Key questions on coaching supervision

By Dr Sunny Stout-Rostron

At the Rainbow Convention of the Global Coaching Community (question mark 1GCC) in Cape Town a few years ago, I facilitated a dialogue session on coaching supervision around the question “Should qualifications or the market place decide on who supervises?” This article outlines some answers to the following key questions raised by participants during the session:

  1. Definition: What is supervision, and what is it not? What is its intent and purpose?
  2. Benefits: What are the benefits and outcomes of supervision? How can these be measured?
  3. Types: What are the differing supervision needs of coaches? Should there be different types of supervision for these different needs?
  4. Organisational context: How should the organisational context of business coaching influence the type(s) and content of supervision received by business coaches?
  5. Supervisor selection: What or who should determine who supervises – the coach, or the supervisor’s competences?

1.      What is supervision?

The role of the supervisor is to support the development of the coach practitioner and to assess their competence. The term “supervision” describes the process by which the work of the practitioner is overseen and guidance is sought. What coaching supervision refers to is not the inspection of the coach’s work within a hierarchical power relationship, as in managerial supervision, but rather consultation arising out of the needs of the coach and their individual and organisational clients (Stout-Rostron, 2009:275, 277).

The purpose of supervision is to ensure that the coach maintains the highest standards of competence, best serves the needs of the client; is professionally trained and skilled in the practice of coaching; and is committed to a programme of continuing professional development throughout the years of their practice. The importance of coaching supervision is to ensure that the coach understands what the client goes through, and more importantly, to work through their own issues so that they do not become entangled with client concerns (Stout-Rostron, 2009:275–276).

A key component of a coach’s personal and professional approach to their coaching practice is to work on a regular basis with a supervising coach, counsellor or therapist. The purpose of this is three-fold: first, and crucially, to deal with any unresolved issues of their own (an ongoing process for any coach), and specifically to learn not to bring personal concerns to the coaching conversation; second, to benefit from invaluable and ongoing supervision for the individual’s coaching practice; and third, the supervision process provides the coach with an invaluable tool to understand the client/practitioner process from another perspective, i.e. from the client perspective rather than from the perspective of the practitioner. It provides an excellent alternate perspective on the coaching intervention (Stout-Rostron, 2006:14).

The origin of supervision within health and social care originates in psychological mental health care fields. The development of counselling has had a formative impact on the creation of a supervision model, and in occupational therapy, supervision has been in practice since the 1970s. The UK Department of Health defines clinical supervision as “a formal process of professional support and learning which enables the individual practitioner to develop knowledge and competence, assume responsibility for their own practice and enhance consumer protection and safety of care in complex clinical situations” (Jones and Jenkins, 2006:26).

The supervision process in coaching may differ in significant ways from that in other professions, such as psychotherapy and counselling. Usually, both coach practitioner and supervisor will be bound by the Code of Ethics of their professional body (Stout-Rostron, 2009:275).

Close-up of magnifying glass focusing on two people2.      What are the benefits of supervision?

Supervision helps practitioners to grow their skills and competence whether they are supervised individually or in groups. The capacity of the coaches to facilitate learning for their clients is also significantly increased. Other benefits are:

  • ensuring that the client organisation is getting a good return on investment (ROI) for their business;
  • ensuring that a high value is placed on truly understanding clients;
  • ensuring that the coach is as likely to enhance and develop self-awareness as the client; and
  • the creation of a safe space to explore the heart of the practitioner’s coaching practice (Stout-Rostron, 2009:281).

Group coaching supervision will observe the developmental stages of the practitioners within their group forum. This type of supervision is more collegial and consultative, encouraging the practice of self-supervision. The lead coach or supervisor also needs to take note of their own developmental stages in the profession as they gain in expertise (Stout-Rostron, 2009:282).

For the moment, there are no international guidelines to measure the positive impact of supervision for clients and coach practitioners. This is certainly a topic worthy of future practitioner research (Stout-Rostron, 2009:282).

3.      What types of supervision are appropriate?

Kadushin (1976) describes the three main functions of supervision as educative, supportive and managerial. He describes these functions as formative (namely educational), normative (which focuses on policies, organisation and evaluation), and restorative (including a debriefing of both positive and negative feedback on practice).

In organisations and coach training institutions today, there are several ways to access supervision. There is one-on-one supervision, peer supervision, team supervision and group supervision. Many coach training institutes set up a peer supervision process for senior and junior graduates to work together in the supervision process, either individual, peer or group. Following Kadushin (1976), we can define the four specific types of supervision as educational, administrative, supportive and managerial (Stout-Rostron, 2009:283).

Typically, in the South African marketplace, educational supervision is used to assess the skills and needs and to facilitate the learning for practitioner coaches. Administrative supervision is to monitor the workload of the coaches within the group or the organisation, ensuring that the purpose, vision and goals of the organisation are met. Supportive supervision is to provide an environment for practitioners where their emotional needs are met, and where they are able to build skills and competence, whether in a one-on-one or group forum. Managerial supervision is to ensure that individual client, coach and line manager meet regularly to ensure that the client is on track to meet the objectives set out for the coaching intervention (Stout-Rostron, 2009:283–284).

Pampallis Paisley (2006:108–110) considered the nature of working within different contexts in her supervision research, while working with a group of coaches from widely diverse backgrounds:

All may be utilising different models and frameworks, and have varying levels of competences, training and consciousness, which impacts on what is brought into the supervisory room. Unlike therapeutic supervision for example, where an object relations therapist would work with a supervisor who is skilled in object relations theory and practice, this in-depth but narrow band – or what I call “vertical depth of field” of specialisation may not be the domain of the coaching supervisor.

There may be specialist areas that would require a mentoring process. With regards to the supervision of coaches working with leadership in complex organisations, coaching supervisors would need to have a broader focus, or what I call a “horizontal depth of field”. It follows then that the supervision of coaching is in itself a complex discipline – one that requires levels of understanding and a comprehensive framework of knowledge and skills which cover both the horizontal planes and vertical depths that coaching encompasses.

