“Coaching is a luxury we can’t afford”

The title of this post is a direct quote from a recent training participant. This person works in a scientific environment and was taking part in leadership training in order to prepare for a new role as a cross-functional team leader. Let’s explore….


Defining coaching
“Helping other people to find their own answers to their own answers to their own questions”

…vs mentoring
“Giving answers to questions asked by people”


According to the literature and my own experience, coaching has several clear benefits:

  • Mike Noble, in T+D Magazine (March 2012) says that coaching leads to sustainable long term results and accelerates development towards higher performance
  • In my experience, retention and satisfaction or staff in an organisation improves due to personal development + motivation
  • John Whitmore (founder of the GROW model for coaching) argues that people will learn to think for themselves, taking responsibility for their own solutions
  • Coaching is in line with Dan Pink’s 21st century view on motivation and the human need for autonomy, mastery and purpose


In training, the argument against coaching (supported by several participants) was that “we don’t have time for coaching people. Our job (as team leader) is to ensure the work is done on time and to quality. We are assigned people to work on the project and it’s not our role to develop them.”


Coaching IS an investment on the long-term…

A directive non-coaching approach to leadership is right when people are starting up with regard to a task and don’t have the necessary knowledge and skills to help themselves. BUT when people have the ability to figure things out for themselves, coaching can be an excellent approach to build responsibility and initiative.

BUT it takes time!




In the above figure, we see the non-coaching approach to helping employees perform. In a given time-frame, many deliverables are achieved quickly.

In the following figure, a coaching approach to supporting employees is used:




This image (not literally) of coaching is what led to the initial trainee reaction on coaching: “We dont have time for that. We need to get all TEN things done, now.”

It is clear that the non-coaching approach give more “results” than a coaching approach in the same time-frame . BUT ONLY IF WE ONLY EQUATE RESULTS WITH ACHIEVING TARGETS.

If we equate results with motivation, responsibility, initiative, development, job-satisfaction…. The non-coaching approach doesn’t deliver much at all.


In addition, it is important to note 4 things (in addition to the benefits noted above) that will happen if we continue to coach our people:

  • They will get better in their jobs (develop)
  • They will learn to think for themselves (even applying self-coaching methods)
  • The number of times they come to ask for help will decrease
  • The time to coach will get quicker each time


In this sense, there must be a point at which the investment in coaching starts to pay-off. And THAT is key to this blogpost: Coaching is an investment in long-term development, not short-term results.


In his T+D article, Mike Noble suggests that if you really want to get managers onboard for coaching, convinced of its value and ready to invest, you will need to do 5 key things:

  • Help them understand the value of coaching, by showing them the benefits
  • Develop the coaching skill in the organisation
  • Set clear expectations with regard to coaching (sharing best practices, leading “from the top” with managers that “walk the talk”)
  • Assign people a coach
  • Reward the best coaches with the best jobs


Good luck!