Of course as coaches we knew that but research by Rebecca Jones at Aston Business School suggests that when compared to other workplace interventions coaching has a greater impact than training or 360 degree feedback.
She looked at 24 different studies of workplace coaching and found that it produced several positive outcomes such as positive attitudes, improved work behaviour, time management and overall performance.
Coaching achieved these in three ways:
- by using goal-setting,
- encouraging reflection, and
- providing tools to encourage the transfer of new skills.
She found that having multi-source feedback could detract from the coaching process (which is a surprise as I’ve found it to be a powerful tool at an appropriate stage in the coaching process).
However the facility of the coach to tailor an approach enhanced the process and the use of telephone coaching facilitated confidentiality (my colleague is a great believer in Skype for career coaching).
She also found that internal coaches may be more effective due to their insider knowledge of the organisation culture. Past research has found that the more senior the client the more likely they are to prefer an external coach.
This was reported in Coaching at Work magazine Vol 9 issue 2.
In the same issue it was reported that executive coaching had once again become the province of senior leaders as organisations reserved it for their top executives.
Well according to Herminia Ibarra and her colleagues, writing in the September 2013 HBR, persistent gender bias disrupts the learning process of becoming a leader.
They are talking about what they call “second generation gender bias“. Not direct discrimination but things like the paucity of role models for women, career paths and jobs that have become entrenched with a gender bias, and women’s lack of access to sponsors and networks.
They also talk about the double binds facing women. In most cultures leadership is associated with masculinity. The ideal leader, like the ideal man, is decisive, assertive, and independent. Women, on the other hand, are expected to be nice, caretaking, and unselfish.
Research shows that female leaders who excel in traditional male domains are viewed as competent but less likeable than their male counterparts. Yet research shows that female CEOs are trusted more than male ones and can add real value to teams.
Behaviours that suggest self-confidence or assertiveness in men often appear arrogant or abrasive in women. Female leaders who adopt a feminine approach to their work may be liked but not respected. They are seen as too emotional to make tough decisions and too soft to be strong leaders.
Yet research carried out by Zenger and Folkman in 2011 on over 7,000 executives using 360 degree feedback, showed that women were rated higher than men at every managerial level. However the higher in the hierarchy you went the more men there were. So were companies promoting the right people?
They used 16 competencies in their research, which they had identified as being the most important in terms of overall leadership effectiveness.
- Takes initiative
- Practices self-development
- Drives for results
- Develops others
- Inspires and motivates others
- Builds relationships
- Establishes stretch goals
- Champions change
- Solves problems and analyses issues
- Communicates powerfully and prolifically
- Connects the group to the outside world
- Technical or professional expertise
- Develops strategic perspective
Comparing mean scores for men and women the women scored significantly (statistically) higher than the men on 12 of the 16 traits – and not just the ones that women are known to be better at. They scored the same as men on connecting to the outside world, innovating, and technical or professional expertise.
The only trait where men scored higher was on developing a strategic perspective.
So what’s to be done? Ibarra and her colleagues don’t suggest anything dramatically new or innovative.
Progressing to leadership positions means leaving behind your old professional identity and learning new skills (have a look at Charan’s pipeline model).
That can be scary so having supportive mechanisms in place such as providing leadership programmes, mentoring and coaching (and I find in my coaching that women are less defensive and often respond better than men), and providing a support group or a safe space – perhaps an action learning group – can make a real difference.
You’ll find Psychopaths, Narcissists and now Machiavellian types, somewhere in an office near you, or maybe even running your business, according to Holly Andrews and Jan Francis-Smythe, writing in the May 2010 issue of Professional Manager.
In an earlier post on sociopaths and narcissists; “Leadership – do you have what it takes?” I drew attention to some US research on Narcissistic types by Shnure about their impact in organisations. Now Andrews and Francis-Smythe, at the University of Worcester, see these personality types as even more of a potential threat.
Describing these extreme personality types which make up the “dark side triad“: narcissists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance – “It’s all about me“; psychopaths are also ego-centric and lack empathy; Machiavellian types also manipulate others for their own purpose, shows there is some overlap but all essentially exploit others in some way.
Narcissists can be charming and even psychopaths have superficial charm which gets them into positions of power. So the authors set out some suggestions to help organisations cope with these extreme personality types starting at the recruitment stage.
They also point out that they are not making clinical diagnoses even though they are using some terms found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Psychiatric Disorders.
The article includes a list of references but if you are interested in this topic I recommend “Why CEOs fail: the 11 behaviours that can derail your climb to the top and how to manage them” by Dotlich, Cairo et al. This is based on research and the work of Robert Hogan who developed a psychometric questionnaire to measure these “dark side” factors and should be essential reading for all HR managers and would-be company directors.
Adrian Furnham’s closing keynote address at the 2010 ABP conference focused on CEO derailment. Apart from toxic personalities he suggested that there also needs to be a group of people happy to follow them and a supportive culture.
An idea echoed by Ali Kennedy in the weekend newspapers who said that politicians were essentially “sociopaths with good intentions” working in a “psychologically corrosive atmosphere”.
From a coach’s perspective these can be difficult clients to say the least. Lacking in key areas of emotional intelligence they can be charming but don’t like to be challenged.
Helping them to be more self-aware and understand others is a start but their goal is likely to be even better at what they do (exploiting others) which poses an ethical dilemma. (It is a bit like providing social skills training to psychopaths: counter-productive if it means they just get better at fooling people).
So how successful are psychopaths at work? Researchers in America trying to find psychopaths who were successful in life asked their colleagues in the American Psychological Association who specialised in Psychology and Law if they recognised any amongst their clients or acquaintances.
Hare’s definition of psychopaths is;”‘social predators who charm, manipulate and ruthlessly plow their way through life … completely lacking in conscience and feeling for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret.‘
They received replies from over a hundred people and asked them to describe these “psychopaths” and complete a diagnostic tool for that person (creating a remote profile). They concluded that there was evidence to suggest there were such people as “successful psychopaths” (not sure if unsuccessful psychopaths were just those in prison or who hadn’t been caught yet).
The key difference between successful and standard psychopaths seemed to be in conscientiousness as the individuals described by the survey respondents were the same as prototypical psychopaths in all regards except they lacked the irresponsibility, impulsivity and negligence and instead scored highly on competence, order, achievement striving and self-discipline.
For more information go to “Hunting Successful Psychopaths“.
Post first published on Sganda