Does business coaching work? And for whom?
“Why do I, with all of my experience, need a business coach? And how do I know it will work?”
These are two of the most common questions – call them prejudices, maybe – that I am often faced by skeptical potential clients. Just to be clear, they are frequently shot at me by people who have dire problems in their firms. And as a business coach and mentor, I have to be careful in my response.
For example, last month, I held a meeting with a customer near Jerusalem to review progress. I had encouraged the company to open a new sales position and to adopt new approaches in marketing. The first extra revenues were beginning to materialise. Could my CEO recognize this progress, I asked cautiously.
“No!”, came an immediate and grumpy reply. The spouse of the CEO, who happens to be in charge of marketing, strongly disagreed….once the CEO had left the room.
What reminded me of this case study was the result of a survey of 31 line managers, questioning who could see the results from a coaching course: the coach, the individual concerned, the manager of the individual. In this ‘3-way’ dialogue, it turns out that almost invariably “there were no significant changes in the coachees own perception of their transformational leadership behaviour following the coaching”.
The published study did not explain this phenomenon. My experience suggests, and I am not a psychologist, that there are two processes in play, when it comes to the coachee.
First, at an academic or intellectual level, most of us are able to make changes and to improve. We are “up for the challenge”. After all, that is why we receive a salary or run the company.
At a secondary level, we have been conditioned over time to feel a certain way about a situation. This makes it difficult for some of us to notice changes in our environments, particularly if we ourselves have contributed significantly to that difference. Why? I believe there is one key reason for this. We are trained to be modest and thus are unable to accept direct personal achievements.
I believe that the survey is only scratching the iceberg of a whole new area of research. We need to understand in far more depth why coachees are reluctant to understand their triumphs and what is the continuing impact of such ‘negatisim’.