I’m very happy to post an interview with professor David Clutterbuck who kindly agreed to come to visit Lithuanian coaches at ICF Lithuania annual conference (2011 10 12)

Professor David Clutterbuck is one of Europe’s most prolific and well-known management writers and thinkers. He has written more than 40 books and hundreds of articles on cutting edge management themes. Co-founder of The European Mentoring Centre and of The item Group ( a leading provider of internal communication solutions ), David also runs a thriving international consultancy, Clutterbuck Associates, which specialises in helping people in organisations develop the skills to help others. David is perhaps best-known in recent years for his work on mentoring and coaching, on which he consults around the world. His books on mentoring are numerous, and ‘Everyone needs a mentor’ has become a classic piece of management literature since it was first published in 1985.

Is coaching a modern learning initiative or kind of a fiction created by consultants? Modern developmental coaching is a relatively new kid on the block.It owes its origins totraditional coaching, as in sports, to developmental mentoring and to a wide range of psychological and therapeutic disciplines. Because of this genetic diversity, there are many approaches to coaching, and numerous organisations representing different schools of coaching.

Coaching is a popular word in organisations…what are the key factors for organisations to develop if they want to establish coaching culture? Coaching is a mindset rather than a set of processes. The processes are simply there to support the learning relationship. Some of the most important steps an organisation can take include:

· Develop a coaching and mentoring strategy

· Measure progress towards becoming a coaching culture

· Make sure top management become role models for coaching and for being coached

· Ensure all managers have the basic skills to coach

· Ensure all employees have an understanding of how to be coached

A manager returns from a coaching course and he wants to start coaching in his department…what are the first steps? What would you advise this manager? First, don’t expect your team to welcome being coached. It’s a new and strange – and sometimes uncomfortable – experience. Typically, managers go back to normal behaviour within three days – and that’s that for coaching! You need to help your team understand the value of coaching and engage them in developing a coaching culture together, within the team. Don’t focus coaching initially on remedial issues, or people will avoid being coached. Instead, start by helping them build on their strengths or take advantage of opportunities created by moving into new roles. Don’t expect to do all the coaching yourself – often the best coach is a peer.

There are teams in sports and there are teams in organisations. What are the differencies between sports coach and manager coach (or external coach) when they coach their team? The sports analogy is very dangerous. In sports, teams spend most of their time training and little time actually performing. With the exception of rescue services, such as the fire service, work situations are the opposite. Sports coaching is about winning; work mostly about collaborating. Sports is about doing one narrow task extremely well, with peaks of performance; work is about doing a range of tasks consistently well, but not necessarily at peak performance (that’s too exhausting). Moreover, both sports teams and work teams are not all the same. Some are much more interdependent than others. Make the wrong analogy and it can be very disorienting.

Coaching ROI is rather a mystical figure which does not tell everything about all benefits of coaching…what are those specific benefits for organisation having coaching initiatives established? Coaching is associated with increased employee retention, higher performance (at individual, team and organisational levels), increased employee loyalty and engagement, and higher creativity. Very often external coaches are called in to deal with very specific performance issues. It’s usually quite easy to see if the person has changed. However, the greatest value of the coaching often comes months later as they reflect upon the coaching conversations and longer term, more subtle changes happen in their thinking and understanding of their situation.

What are personal benefits for manager who uses coaching in his daily management routine? Coaching helps you have more honest conversations with your team, who will tell you what you need to know, but which they might otherwise hide from you. It allows you to delegate tasks, so that you can focus on the aspects of your role that add most value, or take on new tasks. It gives peace of mind, knowing that when you are away, your team will make decisions you’d approve of.

Managers say – there is no time for coaching…what is your response? Coaching takes time up front. But for every hour a manager spends coaching, they are estimated to save at least another 8 hours in the following 12 months. Actually, there’s no time not to coach!

What are the main mistakes that managers who coach do? It’s easy as a manager to slip back into parent-child behaviours, being so directive that the coachee can’t open up to you. Equally, being totally non-directive annoys staff, who need some guidance. Some guidelines for managers include:

· Who is doing all the talking? (If it’s the manager, it’s not really coaching!)

· Whose agenda are we following? (coaching focuses on the learner’s agenda, not the coach’s)

· Am I part of the problem or part of the solution? (It’s important to be open to feedback about how you are helping or hindering the learner.)

· Am I rushing to a solution too quickly? (It’s important to understand the learner’s issue before helping them find a solution to it.)

What is the relationship between future leader and coaching? In The Leadership Pipeline, leaders have to pass through several crossroads in their careers, as they take on greater responsibilities. Each of these transitions requires major adjustments in the way they think. Coaching helps them make those adjustments.

What was your biggest personal benefit from coaching? I’ve learnt lots of skills from being coached, in both work and sport. Every year, I seek coaching in something that will really stretch me. Last year it was in how to be a stand up comic! But I get the greatest benefit from coaching other people. Helping them work through their issues makes me reflect, teaches me patience, respect and a variety of other qualities that contribute to becoming a more rounded, more integrated human being.

What is one the major insights you came across during your career in coaching? There are so many, but one that stands out is the power of doing nothing at all – of helping someone think, simply by being there. Another is the value of powerful questions. I collect these and hundreds I can call upon.

In order to have a masterful coaching conversation, what is the most important attitude or skill a coach must have or do? There’s no doubt in mind that the key attribute of a coach is the combination of respect, humility and curiosity. By curiosity I don’t mean voyeurism. I mean curiosity on behalf of the client. Wanting to understand their context and perspectives, in order to help them understand themselves, so they can be creative in thinking about the issues and opportunities around them.

Coaching in 5-7 years, what are the perspectives of this profession? We will see increasing professionalization. Supervision will be required for any professional coach – ideally by a properly qualified coaching supervisor. Executive coaching will move increasingly to internal coaches and more organisations will seek to add value by integrating their internal and external coaching resources. In many countries, there is an oversupply of coaches – the less effective are likely to fall out of the profession.

David, you’ve done a tremendous work for development of coaching and mentoring, would you like to share your future plans about coaching and mentoring? Any new books, theories, practices? We have 3 new books coming out in this area over the coming months. One focuses on the different styles and practices of supervision. This has contributions from most of the leaders in the field. One explores the use of mentoring to support diversity objectives. It looks at programmes to support initiatives around gender, race/ culture, and disability. The third looks at the role of goals in coaching and concludes that concentrating too heavily on goals at the start of a coaching relationship or a coaching conversation can be highly dysfunctional. Many times the goal emerges, or changes radically with the coaching conversation. In some cases, deciding on a goal may actually be the outcome of coaching.

What is one piece of wisdom you would kindly share with Lithuanian coaches? Many coaches assume that, once they have a basic qualification as a coach, they have arrived. Actually, this is just the start of a lifelong learning journey. Effective coaches are constantly evolving in their practice, their knowledge and their mindset.

This post is also available in: Lithuanian

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