Business Coaching: How to develop your people

Coaching is everywhere and is a hot topic at the moment in the business world.  But why is this so and is there any evidence to support that coaching in fact does make a real difference in developing potential, instilling accountability and improving productivity in our organisations?

So, what exactly are we talking about when we hear the word “Coaching”?

There are many forms and methodologies of coaching out there and the most common types are Sports, Life and Executive coaching. Coaching is actually not a new concept and has been around for quite a while. The origin of the term ‘Coaching” appeared in the late 1880's where it was used within the sporting profession and quite often to this day when we think of Coaching we will link straight back to sports. During the 18th century the social sciences emerged and along with it the field of Psychology where Coaching ultimately has its roots. Over the next century, Psychology evolved from Freudian theory, Behaviourism through to the Humanistic movement in the 1960's which advised employers that people needed to be treated well at work – a bit alarming that it took to the 1960's before we worked that out! Business Coaching then started to emerge in the literature with articles being published and books appearing on the book shelves on how to improve performance through Coaching. From there this new phenomenon spread and the development of the coaching industry has been huge ever since.

What is Business Coaching?

The Worldwide Association for Business Coaching defines coaching as: “Business coaching is the process of engaging in regular, structured conversation with a "client": an individual or team who is within a business, profit or non-profit organization, institution or government and who is the recipient of business coaching. The goal is to enhance the client’s awareness and behaviour so as to achieve business objectives for both the client and their organization”.

Zeus & Skiffington, 2000 nicely sum it up as “a way to develop people, to enable more effective performance and fulfillment of potential".

Is Business Coaching effective?

Well that depends on what you are measuring. It goes without saying that Business Coaching has now become a must in the corporate world and organisations have realised that they cannot progress unless they have coaching as part of their strategic development. In the US, between 25% and 40% of US Fortune 500 companies regularly use the services of external executive coaches, with similar rates reported in Europe and Australia (International Coach Federation, 2007). Within organisations, human resource and organisational development professionals are expected to act as internal performance coaches as part of their every-day role (Hamlin, Ellinger, & Beattie, 2008).

There have been a variety of studies and meta-analyses conducted that have revealed some positive benefits to Coaching. Two recent meta-analyses have reported on the overall effectiveness of Coaching. Theeboom et al. (2014) found that coaching had moderate and positive impacts on individual-level performance and skills, well-being, coping, work attitudes and goal-directed self-regulation. They concluded that Coaching is an effective intervention in organisations. Jones et al. (2014) further reported that Coaching also has a greater impact on performance compared with other popular workplace development tools.

Another study found that coaching increased levels of self-efficacy (self-efficacy is the belief in one's ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task. One's sense of self-efficacy can play a major role in how one approaches goals, tasks, and challenges) which not only had benefits to the individual being coached but also to the organisation.  These benefits included improved communication, job satisfaction, quality of work produced, flexibility, performance and accountability. Some of the coachees comments that came out of this particular qualitative study were:

“Through the coaching I have received I have learned to turn threats or barriers into opportunities"

"I can now go into different places that I do not know and feel OK about myself and that I can deal with whatever comes with it."

An additional study discovered that Coaching was a very effective development tool for leadership development especially with producing financial and intangible benefits to the business. Benefits included improved decision making, team performance and motivation.  Productivity in some cases improved by 60% and employee satisfaction by 53%.

How does Business Coaching develop potential instill accountability and improve productivity?

This is not a linear process! And certainly, does not happen in just one session. One of the main areas coaches target is self-awareness because self-awareness is the catalyst by which growth occurs. Without this first step of realisation individuals are unable to progress and improve on their developmental areas. Part of self-awareness is developing an understanding of our emotions and how they work. Self-regulation which is the awareness of one’s emotions brings about discipline to control those emotions. A Coach will help the coachee move along a path of greater self-control which will ultimately lead to improvements in engagement, accountability and increased performance.

Additionally, when your mind grows in one area there is the tendency for expansion to flow over into other areas, therefore there is a boost in cognition which paves the way for a flexible mindset. As an individual starts to see these changes and experiences some wins the adrenaline and then the motivation starts to kick in. It’s this motivation that can lift a person up to the next level and stretch further than they have before.

How do you get the right coach?

This comes down to personal preference as there are a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds who coach. The industry is unfortunately not regulated at this stage, so you do have educate yourself in who to look for as coaching can be a significant investment especially for small businesses. There are a range of accreditation organisations available that people can do training through. If you are choosing to go externally (which has added benefits) there are a range of individuals who are dedicated full time coaches. Some have had various backgrounds with a variety of industry experience to draw from.  Psychologists are also now moving into the coaching arena bringing their highly tuned skills into the business context.

When searching for the right coach rapport and the connection is vital. If you don’t have that, the effectiveness of the coaching intervention will be impacted. Alongside checking out their industry experience and qualifications, one other thing to consider and check out is if they also have a coach? Due to the industry being unregulated it is important that the coach puts in place checks and balances for themselves so that they are coaching in a way that is not only affective but also safe.

Blog by Bridget Jelley


Anderson, M. C. (2001). Executive briefing: Case study on the return on investment of executive coaching. Retrieved March, 12, 2008.

Leonard-Cross, E. (2010). Developmental coaching: Business benefit–fact or fad? An evaluative study to explore the impact of coaching in the workplace. International Coaching Psychology Review, 5(1), 36-47.

Hamlin, R.G., Ellinger, A.D., & Beattie, R.S. (2009). Toward a Profession of Coaching? A Definitional Examination of ‘Coaching,’ Organisation Development,’ and ‘Human Resource Development’. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 7(1), 1338.

Theeboom, T., Beersma, B., & van Vianen, A. E. (2014). Does coaching work? A meta-analysis on the effects of coaching on individual level outcomes in an organizational context. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 9(1), 1-18.

Zeus, P., & Skiffington, S. (2000). The complete guide to coaching at work. McGraw Hill Professional.