There are multiple benefits for the individual coach in supervision, as well as for the individual or team being coached, and the client organisation. The coach practitioners have a chance to meet, with the supervising coach ensuring that all practitioners have a sound understanding of the organisational systems at play. Coaching supervision is an important regular meeting where the coaches can connect with each other, and can begin to understand the connections between their clients. It is an important meeting where the individuals in the group facilitate learning from each other (Stout-Rostron, 2009:280).

4.      How important is the organisational context of supervision?

Huge investment is often made in executive development programmes, sending executives off to expensive business schools who are often unsure of what they need to develop as leaders. On their return to the organisation, however, the environment is not supportive enough to allow them to nurture any new-found or critical leadership capabilities. In addition, coaches often work in isolation with their executives, not aware of the systemic issues within an organisation, eventually becoming another “cog” in blocking systemic change due to their own lack of systemic knowledge. This is why supervision of coaches is crucial within any systemic change process which involves coaching (Stout-Rostron, 2011).

Supervision in business coaching is useful as it ensures that the coach works to the executive’s agenda, not to the coach’s agenda (Stout-Rostron, 2009:278). However, without lead coaches/supervisors overseeing the entire coaching intervention within an organisation, there is no way of harnessing the “systemic” issues or “systemic” trends that are emerging; “silo” coaching has become the norm (Stout-Rostron, 2011).

There are multiple benefits of group supervision for the individual coaches involved, as well as for the coaching team as a whole and the client organisation. The coach practitioners have a chance to meet with the supervising coach, ensuring that all practitioners have a sound understanding of the organisational systems at play. Coaching supervision is an important regular meeting where the coaches can connect with each other, and can begin to understand the connections between their individual clients, particularly if they are working within one organisation. It is an important meeting where the individuals in the group learn from each other (Stout-Rostron, 2009:289).

There are some disadvantages to group supervision, and practitioners need to be particularly careful when managing client confidentiality. The advantages are the observations that the group can make when observing each other. The 1:1 supervision encompasses more intimate learning on the part of the individual coach with the time to go into depth about the client situation and one’s own individual issues or concerns as a coach. It is almost inevitable that the coach can become enmeshed in some of the organisation’s systemic dynamics. It is helpful to have an observant supervisor who can help the coach to step into a bigger picture position, looking at the client-coach-system dynamics from a fresh perspective (Stout-Rostron, 2009:281–282).

Some of the main themes that have arisen from research into executive coaching supervision are (Pampallis Paisley, 2006):

  • boundary management;
  • whether supervision interventions need to have a client-centred or coach-centred focus, or both;
  • how to cope with the complexity of the supervisory system in which client, coach and organisation are represented – the triangulations;
  • the depth to which one should go in the coaching relationship; and
  • the importance of creating a space to think.

5.      Who should supervise?hire me

The question is far from resolved whether market supply and demand, or qualifications and competence, should determine who acts as a coaching supervisor. In the meantime, professional associations such as COMENSA do not prescribe rigid requirements for practice as a coach supervisor, but simply recommend guidelines that coaches should follow.

When hiring a supervisor, a coach should look for someone who:

  • has knowledge of ethical, legal and regulatory aspects of the helping professions;
  • is able to form a peer/collegial relationship as a supervising consultant;
  • is sensitive to diversity issues of culture, ethnicity, gender, age, socio-economic and educational background;
  • has knowledge of current research in the coaching supervision field;
  • has competence and expertise as an executive/business coach; and
  • has training in supervision (Stout-Rostron, 2009:283).

References

Hawkins, P., and Shohet, R. (2000). Supervision in the Helping Professions. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Jones, R., and Jenkins, F. (Eds.). (2006). Developing the Allied Health Professions. Oxford: Radcliffe.

Kadushin, A. (1976). Supervision in Social Work. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Pampallis Paisley, P. (2006). Towards a Theory of Supervision for Executive Coaching: An integral vision. Unpublished DProf dissertation. London: Middlesex University.

Stout-Rostron, S. (2006). Interventions in the Coaching Conversation: Thinking, feeling and behaviour. Unpublished DProf dissertation. London: Middlesex University.

Stout-Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the secrets of business coaching. Randburg: Knowres Publishing.

Stout-Rostron, S. (2011). How is coaching impacting systemic and cultural change within organizations? International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, forthcoming.

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A Time-Tested Way To Help Leaders Thrive

What’s the best way to motivate high performance in yourself and others? Human motivation is an evergreen topic, with new ideas regularly offered by management and psychology theorists. Search on Google and you’ll find over 4 million results, over 1,200 books on Amazon. One perspective that’s stood the test of time is Self-Determination Theory (SDT).

Source: A Time-Tested Way To Help Leaders Thrive

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Podcast: Conversation on Liminalities, with Burgert Kirsten and Dr Sunny Stout-Rostron

Enjoy this fascinating conversation on liminalities within the coaching environment in which Sunny and Burgert Kirsten discuss the liminal space in a coaching intervention.

Liminality, in Sunny’s words, is “about rights of passage, thresholds”.  She goes on to say that: “in the work that we (coaches) do, it’s the possibility of new perspectives from learning.”  Sunny talked about three stages in the liminal process:

  • Separation from how you were before, or how you’ve always behaved;
  • Being open to learning and developing some new insights, or looking with new perspectives;
  • Moving into a new or different space – who you are now.
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Gender issues in business coaching

diversity (2)Co-authored by Dr Sunny Stout-Rostron and Nick Wilkins

Business organisations operate in increasingly diverse and inter-related environments around the globe. While gender diversity already encompasses a wide range of theory and research, as an issue in business coaching it is relatively new.

