Is Coaching still fit for purpose in the 21st Century?


Executive coaching began to pick up pace in the 90s but since then a lot has changed. Our latest research is putting current coaching practices under the microscope asking “Is coaching still fit for purpose in the 21st Century?” 


As part of this project we carried out an online survey and the topic clearly struck a nerve. In total, 80 individuals (either coaching professionals or buyers of coaching) completed the questionnaire, often filling the extra comment boxes with thoughts and insights on what works and what doesn’t.


As you can imagine this generated a lot of data, the full reporting of which is beyond the scope of a short blog. A new Lane4 white paper will be out shortly which offers a more comprehensive review of the findings but until then here’s a quick snap shot of the key findings from our survey:


Finding 1: What works

Our survey respondents suggested that while coaching may well be a valuable development asset to a 21st Century organisation, the culture in organisations has yet to catch up. There is still a clash between coaching’s ‘questioning culture’ and the ‘results-driven’ climate of most businesses today.


The findings clearly highlighted the benefits and huge potential of coaching in the 21st Century. In fact, many participants felt coaching was a bit ahead of its time, offering a solution before organisations were even really aware of the problem.


In the current climate competitive edge belongs to organisations embracing collaboration, innovation, adaptability and learning. With this in mind, coaching has never been more relevant, providing a flexible and context specific tool which matches the speed of change and complexity of today’s corporate environments.


To thrive in tomorrow’s world, organisations need employees who, amongst other things, are emotionally intelligent, self-aware, flexible, can learn fast and are able to thrive on increased responsibility. As our participants highlighted, good coaching has been offering development in these areas for years.


Finding 2: What doesn’t work

42% of those involved in the world of coaching rated current practices as only “somewhat fit for purpose.” So what is it about coaching today that’s not quite hitting the mark?


Numerous issues were flagged here, in particular around regulation, measurement and understanding. More specifically, many felt that there was only a small number of sufficiently skilled coaches operating in a market swamped with poor quality coaches. As one participant noted “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. But, what is it that defined good coaching from bad?


Measurement was also emphasised as an area of coaching in need of attention, with currently only 45% of coaching professionals reporting to measure impact. This begs the question, what would best practice look like in terms of coaching measurement? Furthermore, is measurement in coaching appropriate? Is it necessary?


There also seemed to be a lot of confusion around coaching, from both coaches, coachees and employees of organisations. Uncertainty especially surrounded issues such as: What actually is coaching and what is it not? When should it be used? What qualifications should coaches possess? What constitutes good coaching? How does coaching work? And (from an employee perspective) why is coaching being used? (To target under-performance or boost those identified as high performers?).


Our findings suggest that all this uncertainty is cultivating a sense of mistrust in the coaching of process. As discussed, coaching itself has huge potential in the 21st Century, but to unlock it we need to get to grips with these pertinent questions.


What is the future of coaching?

Our survey found that 68% of participants expected to use coaching more in the future, so how do we ensure coaching continues to thrive and deliver the results promised? In this blog I have briefly taken you through our findings in terms of what works and what doesn’t in coaching. What will the future of coaching look like in your organisation?

Look out for our upcoming white paper which will explore beyond current practice and look ahead to what’s on the horizon for coaching in the 21st Century.

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