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Effectiveness of Coaching Utilized by Supervisors with their Staff

         

  DeNean Hardman

Saybrook University

COA 5628 Evidence Based Coaching

Dr. Valerie Worthington

April 6, 2023

 

Effectiveness of Coaching Utilized by Supervisors with their Staff


According to Williams and Menendez (2105), the role of a coach is to support their clients on their own journey in bringing about change. One of the roles of a supervisor is to aid their staff in meeting the desired goals of the organization. Coaching techniques are routinely woven into daily operations and interactions between supervisors and staff, and a vast amount of research exists regarding the benefits of these strategies. This paper explored the utilization of coaching strategies by supervisors when they are working with their staff.  The research presented will explore the effectiveness of supervisors’ use of coaching tools and techniques for the productivity of the staff they supervise. One such technique that will be explored is the use of motivational interviewing, and how it can create and support a sense of unity and cohesion amongst supervisors and staff. The research question this paper will address is ‘is it beneficial for supervisors to use coaching strategies when working with their staff?’ This paper concluded that when used effectively, coaching used by supervisors can have a positive impact on their staff.

Keywords: Coaching, motivational interviewing, business

Effectiveness of Coaching Utilized by Supervisors with their Staff

           

The dynamics of a supervisor/supervisee relationship may be described, appear, and play out in different ways, but a primary responsibility of a supervisor is to lead their supervisee in completing their assigned responsibilities. How a supervisor becomes an effective leader is up to that individual, though there are tools at their disposal if they desire to use them. Supervisors would benefit from incorporating coaching skills into their supervision dynamics and the use of motivational interviewing can play a key role.


The premise of coaching is not about leading, but about empowering. A primary responsibility of a supervisor is to lead and provide directives, but that does not mean that they do not have the ability to empower, encourage, and support their subordinates. Coaching strategies may be incorporated within the relationship of the supervisor and supervisee so that boundaries are clear, and the organization has the opportunity to grow as well as the individual staff member. When coaching is utilized effectively, staff may feel supported to reach their maximum potential, and everyone has the opportunity to benefit.


Benefits of Coaching within the Workplace


Ellinger and Kim (2014) stated that coaching has been utilized within the workplace as early as the 1950s and was described as a master-apprentice type dynamic. While it is important to note that coaching has been used in the workplace since the 1950s, a master-apprentice approach may not be the most fitting approach for all workplaces. The goal of a coach is to support their client on their journey as they reach their desired change (Williams & Mendez, 2015), and the goal of a supervisor is to support their supervisee to reach the desired outcome of the agency. When coaching strategies are used effectively by a supervisor, the supervisor has the opportunity to support their supervisee. The supervisor can also create positive change within the supervisee and ultimately the working environment.  


Dhar (2022) identified two different types of coaching focuses that tend to be adopted by supervisors, which are a development-focused approach (focus on the outcome) and a performance-focused approach (focus on the performarnace), though both tend to generally be blended. A key benefit for a supervisor to use coaching when working with their staff is that it can empower them and enable them to work together as a team (Dhar, 2022). The use of coaching within the workplace creates an arena of workplace learning, increased performance, and provision of resources while minimizing potential barriers (Ellinger & Kim, 2014).


Ellinger and Kim (2014) expressed a shared belief that staff has viewed workplace coaching as a corrective measure for poor performance though the pendulum has swung in the direction of development and empowerment when it is interwoven into the relationship. The supervisor, acting as a coach, can support their staff, which contributes to a culture of learning, developing, and empowering. When one staff member benefits from the opportunity to grow and learn, the organization benefits from the opportunity to grow and learn along with them (Swart & Harcup, 2012).

Swart and Harcup (2012) point out a connection between the benefit of individual learning and organizational learning. The assumption is that when an individual begins to learn, their learning directly impacts the learning of the organization around them (Swart & Harcup, 2012). In this context, the supervisor may be viewed as benefiting from the coaching dynamic just as much as the supervisee. It is the supervisor’s use of coaching strategies that benefit their staff, their staff’s development that benefits their colleagues, and then the organization will eventually benefit as a whole. Having explored the benefits, it is also pivotal to explore the barriers.