Understanding diversity, power, culture and gender

People often assume that diversity is only about race and gender, but it covers a much wider scope. It encompasses assumptions based on race, gender, language, faith, education, class, nationality and tribe, that often limit people according to their group identities and the places allocated them in social and workplace hierarchies. Diversity is ultimately about who has power and who doesn’t – and any form of power exacerbates difference and influences how we perceive and react to another’s behaviour (Stout-Rostron, 2009:175-179).

Gender, of course, refers to both men and women, and covers how men and women are socialised, and the impact of organisational culture (predominantly male in most institutions) on the development of both women and men in the workplace. It is important not to assume that women represent the only gender concerns, but to broaden the discussion to include men. Men also suffer from negative self-images on an individual and collective level, depending on the culture and country within which they live and work. It is often the case in Western countries, for example, that understanding regarding “men of colour is limited to negative stereotypes related to sexist behaviour” (De La Cancela, Jenkins and Chin, 1993:9).

Gender in corporate leadership

As Bruce PeltiMale and female symbol intertwineder notes in his seminal book The Psychology of Executive Coaching (2001:190), “Women have arrived in all arenas of the workplace and they are not going back home”. Peltier’s view is that coaches need to understand how women function within an organisation – the reverse of the standard approach to coaching women, which suggests they need help in finding a way to fit into organisational culture. Peltier mentions the “glass ceiling” that still prevents women from progressing too high in US organisations; and the “glass walls” that keep women in “pink collar” jobs such as human resources, organisational development and marketing (Peltier, 2001:193).

Gatrell and Swan (2008) note that the literature on gender in management in the UK has expanded considerably, particularly due to changes in legislation and policy focusing on equality of opportunity and diversity. The authors discuss the persistence of the “glass ceiling” limiting the progress of women executives, and also refer to the “concrete wall” faced by black and minority ethnic women, meaning that “wherever they turn their career progress is limited, and they are prevented by organisational practices and processes from even seeing the top of the career ladder, never mind climbing it” (Gatrell and Swan, 2008:12). Boardrooms in Britain continue to be afflicted by the “pale male” syndrome, and there is little sign or promise of change. In addition, women continue to be segregated into the “velvet ghetto” (positions considered to be “gendered” such as human resources, public relations and marketing) (Gatrell and Swan, 2008:11–12).Alpha male and alpha female

In her book, The Argument Culture (1999), Deborah Tannen picks up on the appetite in our contemporary world for conflict, debate and argument – rather than dialogue. Corporations also often operate on an adversarial approach to business, “settling disputes in litigation” (Tannen, 1999:4). The tendency to polarise and win the argument is essentially the nature of business. Tannen, whose earlier (1995) work explored the differences in communication styles between men and women, has helped practitioners to understand how the “argument culture” impacts the workplace. She draws attention to military and war metaphors which pervade managerial and board room language, affecting behaviour and thinking. Tannen’s research has shown how deeply entrenched is the language divide between male and female ways of thinking and speaking. Her work is a useful input for coaches helping men and women resolve differences in their approach to professional and to personal life.

Corporate conflict is where the role of the “Alpha Male”, the dominant white male executive, plays a strong part. Peltier notes that business organisations are typically male-led and dominated by male culture and male assumptions, and calls it the “Testosterone Culture” (Peltier, 2001:192). Like Tannen, Peltier finds that metaphors from war and sports are typical in the standard business environment – almost as if men are continuing to play children’s fighting games, keeping score with “clear winners and losers” (Peltier, 2001:192).

Kate Ludeman and Eddie Erlandson (2004) dazzled leaders and academics with their Harvard Business Review article “Coaching the Alpha Male”. Defining the alpha male as “highly intelligent, confident, and successful”, and claiming that they represent “about 70 per cent of all senior executives”, Ludeman and Erlandson depicted alpha males as “people who aren’t happy unless they’re the top dogs”. In their research, they claimed to have rarely found successful female leaders with equally strong personalities, or to find women who matched the “complete alpha profile”. Alpha males are described as natural leaders who get stressed only “when tough decisions don’t rest in their capable hands” (Ludeman and Erlandson, 2004).

When asked why so many “alphas” need executive coaches, Ludeman and Erlandson explain that their “strengths are also what make them so challenging, and often frustrating, to work with; independent and action-oriented, alphas take extraordinarily high levels of performance for granted, both in themselves and in others”. However, alpha males have “little or no natural curiosity about people or feelings” – they “rely on exhaustive data to reach business conclusions but often make snap judgments about other people, which they hold on to tenaciously. Because they believe that paying attention to feelings, even their own, detracts from getting the job done, they’re surprisingly oblivious to the effect they have on others. They’re judgmental of colleagues who can’t control emotions yet often fail to notice how they vent their own anger and frustration” (Ludeman and Erlandson, 2004).

Ludeman and Erlandson claim that alphas make perfect mid-level managers whose primary role is to oversee processes. Unfortunately, in the CEO role they don’t necessarily become inspirational people managers. If the organisation can’t help their alphas to make the required transition, this is where a skilled and competent business coach is needed. However, alphas aren’t necessarily good at asking for help, and can be “typically stubborn and resistant to feedback”. Ludeman and Erlandson (2004) therefore suggest that coaches shouldn’t undermine the alpha’s focus on results, but should improve the process for achieving them.

Gender and executive coping strategies

Research by Leimon, Moscovici and Goodier (2011:40–41) identified the main barriers to women’s advancement in organisations – and noted the following eight coping strategies commonly used to overcome these barriers:

  1. Family and career balance.Juggling (2)
  2. Understanding corporate culture.
  3. Systematic investment in career and development.
  4. Confidence.
  5. Knowledge of own strengths.
  6. Networking.
  7. Role models.
  8. Career planning.

