Today, in the 21st century, the practice of coaching has increasingly gained currency in organizational settings, with the two most predominant types of coaching being executive coaching and employee-oriented coaching. The current paper seeks to promote our understanding of coaching in the organizational context not only by exploring what current research says about coaching relationships but also expounding on the characteristics and attributes associated with effective organizational coaches.
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Coaching relationships, according to existing literature, may be formed between the supervisor and the employee, or between a professional coach and an executive. In the first type of relationship, the employee is the primary beneficiary of the coaching exercise, implying that both the process and perceived effectiveness of this type of coaching are contingent upon the established association between the manager and employee.
In executive coaching, a member of senior management is on the receiving end of coaching, hence is obliged to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with the executive coach to achieve effectiveness. Although it has been well documented that consecutive studies have failed to effectively investigate the concept of coaching relationships or avail tools for evaluating those relationships, it is clear in the minds of scholars and practitioners that coaching relationships can be used as a useful management tool for guiding and developing employees.
Some empirical studies have found employee coaching relationships existing between subordinates and their direct supervisors to be of immense importance in enhancing employee productivity, which then raises the bar for organizational performance and competitiveness. Positive coaching relationships, according to existing literature, are essential ingredients in developing the climate, environment and context needed to empower employees and teams to generate the anticipated organizational results.
More importantly, employee coaching relationships not only present the platform for managers or supervisors to avail one-on-one feedback and insights aimed at guiding and stimulating improvements in subordinates’ work performance, but are also critically instrumental in creating a climate which enhances employees’ capacities and capabilities for future roles and/or challenges.
It is important to note that coaching relationships are not determined by ‘one-time, one-way’ relationships; instead, they are ongoing collaborative processes, that to a large extent vary depending on the individuals involved. Consequently, it is correct to argue that the nature or quality of coaching relationships fluctuate across individual employees and members of the executive team, depending on the characteristics demonstrated by the coach.
Effectiveness, therefore, can only be achieved when manager/employee interactions are predicated upon the establishment of action-oriented, results-motivated, and person-directed types of coaching relationships. Lastly, existing research on coaching relationships within organizational settings demonstrates that effectiveness is contingent upon the presence of several characteristics exhibited by coaches.
In view of this assertion, it can be argued that the characteristics associated with best coaches include: genuine care and interest; demonstrated ability to assist the employee in continuous learning; effective communication and interpersonal skills; capacity to show mutual respect, empathy, authenticity and genuineness for establishing an effective relationship; and ability to attain a higher perceived similarity between the coach and the subordinate.
Overall, these characteristics should be employed by supervisors and managers in coaching relationships to establish distinctive relationships that are tailored to the subordinate’s needs, achieve genuineness of the relationships, facilitate effective communication between the supervisor and employee, guarantee comfort in the relationships, and facilitate subordinate’s personal and professional development. Coaching relationships in organizational settings often fail to achieve effectiveness in the absence of these characteristics and attributes.