Barriers to Creating a Coaching Environment within the Workplace


A coaching environment within the workplace has the potential to be ingrained in every exchange between the supervisor and their supervisee solely based on their communication. The “coaching environment” is the way the supervisor speaks to their supervisee, the questions are asked, and the tasks presented. An example would be the supervisor inquiring with their staff about their view of the best possible approaches to handle a task, and how they believe that they can be successful. To be successful in the task of creating something that works, it is important to also consider why it may not work. While the supervisor may be dedicated to being a pivotal part of a cohesive environment, there may still be challenges. One of these challenges would be the responsibility of playing dual roles, both coach and supervisor. Dhar (2022) stated that this would require the individual to have the ability to not only navigate the multiple roles but also the difficulties that may come with it.


Difficulties may include the time to nurture the coaching dynamic, knowledge of the skills needed to be both, and establishing the boundaries between the roles of coach and supervisor. There will be times when the supervisor must give a directive that their staff must follow, this is different from when the coach trusts that their client knows what is best. It would be important that staff does not feel as if their position within the organization is being threatened by the coaching role that their supervisor has adopted. Staff may be untrusting of the coaching role if they do not already have a strong foundation of trust in their working relationship with their supervisor. If coaching is something new that is going to be implemented, for it to be successful, the intention of the coaching role must be explained to the staff prior to the implantation. This dynamic is meant as one of empowerment, not one of dictatorship. The nature of coaching is to create an environment where the client feels empowered (Williams & Menendez, 2015), a supervisor who uses coaching strategies can create this environment. A supervisor’s nature may be one that is more directive, which contrasts with empowering (Dhar, 2022), this is where maintaining firm boundaries would be necessary.


Dhar (2022) identifies two ideas that may be possible barriers to creating this cohesive coaching environment within the workplace, these are Intentional change theory and Paradox theory. Intentional change theory states that individuals make changes in their life because they want to, while Paradox theory states that individuals make changes because there is an internal force propelling them to. Both theories are grounded in the motivation of the individual, and there would be two individuals in this context, the supervisor (coach) and the staff member they are supervising (coachee). Regarding Intentional change theory, Sniehotta (2009) stated that individuals have the ability to intentionally change their behaviors, and their motivation to do so tends to be largely based on their own interactions with their environment. Pine e Cunha and Putnam (2019) describe Paradox theory as an approach to what they consider to be one’s opposition to tensions and the understanding that optimal performance in the present will ensure success in the future.


In using Dhar’s (2022) view of possible barriers, the question could be asked whether the staff will view their supervisor’s coaching approach as intrinsically motivating them to make changes in their work style or performance or whether they decide to make changes in their behavior because they feel a pressure to make them. Asking this same question of the supervisor, one could speculate as to whether the supervisor is coaching their staff because their drive is about their working relationship with the staff or solely based upon maximizing the productivity of the staff. Dhar (2022) makes a good point when identifying these as potential barriers because the motivation behind the supervisor’s agenda would be felt by the staff and could impact the work environment. The role of the coach is to support their client, understanding that the client does know what is best for them in the goals that they have set. The coach trusts that their client is intrinsically motivated to be successful.  Recognizing both the benefits and barriers, a strategy must be implemented to ensure that coaching is effective in such an arena.


Making a Coaching Approach Effective in the Workplace


To make the utilization of coaching effective within the workplace it is important to be mindful of both the barriers and benefits as well as how the change in dynamic may impact the environment. Dhar (2022) identifies four possible areas of tension when implementing coaching. These are authenticity and social influence, change and continuity, long and short-term orientations, and anatomy and structure (Dhar, 2022). While these were identified as areas of tension, when approached correctly, they may also be the areas where growth and trust may be created.


 In the area of authenticity and social influence, Dhar (2022) stated that a managerial coaching approach considers the fact that authenticity is an important factor in one’s overall well-being. When this coaching strategy is implemented effectively, the supervisor can bring out the best potential that is already within their staff. Being authentic as a coach is “showing up as who you are” and a coach being authentic creates the comfortability for the client to be authentically who they are. Truly authentic and genuine leaders enable their subordinates to feel free to express themselves and move as they are, as stated by Swart and Harcup (2013). The authenticity of the leader sets the stage for the authenticity of their staff, which directly influences the culture of the organization (Swart & Harcup, 2013).


