Professor Jonathan Passmore visited the Coaching to Success 2018 -conference in Helsinki and conducted a workshop called Emotions at Work at the pre-conference. We had a chance to ask Jonathan a few questions and he gave us interesting insights about the benefits of coaching leaders and the importance of accredited coach training.
How did you first get interested in coaching?
My background is in leadership management. I was a chief executive in a non-profit organisation concerned with mental health issues. I was interested in how I could better support and develop my management team. Coaching was something I had read about and I thought it was very interesting. So, I did a short coaching course in the late 1990’s and started to incorporate coaching into the way that I worked with my team and help them to improve their performance.
After this I continued my training as a psychologist and completed a PhD in coaching. I started in consulting and ended up leading the coaching services for a London consulting company. During this time around the 2000’s people were starting to do more formalized coach training and I was involved in establishing some of these courses in the UK.
After this I started at the University of East London and established the UK’s first masters degree in coaching psychology. We taught people both the skills but also the science of coaching. I stayed there for five years and then started my own consulting company. More recently I moved into Henley Business School as the head of their Center for Coaching.
What are the main benefits of coaching the leaders and managers in organisations?
Coaching provides a number of benefits for leaders. It provides them with skills to discuss and to be more aware of their thinking, their ideas, their potential pros and cons and different strategies they might want to pursue.
Coaching is also an opportunity for them to be challenged and to explore areas they may not have considered without the coach. The discussion allows them to speak more openly and in depth, so they hopefully come to discover themselves in ways that are helpful to them.
And I think the third potential benefit of coaching the C-level people is the safe space to have intimate conversations. For as leaders they often find it difficult to have somewhere else to go, it’s lonely at the top. Coaching provides them with that space and to talk about issues that concern them.
There is a wide coaching research literature that shows that coaching can be very helpful for career transitions, for developing emotional intelligence, resilience and goal setting and for improving performance. Coaching usually creates greater personal responsibility, so people start to see what their actions are. The process widens the different options they consider and thus helps them make better or more informed choices.
Have you faced doubts about the effectiveness of coaching in organisations?
About 10 years ago in the UK and in the US there was much concern about whether coaching is just a fashion that would fade, but that hasn’t proved to be the case. There were also concerns about will it really make a difference. We have now got good scientific evidence demonstrating that when coaching is done well it can make a significant difference to people’s performance and growth.
I think that people were also concerned about whether their coach was accredited, trained and reliable. And gradually we have seen a shift away from some of the less scientific approaches towards more evidence-based forms of coaching. That means the coaches who are accredited are the ones much likely to be trusted.
For example, in some places in the world you don’t have to be qualified to be a dentist. So, anybody can call themselves a dentist and put up a sign. I would prefer to ask my dentist: ”What training did you have before you put that drill in my mouth? What kind of training do you have in using anesthetics?” And I would only go for someone who is qualified in reputable training company.
And I think the people who are buying coaching should have the same approach. They need to ask their coaches: Where did you get your training, have you got accreditation, have I heard of your provider? How many years of experience in coaching have you got? When clients ask those sorts of questions, they are able to feel confident that they have a right coach who uses scientific approach to help them really improve their performance.
What trends are taking place in the business coaching field at the moment?
Most recently over the last years we have seen team coaching and neuroscience coaching being particularly popular. One of the forthcoming trends could be technology-enabled coaching. I also think that leaders and managers will become more skilled in using coaching based approach in their work.