—Do New Machines Require New Tools?
On its face, corporate training is dysfunctional. Someone, often from outside the company, is brought inside to provide active insights on improvement, most often of the bottom line. Typically, training provides a rigid curriculum. Rigid curricula are great for learning instructions, but they may not the best way to modify behavior, increase interpersonal capabilities or find and develop leadership. Companies appear to treat instructional and behavioral matters equally. Training Magazine reports that 80% of the companies it tracks provide training in new-equipment knowledge (instruction); the same number offer training in leadership (behavior).
Many companies express the desire to improve and to support their employees. But, the tendency is to push outside data, experience and know-how, rather than engage and foster insiders. As described by Chris Argyris in this theory of espoused theory and theory in use, the espoused theory may be to support employees. But, the theory in use often aims for better results quickly. This short sight and inconsistence with the expressed motive of individual support hurts the company, especially when they discover that quick increases are rarely sustainable.
Common training rationale is flawed in almost every way. There is a flawed change perspective: training is always focused on a limited direction, which corresponds to limitations of time and money. There is flawed concentration: time allowed is insufficient time tends to shut down individual contributions of experience and knowledge. There is a flawed time frame: training that anticipates immediate results ignore an individual´s need to evolve. There is a flawed philosophy: the best leaders agree, people who choose the "how" create the magic of growth, contrary to the aims of quick results meisters. There is a flawed adherence to hierarchy: typically, training is for lower level employees, executives´ retreats to rising stars, and coaching to top level employees. The suggestion is "the best for the best." Doesn´t this bring into question the efficacy of training? And if coaching is best, what is training if not stopgap?
Contrary to the cost argument, coaching is affordable. But, it requires a re-alignment of systemic values in many organizations. Proper coaching of individuals has proven time and again that change and growth occur when individuals work toward a common purpose. The data would suggest that limited use of coaching is more ego-based than financial. Can we question the importance of individual contributions when CEOs are paid in excess of \MM a year, and several in excess of tens of millions of dollars each year?
The actual situation is based on reluctance to another change—that of getting rid of the inept and wrongly placed--to unleash the possibilities of a coaching culture! GE´s experience would suggest that the continuous practice of regularly ridding the company 10% worst performing individuals—works! Retaining and concentrating on challenging the best people then permits a company to justify the expense of "higher level" support—like coaching.
Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton take this further in their study of differences in organizations, published as "Now, Discover Your Strengths." The authors´ support the concept of "legislating outcomes." Training has the tendency (even where supported after the training itself) which tends to keep people working on their weaknesses, rather than on their strengths. They add, such training "will actually grind people down, not create in them lasting improvement."
So, discussions within the organization about training and coaching are right in the thick of organizational change, renewal and profitability.
In practice, coaching, or better the creation of a coaching culture, helps an organization locate its best people. At its most fundamental, coaching assists individuals in locating and utilizing strengths. Then, coaching helps company stars promote and raise themselves to be able to balance the risks that grow the company. As this occurs, we find examples that coaching is actually locating, supporting, helping retain and encouraging high achievers at every level of the well-functioning organization.