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Internet Survey Results:

The Status of Coaching in Organizations

Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D.

Executive Summary:

During the second quarter of 2001, one hundred and thirty three people participated in our on line survey: What is Coaching in Your Organization? The vast majority of the respondents were the coach (seventy four percent), not the person being coached (twenty six percent). Summarizing their responses:

  1. The single most important reason for coaching sessions was Development and Growth, not Performance Improvement.
  2. To the question "What one subject would they like to spend more time on during coaching discussions," three topics received a total of seventy two percent of the responses to the question: Roles, responsibilities, and expectations; How to build on my strengths; How to overcome my weaknesses. Points one and two suggest a new more helping oriented role for coaching.
  3. Seventy nine percent of the respondents felt coaching was given no higher than medium priority in their organizations. And thirty six percent felt that coaching efforts arent recognized and rewarded by their organization. Suggesting that coaching discussions are not occurring very frequently.
  4. The major obstacles impeding a coaching discussion was attributed to two major villains: Time and Lack of training (seventy percent of the responses).
  5. Not surprising, the majority of coaching is seen to be occurring at the Manager to worker employee level (fifty four percent). The least responses came from the Executive to direct report level (two percent).
  6. The respondents would like to see both formal and informal coaching discussion occurring more frequently than they are currently occurring.
  7. The coaches were given an average score of Neither Effective nor Ineffective in assessing individual performance and communicating this assessment.
  8. They scored slightly above the Neutral level when asked how satisfied they were with their coaching discussions.
  9. Lastly, e-mail has replaced face-to-face discussions for thirty percent of the respondents. The good news, it has no affect on fifty two percent of the respondents.

The Status of Coaching in Organizations

Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D.

During the second quarter of 2001, one hundred and thirty three people participated in our on line survey: What is Coaching in Your Organization? Coaching is a popular term. The definition used in the survey was:

Coaching is a discussion and feedback process between members of the organization aimed at exerting a positive influence in the motivation, performance, awareness of areas for improvement and development, or career of another person to help them be as effective as possible.

The vast majority of the respondents were the coach (seventy four percent), not the person being coached (twenty six percent). With few exceptions, as noted, the respondents role in the coaching relationship made little difference in their answers.

Why Coach?

During our seminar on coaching skills conducted over the past twenty-five years we often hear that coaching discussions are typically negative or punitive. Sixty three percent of the respondents felt the single most important reason for coaching session was Development and Growth (note, for the other person being coached this was picked seventy one percent of the time). Another twenty three percent chose Performance Improvement (note, for the other person being coached this was picked only seventeen percent of the time). When asked about the second most important reason for coaching sessions, thirty five percent picked Performance Improvement while twenty nine percent selected Development and Growth. These responses indicated that coaching does not occur when things are wrong or going bad, in fact the majority of time is spent in positive developmental or growth discussions.

When asked what one subject they would like to spend more time on during coaching discussions, seventy two percent of the respondents selected one of the following three:

Roles, responsibilities and expectations

23%
How to build on my strengths 27%
How to overcome my weaknesses 22%

Whats expected of me, how can I better use my unique talents and things I need to improve on? not as we have been lead to believe very critical or negative stuff. It appears that our model of a coach is a person who helps me do my best and provides opportunities and challenges to help me grow and develop. This is the opposite of a one way, authoritarian, ranting monologue that we see from many of our sports coaches. Suggesting that the sports coach and business coach analogy is weakening if not in appropriate.

Is coaching a priority? NOT

Other than directly doing something that positively affects the organizations viability and growth, the second biggest impact would seem to be coaching others to learn, grow and perform. However, seventy nine percent of the respondents felt coaching was given no higher than medium priority in their organization, of which twenty percent rated it a low priority. Only eleven percent felt it was given a high priority. The person being coached was even harsher in their evaluation. Eighty one percent felt coaching was given no higher than medium priority in their organization of which twenty nine percent rated it a low priority. These results do not give credence to often over used phrase "people are our most important asset."

It is not surprising that more than a third of the respondents (thirty six percent) felt that coaching efforts arent recognized and rewarded by their organization. The person being coached felt this was true in forty nine percent of the time. Almost half felt that coaching was neither recognized nor rewarded by their organization. Twenty one percent felt that coaching was recognized and rewarded informally while thirty three percent stated coaching is part of a managers roles, responsibilities, and expectations. Part of my job but given medium to low priority and informally or not recognized or rewarded for over half the respondents?

One could safely guess that coaching is not occurring at a frequent rate. If coaching does has a low recognition or reward factor why spend your time; answer, you dont. This leads to corollary questions, what is rewarded and recognized or, what are those charged with coaching others doing with their priority time?

Why not?

