I recently listened to a great podcast about organisations forgoing the ‘traditional annual appraisal’ approach to performance management in favour of a workplace culture where coaching and mentoring can thrive.


Two executives from River Island spoke in the podcast. They said that in 2015 River Island began to totally rethink their approach to performance management. The feedback they were getting was that the traditional approach was not right for their business. An end of year appraisal and some ad-hoc interim reviews were encouraging ‘peaks and troughs’ in terms of performance. Today, they have swapped out their annual appraisal for ongoing coaching which has become an integral part of their organisation.


“The world of both business and sport has got huge volatility and uncertainty and unpredictability in it and I think rather than trying to take away that volatility we should be equipping our performers in sport and business to become more steady, more confident and more resilient”.


For me, coaching is all about building upon existing strengths. It is really a process of self-discovery where people at all levels can identify, explore and overcome the barriers that are holding them back from achieving their full potential.


Coaching provides techniques for executives to manage pressure, prevent burnout and build resilience. It offers a confidential sounding board to determine appropriate goals, strategies and action plans.


My clients are stretched to raise their levels of self-awareness, to look at things from a different perspective and to gain a greater understanding as to what’s going on ‘beneath the surface’ so they can move forward. The results have plenty of impact.


Chris Britton from River Island said,


People started to realise actually by removing this clunky traditional way of scrambling around for evidence and putting in ridiculously long meetings and submitting forms to HR or not and doing all these processes which were not really adding any value, by removing that cumbersome way of doing things actually you are freed up to have more conversations with your team. Our line managers take responsibility for performance in their teams but they do it in a way which is nurturing, which is conversational, in a way which is encouraging development of their own teams… that was the bit that was really important for us in learning and development is building confidence in our line managers, people managers, to manage their people.


Both in sport and in business you are expected to deliver results but in the business world, you often need to deliver results while dealing with rapid change, reduced budgets and increased workloads – doing more with less. However, when leaders are under so much pressure to deliver, they often become less focused on the team and more focused on keeping their head above the sand.


A coaching approach supports leaders to cope with change because it is fluid and confident. So, overall it is a far more effective development tool than an annual appraisal. When coaching is woven into an organisation, it has a lasting impact on people at every level. It improves performance, collaboration and output – and I think River Island are seeing the impact.


I once worked with the director of a business because he was curious about the impact coaching could have. After the sessions, he began to roll it out through the entire organisation.


So, my advice for introducing a coaching culture to your business?

    1. Talk to people.
    2. Have conversations.
    3. Engage with a coach
    4. Ask questions
    5. Equip managers with coaching skills.