Some managers doubt impact of coaching on business

North American managers are less likely than those in other regions to believe coaching actually improves the bottom line, according to a study by global consultants BlessingWhite. Sixty-five per cent of managers in the U.S. and Canada believe that coaching leads to greater business results compared with 71 per cent in Continental Europe and 74 per cent in Asia. The U.K. and Ireland trail with 63 per cent.

The firm’s findings, reported in the new study “The Coaching Conundrum,” are based on input from more than 2,000 managers and employees with companies in 17 countries.

“We found an unexpected ambivalence toward coaching among companies in all regions,” says  BlessingWhite’s coaching practice leader Cathy Earley. “Our study presents a puzzling picture of good intentions, missed opportunities and conflicting messages about the importance of employees being coached by their managers.”

According to Earley, organizations frequently maintain that managers’ coaching has an impact on the business itself as well as on employee engagement, and even on talent management.

“They make these claims in their mission statement or annual report, but the truth is that very few have actually created a culture where the coaching of employees is a best practice that’s fully supported and rewarded.”

The new report identified a series of disparities between stated objectives and the reality of coaching by managers:

  • Most managers say they love to coach and most employees like to be coached, but only half of respondents in North America and Asia in fact receive coaching. Even fewer in Europe get coaching.
  • While organizations, managers, and employees appear to believe in coaching’s contribution to their success, many managers admit they do not spend enough time coaching.
  • A large majority of managers are expected to coach, but only onequarter have their compensation tied to coaching.
  • While managers who coach regularly describe the tangible benefits (e.g., increased team productivity) andtwo-thirds of employees who receive coaching say it improves their satisfaction and performance, coachingis usually characterized as a kind of altruistic behaviour to support employee needs or a way to build a talent pipeline. In other words, coaching is viewed as supplementary to a manager’s core responsibilities.
  • While managers worry about whether they have all the answers, employees do not really want advice
  • so much as to be stretched and helped in sorting through problems.
  • While organizations and managers talk a great deal about such things as coaching skills or processes, the essential contributor to effective coaching is a trusting and supportive relationship.

Earley believes managers need to stop thinking of coaching as an event to be scheduled after one’s own work is done or as a means of dealing with a performance issue. “The role of coach isn’t something managers should turn on or off,” explains Earley. “Instead, managers need to adopt coaching as a daily leadership practice and focus on creating a supportive environment for their teams.”

Of the 2,041 survey respondents, about half were managers. The survey was conducted between August and
September 2008. Seventy per cent of the respondents reside in North America. The full report on “Coaching Conundrum” can be downloaded at