A questionnaire survey was then carried out to test the effectiveness of these coping strategies among 125 successful women leaders, including 107 working in a corporate environment. It was found that the women were particularly challenged in five of the eight coping strategies – highlighting areas where coaching would be of particular benefit to many women executives (Leimon, Moscovici and Goodier, 2011:47–49):

  1. Career progression emphasised the need for career planning; being provided with and developing career direction; gaining skills and education to progress career.
  2. Confidence examined a major area for coaching – women’s lack of self-belief. The interviews demonstrated a clear need to overcome personal insecurities and inadequacies, and knowing when to say no to other’s expectations.
  3. Organisational dynamics means developing a sufficient understanding of organisational culture and finding out the rules of the game. Most women leaders showed a deficit in terms of understanding the culture of the organisation in which they work.
  4. Relational support made it clear that women lack an understanding of the critical need for networking to advance their careers, and often start to network at a later age than men. The shortage of women in senior and executive management positions also means a lack of female role models who have “leveraged their strengths as a female rather than diminished them to get on”, and with whom women can work to support their career development.
  5. Work-life balance is not a factor that either men or women often get right. However, women seemed to be at a particular disadvantage in terms of “balancing personal life and career” and “attempting to be all things to all people, i.e. running a home and a career”.

Diversity and gender within a Thinking Environment®

It is vital that the business coach is able to raise corporate leaders’ awareness of crucial diversity issues, both within themselves, their teams, and the culture of their organisation. However, the business coach needs to first become aware of, analyse, challenge and manage their own discriminatory attitudes and behaviours before they can help their clients to manage similar issues. We do this by examining untrue limiting assumptions which society and organisations make about people based on their group identities, in this case gender.

Power ShiftUnconscious attitudes towards others are the privilege of power. While coaching in a major educational institution in South Africa, it became clear that all the senior women academics, managers and administrators were about to quit their jobs. These women were of different ethnic backgrounds, languages and ages; their only common factor was gender. The male culture, which included men previously disadvantaged under apartheid, tolerated an open and aggressive disrespect for women. This was an “unthinking exercise of power”; the men were unconscious until the impact of their behaviour was brought to their attention (Stout-Rostron, 2009:175).

Typically, therefore, it is people’s everyday, unconscious assumptions that undermine others (Kline, 1999). Nancy Kline’s research, referenced in Time to Think (1999) and More Time to Think (2009), emphasises the importance of developing diverse Thinking Environments® within organisations. However, diversity must mean an absolute assumption of equality in the face of difference. Kline’s coaching framework is underpinned by Ten Components or behavioural values (summarised in Table 1), positive philosophical choice, and incisive questions.

From her work and research in organisations round the globe, Nancy Kline has developed an interesting approach to male and female conditioning. Although it looks like the “extreme” of male and female stereotyping, it is useful to discuss and debate and understand how as a coach practitioner you can help your clients to develop more self-awareness of their biases and limiting assumptions about their own identity. According to Kline (1999:87–96):

  • Men are trained to play the role of Thinker but not that of Thinking Partner, and to assume the best help is to give others their ideas — and to do their thinking for them.
  • Limiting messages in men’s culture discourage them from creating a Thinking Environment® for others, and dictate against the Ten Components.
  • Limiting messages are that “real men don’t do feelings; asking questions erodes your power base; criticism is the road to real improvement, and success is defined as winning”.
  • Liberating messages in men’s culture encourage them to create an internal thinking environment for themselves (men’s thinking matters; men should be listened to).

In contrast (Kline, 1999:87–96):

  • Women are socialised to play the role of the Thinking Partner but not that of the Thinker.
  • Limiting messages in women’s culture (defer to others; keep quiet; women are too emotional; men are more important than women) discourage women from playing the Thinker role and from creating an internal thinking environment for themselves.
  • Liberating messages in women’s culture encourage women to develop an external thinking environment for others.
  • The liberating messages in women’s culture prepare them to support all Ten Components of the Thinking Environment®.

Table 1

Comparison between the Ten Components of a Thinking Environment® and typical male and female conditioning

Thinking Environment(c) values –
the Ten Components
Typical male conditioning Typical female conditioning
1.   Attention (listen with interest) Take over and talk Keep quiet, defer
2.   Equality (treat others as peers) Assume superiority Assume inferiority
3.   Ease (offer freedom from rush) Control Rush, give time to others
4.   Appreciation (rather than criticism) Criticise Doubt yourself
5.   Encouragement (move beyond competition) Compete Strive to be accepted
6.   Feelings (allow emotional release to restore thinking) Toughen up You feel feelings because you are weak
7.   Information (supply facts) Lie Soften the truth for others
8.   Diversity (welcome divergence) Deride difference Blend in
9.   Incisive questions (remove limiting assumptions) Know everything Accept your limits
9.   Place (humanise the place) Conquer the place Defer to men’s idea of place
Source:     Adapted from Kline (1999:35–96).

It is important in any working environment that the leaders become aware of and manage their own limiting assumptions on diversity issues before they can begin to lead, manage or coach direct reports on similar issues. In the creation of a Thinking Environment®, Kline has developed a variety of coaching diversity exercises. These explore the roots of discriminatory attitudes and behaviour, and examine untrue limiting assumptions that society and organisations make about people on the basis of their individual and group identities. As practitioner, researcher or leader, these exercises help you to remove limiting assumptions and replace them with true liberating assumptions that free individuals and groups to reclaim their self-esteem and influence.

References

Parts of this article have been based on excerpts from the chapter “Diversity and gender” by Dr Sunny Stout-Rostron in the forthcoming Handbook of the Psychology of Coaching and Mentoring, edited by Jonathan Passmore, to be published by Wiley-Black.

De La Cancela, V., Jenkins, Y.M., and Chin, J.L. (1993). Chapter one: Diversity in psychotherapy: Examination of racial, ethnic, gender, and political issues. In Chin, J.L., De La Cancela, V., and Jenkins, Y.M. (eds), Diversity in Psychotherapy: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender, (pp.5–16). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Gatrell, C., and Swan, E. (2008). Gender and Diversity in Management: A Concise Introduction. London: Sage.