Two major villains account for over seventy percent of the responses, time and training. Thirty nine percent of the respondents stated that the most common obstacle impeding a coaching discussion was "No time, not a priority". The person being coached chose this reason forty three percent of the time. Twenty three percent felt it was "Lack of training for the coach," while nine percent felt it was "Lack of training for the person being coached."

These findings are reinforced when reviewing the responses to an open-ended question, "If one thing could be improved or changed that would make your coaching discussions more satisfying and productive what would that be?" The two major categories of responses were Training and Time. Two comments best summarize the respondents feelings:

It seems like they only regard coaching as important when the work load is slow.
 
More resources in the coaching arenatraining managers to be coaches in an environment which they have not been taught how.

Is it any wonder with the do more with less mantra that intangible coaching relationships are not important enough to spend time or obtain the appropriate training? Not as important as what, unfortunately maybe Dilbert has a clue.

Where does coaching occur?

An interesting, but not surprising response is that coaching occurs least often at the Executive to direct report level (two percent) but fifty four percent at the Manager to worker employee level. It occurs more at the Peer to Peer level (thirty percent) than at the Middle managers to first line manager level (fourteen percent). It appears that with as one moves up the organization ladder, one rite of passagecoaching is not an expectation for middle and senior level managers. Strange, this group of managers has a bigger impact on the organization and receives less coaching, direction and help, go figure. The large amount of peer to peer coaching lends weight to an earlier conclusion that coach is less of an authoritarian and more of a helper.

How and when does coaching occur?

Coaching occurs on both a planned, formal basis and a spur of the moment, informal basis.

Formal Coaching discussions: From the results in the following table one can conclude:

  1. The coaches see the formal session occurring more frequently than the persons being coached.
  2. The coaches feel the formal session should occur less frequent than the persons being coached.
  3. Traditionally formal coaching discussions have occurred during periodic review on a annual or semi-annual basis. A very small percent for both groups felt they should not occur annually and less than one third felt they should occur semi-annually.
  4. For both groups, twenty percent dont have formal coaching discussions.
  5. Although the person being coached and the coach in this survey are not in a reporting relationship, it appears that the persons being coached want more frequent formal contact with the coach than they are getting. The demand is there yet it is given low priority and insufficient attention according to these respondents.

Formal coaching discussions

How frequent do they occur? How frequent should they occur?
  Coach Person being coached   Coach Person being coached
Every day 2% 3% Every day 8% 2%
Every week 16% 6% Every week 36% 26%
Every month 26% 17% Every month 32% 40%
Semi-annually 28% 40% Semi-annually 21% 30%
Annually 8% 14% Annually 1% 0%
We dont have them 20% 20% We dont need them 2% 2%

Informal Coaching discussions: From the results in the following table one can conclude:

  1. Twenty five percent of the coaches feel informal coaching discussions are occurring every day, while only nine percent of the persons being coached feel this way.
  2. Over half (fifty seven percent) of the persons being coached would like informal coaching on a weekly basis yet twenty three percent dont have any informal coaching discussions. What a wasted opportunity.
  3. Factoring out those respondents who dont have or need informal coaching discussions, the majority of both groups would like this contact to occur no more than on a monthly basis. Doesnt seem too much to ask, does it?

Informal coaching discussion

How frequent do they occur?

How frequent should they occur?

  Coach Person being coached   Coach Person being coached
Every day 25% 9% Every day 36% 17%
Every week 31% 28% Every week 43% 57%
Every month 21% 26% Every month 11% 9%
Semi-annually 11% 11% Semi-annually 8% 14%
Annually 2% 3% Annually 1% 0%
We dont have them 10% 23% We need them 1% 3%

If these coaching discussions are not happening as frequently as desired, one could argue that the amount of time devoted to each discussion would make up for the lower quantity of meeting. The data doesnt seem to support this argument as indicated in the following table:

How long to your formal discussions last?

How long to your informal discussions last?

Less than 15 minutes

12%

Less than 15 minutes

38%

15-30 minutes

41%

15-30 minutes

42%

30-60 minutes

38%

30-60 minutes

18%

1-2 hours

7%

1-2 hours

2%

Longer than 2 hours

2%

Longer than 2 hours

0%

As one would expect the formal discussions last longer probably because there are a number of items needed discussing. The informal discussion being at the moment, have a tendency to be shorter with eighty percent taking thirty minutes or less. Focused, specific discussions need not last a long time.

We should be encouraged that when they do occur a significant amount of time is devoted to the formal coaching discussion with over a third (thirty eight percent) lasting between thirty and sixty minutes. In our rush rush world it is questionable how productive a formal coaching discussion can be that lasts less than fifteen minutes (twelve percent) or fifteen to thirty minutes (forty one percent), or two thirds of all the formal coaching discussions. Especially since the majority of respondents felt the purpose of a coaching discussion should be for Growth and Developmentthese are not usually simple or easily resolved issues.

