critical is employee talent.

Employee talent must adapt in line with environmental demands which is ever-changing. Unfortunately, stats suggest that change management initiatives are 70% unsuccessful, so expect more change and more adaption.

Suppose we accept the premise that human capital is more important than ever for organisational competitive advantage and human capital needs to adapt to ever-changing uncertain business environment effectively. Then, we can understand the increased demand and popularity for coaching.

The role of training, learning and development is to equip employees with the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities to perform highly effectively. Traditionally, training was used to impart knowledge which is now readily available online. However, the challenge is how best to use this information, and businesses can make a case for coaching.

Coaching helps employees gain insights and develop their analytical abilities. Coaching has a learner-centric approach and gives the employee the time, mental space, support and guidance they need. One to one coaching is tailored to the individual and provides adaptable learning and development solution rather than instructional forms of training.

Most believe coaching is not only beneficial to the individual but also their team and organisation. Coaching benefits can be seen and achieved relatively quickly, as participants are encouraged to explore different options and take action.

The client leads coaching, and the challenges and goals can vary widely depending on the client and the organisation's needs. Coaching is inherently goal bound and forms the starting point of each coaching conversation.

The different classification of coaching outcomes can be:

  • affective outcomes (how the client feels)

  • cognitive outcomes (how the client thinks)

  • skill-based outcomes (what the client does)

  • results outcomes (what the client achieves)

Affective outcomes, i.e. experienced internally by the client, including changes in attitude, motivation, confidence, resilience and mindset. Example, 'to become more emotionally resilient' or 'to feel more confident and less of an imposter'. Three categories of this being well-being, work attitudes and self-confidence. Goals aimed at improving quality of life, such as mental well-being or lifestyle issues. Another theme is reducing stress in the workplace. In terms of work attitudes, improved motivation, managing perceptions of 'ambition', developing self-confidence and decreasing harsh self-criticism.

Cognitive outcomes are around knowledge and understanding. We can break this down into facts and information, know-how, and cognitive strategies (problem-solving, decision-making, or reflective thinking). The outcome may be 'how to communicate effectively with stakeholders'. One of the key ones I find with my clients is how to develop strategic thinking and make that shift from thinking operationally or tactically to strategically. Another key cognitive outcome is clarity around career direction. Some also pursue coaching to increase their business acumen.

Skill-based outcomes around expertise or how to complete tasks is a lot easier to assess than the previous two coaching outcomes. These may be around the development of leadership skills, delegation, time management, productivity or assertiveness. One I find with clients is 'how to broaden my network'. Another key to leadership skills is how to use coaching skills to lead others. In terms of interpersonal communication, these vary around tact/diplomacy, persuasion, collaboration, influencing without authority and fostering stronger relationships.

Finally, results outcomes can be divided into individual, team and organisation. These can be any outcome where the behavioural change of a client has had an impact. This can be increased productivity or performance or financial indicators such as increased sales or reduced risks for regulatory fines. These individual outcomes may improve overall team performance or at an organisational level through lessons learnt.

Now that we have established the different outcomes, let's look for evidence that coaching has helped achieve these.

Evidence suggests that coaching has had a positive effect on work well-being, particularly when using external coaches (rather than in-house, which seem less independent). Other evidence has shown coaching has resulted in a decrease in depression, stress and anxiety.

Another benefit of solution-focused coaching is participants experienced a significant increase in career motivation. Along with a decrease in depression, executives and managers increased their resilience levels. When coupling 360-degree feedback and coaching, participants experienced higher levels of organisational commitment.

Studies investigating confidence have often operationalised confidence as self-efficacy. Research suggests that individuals with higher self-efficacy have stronger beliefs in their task-related capabilities and set themselves more challenging goals than those with low self-efficacy. Coaching can improve participants self-efficacy, especially where the coach and client's relationship is strong.

Research suggests that coaching clients experienced an increase in solution-focused thinking in terms of cognitive outcomes, indicating participants' ability to find solutions in complex systems. Another theme that emerged is coaching promotes problem-solving, which indirectly reduces stress at work. Another benefit for clients is to increase self-awareness and reflective abilities. Participants identified that coaching enabled them to picture their job and duties from a new perspective.

Evidence for skill-based outcomes found an increase in leadership competencies and behaviours for the coaching group but none for the non-coached group. These outcomes were higher for those participants who had greater buy-in to coaching. An increase in leadership performance can also be attributed to the client's higher perception of commitment from their coach into their development. When combining coaching and 360 feedback, this facilitated self-reflection which led to changes in leadership skills.

Coaching has also improved communication skills, e.g. soliciting ideas for improvements from managers. Other improvements included a significant increase in feedback-seeking skills. When combining coaching and a feedback workshop, the research found a rise in collaboration among managers. Finally, coaching found to increase empathy and relationship building skills.

Result level outcomes can be harder to gauge, as several other factors such as economic and behaviour of the wider team influence these outcomes. Research has found coaching has had a significant effect on employee retention. Other benefits of coaching included increased productivity, improved sales performance, and more promotions to employees who went through coaching. Even business students were more likely to secure internships compared to those who hadn't been coached.

In conclusion, we can say that coaching is an effective mediation for the achievement of positive outcomes such as improved well-being, self-confidence, enhanced leadership, interpersonal skills and individual results such as retention, performance and promotion.

Five key benefits of coaching

  1. Coaching can benefit in the way a person feels, thinks, does and achieves.

  2. Coaching helps employees gain insights and develop their analytical abilities.

  3. One to one coaching is tailored and bespoke to the individual and provides adaptable learning and development solution rather than instructional forms of training.

  4. Coaching benefits can be seen and achieved relatively quickly, as participants are encouraged to explore different options and take action.

  5. Coaching is not only beneficial to the individual but also to their team and organisation.

The research is taken from the book "The Coaches Handbook" edited by Jonathan Passmore.

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