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23 June 2015
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The value of coaching for organisations

Dr Tim Ojo, Executive Medical Director, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, shares his thoughts

The NHS is a valued national institution facing unprecedented challenges over the next five years. Challenges that require highly effective and resilient organisational leadership to deliver 21st century healthcare for an aging population within constrained public sector spending. Medical leadership is an essential requirement at all levels within the care delivery systems operating in the UK – systems which are increasingly complex and interconnected in the NHS.

Coaching provides an established leadership development tool within the NHS which has gained currency across the training/career trajectory of an increasing number of doctors. This has resulted in discussion and commentary on coaching for doctors in the media as well as on social media. However, the organisational benefits of a systematic deployment of coaching as leadership development for medical staff is less well described. 

Some of the benefits that NHS organisations could reap from coaching doctors at all levels include: mitigating performance problems; strengthening clinical skills; increasing productivity; increasing effectiveness and improving all round contribution to organisational performance. In order to secure these benefits the coaching initiatives must be aligned to defined organisational objectives. 

Pemberton[1] contends that organisations can gain much more from coaching than they have done so far, if the required fine tuning of coaching objectives is undertaken with a view to increasing internal coaching capacity. The benefit of developing coaching capacity within organisations is that coaching as an approach will become part of the organisational culture.

Fillery-Travis & Lane[2] point out the clear benefit of internal coaching as “the coach is on the spot with a clear identification of organisational culture and an assessment of the coaching needs of the individual with minimum time delay.”  But within the NHS much of the coaching activity in support of medical leadership development has not been aligned to tangible organisational objectives.

Furthermore, within the current NHS financial climate organisational expenditure on leadership development will require clearly defined ‘value for money’ metrics. But a ‘coach the coaches’ strategy for reducing external expenditure on coaching medical leaders offers the possibility of increased coaching conversations, coaching supervision and formal leadership coaching within organisations.

Organisations can then invest in external coaching of identified change agents who will go on to develop the internal coaching architecture of the organisation within acceptable cost envelopes. Indeed, the recent launch of the Leadership and management standards for medical professionals by career stage provides an ideal template for organisations to base objectives for the coaching of their medical leaders

Ultimately, applying coaching as an established means of leadership development for medical leaders is essential over the coming period. The critical challenge is to ensure it is applied strategically and is focused on clear organisational imperatives. Those organisations that overcome this challenge early are the ones that will reap the most benefits.

[1] Fillery-Travis, A., Lane, D., (2006) Does coaching work or are we asking the wrong question. International Coaching Psychology Review 1(1): April

[2] Pemberton, C., (2007) Maintaining coaching activity means increasing coaching capability. Latest trends in learning training and development. CIPD, London

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