Coaching has always supported people to maximize or improve their performance, but in the past decade, its reach has extended to every facet of personal and professional life. There is great potential for global development organizations (donors, nonprofits, implementing partners) to optimize their performance through coaching – as they operationalize the Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals. Coaching and global development is a relationship worth exploring.

Coaching’s upward trend — with revenues of over $2.3 billion, worldwide (2015) — speaks to the diversity of its application. In the private sector, coaching is so integral to business that many Fortune 500 companies, like Google, General Electric and Intel, provide specialist in-house coaching and mentoring.

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Put simply, coaching offers a safe, creative, non-judgemental space for you to reflect, explore, and experiment whilst you identify and move towards your goals.

Coaching in Development

In advancing their mission, organizations are faced with imperatives to demonstrate good governance, value for money, accountability and transparency. They are expected to do more with less, be sustainable, and to harness and use technology. They also need to manage and motivate a changing workforce, avoid burnout, and promote engagement.

Development organizations have additional challenges, in addressing increasing global need; managing funding uncertainty, attracting donors and satisfying their requirements, and creating and managing public-private partnerships. This all adds to the complexity of managing scarce resources AND implementing their programs! Organizations must leverage all their resources, including their human capital in order to maximize and extend development inputs.

Around the globe, development professionals operationalize life-changing missions, where the need for services and professional demands are high, and resources are limited. This can translate into little time for personal development and reflection, and can lead to exhaustion or burnout.

Although coaching has exploded in the private sector, it is less prevalent in development organizations, and rarely employed in local NGOs and grassroots organizations, especially where resources are constrained. And yet – the advantages usually greatly outweigh the investment.

Professional coaching provides a space for development professionals to:

  • (re)build resilience and resourcefulness
  • gain new perspectives on personal/professional challenges
  • improve performance
  • refine communication skills
  • improve decision-making
  • re-establish a work-life balance
  • improve interpersonal effectiveness and self-confidence
  • strengthen leadership, and
  • attain personal and organizational goals.

Coaching is also beneficial to development organizations as a whole, supporting them to:

  • improve team dynamics, functioning, and performance
  • realize productivity improvements
  • boost creativity and innovation
  • manage change
  • reinforce and extend internal people development initiatives, such as trainings, through complementary coaching interventions create a culture of
  • coaching within the organization – thereby improving management and leadership inputs, whilst developing internal human capital
  • complement programmatic tools such as a livelihood training and supportive supervision trainings
  • attract and retain employees.
  • Let’s look at some examples of successful coaching in development organizations.

Coaching in Action

Leadership Coaching

In a national NGO in a developing country, senior executives embarked on a coaching journey to improve their leadership style and presence, to optimize both personal and organizational performance. Advancing through the ranks with exceptional technical and/or programmatic skills these executives had not had the opportunity for prior management or leadership training.

The director of a large international development project wanted to improve their leadership and communication skills. Their goals were to inspire and develop their internal team and to effectively advocate, convince, and negotiate in communications with external stakeholders. Both a new RFP and a changing political landscape necessitated even more refined communication skills.

In each case, tailored coaching interventions were created. They focused on working with clients to identify their current and desired leadership styles, identifying and exploring gaps and obstacles. Then, customized exercises, activities, and practice sessions were provided to support learning and growth.

Executives reported improved leadership confidence, increased confidence and skills when interacting with donors, and a commitment to improve the development of their direct reports and teams.

Work-Life Balance Coaching

Fearful of a mass case of burnout within the organization, a local NGO embarked on a coaching program to assist overworked professionals – co-developed with the professionals in question. The program created guidelines to instill a healthy work-life balance, addressing personal and professional goals – with tailored exercises and debriefings to practice and refine skills.

Members of the senior management team in the program reported, three months later, that they were still using individual strategies they had learned and committed to – including daily mindfulness meditation, regular exercise, and time-management techniques like detailed daily planning to schedule work and personal activities.

Resilience and Resourcefulness Coaching

In order to promote employee engagement and build resilience, an international NGO provided coaching to a variety of its employees in field positions around the world. Many of these postings were ‘single duty stations,’ where no spouses or families were allowed. Coachees faced challenges like isolation, reduced mobility due to security risks, lack of social life, and extreme working conditions – combined with enormous workloads. Coaching interventions involved individuals articulating their desired future, its work implications, and identifying strategies to achieve both short and long-term goals. Sixty percent of those coached reported taking annual leave and seventy-five percent reported taking leave after a hardship duty station (up from forty five and thirty percent respectively) – representing an important step in recharging and building personal resources.

Organizational Coaching

A local NGO had recently undergone a series of separate and discrete people development trainings. An organization-wide coaching intervention was created, which included all department heads. This intervention synthesized the various inputs already received and created a coaching workshop, to build on them. Participants learned to employ a coaching approach at work, which served to promote a coaching culture within the organization, built capacity and maximized management and leadership interventions. The first result reported was a clear understanding of what coaching is/is not and how it can be used within their organization.

Building the Bridge

Coaching is about setting goals and designing solutions to achieve them – it focuses on possibilities, potential and forward movement.

  • If you work on these, how satisfied and productive will you feel?
  • How relevant is this, for individuals and organizations involved in meeting Global Goals to eradicate poverty and promote sustainable development?
  • Do these tasks resonate with you, your organization and your work?
  • Does this sound valuable?
  • Can you see how coaching will help you to achieve your vision?
  • If you or your organization could benefit from coaching, please get in touch.

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