Coaching – key performance tool or indicator of weakness and inappropriate at work?

Jess Ennis the poster girl of the 2012 athletics, who performed supremely and struck gold at the Olympics. A strong talented woman with a host of talent in a variety of disciplines — and a backup staff to support her. The Times newspaper on 6th August wrote a superb article on how she managed her doubts and fears and the way her support team of a coach, a physio, a psychologist, a biomechanist, a soft tissue therapist etc. assisted her to make the most of the talent she has.

If an Olympic athlete, overall face of the games and role model like Ennis has assistance, why should it be wrong for managers to get a miniscule of that support? The pressures are different, but they involve dealing with high expectations of others, delivering peak performance and additionally managing teams and individuals — all of whom are trying to deal with their own pressures and anxieties. They face numerous ambiguities and uncertainties — just like Jess.

So surely some coaching, a process which concentrates specifically on an individual’s needs with a focus on outcomes and results would be useful. If the person is interested and willing to commit and the budget exists surely it will be a key part of any organisations strategy -and evidence suggests in many organisations that is the case.


Here are three true statements from organisations I have had links with over the last six months.

‘Two of our senior managers would improve the engagement of their areas and subsequent performance dramatically if they were able to get some external coaching. The HR Director responsible though says she doesn’t agree with coaching, people shouldn’t get therapy from work — so there is no question of us providing what they need.”

“Our Head of Employee relations told me I shouldn’t be developing my staff. She said she has had nothing for three years so why should they get anything?”

‘The Chief Executive says we shouldn’t even employ people who need coaching. We have so many issues to deal with however this blocks our progress’

Three organisations that are facing great challenges and would like more leadership, supreme performance and talented people. All three are trapped by the prejudice of people in key roles (none of whom are high performers!) who believe that coaching and assisting people to perform are either signs of weakness or inappropriate in the workplace.

Andy Washington, Managing Director UK & Ireland, Expedia sees things differently. “Coaching is an essential business tool, delivering results and speeding up the development of key people and teams. It is often a skill or technique that is ignored to the detriment of leaders, teams and all businesses. I consider it a key component in my own development and that of my people in such a fast moving, dynamic business.”

Do you want, like Jess and Andy, to strive for excellence in your world? Do you want your people to do the same? Years ago coaching was a remedial tool for failing performers and seen as a weakness. In many organisations the extra focus, boost to spirits and morale — and amplified results mean that good performers utilise coaching — although many are blocked by people who may still believe the earth is flat.

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