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Organizational Coaching

Organizational Coaching

Organizational coaching targets systemic change within an organization. Different from individual business coaching, the focus of the effort is on the whole organization or specific parts of the organization.   

Unlike team coaching, where the goal is to enable a single team (leader and direct reports) to work better together, the goal of organizational coaching is to help the organization to improve and evolve in the desired direction.

I am talking here about coaching delivered by an external coach or a team of coaches, as opposed to building professional coaches within the organization or equipping leaders with coaching tools for more inclusive and participative leadership. As an external organizational coach, I would like to highlight the benefits and positive potential of this particular type of coaching engagement.

Organizational coaching may include elements of individual and leadership coaching, as well as team coaching. This engagement however is more comprehensive, long-term, and committed to reach organizational goals. Also, that commitment needs to come from both sides – that of the leader or the leadership team and that of the coach.

For the coach to be effective in an organizational coaching engagement, is not only the understanding of organizational challenges or what leader’s desired strategic direction is that is essential, but also “getting” the organizational culture and developing trust with all employees.

Once the agreements over the terms of work have been achieved (clear contracting is here as important as in any other engagement), your organizational coach can help you identify and achieve your business goals in a more effective way. Specifically, your coach can help you to:

          Gain more clarity about your priorities, challenges, and opportunities.

          Evaluate and increase soundness of your strategies.

          Create a roadmap and estimate the effort needed to succeed.

          Engage the relevant stakeholders.

          Leverage the organization’s collective talent.

          Improve collaboration and organizational culture as a whole.

Organizational coaching engagement may include (but is not limited to) goals around the strategy implementation; restructuring; organizational development; cultural transformation; profitability attainment; sustainability agenda; and diversity and inclusion issues.

What is the advantage of having this job done by an external coach? An external coach can help you in ways that an internal coach cannot:

expand your perspective, help you see things in a different light which gives your thoughts more clarity and structure – similarly to individual business coaching, but with the difference that the coach also understands your organization with own expertise, and not only reflects it through the lens of your story.

highlight blind spots within your organization that from your perspective are not visible or that didn’t receive any spotlight from you so far. Your organizational coach can spot weaknesses within your organizational system and pinpoint anything from weak decision-making to underdeveloped employee skills.

facilitate work among your experts and allow you take a place at the table as a contributor. People might work and interact differently if the directions are not coming from their boss.

address issues that within the organization are too political or too “accepted”. Where there’s an elephant in the room and no one dares to name it, or people don’t even realize it is an elephant, because it has always been there, and many topics remain undiscussed.

– help your organization to become a learning organization. Coaching is always about growth mindset. If you think, you have all the answers, you don’t need coaching. Otherwise, you can learn and grow. It works for individuals, as well as for organizations. Finding solutions, creating innovations, and improving processes all require seeing beyond the original perception and acting accordingly. In the absence of learning, we simply stay in our old patterns.

 

Is organizational coaching the right approach for you?

Organizational coaching is not a panacea, and it will not magically turn you into an industry leader or quadruple your revenues overnight. Nevertheless, with a good coach and with leader’s openness to the approach and desire to improve, positive change will become tangible.  Here are some things for leaders to check for on how receptive you, and your organizational culture will be towards an organizational coaching engagement. Organizations can greatly benefit from coaching if their leaders are ready to:  

1.       Take ownership. You as a leader are in the driver’s seat. You cannot just hire a coach and expect him to deliver change. If that’s your expectation, hire consultants, or install a VP of Change. Fire them few months down the road because “their strategy didn’t work”. The truth is, you are the one to create a strategy and put it into place. Organizational coach will help you on the clarity of your thoughts, on your blind spots and will be your sounding board to challenge your ideas. Your coach will help to make the plan actionable.

2.       Accept that you don’t have all the answers. If you as a leader are sure you know it all, just do it. You don’t need an organizational coach. If you are the bottleneck, hire another assistant or delegate. But if you think there is more potential in your organization, than your personal opinion, a coach might help you to engage your team and other stakeholders to contribute their knowledge and expertise. That will surely bring some more perspectives, ignite creativity, and help you see the forest and the trees at the same time.

3.       Take action. It is not enough only to take ownership. You also need to be willing to put effort to achieve change. Knowing what to do is not enough. Working with an organizational coach will create additional work for you, but most likely it will free up some of your time by helping you shift priorities, delegate more effectively, and grow your best people into more senior roles. Additionally, your organizational coach will help you on things like preparing questions, conducting conversations, facilitating workshops, analyzing results, and finding patterns, so along the road, the shift will surely pay off and you will need to let go of some of your present detrimental patterns.

How to work with an external organizational coach.

1.       Initial understanding and bonding. One of the benefits of working with an organizational coach is the ability to develop the organization on many levels, including day-to-day business, the strategy, and the culture. It is about helping it to become more flexible, agile, learning, and inclusive. These things are more difficult to divide into phases and assign actionable milestones. Coaching is most valuable for seeing broader perspectives, clarifying priorities, and profoundly understanding the challenges, not by directly jumping into action. To be able to successfully partner with an organizational coach, it is important that the leader and the coach have a conversation about where the leader and the organization are standing, where they want to be, and what are the specific approaches the coach intends to use.

 

2.       Define terms of work. The surest criterion for successful coaching engagement is commitment. The leader and the coach need to commit on the terms of how they want to work together. It is essential to clarify and come to a mutual understanding on these aspects:

 

          Expectations on both sides. Both – the leader and the coach need to have clear understanding about the expectations, responsibilities, commitments, requests and offers of both sides. Given the nature of coaching and desirability for outcomes, that are not known at the beginning, it is even more important to agree on the modes, quality measures, reflection loops and results evaluations methods.

          Duration of the engagement. I would suggest starting with a duration of 6-9 months. Change takes time, and when it comes to organizational coaching, it might be equally spaced. It is important to allow time for learnings to sink into a habit and ideas and insights to be reflected upon.

          Intensity of engagement. Be it measured in hours of work per week, number and type of meetings, number of written reports or units of measure of a different kind – mutual understanding and agreement on these is key.

 

3.       Create a plan. You organizational coaching engagement would probably start with setting goals and clarifying challenges. The better you can identify what exactly you want to solve or improve, the greater is the chance that you will invest into solving the right problem. A good way to plan in uncertain and innovative environments is rolling wave planning, where you plan the immediate next phase in more detail and roll that wave as you have more information about how things unfold later on.

 

4.       Dive into the process. Coaching is usually a very enjoyable process of pushing the boundaries of what is comfortable and achieving more, than what was initially planned. Have an open dialog with your coach on a continuous basis and the sooner you can voice your concern, the better will be the result. Give and seek feedback and you will be reaping the fruits of your conscious and dedicated effort sooner than you thought.

 

 

Organizational coaching engagement can enhance and accelerate positive, systemic transformation within your company, improve the quality of ideas, quality of communication, satisfaction with work, give higher retention rates and attract more talent. It is about achieving more with resources, that you already have, scaling up and going beyond. One insight at a time.

 

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