Kline, N. (1999). Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind. London: Ward Lock.

Kline, N. (2005). The Thinking Partnership Programme: Consultant’s Guide. Wallingford: Time to Think.

Kline, N. (2009). More Time to Think: A Way of Being in the World. London: Ward Lock.

Leimon, A., Moscovici, F. and Goodier, H. (2011). Coaching Women to Lead. New York, NY: Routledge.

Ludeman, K., and Erlandson, E. (2004). Coaching the alpha male. Harvard Business Review, May.

Peltier, B. (2001). The Psychology of Executive Coaching: Theory and Application. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.

Stout-Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching International: Transforming Individuals and Organizations. London: Karnac.

Tannen, D. (1995). The power of talk: Who gets heard and why. Harvard Business Review, September–October.

Tannen, D. (1999). The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words. New York: Ballantine Publishing House, Division of Random House.

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Book Review by Andrew Fiddy on Leadership Coaching For Results, published in Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research & Practice

Coaching-An International Journal on Theory, Research & Practice rcoa20.v008.i02.coverBy Andrew Fiddy
Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), UK
Organisational Behaviour, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK

Coaching is achieving prominence in business as a tool to enable leaders meet the challenges they face as well as changing societal expectations. Mirroring her philosophy of promoting ‘mastery of practice’, Sunny Stout-Rostron, who is an internationally respected coach and writer on the topic offers a definitive, comprehensive, practical, and accessible guide for business executives, their professional advisers, emerging leaders, and coaches of any orientation meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. The book traces the development of leadership neatly and then addresses key topics in business coaching such as how to get the best from your coaching and how to have a business coaching conversation. Briefly touching on coaching models, the book concentrates once again on how one should facilitate the coaching conversation, while reminding the reader of the neuroscience to leadership coaching and other topics such as gender diversity, the complexities of organisational contracting, and how to use team learning to enhance workplace performance. The book concludes by examining the fundamentals of safe and ethical practice, the benefits that coach supervision can have, and valuably five areas that Stout-Rostron believes are key to the future of business coaching.

To outline the content of Leadership Coaching for Results in some more detail, the book begins by asking the reader to critically reflect on the many leadership theories that have focused our thinking over the last 70 years. These theories range from the initial focus on core leader attributes to the emerging concepts of authentic and principle-centred leadership arguably driven by the increasing concerns about the ethical conduct of today’s leaders in the wake of corporate scandals and global recession.

This whistle-stop tour of the latest academic thinking is not only valuable in itself but also sets a firm foundation from which to examine how coaching has emerged as a discipline in its own right and positioned itself for individuals to achieve their true potential. Practically outlining the benefits and the coaching process, whether based around structural, learning psychological and existential frameworks, Stout-Rostron challenges the reader to reflect on the skills necessary to have a coaching conversation, and reminds both the coach and coachee of the intricate dynamics that are involved in operating with conscious intent. It is of note that all chapters are supported by academic referencing reminding all readers of the importance of investing in their own continuous professional development as well as being perceptive to safe and ethical practice. Stout-Rostron does not shy away from the hard questions and bravely delves into areas such as diversity awareness and the different demands that can affect the coach and by extension the coaching process and client, namely the need to probe many things about ourselves including how we think of identity and the requirement to re-evaluate one’s limiting worldviews.

Leadership Coaching for Results concludes by questioning the future of business coaching through five headings: professionalism; education and development of coaches; mastery of practice; coaching research; and coaching and society. Reflecting on the UK’s experience, having demonstrated its potential, coaching has become a significant and influential part of many organisations’ budgets; however, like any profession or skill set, it needs to be supported through professionalisation of training and greater research to ensure high standards are maintained. As is suggested, greater collaboration between academics and practitioners as well as  national/international organisations is a positive step towards ensuring ‘self-reflective’ practice at both the individual and group levels of analysis.

The broad focus and readability of the book is attractive to both academics and practitioners which inevitably contributes to its appeal. Mindful that the book is meant to be accessible for the lay reader as well as experienced coaches, the book’s generalisability is perhaps at the expense of more expansive academic rigour. This shortcoming, however, is tackled by the recommended reading lists that refer readers to many well-respected texts with few exceptions. The personal case studies contained within Chapter 14 provide a fresh perspective on how coaching can be used for change to mirroring the superb reflective exercises that entice the reader further.

Stout-Rostron has reminded me of the importance of being aware of one’s limiting paradigms and how critically important it is to reflect on how we think about thinking. I wholeheartedly recommend this text for anyone wanting to know more about the powerful role that coaching can have to achieve a new leadership in a new world.

Source: Andrew Fiddy (2015) “Leadership coaching for results” published in Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, Vol. 8, No. 2, 181-182 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17521882.2015.1054850

To learn more about Leadership Coaching for Results, by Sunny Stout-Rostron, click here: E-version | Hardcopy.

Alternatively, you can contact Sunny Stout-Rostron, DProf, MA directly:

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The development of corporate management

Co-authored by Nick Wilkins and Sunny Stout-Rostron

How do corporate leaders develop the competences they need? And how should they be supported in their development?

These are important questions, because the answers determine the precise forms of support executives and managers will need at particular stages in their professional development. This article briefly reviews the various forms of developmental support available to corporate management, outlining their appropriate applications, and highlighting key issues concerning the most suitable roles for coaching.

TrainingTraining

Training methodology has evolved considerably over the past century. In essence, however, training can be defined as the communication of information to someone in a systematic way to achieve the knowledge and understanding required for the development of a specific competence. Training is necessary for young people entering the job market to attain the necessary technical and professional skills they will need in their vocations.

