Workplace coaching? Life coaching? What is it? And why is it a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide? More importantly, why are Qatari organisations investing in this? bq magazine spoke to Jeanine Bailey and Marie Quigley, co-founders of Empower World, to understand how coaching could enhance performance and consequently improve an organisation’s operations. Even before interactions with employees, there’s a process of educating the employer too.
For organisations that are experiencing coaching for the first time, Quigley points out, “There may be the perception that coaches will come in as an advisory role and potentially ‘teach’ the client.” Despite this perception, Bailey feels some organisations understand that it can create transformational behavioural change.
“We are also aware that there are organisations who believe they know what coaching is, but in fact on investigation, what is being provided is more like mentoring, training, advising – which is not what coaching is about.
Coaching is about asking the person being coached powerful questions on the basis that the client (coachee) does have all the resourcefulness and creativeness within themselves to identify an appropriate way forward that is good for themselves, their team, their organisation and the people they serve.”
Bailey and Quigley have between them about 15 years of professional coaching experience. They have independent private practices as coaches, and together run Empower World. It’s through the latter that much of the workplace coaching happens.
If organisations understood the power of coaching, there would definitely be more willingness to introduce it, they feel. However, one assumption often results in coaching being viewed with a little wariness.
“There is often an expectation that coaching is only for remedial situations, where the manager or executive is not fulfilling his role or achieving the expectations of the company. Of course coaches do work with people who are stuck or struggling but coaching is about moving toward success and with that in mind organisations who understand the power of success recognise that their high fliers, benefit hugely from coaching,” says Quigley.
They also strongly believe that if coaching is implemented top down, the ripple effects are far stronger, and as Quigley states, “the transformation of one person can have a massive positive impact on the company as a whole.”
Does size matter?
Coaching is effective in organisations of different sizes, though the investment might be intimidating to smaller companies. Bailey and Quigley believe it is important for organisations, no matter its size, to make that investment. Rationalisation can be found in the opportunities that coaching offers.
Not just to help employees step into their power, or to realise they are potentially in the wrong job, it can also be results-oriented. This last, possibly, has the greatest appeal for smaller organisations. “Coaching results can be measured and agreed upon by the coach, coachee and organisation so that everyone is aware of the targets they are working towards.
For example, ways of measuring coaching effectiveness for a business development manager might be, let’s say, around the number of business proposals accepted increases by 20 percent, or for a customer service manager, the excellent customer satisfaction rating rises by 20 percent by a set date,” explains Bailey, adding that on a qualitative basis, they often hear from their clients that coaching is far more effective than any training they have ever experienced, this includes feedback from very senior executives.
Employee engagement in a diverse workforce
In a multi-national work environment, where there’s a degree of temporariness due to large expatriate workforce, how does one ensure employee engagement? “There are a lot of people who come here whose expectations are not quite met due to a variety of reasons.
However, when we work with clients, we are always working with them to understand their higher purpose – in other words, what is their life/professional purpose so they become consciously aware of what they truly want which many people have not thought about clearly and deeply before,” says Bailey.
“Often if you are unhappy in your organization and leave to move to another organization the unhappiness still remains, most of the time it is our internal responses to situations and that causes the most issues.
As coaches we enable people to see different perspectives to choose to respond to any given situation in a more powerful way for themselves. An important part of coaching is that people take 100 percent responsibility for their lives and outcomes, and therefore take appropriate action to make the things they want to happen.”
Coaches sometimes have to deal with the ‘traditional’ way of managing employees, and the expectations that come with it. “There is potentially a misunderstanding at some organizations that we should be focusing on people’s weaknesses and not their strengths; we believe this is the wrong way to approach an employee’s ability to improve their performance and engagement…in order to have greatness we must increase our strengths and natural capabilities,” Quigley says.
What to do differently
Embracing diversity, and acknowledging the differences in values is imperative for the success of an organisation, according to the coaches.
“In our experience, we have seen organisations failing to see that not only within a diverse workforce, even with each culture, that people are driven and inspired by different values and motivations – which is what makes this world go around. If we were all good at the same thing, then we wouldn’t have all the many diverse experiences, opportunities and ways of living as we have now,” says Bailey.
When organisations fail to recognise this, they may attempt to recruit a person for the sake of getting someone in a role versus finding out if their attitude, skills and knowledge matches the role, she feels.
So, in workplace coaching, where is the demarcation on what’s good for the company and what’s good for the individual? “We are working with the individual within a company, but the important thing here is that most organizations realize the coaching works on the individual, on empowering and inspiring them to be better at what they do.
Therefore if you have a person who begins to recognise their own potential and starts to take action to live up to that potential, it is going to be good for the company in many ways,” says Quigley.
Which brings us to the thriving job market that’s set to see more influx of professionals in the run-up to the football world cup. What should employees keep in mind as they seek opportunities here? “Not sure that I am qualified to answer this.
If I were working with someone who wanted to join the labour market here I would ask them to get really clear about what they wanted, to be sure that the position aligned with their values and the purpose, to look at their long term vision for themselves and the ones they love and see where this fits in with this picture. Of course we would work on so much more too; there is always the reality of life and the requirement of money.”