By Chris Rawden
In recent years, coaching has proven to be a highly effective way to elevate individual and team performance, with those organisations that invest in coaching for their people consistently outperforming those who do not. Chris Rawden, Director, Global Alliance Advisory Service (GAAS) describes how clients can benefit.
To quote McKinsey’s report “For smarter decisions, empower your employees”, September 2020: “Organisations whose leaders successfully empower others through coaching are nearly four times more likely to make good decisions than those whose leaders don’t and to outperform industry peers financially. Empowered employees are also more engaged, work harder, and become more loyal to the company. Their delegated decisions typically deliver faster, better, and more efficiently executed outcomes.”
It is encouraging to see the increasing take-up of coaching within global accounting alliances and firms to support their people and team development, as a key challenge is to (re-)position accountancy as the attractive, valuable profession to society and to individuals that it truly can be.
In our work with different global networks and associations, the Global Alliance Advisory Services (GAAS) team have observed directly what we read daily in social media and the press: global alliances and their member firms worldwide are facing unprecedented people challenges. The evolving world of the post-Covid hybrid workplace is crying out for a whole new playbook of how to build strong, diverse and sustainable working place cultures, able to attract talent, retain good people and provide sustainable satisfying careers. There are no easy formulas for success. Happily, we are seeing accounting firm leaders and global alliance leaders putting people and firm culture centre stage, prompting a complete re-think about what a healthy workplace means.
One consistent message we keep hearing in regular discussions with accounting firm managing partners in various global alliances is: “It is not winning the work that’s difficult, it’s having the people needed to deliver it successfully and on time”.
Coaching and mentoring
Among our services, the GAAS team increasingly provides bespoke personal coaching and mentoring support for global network and association CEOs and their executive teams, as well as supporting accounting firm leaders and their teams through coaching to help elevate their performance and strengthen their wellbeing.
Blending niche experience with coaching skills
In our work with global network and association CEOs and their teams, our coaching is designed to support them with the challenges they face as leaders delivering a global strategy across multiple regions, with scattered management structures and limited resources. We bring a proven set of coaching skills and process tools from acknowledged coaching programmes, such as those from the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC Global) and the Institute of Leadership and Management.
Purpose of coaching
The purpose of coaching is to support the client in reaching their goals, with the coach facilitating the process. To help the coachee move forward and take action, the coach is likely to start by getting the client to examine their current worldview, meaning their habitual ways of thinking and acting, that directly shape how effectively they approach their challenges and opportunities. When people notice their habitual patterns more clearly, with their inherent benefits and limitations, they get a whole new perspective on how their current worldview impacts their results. From that new vantage point, people gain a powerful new sense of what is possible beyond their current worldview and are motivated to shift and take new action to reach their goals more quickly and easily.
A key coaching skill is active listening. The skilled coach brings a quality of listening with their full attention on the speaker, listening without judgement or interruption, providing a safe space for the person to be heard. The coachee experiences being listened to differently, unimpeded by suggestions, assessments or possible solutions, however well meant, as might happen when talking to a close friend. The coach checks their understanding, reflecting back to the coachee the main messages they have heard. Active listening and a safe space provides the foundation for building trust and rapport, which is essential if the client is to succeed in stepping beyond their comfort zone to produce new results.
A central benefit of coaching is bringing about a change of perspective for clients on their situation, goals and challenges, so clients can discover new options for action they can immediately use. Skilful use by the coach of different types of questions is decisive in broadening the client’s focus so they get to see past current limitations and blind spots. Since successful communication is crucial for effective team working, another important aspect in coaching is to raise clients’ awareness of when communication is absent and things are no longer being communicated explicitly, so they can notice and address the warning signals early on.
Bring your whole self to your decision-making
While effective decision-making requires intellectual and cognitive skills, it is also greatly enhanced by increased emotional awareness. Supporting clients to identify and become more aware of their emotional responses and the triggers to their behaviour can make a profound difference to the quality of their decision-making ability and their confidence. By realising what emotions and triggers are present for us at any given moment, we can gain more control over what can otherwise seem like our automatic unalterable reactions, e.g. experiencing impatience and struggling to go on listening at a challenging moment in a meeting.
Leaders that truly support their people
Among the current culture building and workplace challenges, it is evident that employees and potential hires are looking carefully to see how far their leaders and potential employers are serious about providing support or are merely paying lip service. Leaders who walk the talk as employers, prioritising their people with regular contact time to support them, honouring the promises made when people join, will stand out for their authentic commitment. Among the mix of benefits a firm can provide to support people development, by offering coaching support which is also focused on strengthening employee wellbeing – as well as being about improving their results – leaders can send a powerful message about how seriously their people are taken.