Manifesto for Coaching

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With a week to go before the General Election and with the recent publication of the Work Manifesto by the CIPD, ( https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/cipd-policy-manifesto-2017_tcm18-21544.pdf ) which provides a fascinating insight into current workplace issues and how these may be addressed, it seemed appropriate to write a Manifesto for Coaching.

Benjamin Franklin famously said ‘in the world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes’. Well, whatever happens in the forthcoming election, and whatever kind of Brexit we eventually negotiate as a nation, there a couple of other (very likely!) certainties too – increased pressure on the economy, pressure on the labour market, and pressure on people to achieve more with less.

There will be no easy answers to these issues, but here’s another certainty, the degree individuals choose to give their discretionary effort in these challenging times will be reflected in the quality of the leadership, management and coaching they receive.

The key words here are ‘choose to’. Individuals can be required to deliver a minimum standard of service through their employment contract, and that will deliver basic, mediocre performance for the most part. Yet work that is typified by mediocrity does not inspire or raise the human spirit. Work that is unrecognised, and lacking personal ownership will never engage the extraordinary potential of people to be creative, to take their own initiative and perform outstandingly well. This doesn’t mean that all work can be interesting – a repetitive task or basic job is just that. However, an individual’s attitude to that task or job will make all the difference between boredom and disinterest or engagement and initiative.

In the post-Brexit world of work, and to meet some of the challenges ahead, there are some critical success factors that line managers must do to be successful. Firstly, line managers must lead, with a sense of energy, purpose and inspiration. If they are not inspired, how can they inspire others? Their own achievements must be measured by the success of those working for and with them and there must be a clear line of sight from the ‘shop floor’ to the organisation’s purpose or vision – if there’s no why then there will be no wherefore.

Secondly, managers must manage, with clarity on what is needed and expected.

Thirdly, managers must coach individuals to facilitate their learning, development and performance. It is through coaching conversations that the ordinary will be transformed into the extraordinary.

This leads to the fourth factor, namely building relationships, developing truly effective workplace relationships based on trust, equality, collaboration and mutual respect. This requires managers to relinquish some or their perceived power and to shift usually deeply held beliefs of the management role from that of power and control to that of coach and facilitator. This leads to the fifth factor, namely creating choice and responsibility.

Over 250 years ago the French philosopher Voltaire said ‘Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too’.

The capacity to think for oneself, to choose for oneself, and to be responsible for the results of one’s actions is profoundly human. Wonderful things can and do happen when individuals stand by their word to shift something, to change something, to achieve something. Yet in the hurly-burly of today’s workplace, we have somehow forgotten that within easy reach of all of us is a vast reservoir of human potential waiting to be unleashed.

Now, more than ever, it is the privilege and duty of employers to help create the conditions for choice to flourish at work by developing workplace cultures that thrive on collaboration, learning, transparency, personal responsibility, and high-performance aspiration. This could be described as a performance culture, and the road to it is coaching.

Such workplaces, where managers are encouraging a performance culture underpinned by coaching behaviours, engage every individual proactively in:

- Learning about themselves and their capabilities, having a broader appreciation of their capacity to achieve outstandingly well and helping them focus on how they can constantly improve day-by-day through training, coaching, feedback and measured risk-taking

- Enjoying their work and feeling a strong sense of personal satisfaction and fulfilment that the work they are doing – even if it is dull or monotonous – is making an important, valued and acknowledged contribution towards the team’s or organisation’s success

- Achieving clear goals and stretch targets and appreciating that success is more than just ‘winning’, it is also about learning, developing and feeling one is always doing one’s best

- Purpose orientation, that is, helping individuals find a greater alignment between their work day-to-day and who they are as a person, where their life aspirations are at least to some degree met through their work, their achievements and their relationships at work.

This simple LEAP Model reinforces the idea that truly effective workplaces are those that lift, develop and celebrate the human spirit and all that it can achieve in service of a goal or ideal. The high performance of course, but more than that, perhaps even a sense of personal joy and freedom.

As American author and historian ‘Studs’ Turkel once said ‘Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying’.

Everyone deserves to work in organisations like this, and if they did, there would be no limit to what could be achieved in a post-Brexit Britain. The challenge is to enable this cultural shift and this will take time. Better start now then…