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What’s the purpose of coaching?

Meanwhile, the concept of ‘coaching’ is being used to designate a lot of different activities, so that many of us can’t see the wood for the threes. Let us first take a look on According to Wikipedia, coaching is a type of personal guidance based on an equal one-on-one relationship. The coachee learns and the coach supports this learning process. Within the coaching program, the objectives are predefined. The coaching’s purpose is to develop the coachee’s personal effectiveness. However, it is also possible to coach groups. In this case, the coach is looking for collective patterns in the group’s behavior and mentality.

At the beginning of this year, my business partner Herman van Herterijck and I had the opportunity to participate in the worldwide conference for Executive Coaching in New York, organized by The Conference Board.

This conference focused on Executive coaching, meaning as much as: coaching applied to senior management, i.e. the people who take decisions in companies, on behalf of the shareholders, and who are responsible for the daily management.

One of the discussions during this conference was the purpose of coaching. Where does coaching lead to? Is it measurable? And if so, what is being measured? According to us, lots of efforts are made in order to measure the impact of coaching. But at the same time, measuring the Return on Investment gets so complicated that it isn’t worth it anymore. Therefore, we prefer to apply the simple and effective method Marshall Goldsmith developed for this purpose, namely: is the new behavior visible in a sustainable way for the people working around the executive or the professional? After all, they are the ones determining whether executive coaching has reached its goal or not.

In daily situations, we noticed that there is a growing need for impactful coaching taking into account the shareholder as well as the coachee. In reality, there are not much guidelines on this market yet. This profession is not protected and you don’t have many start-up costs. A business card, a car, a mobile phone and you're in business'. Everyone can thus become a coach, in theory. But it is not that easy at all, of course. Therefore, I think that people such as Marshall Goldsmith give important guidelines for the further professionalization of this profession.

According to him, a useful coaching program in order to change a behavioral pattern, lasts at least 1 year. Before your entourage will notice sustainable and positive behavioral changes, your coach will have to work with you for 1,5 to 2 years. For the rest, the number of hours your coach dedicates to the result is less important. In general, the number of hours does not really correlate with the result. What really matters here, is that your coach has the right skills, personal experience and impact. The chemistry between both of you also matters. A striking statement in this context is the following: a good coach is friendly, but not a friend.


By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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