Whether it’s competition, collaboration, teams and teamwork, conflict management, motivation, being revved and ready for wins or losses, business often compares itself with sports. Not surprisingly, when the team or team performance needs evaluation and adjustment, Edmonton businesses turn to coaches.
“Organizations turn to management consulting firms for a variety of reasons,” explains Deanne Friesen, Director with the Edmonton office of Western Management Consultants (WMC), one of the longest standing and most respected Canadian names in management consulting. “Reasons include a lack of internal expertise to adequately assess and deal with opportunities and issues, program management, and organizational design and improvement. Another area where we are seeing companies come to us for support is in reassessing their operating models and strategies.”
She details the WMC expertise. “We are much more than problem solvers. Our approach is to provide ‘bespoke’ rather than out-of-the-box support. In our current environment, we are finding that companies and organizations downsized to respond to pandemic and economic challenges, and are now looking to fill gaps. We are also providing support for reassessing operating models and strategies. The world has changed over the past couple of years and forward-thinking companies understand that ‘back to normal’ isn’t going to meet growth or innovation needs. We are doing a lot of recruiting and project management for clients and working with companies to help their teams thrive through change.”
The bottom line, and consistent with the analogy to sports, Edmonton business seek out the expertise, the fresh perspectives, the focus and the motivation of coaches.
While business advisor coaches invariably bring their unique styles, approaches, experience and expertise, being on the same wavelength and linking-up with the right coach can be challenging.
“Some aspects of the management coaching process may include ensuring the intent behind requesting a coach is pure, and that management is prepared to be honest, open, vulnerable and transparent throughout the process,” says Nadine Badry, with a diverse Alberta School of Business portfolio from HR functions, project management, health and safety, wellbeing, mediation, leadership, risk management, emergency preparedness, and space management. “Developing an understanding that no one will be penalized for being honest, open, vulnerable and transparent will be key to the success of the process. Without these intentions and creation of a safe space, the process will most likely be ineffective.”
“An effective coach will not fix everything nor will they tell you what you need to do,” she points out, “but they will guide the process for you to get there. No one knows your business better than those who work in it, so it is best the people who know the business come up with the solutions and outcomes. If they can be a part of creating the solution, there is a greater chance of buy in to the changes, approaches and solutions.”
Anita Veldhuisen Slomp, the respected, Edmonton-based conflict management practitioner who mediates for the Department of National Defense and coaches and instructs with the ADR Institute of Alberta and Edmonton’s University of Alberta School of Business points out that, “The field of coaching is unregulated, so it can be difficult to sift through the options to identify what is needed. Creating a list of questions that would provide insight into the experience, philosophy and skill of a coach is a good place to start.”
WMC’s Friesen underscores that “the fit” of the coach in the organization is a bit tricky but extremely important. “We work hard to make sure that there is a mutual understanding of the needs, desired outcomes, the ways of getting there and, how the client prefers to work. There are also some important transactional things. There needs to be complete clarity and transparency on things like expertise and experience, budget, approach and methodology, deliverables and who will do the work.”
Despite the collaboration and relationship with coaches, measuring the value of the coaching service can be tricky. “WMC provides clarity on outcomes and deliverables for every client, and delivery on expectations is key,” she notes. “Depending on the project, we often help clients develop evaluation frameworks and metrics, linking the work that we supported to overall business performance. If the consulting coach doesn’t provide a level of transparency the company is comfortable with, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere.”
In the best of businesses, there can be sudden or mounting issues, situations and subtle but corroding speedbumps. Leadership knows when it’s time for the fresh set of eyes, ears and approaches. There’s no troubleshooting menu to know when it’s time to enlist an outside professional or a coach to help dissect the problems into solutions.
“There are times when an external management coaching resource may be helpful in moving a business forward,” Badry says. “Some of the more common issues may be business restructuring, sometimes involving layoffs, promotions, demotions, more work for the same pay, business moves, business expansion, business downsizing, etc. Change management can be complex, and often leaders do not have the time or expertise to incorporate these practices into their restructuring initiatives.”
According to Veldhuisen Slomp, a key to management coaching is the establishment of a relationship where the coachee is safe to be vulnerable and disclose where they are experiencing challenges, identify their weaknesses and be willing to look at how they can gain the skills needed to overcome those challenges. “In a good coaching relationship there is a balance between support and challenge,” she says, “and the coachee is feeling that they are partnered to walk the road of self development and challenged to honestly address their blind spots.”
If the same issue keeps surfacing and issues keep going around in circles and never seem to be fully resolved, Badry suggests it is time to look at cultivating outside perspectives.
She underscores that unresolved conflict can turn toxic to the business itself and all those who are exposed to it, and the longer it is left unattended to, the larger the problem may become and adds that great leaders take care of their people, and take time to foster a healthy culture. “Signs of an unhealthy work environment are both verbal and non-verbal. When employees feel valued and a culture of trust is continually prioritized, and the roots of a business continue to implant themselves deeper and stronger, which ultimately set the foundation for everything else.
“It could be that management does not have the time to get involved and/or do not have the skills to take the situation in the direction it needs to in order to achieve long-term resolve. Conflict can be very intimidating for some to approach. Without proper skills to address it, issues can fester and teams can break down.
“Management coaches welcome conflict,” Badry says, “and bring discussions to a level that has yet to be explored. A good management coach can move the team towards creating solutions that work for the long term.”
Friesen enthusiastically emphasizes that the most successful organizations are always looking forward. “We help clients ensure that solutions implemented today support their long-term aspirations and to identify identify the most appropriate kinds of long-term planning for specific situations.”