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These are the most valuable coaching behaviours


We have looked previously at some aspects of our partner, BlessingWhite’s, research into the different approaches organisations take towards coaching and the impact it can have on their business. One headline figure the research highlighted was a strong correlation between managers who received coaching themselves, and their own commitment to coach their reports. This suggests the possibility of a “virtuous circle” in the creation of a coaching culture – where the benefits of coaching beget a greater commitment and belief in the value of coaching others.


Another interesting aspect of BlessingWhite’s study was the identification of the top coaching behaviours, as identified by both managers who coach, and the direct reports who receive this coaching. The researchers looked at the ratings of some 3,700 respondents, and found that managers who coach rated “Communicating clearly and candidly” as the top coaching behaviour, followed by “Establishing clear performance objectives and milestones”. The “Top 3” was rounded-out by “Delivering on promises made”.


All three are, arguably, relatively uncontroversial – good communication, clarity in expectations, and being consistent and trustworthy are all competencies that managers and their reports are likely to prioritise in any professional situation. What is particularly striking is that the competencies and the order of priority is exactly the same for both managers and their reports, as well as for BlessingWhite’s previous run of the study in 2009. This suggests a great deal of agreement over the critical nature of these competencies, and shows some ready areas of focus for managers taking the step into coaching as a responsibility.


The report also considers other factors that should be considered when developing managers as coaches, and helps delineate the distinction between internal and external coaches. Internal coaches, for example, need to be committed to the idea of coaching but must – unlike external professional coaches – be aware that it is but one aspect of their overall duty. They must also recognise that they can’t act as fully-independent coaches who are removed from the outcomes coaching produces. This level of unavoidable self-interest in the coaching relationship needs to be acknowledged so that it can be properly handled.


Another particular feature of the development of internal coaches is the need to recognise the potential for overly-prescriptive coaching solutions, borne out of the manager’s likely experience in the organisation and, potentially, in the report’s exact role. Unlike a more generalist external coach, an internal manager coach will need to be more aware that their greater understanding and experience in the company – while an asset in many ways – can also skew their ability to make unbiased suggestions on a course of action.
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