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Liz Needham: Why Coach as a HR Professional?

Liz Needham is one of MOL’s Associate Tutors for CIPD and CMI qualifications.

I was recently asked whether being able to coach is particularly important if you work in HR. My immediate reaction was yes of course it is! But it got me thinking about why I feel passionately that leaders and managers should understand coaching as a technique and be able to use it appropriately.  

Coaching is one of the most critical and versatile techniques leaders have at their disposal to help individuals, teams and whole organisations to perform at their best. It is rising in popularity and there is more and more evidence about its impact.  

I have been tutoring CIPD and CMI learners with MOL for the past year and I recently spoke to Emily Allen who is the Product Manager for CIPD qualifications about the choices HR learners make on the programmes. I found it interesting when she said that while coaching is integrated into a number of MOL’s CIPD and CMI modules, learners often don’t choose to study modules on coaching.

Perhaps it’s about where you sit within the HR profession. Some may feel that coaching skills are more important for those in Organisational Development, Change Management or Learning and Development roles. I personally disagree. Everyone working in the people profession should feel competent and confident in their coaching skills. Here’s why:

  • We must lead at every level

Coaching (when appropriate) differentiates leaders from managers. We need both at every level, but managers must take care not to create mutual dependencies as teams look to them for direction and answers. Leaders have their eye on the longer-term. They’re not purely focussed on the immediate task. They’re thinking about people’s potential, whether they are developing the right skills and experiences for the future and often avoid providing any answers. Leaders facilitate autonomy.

  • Partners coach

Business partnering has long been a topic of discussion. What opportunities do we really have to demonstrate we are role modelling partnering in HR? Partnering may present more opportunities for some types of HR roles. However, I believe that coaching techniques can facilitate partnering in any HR role. We do not want to solely be the guardians of the ‘rule book’ or the only people who understand the relationship the organisation has with its Trade Union. We do want to be approachable, to help colleagues to explore issues and to agree next steps together. We may sometimes need to influence or direct, but our colleagues should walk away feeling that they own the issue they brought to us and the action plan. We need their knowledge of their teams and the context and they need our technical expertise. Coaching can help to get the best of both.  

  • Hearts and minds

Think about someone who has really inspired you. It’s not easy. Think about what the individual did that made a difference to you. Whether it’s a teacher, a grandparent or a boss (current or previous), they will have used coaching skills and behaviours even if no one realised it at the time. Listening, taking a genuine interest and helping you to believe in yourself may all feature. Coaching connects people on a much deeper level than mentoring or training. It involves values, beliefs, thoughts and feelings as well as what you do and say. Think about how engaged you felt when you were with your inspirational person. What if you could engage those you work with in the same way? What would that do to business performance?

  • Enabling learning and growth

One of my favourite leadership quotes is from Warren Bennis,“Growing other leaders from the ranks isn’t just the duty of the leader, it’s an obligation.” Wherever we sit in HR, we have a responsibility to help those we work with to continually develop and grow. Coaching builds productive habits. It helps people to reflect on their experiences, to learn from those experiences and to put that learning into action. It develops skills in effective listening, asking questions, feeding back and problem solving. The coach gains as much learning as the individual being coached. If leaders and managers across your network took time to reflect and learn from their work regularly would they perform better? How would that support their career development?

  • Seeing ‘me’

Coaching can support everyone to be themselves at work.  An effective coach meets you where you are, in whatever context you find yourself, with your issue or challenge. They are focussed on helping you to move forward in ways that you choose. There are no comparisons and judgement should be suspended. Coaches often build privileged relationships and see much more of the individual behind the organisational role. They support people to be their best. There is no training programme or set agenda. As one of my clients recently reflected, “mentoring is about the work, but coaching is all about you.”

What now?

There are many ways to explore coaching if it’s new to you. You may not need a coaching accreditation, but it could form a useful part of your skills set if you’re doing a CIPD qualification. I always encourage people to practice and to think of coaching like a muscle. We all have it, but we may not have used it for a while. Regular practice will develop your coaching muscle.   

For more information on how a CIPD or CMI qualification at MOL can support you in your career development, contact our programme advisors.

Liz Needham is one of MOL’s Associate Tutors for CIPD and CMI qualifications. Liz is also a Director at Needham Consulting Ltd where she partners with individuals, teams and organisations to improve their leadership and performance. For more information visit lizneedham.com