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Getting Traction on Organisation-Based Coaching

Right now we are privileged to be part of an organisational-wide initiative which is spearheading open and constructive communication.  The route to this is helping coachees (i.e. direct reports) to give constructive upward feedback on their managers’ coaching skills.

We know from research that one of the key things that direct reports value is the relationship they have with their manager.  And manager coaching is a key way to make that relationship more consistent and better.

In this particular organisation, managers were trained some time ago in coaching skills and the organisation wants to make sure that managers continue to get better at coaching, to improve their relationships with employees.

Research(1) shows that the vast majority of organisations herald a coaching culture (2) as desirable.  However the research also says that the successful achievement of one is not easy or prevalent.  The research goes on to say that coaching skills training is common, but what is NOT is the measurement and reinforcement of it.

One way to help measure and reinforce coaching is to train and support coachees in giving objective and descriptive feedback on their manager’s coaching behaviours.

We encourage our clients to measure both the frequency and quality of managers’ coaching.  This is through a simple tool we call Echo.  It features eight key coaching behaviours, each having a likert scale on the degree of frequency with which the behaviours are seen by the coachee.  It also includes an opportunity for the coachee to give open-ended qualitative feedback which is invaluable for the manager’s development.

We report results from the system and then we get the coaches to review these with their manager and us.  It is a powerful combination to measure the coach’s self-report ratings on the eight behaviours, the ratings from coachees, as well as an independent coach’s observations.  The latter is particularly important for the more advanced levels of coaching.

Having recently run a ‘coachee readiness’ (3) session for 40 participants from within the same organisation, it is really useful to openly define and discuss the fundamental coaching behaviours within the context of whether coachees observed them and their frequency.  You’ll soon see from the coachee ratings the biases such as the ‘halo effect’ or the ‘middling’ effect raise their heads.  Making coachees aware of these biases is important and for some of them, the awareness is enough to help them to become objective scorers.

This too helps with encouraging coachees to become objective and helpful observers of their managers’ behaviour in general, as well as becoming proactive in stating what they need from them in their business relationship.

By measuring coaching skills the organisation is much more likely to get the impact-on-business they expect.  Measurement does not need to be onerous but it does need to be consistent.  One of the places to start is with coachee readiness and encouraging descriptive feedback on the demonstration of manager coaching behaviours.


1 Research from BlessingWhite, Inc – Coaching Conundrum 2009 Global Executive Summary

2 Coaching culture – a definition offered by Blessing White is ‘a work place where coaching of employees is a regular, fully supported, and rewarded managerial practice’

3 Coachee readiness – A coachee who grows their thinking, changes their approach, actually explores their greater contribution, and therefore sees more in themselves than they did yesterday, is more likely to find new avenues for delivering solutions in the future.  Our view is that the more the coachee is prepared for coaching, the more they have a desire to make changes. Their openness to taking a look at themselves, their self-honesty, and their learning focus are some of the key elements which Altris see as part of the readiness of a coachee



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