How does coaching support organizations through crisis?

As the world is going through unprecedented times, many organizations have had to re-think their working practice, teams’ structure, and even their business model. How can organizations get the support they need to navigate these changes and uncertainties? Professor Erik de Haan, Director of the Center for Coaching at Hult Ashridge, has an answer.

There have been many studies that show that coaching can support organizations and employees during moments of change and transition. It has been shown that coaching, both by leaders and by external coaches, can have a measurable impact on business results and personal effectiveness.

A lot of the research over the years has been showing enhanced 360-feedback scores: peers, managers, and self-scores tended to improve with coaching over and above those same ratings for the control group of managers who did not receive coaching. Moreover, coaching seems to produce demonstrably increased self-motivation and resilience as a significant outcome in many studies.

I would like to quote some of the best studies published over the last decade which are not so well known with business managers and even some of the coaches themselves. Three of the best studies show that there is a lot of evidence that coaching can help in times of stress and pressures – here are some examples from three of the best research articles:

1. Coaching can help you with efficiency: e.g. in call centers, operators who have the benefit of regular coaching conversations with their supervisors, make net time savings of a couple of minutes on their 1000 calls at the end of the day, despite the additional time that they need to be coached on the job. (Liu et al., 2008). These small savings add up to very considerable ones over time, making $18 per month per supervisor over and above the additional cost for coaching!

2. Coaching can also help with sales: pharma reps achieve about 10% better goals achievement on average if their manager was skilled at coaching (Dahling et al., 2015).

3. Coaching can also help with coping when you are in transition: it has been shown that preventative coaching helps to increase life and work satisfaction but also helps to reduce absence through sickness days during the year, with around 15% (Duijts et al., 2008)

My own recent work has demonstrated coaching effectiveness through the eyes of senior managers, their coaches, and their line managers alike (De Haan et al., 2019), as compared with the scores for our randomized control group. This research was done with senior female managers in a large pharma corporation. One of the most remarkable outcomes of the study was that when we measured personality characteristics before and after the six months of executive coaching, there were two significant and beneficial effects on personality derailers in leadership, something that is highly relevant at top levels of organizational leadership:

-Executive coaching made a progressive, significant effect on the following personality aspects: Prudence went up and Excitable overdrive patterns went down significantly with coaching and only with coaching. These are some first indications that executive coaching can have a positive effect even on personality. This result seems to say that effective coaching has a small but significant calming, balancing, and responsibility-enhancing effect on personality.

Taken together, these research results indicate that executive coaching makes a difference in sustaining and making the most of profound change – just like general fitness does or mindfulness meditation. If you have been coached, you probably know this already.

But if you haven’t, and your life and work have just been profoundly affected by a crisis, coaching can help make a difference. “Crisis” in ancient Greek means judgment, decision, or turning point – traditionally a judgment made of you, that you cannot influence, e.g. by the Greek gods. In my view, our only answer to such a tough situation is to rebalance, reflect, and re-emerge stronger. And that’s exactly what coaching can help you do.

Professor Erik de Haan is the Director of Hult Ashridge's Centre for Coaching with over twenty-five years of experience in organizational and personal development.

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