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Coaching at the Heart of Strategy

Coaching at the Heart of Strategy

An excerpt from her newly launched book Lessons from the School of Hard Knocks with a foreword by Noeleen Moholwana Sangqu

Used with permission of the author:
Author: Dr Renate Volpe
5 March 2007

Workinfo.com Human Resources Magazine Volume 1 Issue 5, 2007

Coaching is a platform where people may make and receive meaningful contributions. Whether people are old, young, male or female they fall into two categories under the coaching banner - having something to teach, or wishing to learn.

The dilemma of competence

An organization has a vision and a mission to achieve a specific goal, which in one or another way hopes to contribute to the economy and employment of our people.

The more competence that is brought to the table, in this regard, the better.

There are four levels of competence:

  • Not knowing that I don’t know,
  • Knowing that I don’t know,
  • Knowing that I know
  • Not knowing that I know

Protégées would fall into the first two categories, whereas coaches would fall into the latter two.

In the first category, youth and lack of experience may manifest in a display of arrogance and a ”know it all” attitude. In the “knowing I don’t know” phase, a person is keen and eager to learn from those who know. Your older experienced person may fall into the last two categories, where they know that they know, and may consciously make a choice to develop others.

Alternatively, they are not conscious of just how much life experience they have integrated and therefore never make a conscious choice to invest in the development of others.

Coaching - the solution to the development of competence?

Coaching offers a constructive solution to two dilemmas:

  1. Continued retrenchment of middle aged, experienced people, thereby loosing critical competence.
  2. An inability to deliver, from equity based organizations, due to a lack of experience and knowledge.

Steps in narrowing the divide, between those who don’t know and those who do.

Addressing our world views

Our belief systems influence the way we see the world. What we believe dictates how we will behave. It is therefore important to confront what we believe and understand the implications of this in a particular context.

In an organization where people, who know, are leaving and people who don’t necessarily know, are in positions of delivery, the following examples are relevant:

  • A belief in competition would manifest in thoughts such as “I know what you don’t know, so let me watch you fail you bugger! “
  • A belief in collaboration would result in the following:  “Let me find out what you know, if I can assist, offer you the opportunity of sharing my knowledge and experience, so that you will be able to perform your function more effectively.”

The organization would have to provide an education platform where employees were asked to review their beliefs around scarcity and abundance and collaboration and competition, relative to their continued contribution to the company’s future.

Redefinition of roles and functions

Those who are older, with more experience but vulnerable to retrenchment should undergo a role re-definition into coaches whose function it is to impart competence and skills. A need assessment of competence of younger or equity based employees should be done to determine gaps in competence. A matching of coach and protégé should then occur.

Guidelines for coaches and protégées

A partial spectrum of roles that coaches play appears as follows:

  • As a facilitator, the coach smoothes the way for things to happen
  • As a counselor, he or she acts as a sounding board when clarifying issues.
  • When playing the devil’s advocate, the coach may act as sounding board or advisor whilst the protégée practices presenting arguments or proposals. Whilst managing healthy communication the coach encourages a two – way exchange of information
  • As an advisor, the coach communicates the informal and formal realities of progression within the organization
  • Whilst broking, the coach expands the protégées network of contacts
  • When advocating, the coach may intervene on the protégés’ behalf and represent their concerns on specific issues to higher level management
  • When mentoring the coach clarifies performance goals and developmental needs

Prospective coachesshould assess themselves with respect to the following on a scale of 1 – 10.

  • How self-aware am I?
  • Am I capable of being an inspiration to others?
  • Am I generous and truly able to give of my knowledge and experience?
  • Am I capable of building and maintaining good relationships?
  • Can I keep confidences?
  • Will I be able to be flexible and respond to the different learning needs, styles and expectations of my protégées?
  • Do I listen and communicate well?
  • Am I skilled in the art of providing feedback?
  • Have I kept up with the times, am I forward looking?
  • Do I have the discipline to deliver consistently?
  • Am I able to set and respect boundaries?
  • Do I diagnose astutely and am I able to contribute substantially to finding solutions?
  • Do I have the capacity to be business minded?
  • What can I offer?
  • What are my resources?
  • What kind of person or level of person will I be best able to coach?
  • What are my needs?
  • What do I stand for and value?

Protégéesshould ask:

  • What are my developmental needs?
  • Where do I want to be?
  • What skill and knowledge do I need?
  • Am I prepared to risk in order to grow?
  • What kind of relationship do I require?

Once linked the coach and protégée should work on establishing:

  • A relationship,
  • Assessing expectations,
  • Focusing in on skill gaps and
  • Contract for learning objectives.

A word of warning

On the one hand coaching in South Africa has become “a flavor of the decade solution” for a host of ills such as unemployment, retrenchment, and burnout, amongst others. Providers have sprung up with varying levels of legitimacy. Costs run the gambit from substantial to ridiculous at executive levels.

On the other hand coaching resembles counseling. Only those prepared to receive feedback and face the pain of growth will, firstly, access the service, and secondly, decide to commit to the process, and use it to its fullest potential.

The benefits of coaching are many and may result in significant personal growth and empowerment, skilled and informed employees, which in turn can make a significant contribution to the organization’s triple bottom line.

Dr Renate Volpebegan her corporate career in the world of Mining during the mid 80s. As a Divisional Director at the Chamber of Mines, she jointly spearheaded the development of the then largest people management structure in South Africa. Always innovative and pushing limits Renate turned entrepreneur in 1995 and founded Leadership Culture Innovators, a training and development consultancy. Renate is best known for her People Friendly Culture Change Initiatives at companies such as Anglo American, IBM and Standard Bank. Long-term retainers with companies such as MTN and Nike appear amongst her list of prestigious clientele. Renate Volpe holds a Doctorate in Developmental Psychology. Her uniqueness rests in her integration of a background in people development, 30 years of business experience and her status as a successful business owner and entrepreneur. Her expertise rests in the areas of people development, leadership and change management. Dr Volpe is a faculty member of various business schools. She is the author of the popular read “The Entrepreneurial Mind Shift”, and regularly writes for The Star, Workplace, Beeld and business journals. Most recently Renate maintains her profile as a futurist and trend setter with the establishment of the HIRS company together with Noeleen Maholwana Sangqu. The HIRS company facilitates women taking responsibility for their emerging role in big business. HIRS focuses on providing women with those leadership competencies that will enable them to perform as resilient, focused and successful leaders of tomorrow. She offers coaching services to women in leadership positions.Dr Renate Volpe can be contacted at tel: 011 455 0769 / fax: 011 455 4160 and http://www.hirs.co.za

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Gary Watkins

Gary Watkins

Managing Director


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