Widely acknowledged as a powerful development tool, coaching is used by an increasing number of organisations to develop the talent they need to meet their business strategy. Yet whilst phrases like coaching culture and leader as coach have entered common business language and the awareness of the benefits coaching can bring to business performance has grown, so too have the myths surrounding it.
Here we debunk five of the most common coaching myths we come across.
Myth 1: Coaching only suits, and is given to, very senior executives.
The reality: In a survey by Sherpa, just 30% of organisations reported they used coaching only for senior executives. Coaching can help with a number of business challenges; developing high potentials, supporting individuals who have been promoted into bigger roles, helping managers lead their team through change effectively, developing resiliency, accelerating the pace at which maternity leave returners get back up to speed, equipping first time managers with the skills to be effective leaders. As none of these business challenges are experienced only by those at the C-suite level, reserving coaching only for a select senior group is somewhat limiting. While the content may be different, all levels of employee, certainly all managers and leaders in an organisation, can benefit from a coaching approach to management.
Myth 2: Coaching is good while it lasts, but its effects then drift away
The reality: There’s a reason why a CIPD report highlights that coaching has been ranked among organisations as one of the most effective learning and talent development practices for the last five years. Development that delivers sustainable results needs to be context specific, be embedded in real work rather than purely conceptual in nature, increase self-awareness and focus on embedding behavioural change. Only development that addresses and integrates all of these things will deliver the sustainable outcomes that let individuals and organisations excel. Coaching, when delivered in the right way at the right time includes all of these elements making it one of the most powerful investments an organisation can make in its leaders.
Myth 3: Coaching is something anyone can do
The reality: A good coach will be accredited with the Global Coaching and Mentoring Alliance (ICF, AC, EMCC). But it is recognised it takes more than a piece of paper to make someone an effective coach. Great coaches will also have held senior leadership roles in business, demonstrate a commitment to regular supervision and continued personal development and possess high degrees of self-awareness, humility, openness, and the ability to ﬂex their style to the needs of the coachee. Clearly this is a distinct skill set that not everyone possesses or has the time or the inclination to develop.
Whilst trying to find a good coach in a marketplace saturated with life coaches, business coaches and self-taught NPL practitioners can be overwhelming, a recent report by CRF showing that the quality and calibre of the coach is critical for coaching to be successful, highlights why opting for any available coach is ill advised.
Myth 4: Coaching is a quick fix to solve performance issues
Reality: Good coaching is about achieving a high performance culture, not managing a low-performance one, and should not be seen primarily as a remedial tool.This is a view echoed by most organisations with a CRF report on coaching stating that less than a quarter of organisations use coaching to address poor performance issues.
Neither is coaching a quick way of accelerating high performance.There is no such thing as a one or two session wonder. Coaching is effective precisely because it creates sustained behavioural change, something that typically requires at least six months’ commitment and at least one or two sessions per month. Having a coach is like when you have a personal trainer at the gym. It’s understood that you need someone there to push you to do things that you might find uncomfortable. It’s also understood that you won’t get amazing results straight away. Coaching is no different. It requires the coachee to be challenged, often uncomfortably, and takes time for the results to be seen. But once achieved the results can be transformational for both the individual and the teams that they lead.
Myth 5: Internal coaches are more effective than external coaches.
The reality: Understanding the business context and cultural nuances of an organisation, supporting the creation of a coaching culture, increased flexibility and cost efficiency are all reasons why internal coaching is often cited as more effective than using external coaches.
However a recent report by Ridler showed that 85% of organisations said their most senior executives prefer an external coach than internal. Bringing a fresh perspective, being more inclined to challenge assumptions and behaviour, objectivity and confidentiality and being perceived as coaching experts are all reasons cited for this this preference. A preference that translates into results; a CIPD report found that for leaders and senior managers, external executive coaches provided the most effective development.
Internal coaching and external coaching can both play a key role in developing effective leaders. The same principle applies to coaching as any other development intervention: clarify the business need and objective first.This will then drive the type of coaches and coaching that will be most appropriate and whether they should be internal or external. Supporting a new MD bedding into a new company will require a very different approach and style of coach than supporting a company-wide roll out of coaching for 1st time managers.