Coaching is increasingly recognised as a core leadership skill in a modern organisation. We speak to Jan Bowen-Nielsen from Quiver Management about why coaching has become so popular and some of the potential pitfalls of implementing a coaching culture in your organisation.

Despite the economic downturn, when normally companies disinvest in training and development, coaching is on the up. A 2012 survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) on the UK market showed a 3% rise in the use of coaches by organisations over a three-year period.

A 2015 international survey of coaching by Price Waterhouse Cooper and the International Coach Federation said that three-quarters of coaches were optimistic about their business growth over the coming year.

So what’s happening in the business world that makes coaching a must? Here Jan talks to us about new trends and how his company implements a coaching culture.

We’d first like to ask you how has the business coaching industry has evolved in recent years?

Executive or business coaching is a maturing market in the UK, USA and across much of Europe. Most organisations recognise the benefits of coaching and are now encouraging their line managers to use a coaching style. This change is driving the current growth in awareness of coaching.

Today coaching is less about helping underperformance, and more about taking people to the next level in their career.

Coaching is also becoming more mainstream, helping middle managers and other staff. Managers are trained to use coaching as part of their style, it’s being applied to business growth and ‘health coaching’ is being used for patients in the NHS. So, the coaching approach is now finding many positive outlets.

Coaching is not a protected term. Anyone can call themselves a coach. But the professional bodies are becoming increasingly important in helping businesses ask for the right qualifications and credentials. They are right to do this because coaching is not an easy discipline and it takes a lot of skill and training to do it well.

What attracted you to founding a coaching company?

I come from a corporate background with senior management roles in the UK, Europe and America, including a CEO role for an international business in the USA. My expertise is in initiating and leading strategic change initiatives.

When I returned to the UK in 2002, I set-up a change consultancy, called JBBI, together with a business partner, where we combined executive coaching and change consultancy. We were one of the first to deliver this combination, and as a consequence, we were invited to speak at UK and international conferences. I was also invited onto the Advisory Board of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC).

However, my vision was to spread the benefits of coaching beyond senior executives. I wanted to bring ‘coaching to the heart of leadership.’ I could see huge potential if we could encourage line managers within organisations to coach and develop their team members to increase performance. So we designed and put together a practical coaching training programme for leaders accredited by EMCC. The relatively short programme is designed to be practical, relevant and embed coaching skills into a leader’s daily working environment. It has been highly successful and a cornerstone of our business ever since.

Since we were founded, we’ve grown as a team and have 17 coaches, trainers and consultants spread across the UK. All our coaches are qualified and very experienced business leaders. Our client list includes well-known corporates such as Standard Life, Scottish Water, Tesco Bank, NATS, HP, Macquarie Bank, Fujitsu and Lloyds Banking Group.

If you were talking to a company now, what would you argue are the core benefits of coaching for organisations?

We all know that the old ‘command and control’ style of management is becoming outdated in the 21st Century. Research also shows that the Millennial generation, who are now becoming a dominant part of the workforce, expects a coaching style of leadership.

Coaching helps individuals become more self-aware, resourceful, better at making decisions and being more efficient. It can help to grow the individual’s confidence, their impact and their feeling of being heard and valued. And all this contributes to better performance and initiative, freeing up the leader’s time to develop their role in strategy and business development.

How do you go about creating a coaching culture?

We assess whether a coaching culture is right for the business. To be successful, we need to ensure that the business has sufficient priority and resources, so linking the activities to key organisational priorities is essential.

Commitment from the senior leadership team is very important. They need to be role models for what ‘good’ looks like, demonstrably change their own approach, and be actively and consistently engaged in the culture change.

We will then roll-out a high-quality practical coaching skills development programme to train all people managers and other key people in coaching. Coaching is not an easy discipline, so several days of training is required. To ensure that the skills become embedded in their work environment, we also provide supervision support.

In addition, we help our clients align performance management processes, so coaching becomes a style that is prioritised, evaluated and expected.

Alongside the coaching skills training, we sometimes add other leadership skills training such as change management, motivation and appraisal conversation skills.

Are there any pitfalls to avoid when introducing coaching culture?

As with any cultural change, there are many potential pitfalls, but let me give you a few.

If there is not a clear business rationale for the new coaching culture, one that is understood both by senior management and the wider organisation, it will not get the priority it needs.

One of the clear signs of senior management commitment is whether they do the training themselves and fully embrace the new coaching style. If their mindset is that everyone else needs to change and that they don’t have the time, then the likelihood of transforming the culture is severely diminished.

Too often leaders underestimate the level of investment needed to acquire the new skills, to be an effective coach with real impact. A short one-day training workshop and then leaving them to it is far from enough.

Making coaching your dominant style is even more challenging: it needs to become the new habit, not something you do once a month behind closed doors. If you only listen to and help your team members find their own solutions once a month, but the rest of the time you tell them what to do, your people will stop believing in your intentions.

What makes Quiver Management ideally placed to help organisations develop a coaching culture?

Our experience, the fact that we are at the heart of innovating business practices and the professional regulation of the coaching industry, explains why companies come to us. We are at our best when helping clients to develop a coaching culture. Seeing organisations adopt new practices, with benefits of improved morale and business results is incredibly rewarding.

And we have had some outstanding success stories which have attracted national media attention, and have so far won a number of awards for our work.

We’ve witnessed first hand that organisations work for the better when a coaching culture in in place. That’s why we do what we do.

Quiver Management has been awarded Business Worldwide Magazine’s Global Excellence Award in the category of Best Executive Coaching Consultancy Company – UK.