Company Coaching

Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Malcolm Nicholson, ICN journalist (UK).

The last two decades have seen a cascading of business coaching out of the C-suite offices to C-Suite teams, leaders and leadership teams and more recently the awareness in enlightened organisations that a coaching culture within the business actually works. There is also a continuing cascade from FTSE companies to medium and small enterprises and public and third sector organisations. There is also a greater synergy with mentoring (see Executive Coaching: Transforming an Employee into a Leader – Enter the Mentoring Coach by Gary R. Gasaway in edition 20 of ICN) and a richer palette of interventions required by businesses.

The change from ‘spot interventions’ – with a chosen or self-selected key individual –  to larger programmes, has typically focussed on impacting business results by changing individual (or small groups) behaviours.  As the UK journalist for ICN, I am always on the lookout for individuals or companies that are ‘moving the dial’ as far as the coaching industry is concerned. Consequently, I recently spoke with Mark Baxter, Principal and Company Coaching Service Lead at Coachdirectors. Mark and CoachDirectors have developed a methodology called Company Coaching, which takes a standard coach’s tool – 360 feedback – and applies it through both an internal and external lens to identify gaps between aspiration and capability at a company-wide level. This then focuses on optimising the operating model of an entire business to build momentum and drive sustainable value to the whole organisation.

Mark explained ‘This is coaching where we treat ‘the company’ – that is the group of people who are working together in an enterprise – as the client. At the core, like most executive coaches, we are seeking to create a shift in belief patterns and behaviours to enable people to become more effective in their work environment. But our focus is on creating an overall shift in the collective performance to generate more productivity and profit more effectively and more easily.’

He continued by describing a number of mindset issues that are experienced by owners of businesses that they have grown from startup. ‘Typically, we find that SME clients focus most of their attention on the production and delivery of their product or service to their clients and define themselves by their trade or profession. But at source, what all businesses have in common is that they are seeking to manage their costs, generate revenue and increase the gap between the two, to generate profit. To do so business owners will generally attach most of their attention to doing what they know from when they started their business, by driving sales and productivity.’

Mark and Coach directors have found that this approach often limits the business owner, who become so locked into a boiler-room frame of mind that they seldom move above decks or onto the bridge of their business vessel, to focus on running the business rather chasing sales. It is less easy for them to move away from the familiar and apply their attention to managing the facets of their business that they do not recognise and/or where they lack the relevant insights and abilities. ‘These effects are compounded by a lack of general access on the market to clear and coherent management development tools designed specifically for the SME, rather than borrowed from the corporate sphere. It is also true that SME business owners are less interested in the theory of management taught in MBAs and are more receptive to practical tools they can access easily and apply to practical effect. And above all, SME business owners are only interested in what is going to have a tangible effect of making their lives easier and making the organisation better.’

Mark explained the Coach Directors Company Coaching approach in more detail. ‘To meet this need, we use a coherent set of commercially focused coaching tools to help business owners and their teams to understand the full set of levers they can use to run their businesses more effectively, without resorting to ‘management-speak’. These tools are clear, accessible and above all practical. This means that we can work at board and management level, as well as cascading the application and use of our coaching tools through the business and touch the majority of staff.’

‘We have tried and tested interventions which we use to challenge individual business leaders and their teams to step up and realise their potential. We take the lead from them and their teams’ technical expertise and know-how and we build into the team an equal level of commercial management expertise and know-how which enables the business to grow. By growing the teams’ business skills, their company continues to receive value from us long after our intervention with them is complete. We work ‘company-wide’ with progressive organisations of all shapes and sizes and we challenge them to ‘step-up’ to the task of realising the full potential of their business.’

‘In general, we work with a client starts with a fact-finding Company 360 process, where we diagnose the key inputs that we can help the client to modify to create the change they wish to see for their business. This generates a metric which helps us to explain the skills gap which has brought about the corresponding gap between their aspirations and their current business performance.’

The Company Coaching methodology, then assesses the business management abilities across twelve key areas of activity, looking at four important areas that require constant attention through three-time horizons; Today, Tomorrow and Future: Three areas involve ‘what’ the company focuses on; Direction is about the future state of the company. The design is about resource built for tomorrow. Deliver is about market activity today. The fourth area, Drive, focuses on ‘how’ a company operates; the management aspects. With this, they assess, and then embed, commercial know-how into a business in twenty significant areas to five degrees of depth.

‘We combine this with a further benchmarking exercise, to establish the management team’s levels of abilities across 8 related facets of leadership’, illustrated below.

Mark gave an example of a recent successful intervention with a business. ‘We have been working with a family-owned construction business which is in its second generation of management by family members. When we met them, their turnover had flattened at £4 million and they were making consistent losses of £300,000 and had lost their mojo. There was a lot of stress throughout the organisation and the CEO was reluctant to take on any more business because the pressure of handling their current order book was already too much for him to handle.’

‘Over the first year of our engagement, we supported the leadership team to create a vision of the future to take the business to its third-generation of management, whilst at the same time supporting them in designing their pathway to realise their new and tangible ambition. We have coached the leaders of the business and have now delivered a coaching-based productivity framework into the business over the last year.’

‘The effect has been to support the business leaders in rebuilding their confidence in their ability to create a better future. It has also created an increase in turnover from £4 million-£6 million and to reverse the losses into an equivalent profit of £300,000. On the basis of their first year ROI, client engagement is high and we expect to be working with them until we have transferred sufficient management abilities to make our service redundant.’

CoachDirectors Company Coaching approach now has a range of case studies that highlight their ability to deliver tangible commercial benefits that can be measured by the client and demonstrate clear return on investment from their coaching fees. The approach challenges clients to step up and realise the latent value that exists within their enterprise.

‘Our Company Coaching approach helps our clients to raise their game and raise their revenues and profits as well. It also supports the development of a range of management abilities that may be missing in the client’s repertoire of skills, which are preventing them from realising their commercial and personal aims.’

So, is this Company Coaching the panacea for SME businesses? Well, from my discussions it seems that if not a panacea, CoachDirectors have a robust methodology that is taking the coaching process forward. It is in line with the trends of expanding the footprint of coaching in organisations, yet expanding it in a pragmatic and results orientated way that is having a big impact on client companies.

About Malcolm Nicholson

Malcolm Nicholson is the owner and Coaching Director for Aspecture, and has worked successfully with a wide range of senior business people for over 15 years, enabling them to improve business results through transformational changes. To find out how he can help your organisation contact him at or on +44 1932 267597.

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