Effectiveness of coaches

We tried to ask a number of questions that focused on how effective the coaching discussions were in motivating others to strive to higher levels of performance. Dont people hire personal coaches, trainers, etc. to give them a unique vantage point, to help them see blind spots, or to go above their current level of performance?

How effective are managers in your organization at assessing individual performance in a way that motivates others to strive to higher levels of performance? On a five point scale from Very Effective to Very Ineffective respondents average rating for managers was 3.09, with Neither Ineffective nor Effective representing a 3.0. This casts some doubt on this groups perception of the managers ability to provide a unique vantage point or help them see possibilities that they cannot.

The same question was asked substituting the word communication for assessing. These respondents gave their managers an average score on the same five-point scale of 2.93, with Neither Ineffective or Effective representing a 3.0. This casts some doubt on overall effectiveness of the coaching discussion.

The respondents were a little more generous on their scores when asked how satisfied they are with coaching discussions. On a five point scale from Very dissatisfied to Very satisfied the average score was 3.34 with Neutral representing a 3.0. Unfortunately, the question is not clear as to whether they are rating themselves as a coach or the person being coached. There was not a significant difference between the responses from the coaches and those being coached. On a positive note, forty percent of the respondents selected the Somewhat satisfied choice; however on average, regardless of their frame of reference, the entire group averaged Neutral on satisfaction.

A positive result, when asked "When you are the person being coached, how motivated are you as a result of the coaching discussion," the group average score was 3.79 with Neutral representing 3.0 and Somewhat Motivated representing 4.0. Motivated by what, we dont know, lets hope it is positive in nature.

E-mail and coaching

Stating the obvious, e-mail has changed our way of communicating. It takes only a casual observer to note that the volume of e-mail has and will continue to increase. The style is usually very terse. We wondered if e-mail has replaced some of the face-to-face time between managers and employees, especially in the coaching arena.

How has e-mail affected the time and nature of your coaching discussions? The responses to this question in the following table shows some good and bad news:

No affect

30%

E-mail and coaching are not related

22%

It has cut down on the amount of face-to-face discussion

30%

It has replaced much of our face-to-face-discussions

11%

It is a cop out for dealing with important issues

7%

Good news, fifty two percent of the respondents see e-mail as either having no effect or unrelated to coaching. Bad news, for the remaining forty eight percent, e-mail has had a negative impact on their coaching discussions, with eighteen percent of this group feeling it has replaced face-to-face discussions or a mechanism for escaping responsibilities to talk with one another about important issues. It is interesting to speculate if this group contains the same respondents who were not having or having less frequent coaching discussions thus making e-mail a symptom of a larger problemnot living up to ones coaching responsibilities. Time will tell, however we continue to hear both from managers and employees that e-mail has tended to depersonalize the relationship between manager and employee. Some of the earlier conclusions based on time and frequency of coaching discussions makes us feel that e-mail may be yet another barrier between people meeting face-to-face and building/maintaining relationships. One last response lends some weight to this concern.

When asked, "How satisfied are your with the affect e-mail has had on the nature of your coaching discussions," only fifteen percent chose Somewhat Satisfied or Very Satisfied, and twenty one percent selected either Very dissatisfied or Somewhat dissatisfied. Lest we loose perspective, a whopping sixty four percent selected Neutral lending hope that face-to-face discussions are holding their own.

Summary

The purpose of coaching is focused on Development and Growth first and Performance Improvement second. This suggests the role of the coach is more of a helper and less of a boss. However, coaching efforts are not given a high priority in the respondents organization nor recognized and rewarded. Suggesting that the coach/managers time and attention is being spent on other activities. The biggest obstacles impeding coaching discussions were: No time, not a priority; Lack of training, these two accounted for over seventy percent of the responses. This is not rocket science, both of these obstacles are easily resolved if organizations believe there is value in coaching employees. Evidently coaching has perceived value depending on where one sits in the organization. The majority of coaching is occurring most often at the Manger to worker employee level and least often at the Executive to direct report level. Respondents want both formal and informal coaching discussions to occur more frequently than they are. Respondents rated their level of satisfaction with coaching discussion as Neutral. And lastly, e-mail is seen to cut down on face-to-face discussions for about a third of the respondents. Bottom line, coaching is being requested by employees but given a lower priority, reward and recognition.

To improve on productivity, quality, and customer relations what better place to start than with coaching employees? If organizations are serious about these initiatives, it seems they need to elevate coaching both in priority and reward status as well as provide more training to both coaches and those being coached.

 

About the Author

Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D. CEO, Center for Coaching & Mentoring has over twenty years experience in training and organization development, as an internal change agent and external consultant.  For comments or additional information email Matt from the selection below.

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Contact Matt Starcevich, matt@coachingandmentoring
2009, Center for Coaching and Mentoring