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One Size Fits All? – Learning and Development

How many companies today insist that all managers or leaders at a certain level attend an approved training course to acquire the skills they need for the job? Then everyone ticks the box and hopes that the inoculation of learning is effective and management practice will be transformed? How many delegates come away from courses like this and then find they haven’t got time to reflect on their learning or to experiment once they are back at the ranch and the reality of myriad demands on their time kicks in?

The investment is more likely to pay dividends if the training is accompanied or followed up by an individualised coaching programme. More financial outlay – but a much greater impact on learning and behaviour. How much greater? – you may be wondering.

More than 20 years ago, a research project in New York[i] compared the impact of management training delivered on its own with the impact of management training supported by a programme of 1:1 coaching. The project measured productivity after a stand-alone 3-day course with that after a 3-day course with the addition of an 8-week programme of 1:1 coaching.

> Training on its own led to a rise in productivity of 22%
> Training plus coaching led to a rise in productivity of 88%.

The training was interactive and focused on the most important roles that managers needed to enact in order to increase productivity, quality and effectiveness in the agency. During the coaching phase, each coachee chose a real work project to complete and worked individually with their coaches on enhancing their new competencies and behaviour. We know the outcome.

The 1:1 coaching programme was tailor made for the organisation. Conducted confidentially, it included goal setting, collaborative problem solving, practice, feedback, supervisory involvement, evaluation of outcomes and concluded with a public presentation.

So, if you wanted to engage some coaches to support a leadership or management programme in your company, how could you select coaches who would be likely to have a similar process and enhance the results of the training programme?

Choose a coach who understands management responsibilities, receives regular supervision and is credentialed by a professional body.

Important elements of the competency base of any ICF[ii] credentialed coach include: –

> Establishing the coaching agreement (1); Planning and Goal Setting (10). The coach is expected to agree the boundaries of the work, partner with the client to develop goals and measures of success, stay with the client’s plan and work with awareness of their learning style to achieve those goals. 

Result: – the individual managers/client chooses the focus, is supported by the coach to set and achieve the goals and evaluate the outcome.

> Coaching Presence (4); Creating Awareness (8). The coach is expected to partner with the client and work collaboratively, stimulate awareness, problem solving and learning.

Result: – the manager learns in a way that suits their style, reflects on learning and can transfer awareness to other situations.

> Direct Communication (7). The coach is articulate and direct in sharing feedback in a way that enables the client to learn and move forward

Result: – managers gain fresh perspectives on themselves and are supported in incorporating that new awareness into their thinking.

So, working with an experienced, qualified and credentialed coach can shift the development programme from one size fits all to personalised learning and in so doing, transform the return on your training investment.

Sarah Gornall, President UK ICF Chapter – International Coach Federation

[i] Olivero G, Bane D K, & Kopelman R E Executive Coaching as a Transfer of Training Tool: Effects on Productivity in a Public Agency reported in Public Personnel Management, vol 26 no 4, (Winter 1997)

[ii] The International Coach Federation (ICF) has a competency framework based on robust job analysis. Coaches have to demonstrate all 11 competencies to obtain a professional credential.

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