Creative Commons, https://goo.gl/images/jP6yhN
The role of the learning professional as a life coach
There are many roles for the modern learning development professional in today’s organization, one of them is as a life coach and the subject of this article. My evolved view is that coaching in organizations today should entail life coaching to help ensure the work-life balance and focus necessary to achieve high performance in organizations. In several articles, I’ve written thus far, improving performance in the organization was usually the end objective—getting to results. Hopefully, we’re all trying to do that? There are several ways to do this, e.g., continuous learning, performance improvement using the ATD HPI Model (figure 1.) that may include instructional design and the establishment of competency objectives, training delivery, talent management initiatives, learning technologies, knowledge management and change management to name just a few. Strategic alignment processes, balanced scorecards, Six Sigma, LEAN, Appreciative Inquiry, Porter’s Five Forces model and work-life balance to name a few others. One much overlooked and important way of improving performance and ensuring results in organizations is through coaching! Even Tiger Woods has a coach.
Figure 1. ATD HPI Model
Coaching as an artifact of the information age
According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD) Handbook, coaching in organizations “is an artifact of the information age in which employee brain power and engagement are key resources”. As much, coaching in organizations, of managers and executives can leverage the results of the HPI process, resources, solutions and information to help the organization improve performance, reach goals, have a competitive advantage and a sustainable future. Also, according to ATD and the International Coaching Federation, coaching as a practice is a “…professional partnership between a qualified coach and individual or team. Through the process of coaching, individuals focus on the skills and actions needed to successfully produce their personally relevant results” [Bears repeating] It’s not just about doing your job, but your job must produce results, not just KPIs. Excessively rewarding behavior that doesn’t yield results sends the wrong message and outcomes. At the high end of coaching in organizations is life coaching; designed to take both one’s personal life and business career to the next level.
Building trusting relationships key to life coaching
By developing a trusting relationship (a precursor to real action), the coach can help to add value to the organization as mentioned above to achieve the greatest results. To do this, life coaches not only need to develop key skills and behaviors themselves but should also help organizational managers and executives develop coaching competencies as well. Organizational coaching is but one of the ten competencies of the learning and development professional (CPLP). Hopefully the life coaching aspect can be added to the CPLP areas of expertise (AOEs).
One of the keys and major barriers to coaching, however, is the trust and relationship that must be present between the coach and client– if there is no trust or relationship between the two, the coaching efforts and client objectives will likely fail. Another factor is the potential for “intimidation” and implementation of flawed and misguided goals and objectives. Referring to the HPI Model, one can see even before the performance needs assessment (PNA), a BIG BLOCK FOR BUSINESS ANALYSIS; this section helps to ensure that the goals or results with which to measure performance improvement and solutions against are indeed precise, reliable and valid. As we know, one can be precise and reliable wrong! Even though this article is about coaching, it will do much good to review what the objective of the Business Analyst (BA) is in the HPI process before any coaching occurs. Three key questions and answers come to mind right away during this phase; what business are we in (i.e., what is the purpose of the business or site), who are our customers and competitors? Sounds simple, but turn to the left or right of you in a meeting and ask these three straight questions, they’ll probably yield several answers to each question. These answers, however, shouldn’t be “wooly”. If they are, it goes without saying the goals and results one may already have are also just as wooly. This won’t do well for prioritized solutions, resource allocation nor coaching. In general, life coaching really is about helping you be a better you in just about all facets of life from personal goals, finance to career aspirations and more.
What’s the 2nd best answer to your solution?
In prior times, according to a video lesson 8: Designing your Requirements Strategy, the BA in, Requirements: The Masterclass, by James Robertson and Suzanne Robertson, the BA was just a “Stenographer” who wrote down requirements and then formulated plans based on dictations—a yes man or women. The BA today, amongst other things, must “challenge” and “push back against conventional wisdom”. They must ask questions like, “Can we find a better way?”, “What else can we do?”, “What’s the 2nd best answer?” or to “Challenge the proffered solution(s)”.
There are many ways to do this and just as many ways the system will resist and try to control the outcome(s), e.g., “heavy forms,” methodologies and processes—long standing beliefs and perceptions by executives and managers as barriers, e.g., it’s always been this way, etc. The BA’s ability to communicate, gain trust and navigate these many barriers, filters and perceptions likely to impede “significant progress” will be required; the ability to abstract, see another way, think in terms of systems, be innovative or even a magician— may be required. In a few words, the ability to challenge, connect, innovate, partner and obtain results; sounds like mission impossible and a job for Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise)?
Unlike a life coach, coaches are generally not a counselor or mentor
In a case where the pressure to change is great, the BA, besides being an analyst– might also be a coach, learning professional and have both the competency and capability to deliver the “line of sight” and results from analysis to getting online and what’s required. The coach, however, is not a counselor, mentor or babysitter –that’s someone else’s job. However, he is responsible for getting high performance out of individuals and teams that leads to the achievement of prioritized, validated goals and results. Specifically, a coach must consider ethical guidelines, establish coaching agreements, manage progress and accountability, be an active listener and develop goals and plans.
Coaching can and might well occur during counseling, but the conversation should be focused on moving the client towards his or her goals. Counseling implies the giving of advice instead of helping the client achieve their stated goals as agreed to in the coaching agreement or plan—coaching is not a place for bargaining. As to mentoring, according to ATD, this implies helping people in their career goals and development. Another point to also consider is that, not all performance issues can be solved through coaching. According to ATD, “Coaching is an appropriate solution if an employee…does not understand expectations or priorities or how to complete a task to performance standards”. Some consider the coaches job as one where “transformation learning” takes place and involves something called single, double and triple loop learning (ability to accomplish projects, changing the context of the situation, and making fundamental shifts in beliefs and values).
Conclusion, life coaches help keep the end in mind
In conclusion, the objective of life coaching, aside from possibly transformational enlightenment, success and learning– is to help create development and performance improvement opportunities that lead to clear personal and business results and goal achievement. The client must still do the work and not quit because it’s too hard. Coaches can help one push through doubt and low points, but can’t stop you from quitting. If it was easy, everybody could do it! And so, those who are not open to feedback will not benefit. It is also noted that people will only change when the pain threshold is necessary and sufficient. The focus may also well be better spent on positive appreciative learning methodologies that support recognizing growth opportunities such as enrichment, well-being, improvement and professional development. In the end, there must be a “call to action” that takes people and the organization “out of their comfort zone”. And lastly, “Coaching helps clients succeed by keeping the end in mind” (ATD), we must all step up, take ownership and deliver results!