Deficit Coaching – sadly the norm!

On Wednesday, October 23, 2013, INEOS announced its plans to close its petrochemical plant at Grangemouth, putting 800 jobs at risk.

On Friday, October 25, after further negotiations with the trade unions, the company announced the plant would remain open.

The then First Minister Alex Salmond issued a statement welcoming settlement of the dispute. Part of the resolution was to pull the great and the good from Scottish Enterprise and other organisation in Scotland to construct an approach that would secure the jobs, appease the unions (given that they had been humiliated  – “How Ineos humiliated Unite in Grangemouth, Richard Seymour, The Guardian 9/11/13) and save some face! Needless to say it was turned around .

The response from the billionaire owner Jim Ratcliffe was totally understandable. Paraphrasing his message was as simple as it was straightforward. If this resource was available before this mess occurred, why was it not made available to my company sooner?

This deficit model is not uncommon to coaches. “Lets wait for something to hit the fan, then clean it up!” all too often coaches are commissioned to help clients solve a problem. This has a number of associated issues attached to it.

The organisation:

  1. 1. The problem has occurred and typically a solution at this stage is costly
  2. 2. morale has dipped as “we are always fighting fires”
  3. 3. staff lose faith in the leadership as many of the staff saw the problem coming

The manager:

  1. 1. gets defensive in there general demeanour – especially if a blame culture exists
  2. 2. has to accept the coach they are given (typically a specialist) – violating the proven “chemistry session” approach
  3. 3. may not be receptive to coaching given that they are backed into a corner so to speak

The coach:

  1. 1. May have fallen into the habit of deficit coaching unaware of the psychological dangers
  2. 2. may have to go through a “tendering process” is this really the best way to select a coach – really?
  3. 3. may not realise the absolute necessity for restorative supervision to “cleanse the palate” after deficit coaching.

This list is not exhaustive but merely a starting point.

What is it that makes organisations call upon the emergency service, otherwise know as “the coach”? Is it lack of foresight? The inability to plan? fear? ignorance or apathy? – Yes we have all hears the old joke on that one too A manage was asked by a member of his team “Whats the difference between ignorance and apathy?” the response “I don’t know and I don’t care”  was bellowed back at her across the office!

Seriously though, all of the benefits are there to see and are proven “Coach the Cause and Manage the Effects” It is far easier to get people on board, whether it be the organisation, the client or the coach when things are on the up and opportunities can be developed with innovation creativity and flair. This is a “Greenfield site” by comparison to solving problems using problem solving tools that were developed in the past and that were very successful in the past. But we are in the present and building for the future. John Whitmore has a very useful saying about mentoring but could equally apply to deficit coaching ” beware about using yesterdays solutions to solve tomorrows problems – is doesn’t augur well for growth”

This is definitely a call for organisations to embrace coaching and its benefits sooner rather than later and coaches to be aware of how much deficit coaching they are doing and is their supervision keeping abreast of the problem.


On a final note: If something hits the fans and needs cleaning off of them in the picture below:

  1. 1. it ain’t going to be easy
  2. 2. it’s going to be very very messy
  3. 3. and you are going to need cleaning up afterwards too!

There are thousands of ways to prevent things, other than wind, from hitting these fans. Using a coach proactively can help discover another thousand ways!


Have a great month





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