The second identified area by Dhar (2022) is that of change and continuity. Dhar (2022) considered learning to be a fundamental part of coaching, which can change the entire trajectory of what was initially sought after. As we learn, we grow, and new ideas tend to develop. Coaching, when used correctly, aids an individual in discovering both their strengths and weaknesses, thought provoking questions from the coach can assist them in their own self-discovery (Dhar, 2022). Feedback should then be used as a tool of support, not as a hurdle to overcome. Swart and Harcup (2013) stated that when coaching is implemented effectively it can assist the individual in recognizing the pivotal role that they play within the organization. The emphasis is placed on ensuring staff feels that they are valued and an important part of a team, not a cog in a wheel that is replaceable.  One strategy that can be used by the supervisor when they are wearing their “coaching hat” is Motivational interviewing.


Dhar (2022) stated that when an individual feels recognized and valued for who they are that is when their personal development and learning take place. This is the third area of long and short-term orientations, the area of career goals. Dhar (2022) emphasized that when the coach attempts to question their staff about their own view of the progress that they have made in their goals, this could diminish the ability to achieve the goals that were set. Further, these goals can be established by the coach or supervisor for their staff, though that would mitigate personal development which is the aim of the coaching approach.  van Dongen et al. (2017) stated that work stress has a direct impact on an individual’s ability to psychologically function and can lead to a decline in one’s physical and mental health. This point has been interjected here because the coaching process is a tool to be used to support staff and help to reduce stress, not contribute to it. Unrealistic goals imposed on staff or the staff’s inability to establish some of their own goals may do just that.


 Anatomy and structure (Dhar, 2022) contribute to the creation of a coaching space that gives staff the opportunity to reflect on whether their experiences and actions have enabled them to make positive changes. Dhar (2022) stated that this dynamic enables the staff to self-reflect on their own learning opportunities and how they, the staff member, have impacted their work and the work environment. Where this may be a hindrance to progress inevitably circles back the motivation for change. When coaching tools are used effectively, the staff will feel empowered to make decisions that are right for their own betterment. Swart and Harcup (2013) identified that four processes--intuiting, interpreting, institutionalizing, and integrating--move individual learning into organizational learning. In the area of anatomy and structure, all four learning processes can take place when coaching is done in an effective manner.


The Use of Motivational Interviewing


Motivational Interviewing (MI) was defined by Clarke and Giordano (2013) as an evidence-based clinical intervention tool that is used with the primary intention of changing one’s behavior. When used by a supervisor in a workplace setting, evidence supports that it can be the same type of change agent as it would in a clinical or coaching setting (Clarke & Girodano, 2013). The key again lies in the way that the approach is used as well as how it is implemented. The use of MI can both encourage and support a cohesive working relationship between supervisor and staff. A cohesive working relationship between a supervisor and their supervisee may also elevate any anxiety and resistance that the staff may have towards directives or changes within the environment (Clarke & Girodano, 2013). Note that this intervention technique is not being used to manipulate change but to foster growth and create a positive working environment.


Clark and Giordano (2013) expressed the belief that MI can assist in building a strong relationship between the supervisor and supervisee that assists in motivating the supervisee to reach their desired goals. The main intention for the supervisor’s incorporation of coaching into their supervision is to create an environment of growth, where the individual and company can flourish. The goals that are established during these supervision sessions are designed to cultivate a compassionate dynamic where anxiety and resistance are lessened and acceptance and strength are built (Clark & Giordano, 2013).


Article Summaries


Dhar, U. (2022), "Managerial coaching: a paradox-based view". Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 43(2), 291-301. https://doi.org/10.1108/LODJ-07-2021-0326


The purpose of this research is to explore both the challenges and successes of implementing managerial coaching within the work environment. The studies reviewed in this article provided evidence that there appears to be a low rate of effectiveness of managerial coaching despite there being praise for its use. This study found a pattern of tensions between employees and management based on whether there was a trusting and authentic working environment. The use of coaching techniques by supervisors can help to foster a more cohesive and trusting work environment. The conclusion of this article was this type of coaching can be effective when it is implemented correctly and will produce the results of a more supportive environment and work climate. This study relates to my research in that it will provide support in the form of effective coaching strategies to create a trusting and cohesive environment between supervisors and staff by reducing tension and improving performance.


Ellinger, A. D., & Kim, S. (2014). Coaching and human resource development: Examining relevant theories, coaching Genres, and scales to advance research and practice. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 16(2), 127–138. https://doi.org/10.1177/15234223135204


The purpose of this study was to explore the use of executive coaching, action learning coaching, and managerial coaching in increasing an employee’s level of potential. The research in this article is geared towards the use of both external and internal coaches within the areas of human resource development. The result of the study showed coaching can support human resource development within an organizational structure, aid in enhancing the potential of staff and bring about positive change in the work environment. This study relates to my research because it provides resources for different types of effective coaching strategies that are beneficial within an organization and the relationship dynamic between a supervisor and their staff.


