Using coaching to enhance the leadership capability of retail executives
Coaching has increasingly been used in organisations to develop leadership capability. However, due to a lack of empirical research, very little is actually known about what it is and how it works, resulting often in organisations experiencing difficulties and frustration when they come to use and review its effectiveness. Coaching carries many different definitions, none of which is accepted as ‘universal’. This implies that the term is complex. In order to understand coaching more clearly the thesis dedicates a separate chapter to each of the following eight sub-questions: 1. What is understood by the term coaching? 2. What impact does the retail organisation have on the coachee? 3. What are the desirable characteristics of the coachee? 4. What skills does a person need to be able to coach? 5. What does the coach do? 6. What does the coachee experience during a coaching session? 7. What are the outputs from coaching for the organisation and the coachee? 8. How can the organisational sponsors control the quality and consistency of the coaching? Qualitative research is gathered from coachees in a major UK retailer to suggest four key coaching insights. Firstly the majority of coachees experience a change in their ‘self’ as a result of their coaching. Secondly coaching is valued highly by coachees as the only opportunity they get to talk about themselves. Thirdly many of the potential benefits from linking coaching to broader theories and philosophies do not appear to be evidenced in this research. Fourthly there is little evidence to suggest there has been any explicit transfer of capability from the coach to the coachee. The thesis concludes that coaching is a complex that can be used to raise awareness in the multiple elements that constitute the self. In this way the coachee becomes more conscious of how they interpret events, more considered in choices they reflect, more precise in decisions they make, and more adept at controlling their reactions. Coaching can focus on different dimensions of the self and change in what is done accordingly. For example it can consider past events having similarities to therapy: it can consider current events with a focus on organisational performance and goals, and it can consider the coachee’s future potential to influence transformational change with a focus on theories and philosophies. Although changing depending on the element and dimension of self, coaching often involves talking, listening, and reflection to increase understanding. By focusing on deepening self-awareness, coaching has the potential to create a spiral of self-development. For this to be possible the coachee must prepare for independence from the coaches by taking responsibility for their own development. This is possible by firstly developing their own self-learning mechanisms and secondly by developing a ‘life goal’ or ‘guiding philosophy’ capable of igniting an inner drive to carry out these self-learning mechanisms on a continuous basis. The coaching stakeholders are responsible for what coaching achieves. The coach has a responsibility to make the other coaching stakeholders aware of its complexity as well as providing a profound appreciation of its potential. However the need for the coachee to be of the right mindset for coaching (i.e. willing to face themselves and commit to the rigors of intrinsic development) is a vital stakeholder characteristic if it is to be potentially successful. Coaching impacts the coachee’s self-awareness, which leads to greater ‘self-leadership’ capability, which is likely to impact their behaviours and actions and enhance the interpretation they give to others who recognise traits that may attract their followership.