Who Coaches The Coach?

Who Coaches The Coach?

Coaching, and to a lesser extent, mentoring, are essential skills of the competent leader and manager, who uses these skills to develop and engage staff in order to achieve higher levels of performance. But who coaches the coach? Being the leader of an SME can be a lonely place!

Whilst the coaching of staff by managers is very much an internal process, because of the need to discuss confidential, personal and often highly sensitive matters, the coaching of owner-managers is usually more effective as an external process with an independent coach. Yet some owner-managers remain sceptical of the positive outcomes of coaching. Here are some examples of what can be achieved.

A more engaging owner-manager
This highly successful, solvent, world-class, owner-managed company, operated in a highly specialised niche market in the electronic games market. Although most of the staff were very highly knowledgeable and skilled, few had managerial skills. The owner produced, without consultation, an extremely ambitious three-year development plan, which the staff felt was beyond the resources of the company to deliver and would bring them into direct competition with some of the industry’s giants. As a result there was considerable staff unrest, which the owner did not seem to understand, and the loss of two senior staff.

The client’s needs were clearly to have a challenging but realistic business plan that could be resourced without excessive risk and which the staff could fully buy in to.

After several difficult sessions with the owner where we reviewed the realism of his plan in some depth, we eventually came up with something challenging but realistic. We then persuaded him to discuss this with his staff before finalising the plan. This took place over two sessions which we facilitated, and resulted in some modifications, mainly to detail. Twelve months later, the company has had a record year and levels of staff engagement have never been higher.

Confidence to delegate without losing overall control
The business was founded in 1999 by a husband and wife team and has since grown rapidly to comprise five full-time nurseries, four term-time breakfast clubs and six holiday clubs employing over 150 people.

The wife took on operational responsibility for managing the child care facilities, including staff training, whilst the husband took responsibility for finance, administration and business development. In 2009 they decided that they would like to withdraw from involvement in the day to day running of the business in order to focus on other business interests. However, they felt that the organisation and structure of the business was not sufficiently robust for them to simply withdraw and be confident that it would be managed efficiently and effectively.

By working with the couple, we were able to understand their fears and concerns and go on to develop an organisational structure, including the definition of roles, responsibilities and reporting procedures, that gave them the confidence to step back and had the full support of the staff.