A Personal Process
Executive coaching came to prominence in South Africa in the early ‘90s. There were several drivers: corporate discontent with ‘training’ results among managerial grades, the realisation that business schools could not ‘teach’ leadership, the collapse of hierarchy and with it the previous process of step-by-step progression to the corporate summit.
Yet business coaching is as old as business itself. The grooming of potential CEOs by established leaders and thought-interchange within a leadership peer group were once common. The pace of change, sharper competition, globalisation and the decentralisation of previously fixed ‘command and control’ structures curtailed these traditions. Business coaching filled this gap in leadership preparation and deliberation.
The concept rapidly proved its worth. By early in the new millennium, it was estimated that corporate America was spending more than $1 billion a year on executive coaching. The discipline has been credited with a key role in the successful re-invention of companies and corporate leaders. Major groups embraced and endorsed the process, including IBM, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard and General Electric.
Unfortunately, growth created diffusion and confusion. ‘Life coaches’ proliferated along with executive coaches. You can be ‘coached’ by a lifestyle guru or an etiquette consultant. The sector remains unregulated and definitions stay fuzzy.
Change Partners prefers clarity and precise definitions. We define coaching as: A personal process that helps an individual understand his or her potential and recognise avenues and opportunities for its actualisation while respecting a pre-determined structure that enables the sponsoring organisation to derive value from these interventions.
Executive coaching can be more art than science, but some things it is definitely not.
Coaching is not Training
Training is ‘how-to’ skills transfer that can be reduced to formal course content. In contrast, coaching tends to be experience-sharing and personal exploration prompted by a trusted confidant who encourages a change of perception or behaviour by the client.
Coaching is not Mentoring
Mentoring is an internal process that imparts organisational knowledge and encourages behaviours that enable an individual to meet the demands of a job description or corporate culture. The mentor-knows-best mindset creates a risk that bad habits will be perpetuated. The relationship is that of teacher-pupil. A coach, however, is an external ‘thinking partner’ who asks questions and suggests alternatives. Clients draw their own conclusions and make their own decisions – to the benefit of the entire organisation.
Differentiation and Success
Respected practitioners of business or executive coaching differentiate themselves by results achieved over a considerable period. Successful realisation of objectives for a blue-chip client-list certainly differentiates Change Partners.Another form of differentiation is willingness to define coaching outputs, establish tangible measures and readily submit to constant scrutiny by the sponsoring company. Again, Change Partners sets itself apart by constant performance benchmarking. Quality assurance and sustainable behavioural change are integral to our process.
By adopting the Change Partners model, value accrues over a protracted period. Value is defined, monitored and harvested by both the individual and the sponsoring company. In nine years, Change Partners has achieved a success rate of more than 98% on more than 600 programmes for some of the most results-focused corporate groups in South Africa.