Swart, J. & Harcup, J. (2013). “If I learn do we learn?”: The link between executive coaching and organizational learning. Management Learning, 44(4), 337–354. https://doi.org/10.1177/1350507612447916


The purpose of this study is to explore coaching within an organization on the premise that effective coaching can foster a collective learning/working environment and not solely individual learning/working. The article provides evidence of the benefit of utilizing coaching intervention strategies within the workplace and how it may encourage connected learning and growth as a team instead of staff moving as their own player. The study found that coaches create a more motivated team building and are able to foster supportive relationships among employees for the betterment of the organization. The conclusion of the article was that the use of coaching intervention strategies creates a collective learning that is supportive and brings forth positive change within an organization. A beneficial contribution of this article to the research is that example coaching questions were provided that were tailored to examine and bring forth cohesiveness within the organizational structure.


Conclusion


The research presented in this paper supports the incorporation of coaching strategies in the supervision that is provided by supervisors to their staff though there remains limited information on the overall effectiveness. While the dynamic between supervisor and staff is not clinical, there is still the existence of a relationship where trust and support are a pivotal foundation. Research by Dhar (2022) brought attention to how the use of coaching strategies in this environment may be met with resistance due to mistrust of the underlying reason that this approach is being attempted. In taking these points into consideration, it would be important to be mindful of the working environment and the climate of the overall organization in which these tools are being used. Swart and Harcup (2012) provided evidence that when one individual learns, collective learning takes place, bearing in mind, that all interpersonal relationships impact each person who is directly and indirectly involved in that relationship.  Positive energy has been proven to cultivate more positive energy; this takes place everywhere, and in every relationship dynamic.


While there appears to be minimal research regarding the effectiveness of coaching by supervisors within the workplace, there is evidence that supports the use of tools used by coaches. Coaching used correctly, without an alternative agenda, has the potential to be beneficial, and further research appears to be required. Coaching, including MI, used effectively, by a trusting and trusted supervisor, has the potential to bring about positive change in the individual and the organization. Clark and Giordano (2013) discuss the benefits of MI as a coaching approach. Recognizing that there is limited evidence of effectiveness in supervision, there has been extensive research on the benefits of MI in clinical and coaching settings (Clark & Giordano, 2013).


 

References


Clarke, & Giordano, A. L. (2013). The Motivational supervisor: Motivational interviewing as a clinical supervision approach. The Clinical Supervisor32(2), 244–259. https://doi.org/10.1080/07325223.2013.851633 


Dhar, U. (2022), "Managerial coaching: a paradox-based view". Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 43(2), 291-301. https://doi.org/10.1108/LODJ-07-2021-0326


Ellinger, A. D., & Kim, S. (2014). Coaching and human resource development: Examining relevant theories, coaching Genres, and scales to advance research and practice. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 16(2), 127–138. https://doi.org/10.1177/1523422313520472


Pina e Cunha, & Putnam, L. L. (2019). Paradox theory and the paradox of success. Strategic Organization, 17(1), 95–106. https://doi.org/10.1177/1476127017739536


Sniehotta, F.  (2009). Towards a theory of intentional behaviour change: Plans, planning, and self-regulation. British Journal of Health Psychology14(2), 261–273. https://doi.org/10.1348/135910708X389042


Swart, J. & Harcup, J. (2013). “If I learn do we learn?”: The link between executive coaching and organizational learning. Management Learning44(4), 337–354. https://doi.org/10.1177/1350507612447916


van Dongen, J. M., Coffeng, J. K., van Wier, M. F., Boot, C. R. L., Hendriksen, I. J. M., van Mechelen, W., Bongers, P. M., van der Beek, A. J., Bosmans, J. E., & van Tulder, M. W. (2017). The cost-effectiveness and return-on-investment of a combined social and physical environmental intervention in office employees. Health education research, 32(5), 384–398. https://doi.org/10.1093/her/cyx055


Williams, P., & Menendez, D. S. (2015). Becoming a professional life coach: Lessons from the Institute for Life Coach Training (2nd ed.). New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

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