A leader needs a coach like a fish needs a bicycle

This title is a play on Gloria Steinem’s infamous ‘A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’ quote! Leaders can certainly be effective and successful without a coach; organisations can be successful without having coaching as part of the ‘way they do things.’ Yet evidence shows that coaching adds value and makes measurable, tangible differences for individuals and organisations. The world of work is constantly changing, becoming more volatile and uncertain and right now we are experiencing unprecedented disruptions to the way we do things. That presents an opportunity to influence and shape the new normal.

The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “Partnering in a thought provoking and creative process to maximise personal and professional potential.”

We read and hear about coach like leaders, those who build their own and other’s coaching capability and achieve successful and positive outcomes. There are thousands of books on the subject, a wide-ranging array covering self-coaching, life coaching, sports coaching, team coaching, business coaching and career coaching! The list is endless, wisdom and advice proliferates. Organisations have built successful businesses on building coaching capacity and learning with individuals, teams and organisations.

Key research findings from the research paper from the Human Capital Institute (HCI) and the International Coach Federation (ICF) 2019 research on coaching cultures in organizations found the following: Thirty-two percent of organizations use internal coach practitioners, external coach practitioners and managers/leaders using coaching skills simultaneously. More than four in five (83%) organizations plan to expand the scope of their managers/leaders using coaching skills during the next five years. Most organizations turn to coaching for employee development and performance management. When asked how coaching activities are used to address their organizations’ goals and strategies, the top three cited purposes were leadership development (55%), talent development (51%) and performance management conversations (49%). Trust and credibility are essential factors for selecting coaches. Organizations primarily use referrals from trusted individuals or consulting firms to select a professional coach. Previous coaching experience and credentials and certifications are the most important qualifications for external coach practitioners.

Introducing coaching to your organisation make sense! Now is the perfect time to execute those changes when we are in this state of disruption. Where would you start? What are some of the considerations for integrating coaching into your leadership practice, your team or your business?

Individual 1 to 1 Coaching: An external coach provides coaching to an individual within an organisation. This can be self-directed and funded, or provided as an employee benefit for all employees, or solely provided to high performers. An array of options are available from setting up an’ opt in, user pays’ coaching panel for your organisation to engaging with coaching organisations to provide their services or with individual coach practitioners. The ICF website has a wealth of information to support finding a coach, ask around, what is your network doing?

Team Coaching: An external or internal coach helps teams with understanding identity, purpose, processes, monitoring progress, defining how they work together. Effective teams with a strong coaching culture are correlated with indicators of a high-performing organizations, including employer brand attraction, high-performer retention and senior leadership bench strength.

Organisational Coaching Development: Training staff at all levels in coaching skills builds organisational capability. Developing coaching capability improves communication, leadership, resilience, customer service skills, relationships, conflict management.

Invest in developing coaching skills throughout the organisation and or invest in Executive coaching for senior executives. Emerging and newer leaders can be coached by those Executives. Alternatively target middle managers, emerging leaders, or teams. Coach them to build personal effectiveness, resilience, agility, change capability, collaboration and emotional intelligence.

With so many options available, how and where to invest is an important decision. A great question to ask is “Where would coaching make the most difference?” Start there.


Filipkowski, J., Heverin, A., & Ruth, M. (2019). Building Strong Coaching Cultures for the Future. Cincinnati, OH: Human Capital Institute.

Available at:

Jillian Bolger, ACC is an credentialed coach, consultant, facilitator, and trainer. Owner of Culture + Coaching, and a member of ICF. Jillian is also part of the ICF Australasia VICTAS Branch leadership team, passionate about individuals and workplaces flourishing and making their difference.