Can corporate leaders be trained? In the basic principles of management, certainly. However, one of the hallmarks of a good leader is the wisdom to always know exactly what to do next. And managerial wisdom is difficult to teach – it develops through the use of all four phases of Kolb’s (1984:68–69) experiential learning cycle (concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation, active experimentation). In one key respect, leading and managing is similar to driving a car or flying an aircraft – the only really effective way of learning is by doing.

Mentoring

A mentor’s role is to directly share their experience, expertise, advice and wisdom with the “mentee”. In contrast to the broad definition of best-practice coaching that is steadily gaining ground, it is arguable that being “directive” and giving advice is the function of a mentor, rather than a coach (Stout-Rostron, 2009:16).

When combined with appropriate training programmes or qualifications in specialised competences, mentoring can be a particularly useful form of support for younger managers learning the ropes. To be fully effective, however, the role of mentor usually needs to be fulfilled by an older person with greater experience in the same industry and job type as the younger mentee. Domain-specific expertise and experience therefore need to be carefully matched between the two parties if mentoring is to work – in addition to compatibility or “chemistry”, mutual respect and trust on a personal level.

Counselling

When things go wrong in life, managers invariably benefit from competent counselling, whether professional or non-professional. Counselling is a form of help and support for people troubled by emotional trauma or other personal challenges, involving sympathetic listening and a modicum of (often commonsense) advice, usually on a short-term basis, typically in response to a particular event or concern.

Counselling generally deals with the personal side of a corporate leader’s life, including such issues as bereavement, divorce or dependence issues. Mentoring, in contrast, would focus on the leader’s working life. Counsellors (and mentors) need to be able to refer the person involved to an appropriate professional (such as a psychotherapist) for help with more intractable challenges, such as clinical or personality disorders.

Coaching

kolbA business coach uses question frameworks and coaching models to help the corporate
leader work out solutions to specific issues (Stout-Rostron, 2009:16). Or, to put it even more simply, “Coaches help someone to think clearly about something” (Wilkins and Stout-Rostron, 2010:3). The role of coaching in Kolb’s experiential learning cycle is to help leaders and managers to reflect on their corporate experience, so that they work out how to address critical issues facing them. “Coach and client reflect the client’s experience and behaviours, devising new thinking, feeling, behaviours and actions” (Stout-Rostron, 2009:118).

The issues identified by managers as important topics for coaching sessions could include:

  • developing their leadership competences;
  • developing, motivating and managing the performance of their teams;
  • addressing issues around diversity and corporate culture;
  • dealing with workplace conflict and managing difficult people and situations;
  • gaining insight into their own personal and professional motivators or drivers;
  • coping with high stress levels; and
  • balancing business and personal life demands.

There are many different types of business coaching, including:

  • performance coaching, particularly useful for enhancing the competence of line managers and other mid-level corporate leaders;
  • team coaching, helpful in boosting the cohesion and effectiveness of functional teams within companies; and
  • peer coaching, usually between people at similar levels and in similar jobs within the organisation.

And there are many different coaching models and frameworks to apply within each of the various types of coaching. These models need to be carefully chosen to fit the specific corporate context, and the particular needs of the corporate leaders being coached.

For example, the Thinking Partnership® framework developed by Nancy Kline (1999) as part of the Thinking Environment® model is arguably the purest and most high-level form of coaching, because it is completely and absolutely non-directive. In most forms of best-practice coaching, the coach will directly intervene in the coaching conversation to help catalyse the manager’s thinking, by asking a carefully considered and appropriate question that will “unlock” any confusion or blockages. In contrast, a Thinking Partner does not intervene directly in the coaching conversation at all – in fact, they ask only a limited and carefully-defined range of absolutely neutral and non-directive questions. Because the key principle underpinning the Thinking Environment(c) model is that the thinker is fully capable of thinking through the issue and working out the solution themselves. The critical role of the Thinking Partner is simply to provide a supportive “thinking environment” within which the thinker is entirely free to think for themselves, without interruption, or prompting, or “help”.

Managers are likely to reap greater benefit from coaching (as opposed to training and mentoring) once they are experienced enough to identify and prioritise the issues they need to be coached on. Similarly, corporate leaders are likely to reap the greatest benefit from the Thinking Partnership® once they have achieved the further experience necessary to develop their self-confidence as entirely free and unfettered thinkers and visionaries.

Conclusion

Corporate leaders and managers need different forms of support at different stages in HandHammer - keattikorntheir career development, and different forms of support to meet particular challenges within each stage. This means that business coaches need to be careful not to oversell the usefulness of their craft – coaching is not a corporate panacea. As Maslow (1966:15) famously remarked, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Good business coaches should know better than that!

References

Kline, N. (1999). Time to Think: Listening with the Human Mind. London: Ward Lock.

Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Maslow, A.H. (1966). The Psychology of Science: A reconnaissance. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Stout-Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: unlocking the secrets of business coaching. Randburg: Knowres Publishing.

Wilkins, N. and Stout-Rostron, S. (2010). Business coaching: going beyond the balls. COMENSAnews, July. http://www.comensa.co.za/language/en-ZA/NEWSLETTERS/COMENSANews_July_2010.aspx.

Posted in Business Coaching, Coaching, Leadership Coaching, Leadership Development, Mentoring | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The development of corporate management

SupportCo-authored by Nick Wilkins and Dr Sunny Stout-Rostron

How do corporate leaders develop the competences they need? And how should they be supported in their development?

These are important questions, because the answers determine the precise forms of support executives and managers will need at particular stages in their professional development. This article briefly reviews the various forms of developmental support available to corporate management, outlining their appropriate applications, and highlighting key issues concerning the most suitable roles for coaching.

Training

Training methodology has evolved considerably over the past century. In essence, however, training can be defined as the communication of information to someone in a systematic way to achieve the knowledge and understanding required for the development of a specific competence. Training is necessary for young people entering the job market to attain the necessary technical and professional skills they will need in their vocations.

