An epiphany or just working out what everyone else already knew? After reflecting on my coaching journey so far, a big question intrigued me…

Why have I had a career of 25 years and never understood Coaching before?

And if I am like this, how many of my peers are in similar positions? I recall the debates about why members of talent programmes, and their sponsors, consistently failed to engage with coaching opportunities. Was it because there was no context for Coaching, no clear and present problem which needed to be solved.

Do Organisations not get Coaching either?

Why would this be?

Coaching provides a framework to support individuals’ exploration of issues, challenges or opportunities, and help identify options to determine a way forward.

Organisation proclaim they want free thinking, well-motivated people supporting their customers’ needs – innovations remains an oft-repeated aim. But the reality I have experienced (typical in times of stress, when perhaps the truth of an Organisation’s values and behaviours are seen) is that what is rewarded and encouraged is the execution of tasks in a predictable and repetitive manner.

So is Coaching needed to improve effective and efficient delivery of simple repetitive tasks? Would that be Coaching or Instruction?

Perhaps Organisations want a paradox – free-thinking, innovative individual who always do what is expected. If the behaviours exhibited in an organisation are those individuals judge the reward (in its broadest definition) to be the highest, then you need to overtly rewarding innovation and free-thinking as well as completing tasks – the how you do something as well as what gets done.

If this does not feel like your organisation what can you do? The maturity of an Organisation, its culture and the experience of its managers and leaders are the factors which limits the development of their people.

We know from experience that complex organisations resist change, tending to reinvent themselves in their own image – the individuals within the hierarchy of the organisation drive this behaviour, either consciously or not. It takes an exceptional (in many senses of this word) individual, with active and equally brave followers, to start a movement which results in lasting change. Not easy then!

Does this have any reflection on me – after all I was in a single organisation (or at least a part of it) for 25 years? Clearly it does. I know now I was not as great a coach as I imagined. I may have thought of myself as different – but whilst I encouraged people to think for themselves, did I just encourage them to think for themselves in the way I wanted them to think?

Mark Slocombe is a Director of BLMS Consulting

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