Today, coaching is becoming more of a natural leadership style than ever before. The reason for that is the dramatic change in business ecosystems comprised of three different facets: digital transformation affecting business models, the importance of culture and employee engagement. After more than ten years of building a coaching culture in a corporate environment, I am happy to share five key learnings that you might consider useful if you are passionate about coaching in a business context.
1. CEO IS A COACH
It is important to be aware of your leadership style, because as CEO you set the tone for the organization, and act as a role model, both are critical components of an organization’s overall corporate culture.
First prerequisite is that a CEO is aware of the benefits of coaching in organizations and is knowledgeable and skilled in this area. By demonstrating a coaching leadership style, the CEO inspires all business leaders to follow the same leadership pattern and apply it as a common practice.
Once there is top management awareness and sponsorship of coaching, there needs to be formal support, through continuous investment in building a coaching culture. Coaching programs are usually strategic decisions of organizations, and have a long-term scope, so consistency is crucial for success.
Finally, on a corporate level, a decision needs to be made on the scope of coaching practice and implementation milestones. In NIS Gazprom Neft, we are investing in coaching skills development of all managers, from executives and senior managers to middle managers and first line managers. In addition, we are focused on our key talents, first-time managers and HR employees.
2. COACHING IS A BUSINESS NEED
Coaching is not trendy and a stand-alone initiative reserved only for psychologists. Actually, it’s a widely used leadership tool that results in empowered employees and great business results.
To be successful in building a coaching culture, you should first understand the overall business context, culture, company development stage, and other internal and external factors.
Second, it would be beneficial to analyze current leadership styles in different management levels, levels of engagement, management routines and feedback practices. To create need analyses, you should link observed leadership gaps with their business and cultural impact and propose a learning intervention. In our company, we are putting efforts to promote a long-term supportive leadership style over a directive leadership one that is focused on short-term results. As our main business benefits from a coaching approach, we have recognized improvement in team communication, relationships, personal growth and overall team performance.
Keep in mind that coaching is not a natural style for some managers, so you will need to invest time in promoting how coaching influences performance and engagement.
3. CORPORATIONS HAVE COACHING PARTNERSHIPS
Leading implementation of coaching practice needs strong partnerships and support. There are some key steps to follow in order to enable an effective process.
First, you need to select a “coaching partner” for your organization, focusing on the partner’s credibility. It is crucial to have a reliable coaching partner because of the expertise and experience with other companies the partner brings. A coaching partner also keeps your organization updated on the latest trends and tools. We have analyzed the overall European market of coaching providers, conducted a tender procedure and selected the Academy of Executive Coaching London (AoEC).
Second, be sure that personal capabilities of coaches who will work for you fit your leaders’ seniority, business experience and expectations. This is important because success depends on the quality of relations between coaches and coachees in the organization.
Third, take into consideration the capacity of the coaching provider and experience in executive coaching, especially if you are leading the process in a large organization.
Fourth, select a partner organization that can provide globally recognized certificates to participants in alignment with International Coach Federation (ICF) standards. Coaching certificates are much appreciated by managers as a benefit to their personal development and recognition.
Finally, select a partner with capability for a tailor-made design of coaching programs. In partnership with AoEC, we addressed the specific needs of NIS Gazprom Neft, so the programs have a valuable impact on leadership and corporate culture.
4. COACHING IS AN INTEGRATED PART OF THE CORPORATE UNIVERSITY
Our organization’s Corporate University is providing continuous learning and career progression to all employees during the life of their long careers. The aim of our coaching programs is to enable learning and practicing of a coaching leadership style within the GROW model framework.
We first wondered when to apply coaching, so we made a link with our Situational Leadership model and trained managers from the very early stage of their careers. Additionally, we have put content and practices in our current business context, so managers can easily role-play cases based on their own needs. To make practice effective, we are providing a coaching toolbox which consists of guidelines, books, demonstrations and observations followed by specific feedback reports.
To apply coaching widely, we made coaching a part of the curriculum for all managers; we provide executive coaching to senior management and we also invest in project-based leadership program “Leader” where coaches support teams until the final project’s defense phase.
Additionally, we are applying coaching to address competency gaps defined by Hogan Assessment centers for first time promotions or strategic leadership roles. By applying 70 20 10 development plans, we secure measurable coaching intervention in terms of topic, timeframe and expected outcomes for the coachee. To inform coachee of career opportunities and support aspirations, we have created detailed career paths for all business units.
5. COACHING IS YOUR TRANSFORMATION TOOL
The business world today is affected by a fourth Industry revolution. Corporations need to answer many questions about digital transformation, future business models and strategy. To survive, organizations need to introduce more flexible structures, agile philosophy and run constant changes.
For success, you will need a culture that enables changes, otherwise, you will fail. For that kind of culture you need leaders who can inspire and involve people and share their vision. Coaching helps today’s leaders involve people and personalize the role of every team member engaged in the game that is continuously changing. This approach has multiple effects because coachees are becoming change agents who involve new people in the change. Through empowerment and continuous feedback, coaches are releasing people’s potential, which leads to high level engagement and outstanding results.
In general, today’s business is a network of relations in which coaching helps us to connect, understand each other and act upon our goal, purpose or idea.
Sharing the best practices
This April, we participated in the Global Conference “The Future of Coaching in Organizations” organized by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and Hogan Assessments, held in Budapest. Among distinguished speakers, we shared our best practices in coaching in NIS Gazprom Neft. Once again, I have highlighted my experience and opinion on the importance of coaching leadership style in the age of constant change. Dr. Robert Hogan, world-class authority in matters such as personality, leadership and organizational efficiency, talked about the topic of Coaching the Uncoachable and overall benefits of coaching in modern organizations. All the participants at the Conference sought to provide answers to challenging questions about the necessary changes in HR management, bearing in mind the digitalization of global operations.