Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Coaching as a sticking plaster?

Don't get me wrong, but sometimes I wonder about the motivation of some organisations when they buy in coaching services. Are they genuinely using coaching as a way of growing their people, or as a sop to mask other problems?

I was recently asked to work with several leaders in a rapidly expanding organisation, however it be rapidly apparent that all of them were working seriously crazy hours and seeing too little of friends and family to be healthy. I guess if I had been working with just one of them this pattern wouldn't have been so apparent. As it was I began to suspect that the development agenda extended beyond working with these individuals and starting to point at more structural issues. The company had survived a traumatic start-up where it had nearly gone bust but now, several years on, was still working flat out just as if it was about go under. Resource levels still reflected the old way of operating, despite the fact that the organisation was now highly successful and very profitable. Endemic workaholism and stress was the net result.

In coaching, the focus is very much on the person sitting in front of you. As  result I've been working with my coachees on the way they are working and helping them to find a more functional work/life balance. However a bigger conversation is needed with the Exec about their style of managing, the strategy of the organisation and the resources required to deliver it. Yes, coaching can help individuals to work differently and take responsibility for how they show up, but it also needs to support individuals to have the difficult conversation required in the broader organisation. It is all to easy for coaching to be non-systemic and fall into the trap of being a sticking plaster on broader organisational issues.