It’s no secret that while budgets are stabilising, they are still relatively tight. It’s also no secret that when cost reduction is a key priority, one of the areas that – rightly or wrongly – tends to be neglected is people development. This is sadly counterproductive. It’s during the leaner and more challenging times, more than ever, that you need your teams to be working at maximum capacity. Developing your people not only enhances their skills, but also empowers and motivates them, ultimately creating a more productive workforce.

So how can you continue to effectively develop your people without putting a heavy dent in your budget? One extremely powerful approach is through coaching. By developing a coaching culture within your organisation, you enable people to come up with their own solutions, developing their skills and knowledge without having to send them on a paid-for training course every time. Coaching can also help make sure L&D budgets are being spent in the most relevant and effective way possible, because it identifies specific development needs. Ultimately it creates a more self-reliant workforce, which frees up more time for managers to focus on other things. Be sure to download our guide to coaching your sales team.

Doug Chapman, L&D Consultant at Thales Learning & Development, summarises it well:

“By enabling a proper two-way dialogue between managers and staff, coaching does three things,” he says. “It raises awareness in individuals, it enables them to make choices by giving them options, and it prompts them to take responsibility for their own development. It also helps identify true training needs, which means organisations don’t have to take such a ‘broad brush’ approach to L&D.”

But how do you implement that culture?

According to Matt Driscoll, Management and Leadership L&D Consultant at Thales Learning & Development, who uses coaching in many of his learning interventions, it can be as simple as asking questions.

“Coaching is all about empowering people and getting them to think,” he says. “If people come to their managers with problems, those managers should always be asking questions – ‘Why?’ ‘How can we resolve this?’ That is essentially the required behaviour for a successful coaching culture. Even if managers were to invest just two minutes of their time into asking the right questions, they could empower individuals to come to their own conclusions.”

Who should be a coach?

If you are looking to embed coaching within your organisation, you may be wondering where this capability would be best placed. Which managers would benefit most from the skill, or which teams would benefit most from having a manager with coaching abilities?

Matt Driscoll doesn’t believe it should be a case of singling out specific managers or leaders within the business, but rather a trait that exists throughout. “Every leader or manager should be a coach,” he says. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to have had formal coaching training. An effective, low-cost solution could be to provide managers with key coaching texts, such as ‘Coaching for Performance’ by Sir John Whitmore, or setting up a peer support network.”

Coaching within our own business

Having seen the benefits of coaching on many of the organisations we work with, we’ve actually taken steps to implement that capability within our own business. Dale Kirk, Principle Consultant at Thales Learning & Development, recently worked with a number of our L&D consultants and senior staff, helping them develop their own coaching skills. The results have been incredibly positive. Most importantly, there has been a noticeable, lasting impact on both managers and individuals.

Speaking about the benefits of the sessions, Mandy Smithson, Head of Business Development at Thales Learning and Development, who was one of the attendees, said:

“As a manager, it’s great to have a wide range of tools to choose from. Through coaching, I can enable my team to take personal responsibility and feel empowered in a high-pressure environment. It gives them a sense of ownership.”

What do you think? How powerful is coaching when it comes to empowering employees and developing skills, knowledge and confidence? Could your organisation benefit from a coaching culture?