July 2012

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Written by Elizabeth Eyre on 1 July 2012 in Magazine

The leadership issue

This month it will be the Olympics. Now this may come as news to those of you who have been too busy fighting goblins in the Mines of Moria for the past few years to keep abreast of current affairs but, yes, in a very short while, top-class athletes from all over the world will be coming to the UK to compete for those coveted medals.

And, just as the competitors have no doubt been taking their training up a level recently, in preparation for (hopefully) the performance of their lives later this month, the PR and L&D industries have been upping their game and sending out a truly impressive number of press releases with an Olympics theme.

This former top athlete has joined that training provider (and can turn your employees into workplace Olympians for a very reasonable fee), Mr Such-And-Such of  This, That and The Other Training has some words of wisdom to impart about something only very tenuously linked to the Games (and hopes it will get him some free publicity) and various solicitors think it would be a good idea to have a policy on whether your employees can watch the Olympics at work.

The list goes on but the theme is generally how to get people in organisations to perform like top athletes.

The latest Olympics-themed press release to land on my desk was one on behalf of a training provider, asking why organisations don't use coaching as effectively as world-class athletes do. On the face of it that's a reasonable enough question but it got me thinking about the different approaches to coaching taken in the corporate and sporting worlds, and what it is meant to achieve.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my idea of a sports coach - especially for athletes - is someone who is employed to focus exclusively on the performance of one person (or team), giving them very explicit instructions about how they should train, what they should eat, how they should take care of their bodies, what strategy they should employ during the event itself to ensure the best possible result. The coach uses his experience, skills and preferred methodology to help the athlete achieve peak performance at just the right time.

A corporate coach, on the other hand, is someone who facilitates improved performance by asking questions and enabling people to find their own answers. I think it's generally accepted that coaches shouldn't give their clients explicit instructions about what to do (unless the coachee asks for some, of course).

The corporate coach also uses his experience, skills and preferred methodology to unlock peak performance, but in a less prescriptive and all-encompassing way.

So I do ask myself whether there actually is a valid comparison to be drawn between corporate and sports coaching - could you use the methods employed by sports coaches in an organisational setting and get beneficial results? Or is it just so much PR flummery to even suggest it?

I don't think sports coaching could be successfully applied to organisations. What do you think?

Elizabeth Eyre, editor




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