Can corporate leaders be trained? In the basic principles of management, certainly. experiential learning, developing competenciesHowever, one of the hallmarks of a good leader is the wisdom to always know exactly what to do next. And managerial wisdom is difficult to teach – it develops through the use of all four phases of Kolb’s (1984:68–69) experiential learning cycle (concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation, active experimentation). In one key respect, leading and managing is similar to driving a car or flying an aircraft – the only really effective way of learning is by doing.

Mentoring

A mentor’s role is to directly share their experience, expertise, advice and wisdom with the “mentee”. In contrast to the broad definition of best-practice coaching that is steadily gaining ground, it is arguable that being “directive” and giving advice is the function of a mentor, rather than a coach (Stout-Rostron, 2009:16).

When combined with appropriate training programmes or qualifications in specialised competences, mentoring can be a particularly useful form of support for younger managers learning the ropes. To be fully effective, however, the role of mentor usually needs to be fulfilled by an older person with greater experience in the same industry and job type as the younger mentee. Domain-specific expertise and experience therefore need to be carefully matched between the two parties if mentoring is to work – in addition to compatibility or “chemistry”, mutual respect and trust on a personal level.

Careful consideration

 

Counselling

When things go wrong in life, managers invariably benefit from competent counselling, whether professional or non-professional. Counselling is a form of help and support for people troubled by emotional trauma or other personal challenges, involving sympathetic listening and a modicum of (often commonsense) advice, usually on a short-term basis, typically in response to a particular event or concern.

Counselling generally deals with the personal side of a corporate leader’s life, including such issues as bereavement, divorce or dependence issues. Mentoring, in contrast, would focus on the leader’s working life. Counsellors (and mentors) need to be able to refer the person involved to an appropriate professional (such as a psychotherapist) for help with more intractable challenges, such as clinical or personality disorders.

Coaching

A business coach uses question frameworks and coaching models to help the corporate leader work out solutions to specific issues (Stout-Rostron, 2009:16). Or, to put it even more simply, “Coaches help someone to think clearly about something” (Wilkins and Stout-Rostron, 2010:3). The role of coaching in Kolb’s experiential learning cycle is to help leaders and managers to reflect on their corporate experience, so that they work out how to address critical issues facing them. “Coach and client reflect the client’s experience and behaviours, devising new thinking, feeling, behaviours and actions” (Stout-Rostron, 2009:118).

The issues identified by managers as important topics for coaching sessions could include:

  • developing their leadership competences;
  • developing, motivating and managing the performance of their teams;
  • addressing issues around diversity and corporate culture;
  • dealing with workplace conflict and managing difficult people and situations;
  • gaining insight into their own personal and professional motivators or drivers;
  • coping with high stress levels; and
  • balancing business and personal life demands.

There are many different types of business coaching, including:

  • performance coaching, particularly useful for enhancing the competence of line managers and other mid-level corporate leaders;
  • team coaching, helpful in boosting the cohesion and effectiveness of functional teams within companies; and
  • peer coaching, usually between people at similar levels and in similar jobs within the organisation.

And there are many different coaching models and frameworks to apply within each of the various types of coaching. These models need to be carefully chosen to fit the specific corporate context, and the particular needs of the corporate leaders being coached.

For example, the Thinking Partnership™ framework developed by Nancy Kline (1999) as part of the Thinking Environment™ model is arguably the purest and most high-level form of coaching, because it is completely and absolutely non-directive. In most forms of best-practice coaching, the coach will directly intervene in the coaching conversation to help catalyse the manager’s thinking, by asking a carefully considered and appropriate question that will “unlock” any confusion or blockages. In contrast, a Thinking Partner does not intervene directly in the coaching conversation at all – in fact, they ask only a limited and carefully-defined range of absolutely neutral and non-directive questions. Because the key principle underpinning the Thinking Environment™model is that the thinker is fully capable of thinking through the issue and working out the solution themselves. The critical role of the Thinking Partner is simply to provide a supportive “thinking environment” within which the thinker is entirely free to think for themselves, without interruption, or prompting, or “help”.

Managers are likely to reap greater benefit from coaching (as opposed to training and mentoring) once they are experienced enough to identify and prioritise the issues they need to be coached on. Similarly, corporate leaders are likely to reap the greatest benefit from the Thinking PartnershipÒ once they have achieved the further experience necessary to develop their self-confidence as entirely free and unfettered thinkers and visionaries.

Conclusion

hammer

Image created by Keattikorn

Corporate leaders and managers need different forms of support at different stages in their career development, and different forms of support to meet particular challenges within each stage. This means that business coaches need to be careful not to oversell the usefulness of their craft – coaching is not a corporate panacea. As Maslow (1966:15) famously remarked, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Good business coaches should know better than that!

References

Kline, N. (1999). Time to Think: Listening with the Human Mind. London: Ward Lock.

Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Maslow, A.H. (1966). The Psychology of Science: A reconnaissance. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Stout-Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: unlocking the secrets of business coaching. Randburg: Knowres Publishing.

Wilkins, N. and Stout-Rostron, S. (2010). Business coaching: going beyond the balls. COMENSAnews, July. http://www.comensa.co.za/language/en-ZA/NEWSLETTERS/COMENSANews_July_2010.aspx.

Posted in Business Coaching, Executive Coaching, Leadership Coaching, Leadership Development | Leave a comment

Family Enterprises

Family enterprises are the foundation of big business, with many multinationals having their origins in a small family start-up.  Family dynamics, however, often impede growth and sustainability of these businesses.

family business, coaching family, executive coaching, Richard L Narva, Globe Law and Business

Family Enterprises: How to Build Growth, Family Control and Family Harmony

Family Enterprises: How to build growth, family control and family harmonyedited by Richard L. Narva, is a collaboration of experts from a variety of fields, offering processes, procedures and structures to eliminate the challenges common to family businesses.  Sunny is a contributing author, with a chapter on “Challenges facing an executive coach in a family firm.”

