By Chris Gandy
Last month the Nonprofit Quarterly ran a thought provoking interview with Bill Ryan, coauthor of “Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards”, who recently led a study on coaching in the cause-based sector.
For me there were three major take-outs from this interview – Ryan’s definition of Coaching; What distinguishes Coaching from Consulting and Therapy and; the differing perceptions of Coaching in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors.
1. What is Coaching? – In response to the question “If coaching is the answer, what is the question?”, Ryan responded….”If my organisation wants to get to Point X, what do I, as a leader need to do to build on my strengths and manage my weaknesses to help it get there?”
2. What is the difference between Coaching, Consulting and Therapy? – While admitting that Coaching borrows from Consulting and Therapy, Ryan argues that the distinguishing features of coaching are that it:
- Focuses on the future.
- Fosters individual performance in a business context.
- Helps executives discover their own path.
3. Coaching in the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds – Here Ryan’s observations are quite telling. As he points out, in the US, coaching is far more common in the for-profit than the nonprofit sectors. From our observations this is also the case in Australia. However, what was intriguing was Ryan’s findings about how both sectors view Coaching. In the for-profit world, coaching is generally seen as an effective management development tool and the question be answered here is “How do we make coaching effective for our organisation?”. Not-for-profits, on the other hand, according to Ryan, are still struggling with the question “Does coaching work?”
As a sector, we need to learn from our for-profit cousins, stop being “doubting Thomas'” and recognise that coaching can be a very effective tool in building capacity within organisations. We should then turn our energies to making it the transformative experience it can be for ourselves and staff and quit procrastinating about whether it works or not.
About the author: Chris Gandy MAPS, is a Director of Cause and Effective. Chris is a former CEO of a cause-based organisations and is an Executive Coach.