I used to do a lot of group coaching. I do very little now and when I do, I take another coach along to help make the coaching more effective. The groups I used to coach were typically groups of 12-15 from companies like Grace Chemicals, ThyssenKrupp, BASF and SAP. They were very typical corporate coaching sessions for middle management and the budget for the day was split between all the participants’ personal development budgets. German firms are better at this most – personal development is both encouraged by the companies and sought after by the employees.
Then Mercedes hired me to do an 1-2-1 session over ten days with a senior guy on a very sensitive issue and I loved it. More importantly than that – the results were better too.
Group corporate coaching normally is what I call “norming training” – it gets everyone up to a minimum level of competence. Or at least it should! Far too often norming coaching is seen as just something to survive and it is approached by participants and coaches without focus or energy. Coaching without a specific target is harder to focus and too often includes handouts that soon become, and remain, dusty on unvisited shelves. Tennis coaching is fine and good and important – but preparing for a match against a specific opponent on “that court” is far more fun!
Norming training gets people from the bottom of a pyramid to half way up. It is important but it has its downsides and its limits.
One is the fact that the participants can’t open up completely to the coach with making them themselves vulnerable to the others in the room – who invariably are, will be, or are friends of, current or future competitors in the corporate or political career race.
Secondly – the higher you get up the performance pyramid, the less coaching is about transferring skills and the more it is about what’s in your head. Ian Barclay coached me in Johannesburg. He was Pat Cash’s coach and I was a young, ambitious tennis coach totally focused on learning all his best coaching techniques and skills. He said that teaching beginners, like he taught Cash initially, was all about skills and just 5% about what’s in your head. By the time Cash was playing serious professional tennis, the ratios had reversed and it was now at least 95% head and the rest skills. If you are helping people with what’s in their head – it’s personal. Huge trust is needed and that’s best done very carefully and sensitively without others listening in.
Most of what I do now is performance coaching – in other words coaching aimed at a specific event with a time limit and a specific outcome.* It is taking people who are already quite competent and pushing them up the pyramid – leaving good, and the competition, behind. Coaching people who want to work to step up from being “good enough” and who now want to make Partner, bring in the business and the bonuses and get promoted. Since that session with Mercedes I have worked in the same way in politics, career development and with corporates: –
- Politics – preparing wannabe MPs for selections and selection speeches, successful MPs for their maiden speeches, campaigns for elections, the No2AV referendum campaign and even the Sri Lankan Prime Minister for an address to the United Nations
- Career/Personal Development – preparing graduates and senior executives for interviews
- Corporate – preparing business development, management and MBO teams and individuals for major events, pitches and proposals.
All of them are focused on specific events, with defined time limits or dates and a specific win/lose outcome. It is for those want to perform as well as they possibly can – not just a bit better than the others and who resent being called “good enough”. It is for those who, like me, hate losing or coming second. If you know somebody who might fit into one of those categories – why not forward this post to them and introduce us by email?
*I have also worked on ongoing campaigns, e.g. against Human Trafficking, but there is a difference to this type of campaign – they are drip, drip, drip although they obviously include specific events and critical dates.