As clients demand a faster and more economical return on their coaching investment, the pressure is on for coaching to speed up. But what are the risks and how do you maintain quality?
Over the past few years the classic model of business or executive coaching has come under scrutiny and challenge.
For many years the dominant model has been the 90-minute, 2-hour or even half-day face-to-face session - and traditionally this has been the preserve of senior leaders and executives.
However, recently the scope and reach of coaching has expanded dramatically, with more and more managers using it as part of their core management approach.
At the same time we have seen the rapid development of niche and speciality applications in areas such as retirement, maternity, transition and expat working. On top of that, we see new tools, structures and models being introduced - though it is worth noting that core methodology and coaching ethos remains the same.
A time of rapid change
The market is changing extremely quickly. We now have numerous important clients who tell us they want a faster and more economical return on their coaching investment. They want those we coach to learn more quickly and change their behaviours more quickly - often at lower cost.
When we train their managers, they don’t want us to turn them into executive coaches. Instead they are asking us to teach real-world skills that their managers can use flexibly and confidently in the course of their regular routines.
It's about delivering shorter coaching sessions and training approaches that help managers get faster results.
The pressure is on for coaching to speed up.
What are the risks?
A level of caution here is absolutely necessary.
The biggest perceived risk is a reduction in coaching quality. Experienced coaches will be concerned that shorter sessions may be shallow or even shoddy. They will question how quality and depth can be retained. For some, the very term ‘speed coaching’ may imply something rushed and less beneficial. Some will question whether their hard-acquired experience and skill will have currency in this ‘instant’ world.
These concerns are legitimate and need to be addressed.
At Management Futures, we've been very careful to respond to the needs of our clients whilst keeping a sharp eye on quality.
Our developments include:
- Speed Coaching sessions, where a single coach may come on to a client site and work with perhaps a dozen clients a day in 30-minute sessions. The feedback we have had from numerous clients is that they are delighted with the results. For some clients, we have provided speed coaching days as an adjunct to in-house training programmes, giving the opportunity for individuals to reflect upon their learning from the programme and to consider how to apply it in their roles.
- 'Virtual’ coaching delivered through apps such as Skype and Zoom, where sessions are generally around the one-hour mark and frequently shorter. This has allowed us to supply coaching in volume - e.g. for large numbers of managers going through 360° feedback programmes who need the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of their feedback and plan their response to it.
- ‘Corridor’ or ad-hoc coaching where someone can use a structured and rigorous coaching approach to manage even a 10-minute coaching conversation effectively. Increasingly this is something that busy managers tell us they want and will use. Our in-house ‘Coaching Skills for Managers’ programmes now regularly include practice in how to handle these real-world situations. The feedback we are getting is that managers use and value these skills.
The question of quality
We have learned a lot over recent years about how to ensure fast coaching in its various forms remains of high quality:
- Fast does not mean rushed. In fact, brief coaching sessions require an increase in measured control and carefully placed interventions. What tends to be much quicker is the speed at which we reach for root issues and goals for the discussion.
- Listening needs to be even more focused – there is no room or time to drift off!
- Being present is everything – particularly for an ad hoc conversation, which to be effective means full commitment and attention. If this can’t be given it is better to delay the conversation rather than fall prey to the ‘half in, half out’ approach.
- We can rely on our skills of questioning – we have been looking at formulating great coaching questions now for 20 years.
- We can rely on our principles – core coaching principles are as robust in short conversations as in long ones.
- We can use our structures. Formats for coaching such as ‘GROW’, ‘OSCAR’ and our own ‘KIPPER’ structure work well in even the briefest of coaching conversations.
- We can rely less on ‘traditional’ coaching tools – these will increasingly become the domain of the longer sessions. Against this we need to develop more ‘quick to use’ tools and this means we need to continue to be creative and adaptable.
Cricket - the perfect analogy
We continue to learn and are excited by both the developments we have made and the feedback we are getting.
Perhaps an appropriate analogy is with what has happened in the sport of cricket in recent years.
Decades ago cricket was focused on the four and five-day game, and this was seen as the ultimate test of skill but the public wanted something shorter and more exciting to watch. Gradually one-day games came into being, along with much head-shaking from the traditionalists in the game who saw this as the ruination of the sport. One-day cricket thrived.
More recently, even shorter formats still have been introduced - offering full matches lasting around three hours. This really shook up the traditionalists who thought this inevitably meant a fundamental reduction in standards but the game now has three flourishing forms.
The demands of the faster games have put pressure on players to learn new skills and techniques, many of which have filtered into the longer forms of the game, giving them a new lease of life. Despite the pessimists, the fundamentals of the game’s techniques and skills have held up - or even improved - and many players thrive in all three forms.
The public reach and commercial success of the game has increased exponentially.
What does the future hold?
If this scenario crosses over to coaching we should see coaching become available to even more people - shaking off its sometimes elitist reputation.
We should see exciting new tools and the skill of coaching developing whilst core principles continue to underpin our practice.
And we should see a flourishing market that can embrace diverse forms of coaching successfully.
We aim to be part of this change.