Coaching in the Workplace

Building Creativity and Accountability

Coaching methodologies have a long history which can be traced back to Socrates, who believed that individuals learn best when they have ownership of a situation and take some form of personal responsibility for the outcome that is to be produced. Building on this understanding, the basis of effective coaching is the ability to create a learning environment and provide facilitation to enable individuals to go beyond their previous boundaries. It has little relationship to teaching and differs widely from the approach of most managers who tend to assert their expertise.

Coaching is actually a process of influencing people that works at the level of people's deepest motivators. Equipping others in this way is much harder than shepherding them through challenges or solving problems for them and coaching is the optimal means by which it can be achieved. It builds people's self-confidence and encourages them to take responsibility for their part in moving their company towards its goals.

Requirements for Success

Because of its unique ability to foster personal growth, embedding coaching into the culture of a business is one of the most important factors in implementing an effective learning and development strategy. However, it can involve a number of challenges if it is to be done in a meaningful way that has a significant impact on performance:


  • Everybody involved must understand why these skills are so important to leadership success. This generally requires the development of emotional intelligence competencies, particularly in the areas of self-awareness and understanding of others. It is also likely they will need a fundamentally different perspective on leadership in general.
  • Before models, methodologies and techniques can be applied there must be an understanding of the mind, its modus operandi and effect on results.
  • Leaders must grasp and be able to apply some critical performance-related, psychological principles.
  • Coaching involves a way of "being", not just the application of a skill set. The qualities required are amongst the highest interpersonal skills that leaders can develop: integrity, non-judgement, flexibility, empathy and enquiry. For some people, those more set in the old command and control mindset; this will require the development of a fundamentally different approach to people.
  • It is impossible to specify a definitive approach to coaching: this is an art, not a science, which may explain the limited awareness of what it actually is. Everybody will need to gain an understanding of why coaching is so beneficial to performance and to develop a slightly different approach that best fits their personality and skillset. Nobody will do this effectively as the result of a single workshop, so ongoing repetition will need to be encouraged and supported until new skills become ingrained.
  • There is always resistance to cultural change. Conditioned behaviours shaped by the environment need to be overcome, as does the fear that often accompanies new initiatives and which may act in very subtle ways to block them.