Get your copy of the book here

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Family Enterprises: How to Build Growth, Family Control and Family Harmony

Dr Sunny Stout-Rostron has contributed a chapter to Richard Narva’s latest book:

family business, coaching family, executive coaching

Family Enterprises: How to Build Growth, Family Control and Family Harmony

Family Enterprises: How to Build Growth, Family Control and Family Harmony.  The chapter is entitled “Executive coaching challenges with family firms”.  Further details on the contents of this essential guide to working successfully with family firms can be found here

Recognition of the power and importance of businesses controlled by family shareholder groups has grown steadily over the past 30 years. Apologies for working in the family business in the 1980s and 1990s have been replaced by public pride on the parts of leaders of family controlled firms for their enduring growth under family control and contributions to all stakeholders in the enterprise.

What has been missing from the business literature is a guide to the processes, structures and interventions that assist family-controlled enterprises to sustain continuity of growth, family control and family harmony.  This book compiles the wisdom of experienced leaders of family growth companies and those who advise them, focusing on what works to sustain business success without sacrificing family relationships or control. Each of the contributors is grounded in deep management or professional expertise guiding or advising family-controlled enterprises.  And each chapter contains clear, practical advice on how to address issues that challenge family firm leaders and their advisers on a regular basis.

This new book demonstrates to members of family shareholder control groups, their non-family executives and members of the boards of directors, as well as lawyers and other long-term advisers, that there are ways to address the emotionally powerful issues and challenges that are specific to family controlled enterprises. Many of these proven solutions to the special requirements of leading family firms have broad global applications, assisting them to grow, without sacrificing their culture or strategy (Source: Global Law and Business website)

Pre-orders can be placed with the publishers http://www.globelawandbusiness.com/FEH and with Amazon.  Make sure that you don’t miss out on getting your copy.

 

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Coaching Leaders: Experiential Learning for Client and Team

stack of books; learningLearning from experience and client stories

Learning, and particularly learning from experience, seems to be one of the major components of the coaching conversation. Learning from experience implies an understanding of the language and content of the client’s story, with the coach helping the client to reconstruct their own reality by searching for meaning through dialogue.

There is so much power in the client’s language and the content of their stories. The significance of the client’s story comes from both the structure of their telling it, as well as the interpretation and significance given. In some cultures, for example in Latin America, Africa and India, oral history and storytelling remain very important methods of passing on ritual, tradition and customs. The coaching conversation can literally be seen as an extension of “telling one’s story” and looking for meaning and significance in the telling.

With this as a precedent, we can look at the “coaching conversation” not just as experiential learning, but as experiential education: learning from one’s own life experiences. These definitions suggest that learning is the key. This indicates that helping your clients grow, develop and become who they want to be, requires asking for their best thinking, rather than sharing yours. The four levels of coaching intervention with which we are working as coaches are interconnected:

  • Doing: What tasks and goals need to be accomplished?
  • Learning: How will you develop the competences needed?
  • Way of Being: Who are you as you grow and develop; how do you do you? (Weiss, 2004).
  • Transforming Self: Who are you stepping into becoming as you grow and develop? (Stout-Rostron, 2013).

Measuring results

In working with an individual client, there is no point in simply developing a leadership teamsplan in isolation from the rest of the business and team processes. If the coaching intervention is to be successful, it is critical to develop a systemic, fully integrated coaching strategy that is in alignment with both the business and the talent strategies for the organization. Two key factors will be to identify the efficacy of internal and external coaching interventions at an individual level, and the use of group or team coaching to develop key leadership competences that are aligned with organizational strategy. Team coaching can also be a way to develop talent at subordinate levels.

Once you begin to work with an individual executive, their team often comes to the fore within a few months. Gaps are identified in terms of decision making, communication skills and facilitating meetings. Team coaching is becoming more affordable than individual executive coaching, and ensures that the team is working together in alignment with organizational values and goals.

Team coaching can help new leaders and their teams manage all aspects of transition, transformation and change. There is a strong link between business results and emotional intelligence or EQ (defined as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill). Team coaching will need to ensure that both the leader and members of the team improve their emotional intelligence skills, which will lead to better organizational performance. This will move the team to balance the needs of the individuals, the team and the organization. If the team members have grown in terms of self-awareness, the organization will want to see this “demonstrated” at work – in relationships, management competence, leadership behaviors and EQ.

But, in order to do so, the coach needs to have an in-depth understanding of organizational systems – seeing the coaching intervention from a systems perspective, and understanding the need for “structure” in the interaction between coach, individual client, team, and the organizational system. A danger of not understanding the “system” in which the client operates is that the coach risks becoming another part of that system.

Behavior change

As a business coach, whether working with individuals or teams, you are helping your clients to learn from and interpret their own experiences, and to understand the complexity of the environment in which they work. Team coaching is essentially about the results experienced through the relationship between the coach, the individuals in the team, and the resulting team dynamic.

Until we have reliable research from a wide variety of organizations, no one can guarantee that behavior change is truly sustainable as a result of coaching. However, based on research currently available, there are certainly guidelines for coaching which can help ensure that behavior change is indeed sustainable.

References

Stout-Rostron, S. (2014). Leadership Coaching for Results: Cutting-edge practices for coach and client, Randburg, South Africa: Knowres.

Weiss, P. (2004). The Three Levels of Coaching. San Francisco, CA: An Appropriate Response.

This article first appeared in the WABC Blog (22nd September 2014). Reprinted with permission of the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches. You warrant and covenant that you have the full authority to grant the rights and provide the warranties set out above. No part of the WABC Blog may be reproduced by you or a third party in any material form without written permission from WABC Coaches Inc. Please contact WABC if you wish to reproduce any of the WABC Blog material.

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