Published: 26/05/2005, Volume II5, No. 5957 Page 36

Mention coaching to most people and they will probably think of a red-faced Sir Alex Ferguson shouting from the Old Trafford touchline.

Well, without wishing to worry you, the NHS is looking at coaching, initially for staff in Connecting for Health, formerly the national IT programme. The pilot programme, supported by the School of Coaching, will run for six weeks and give 15 staff the skills to coach others.

'Coaching for performance is very rarely about giving instruction, ' says Josie Payne, a qualified business coach.

'It is essential that the person being coached puts the answers together themselves. The coach is there to add clarity, but never tells the client what to do - that just does not work.' Sessions can cover anything the client feels hinders their personal and professional development.

'It can be about questions such as 'How do I deal with the politics of my organisation?' or 'How will I get that next promotion?'' says Josie. 'It might take in wider concerns - 'What are my long-term career goals and how can I achieve them?' As client and coach you are always working together in a relationship based on mutual trust, appreciation and respect.

'We talk of companies being ahead of the game because they focus on the needs of customers. Successful organisations adopt the same methodology when developing their people: for training to be of value to an organisation it must first focus on the individual's needs.

'The coach works with the client to set and achieve realistic goals. The coach helps to focus on what you can achieve and then regularly checks on your progress. They will help you get the most from yourself in terms of ability, selfawareness, and relationships.' During training, coaches practise a non-directive approach - the directive style usually requires little effort.

Practical sessions include feedback on an individual's style, and on learning various coaching tools. These tools are geared to structuring conversations to achieve the outcomes the client wants.

Edward Prosser, of the NHSU, has recently completed the School of Coaching's short programme.

'It is a very widely applicable skill, but it is especially valuable in the context of the NHS. One of the challenges in the NHS is that a lot of people come up through the ranks into positions where they have to exhibit leadership without having had any specific leadership training.

'Coaching can also compensate for the fact that many people do not have mentors and readily available line managers, ' adds Edward.

'There is a gigantic change agenda in the NHS and it can bamboozle you.

Coaching gives you the tools for decisionmaking and is a powerful tool to help you analyse change and look at options.'

For more details visit www. theschoolof coaching. com or e-mail bruck. payne@virgin. net