How to use coaching as lever for organizational transformation
After its beginnings in the 1990s, coaching is now an established instrument of personnel development in many organizations. The coaching market currently has a global turnover of approx. 2.8 billion € and has been growing with rates of up to approx. 40%.i Also during the pandemic, the importance of coaching in personnel development continues to grow: 65% of coaching practitioners worldwide are convinced, that coaching as a whole will emerge stronger from the pandemic.ii
However, our experience shows, that coaching is usually still seen as an individual development measure available only to selected parts of the organization (typically: top executives) and is not used strategically. We are convinced: there is more power in it when linking it to organizational transformation.
In this series of blog posts, we will show you why (and how) in three steps:
1. Connection between coaching and transformation
2. Supporting developments in coaching landscape (aka “coaching trends”)
3. Five measures to use coaching in your organization as lever for transformation
Part I: A successful transformation relies on success factors which are predestined for coaching
Despite being implemented with great effort, many transformations fail. Whether you believe in the often cited 70% failure rate of transformationsiii, or not – our experience clearly shows that many organizations struggle in this respect. But why?
Let’s think about transformation as a difficult hike in the alps…
Figure 1: Common obstacles in transformations
Would you even start the hike with an unclear or unrealistic goal? Probably not, right? Also, a poor roadmap (too steep of an increase, no breaks, detours) can ruin your trip. What about your hiking companions? Are you sure they are motivated enough to climb the mountain, and do they have the right skills for this? And, most importantly: Is your guidance as leader of the group adequate? Of course, there might be also disadvantageous general conditions which you cannot affect directly: The weather might be bad or it’s just the wrong timing.
Let’s switch to transformation in your organization: Does our hiking metaphor sound familiar to you with respect to obstacles in your firm?
Anyway, there are some good news: For most of the mentioned aspects, coaching is an effective instrument to address them. “Dealing with uncertainty and change”, “being an inspirational leader” or “finding the right strategic objective”: All those aspects are examples for typical coaching situations recognized in the communityiv.
Specific skills are also “coachable” and, if done so in a structured and strategically oriented format, can be a lever to support transformation. You wonder how? Let’s take our client’s sales organization focused on solution sales and contracting (B2B) as an example, where sales performance needed to improve by >30% during the last quarter of their financial year. We engaged multiple levels of the organization at the same time:
- On a team level, we took an agile sales approach – implementing a new performance management and meeting logic – to focus attention on the most relevant leads.
- On a leadership level, we worked with leadership and team coaching, to improve leadership in the newly formed agile setup and to shape a high-performing team
- On the individual sales rep. level, we delivered sales coaching to the entire sales team (30 sales representatives), working on the individual sales skills and performance. This created an immediate “sales push”, closing the performance gap and exceeding deals closed in the prior months by far.
But most importantly, the broad exposure of our coaches to the organization helped to identify important organizational levers the organization needed to pull on an overarching level (e.g., organizational setup, processes, roles & responsibilities, etc.) in order to really transform the sales organization and move it to a new level.
Addressing all organizational levels and combining information on “the frame” in which the people operated (without impairing confidentiality!) was the key to success. We are convinced that this example can be transferred to many other contexts. Broader accessibility of coaching is a prerequisite, as well as scaling of coaching to predefined parts of the organization and, of course, the systematic evaluation of meta-level insights.
[i] ICF Global Coaching Study (2020)
[ii] ICF Study (2020): COVID-19 and the Coaching Industry
[iii] Hughes (2011)
[iv] XING Coaches + Trainer (2018), Harvard Business Review (2009), The Manchester Review (2001)