When Does Coaching Work?

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Sometimes a manager will ask for an employee to participate in a 360 degree feedback survey or receive some coaching.  Sometimes an employee asks for it.  Which works better?

From my experience, there are a few factors that closely tie to predict the success and impact of both a 360 and a coaching engagement.  They are:

  1. A personal commitment to change
  2. A supportive ecosystem

Let me expand and illustrate.

A Personal Commitment to Change

Like everything else in life, humans do not like to be told what to do.  A 360 or coaching engagement is the same.  There is a world of difference between the following origins to a developmental intervention:

  • The employee requests a 360 or coach
  • The 360 or coaching engagement is a part of leadership development effort / program – as a kick off to establish a baseline, or as a capstone conclusion to the experience
  • The manager suggests a 360 or coach

When the employee instigates a development effort, there is usually a much greater personal commitment to change.  From an Prosci ADKAR change perspective, there is a clear self-awareness of the need to change; the desire to change is self / internally motivated; the perception of a gap to gather knowledge and improve abilities is self-evident; and with all those in place the reinforcing efforts and commitment that is required to fuel the change is adequate and targeted.

All of this also rests on the principle around an effective 360 or coaching engagement.  Either of these is a purposefully designed disruption to a person’s perception.  They are disruptions to the way a person perceives the world, their mental models about how they show, their perceptions and expectations of how they think they should be, and how they are really showing up.  That is intense.  So the more the motivation comes from the inside of a person, the greater the likelihood that the individual will be able to sustain the commitment and effort to turn this purposeful disruption into a stepping stone to a positive developmental experience and ultimately changed and improved leadership behaviors.

A Supportive Ecosystem

By this I mean the surrounding ecosystem of support to help them turn this disruption into a positive learning experience.  Elements of the ecosystem could include:

    • The clear expectation across the system that 360s and coaching are used for developmental purposes, not for performance management or appraisal.
    • 360s and coaching are perks and investments, not investigations, justifications or punitive efforts to provide documentation.
    • 360s and coaching cannot and will not ever replace a conversation between a manager and employee about expectations – those being met and those not meeting expectations

Supportive Ecosystem for Coaching

  • A trained HR team that is well versed in these principles and consistently shares and defends them
  • Prepared participants, feedback providers and managers of those that participate in 360s and coaching.  Similar to the pre-webinar for the engagement survey – all supporting parties for a leader’s development should be up to speed and prepared to support their developmental needs.
  • A clear support network that is pre-identified and ready to provide coaching and support, to turn this disruption into a positive growth experience.