by Natasha Arendorf

Business coaching

Executive coaching can take your company's performance to the next level

Executive coaching as a standard leadership development tool
Business coaching

A new study by the Centre for Coaching at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) has revealed that tailoring coaching techniques to a specific corporate environment can increase customer satisfaction, improve productivity and boost the bottom line. 

Toyota has initiated a tailor-made coaching programme for its Toyota Tsusho Africa subsidiary in all eight African countries where the company has a presence. Results showed a happier workforce and customer base translating into a 92% increase in the economic value added to the company.

“We started searching for innovative ways to improve productivity and staff satisfaction,” said Hylton Bannon, then head of Toyota Tsusho Corporation in Johannesburg. “What we needed was a sustainable competitive edge. We couldn’t change our product. What we needed to change was how we lead our people. You can be efficient with processes, but not with people. People need to be fulfilled,” he said.

Bannon spearheaded a major coaching drive within the organisation after he experienced the effects firsthand through a course at the Centre for Coaching.

“The centre’s work with us has done something more valuable than just increase the profit line,” says Toyota Malawi chief executive, Rosemary Mkandawire. “It’s encouraged each employee to take control of charting and driving their own personal journey with the company.”   

Duncan Harrison and Karen Yodaiken, both MBA students at the UCT GSB, studied the effectiveness of the Toyota coaching programme in two particular countries – Malawi and Uganda – and their compelling results have demonstrated what many have known for years: coaching really does work.

Their research showed that employee satisfaction was markedly higher after the coaching programme at the respective branches. Office tension and conflict in the workplace had dropped markedly. Confidential surveys indicated that employees felt more self-confident, especially with leadership functions. There was more ideas-sharing, collaboration and calmer resolution of minor conflicts through open dialogue.

While employees learnt to see conflict as a chance for growth and building confidence in the ability to express their emotions in a constructive manner, management reported an increase in their energy levels and job satisfaction due to happier staff who didn’t need to be micro-managed. It affected the customer satisfaction index rating by 25%, and had practical implications such as decreasing the lead time in the service and parts departments, as communication flow was optimised. Overall productivity improved by 35%.

“Some people struggle to connect initially with the coaching philosophy of employee-led development,” explains Craig O’Flaherty, founding director of the Centre for Coaching. “Ultimately, what we find time and time again is that it is this actual ‘soft skill’ approach that is the key ingredient that turns good companies into great companies and great companies into brand leaders.” 

Corporate coaching is a phenomenon that has spread around the globe in recent years. The International Personnel Management Association has said it increased its internal productivity by 64%. A recent survey by Manchester Inc. of 100 top companies found that it provided an average financial return of almost 600% on the original investment.  

A recent Hay Group study found that up to 40% of Fortune 500 companies use executive coaching as a standard leadership development tool.  

At the heart of coaching’s success is its transformative power within individuals. It can give already successful companies a competitive advantage – one that cannot be easily replicated by others in the market. 

As Janine Everson, academic director of the Centre for Coaching, explains: “Whatever the size of your company, your success is only as sustainable as your staff satisfaction. There’s a reason sports teams invest in the best coaches. You can have a team of highly skilled individuals but, unless they’re aided in working together efficiently and happily, they’re unlikely to win championships. The corporate world is no different to the sports world in that respect: coaches take your performance to the next level.”

Everson notes that no matter where in the world coaching is implemented, there are positive spin-offs on personal and professional levels. “It’s a clear trend: customer service and employee retention goes up. Stress levels and reports of conflict go down.”  

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