Meeting the needs of Organisations and Clients in Coaching

Coaching will always present a problem, a dilemma of some sort, an issue that needs serious consideration in order to find the right solution. Sometimes that issue will be for the coachee to solve, other times it will be for the coach themselves, in the case of the latter, one of the biggest issues is balancing the needs of one (the coachee) with another (their organisation). This is never simple as what a coachee feels they need to focus on may not always align with their organisation.

Meeting the needs of Organisations and Clients in Coaching

Systems thinking is the view that all things are connected and that the relationships between them and not the things themselves are the primary determinates of desirable or undesirable outcomes, Blakey and Day (2012). For a coach to be successful they of course have to aid in the development of the coachee, but it is very rare indeed when the development of a coachee does not impact others. Be it family, friends, co-workers or the organisation that they work in, there is a constant battle to ensure that the needs of both parties are being met.

A coachee may well have a clear plan of how they wish to proceed and have the determination to carry it through, but if they cannot see how this plan affects others then it could be doomed to ultimately fail. If those around them do not appreciate the changes being made and the organisation does not benefit either then the situation could even be made worse.

By taking the system think approach laid out by Blakey and Day, a coach is duty bound to consider the wider impact of their work. They break this down into different levels to consider:

  • Sub-optimisation. This is when a coach treats the coachee as just one person and not part of a wider organisation, we must understand that the actions of one person can have far reaching affects across the whole team/company/organisation. To allow one person or one sub system to set goals at the expense of the wider group is known as sub-optimisation.
  • Emergence. Understanding that small changes in just one area can have far reaching consequences across the whole company is vital as a coach. We must always consider the results of decisions we make with clients.
  • Fractals This is understanding that whatever level of a company we are engaged at, we are seeing the company as a whole. The attitudes and behaviours we witness will no doubt be replicated throughout the wider team.
  • Leverage Points. This refers to specific points in time where decisions could have dramatic consequences or identifying key stakeholders who hold influence over the team as a whole. Or even realising that the group have inherited limiting beliefs that are restricting the very development they are trying to achieve. Using these leverage points can lead to real positive change if used wisely.

This approach, suggested by Blakey and Day, highlights the need to always consider the individual and the organisation as almost one and the same, understanding that changing one, will impact the other and that, as coaches, we must understand the ramifications or our actions.

Another approach is to try and inculcate a coaching culture within an organisation, ensuring that everyone in the team is always thinking of how things can be improved or why they are done a certain way. If the organisation has a positive coaching culture, then this kind of behaviour would be welcomed and not challenged as disruptive or unwanted and confrontational. If the whole team are focussed and have the same goal, then great things can happen, with people being developed along with the organisation.

Imagine an organisation where people spent their time identifying better ways of doing things and felt completely comfortable in challenging their colleagues, their managers and themselves to think through why things are done in a certain way or how they could be done differently. You can easily picture how an organisation could go from strength to strength. Jones & Gorell (2014).

The key message here is that the needs of one should not outweigh the needs of another. But both should be given credence and the impact of any decision measured and the results used to guide the coach and the coachee on any future decision they make.

Action Point

Consider the points above when conducting future coaching sessions. Ask your coachees to identify the second and third order affects of their chosen path.

Referenced techniques


Return on Investment

If an organisation decides to invest in a coaching programme, it is good practice to ensure that the effectiveness of coaching is evaluated. Return on Investment (ROI) is the straightforward ratio of money made (or saved) divided by the cost of the activity.


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