How to waste as much money as possible on coach training

By Lisa Wynn
Lisa Wynn

Given how affluent most training budgets are (not!) at the moment, a lot of companies seem determined to waste money on coach training. If you are one of those companies that really wish to deepen the economic challenges currently afoot by pouring your training budget down the coach training plughole then read on!

One particular way in which coach training can be an effective waste of funds is by running ‘Manager as Coach’ training programmes. However, when well planned, strategically positioned and thoughtfully promoted, there is a very real danger of coach training have a positive impact on your bottom line. However it needn’t be that way so if you live in fear of making a return on your training investment, these are the golden rules to follow when wasting as much money as possible on coach training:

1. Run “Manager as Coach” programmes:

Managers can have a serious influence on staff morale and can be one of the most influential factors as to why someone might leave a company. The company itself may have been the right fit, but the management style may have pushed a very talented individual out of the door into the hands of a competitor.

So it makes sense to equip managers with the skills they need to nurture their staff with support and praise and ultimately, to encourage the best from them. So many companies have embraced “Manager as Coach” programmes in the hope that this new breed of coaching manager will lower attrition rates. Sounds like a nice idea doesn’t it? But managers who consistently coach their teams day in and day out; ever-ready with a lovely open stance, endless patience, managing never to leap in and tell their team member what to do, may be admired by many, but is this really the best management approach?

To ensure maximum wastage of your training budget, run coach training programmes that make managers feel like they “are a coach” and must always be coaching. Completely fail to teach when not to coach – don’t let them know when they should give robust feedback or discipline someone rather than coach them. Make them feel like an open question is always the way forward and you will thoroughly waste your budget – and create managers that feel limited by their coaching skills and believe coaching is a “touchy feely” management approach.

2. Lack of real strategic purpose:

In companies we have come across that are successfully wasting a lot of money on coach training and where coach training is not appearing to deliver results at all, the thinking behind the training tends not to have included any kind of strategic purpose, or at least none that the participants and/or business sponsor can easily see. To follow their example, make sure that you never concern what the real business results are that are driving the decision to spend on coach training.

For heaven’s sake ensure that you don’t consider attrition rates, attraction or retention of top talent, improved communication, your sales figures, the standard of onboarding your new hires or any other important business driver when designing the programme. Just go ahead and create a generic “off the shelf” programme!

3. Lack of measurement:

Those programmes that waste the greatest amount are launched as a “nice to have” and success is often measured by how many people go through the training. This lack of strategic success criteria means that even if the programme is going well, there is little if any proof of this and the funding for the programme will therefore cease as soon as a financial squeeze is felt.

To make sure that you are as unsuccessful as this, make sure you don’t have specific success measures in place up front and are therefore unable to assess progress towards those final measures.

In order to really excel at the loss of training funds don’t make any interim measures either. That way nobody will notice the wastage until it is too late to stop you and turn things around.

4. Lack of proper funding:

The real stars of losing money on this are those companies who try to do this work on a minimal budget. With due attention to points two and three above (i.e. no proper business goals and no way of measuring the progress if there is any) the budget can only be justified at a very low level. This means that the managers do not have sufficient skills for the challenging moments – they then end up reverting to telling rather than coaching because they only have very basic coaching abilities. If you follow the lead of these companies, in no time at all your managers will have given up coaching altogether and the training will have become “just another failed initiative”.

5. Lack of workplace application and support:

To really ensure the lack of return, please make sure there is not sufficient workplace application, that participants have no idea how to apply the theory in the workplace and ideally remove the ongoing support required to put this new skill into action. This way, once the manager goes back to work on Monday morning they will be faced with having to put the new skills to the test in a pressured environment. They will almost certainly revert to their usual patterns of behaviour very quickly because the bad old ways are the quickest!

A course of twice the length and cost may well deliver far more than twice the value. Confidence is as important as competence in coaching and a programme that builds in a degree of support over time mirrors the coaching philosophies of support and accountability. Make sure your programme is too short for any of that to take place!

6. Lack of “walking the talk”:

Programmes that have a personal development angle to them and ask the participant to be more self-aware and to change their day-to-day behaviour are far more effective. A better way to waste money is to run short coaching skills training programmes that focus solely on the skills of coaching - “doing coaching to people”. The effect is that managers come back with new “soft skills” that appear not to work – the manager is perceived as not walking the talk of their new approach – of not living the ethos that goes along with coaching and therefore their team meet the attempts to coach them with distrust and distain! Hence a great deal of wasted funds!

Just in case you are from the opposite camp and wish to actually make a business success of your coach training, try the following:

1. Think more in terms of “Coaching Skills for Managers” programmes:
Coaching needs to sit in the context of a wider management approach. The mindset of the coach can be used across the managerial spectrum of activities – but the skills of coaching need to be added to the others that the manager has – they need to know when to coach, when to discipline, when to give mentorship and when to teach.

2. Identify strong business drivers and ensure that the programme is designed in a way that meets those requirements:
Start by building awareness of the issues being faced by the organisation and how coaching can help with those topics. Ensure that the coach training delivers the right skills for the right outcomes.

3. Identify at the outset the success measures:
How will you know that the programme is doing what you hope it will do? When someone asks you about the investment to date, this approach will ensure that you can justify that figure and gain the continued investment required for successful completion.

4. Ensure the budget is sufficient for success:
Spend the time up front to understand what the business impact of success would be. This consideration will make sure that either you can easily negotiate the required budget to do the programme well OR, you decide not to start the programme in the first place. It is better not to start a programme that will be done poorly, or that will run out of budget and not get finished.

5. Ensure that programmes are practical and include workplace support to allow the new behaviours to embed:
Programmes that make a difference have built in support for new behaviours. In order to create this success the participants need to know that their new behaviours will also be recognised, rewarded and given the time to put new skills into place. Give trainees the chance to test out their skills and then get feedback and discussion time to make sure they are reflecting and developing rather than giving up because they are struggling!

6. Build in personal development for the trainees:
Managers and Internal Certified Coaches need to “walk the talk” in order to be taken seriously as a coach or a coaching-style leader. If they “do coaching” to people but do not show openness to their own development and are not prepared to stretch and challenge themselves, then they cannot expect those they coach to be open to their challenge and support. The manager who changes their skillset but not their mindset will create more resistance and destroy more trust rather than make the gains required.

If you fall into the “waste as much money as possible” camp, then good luck to you and we wish you well! If on the other hand, you would like to make sure that your in-house coach training programmes deliver real business benefits, then give us a call. We will be happy to help.