Coaching surgeries: moving coaching out of the elite arena

Coaching: you can spend a lot of money on developing your senior team – and the results may well be good. If only there was a way to disseminate all of the learning and benefits of coaching effectively through the whole organisation. Maybe the board is growing frustrated that results aren’t apparent elsewhere in the business and you’re struggling to maintain a positive outlook on coaching within the senior team? Coaching doesn’t just have to be the preserve of board members and department heads. With a little creativity the benefits of coaching can be felt much more widely throughout the entire organisation.

Coaching surgeries: what, where and why

A coaching surgery is a way for a coach to see multiple coachees over the course of a day on a drop-in basis. Usually, the coach will base themselves at the client’s office for a short period, typically a day or two, and individuals will have a short coaching session of an hour before the next person is seen.

In our experience, coaching surgeries offer a number of benefits to organisations. The coach to coachee ratio offers good value; the coach bills for a day’s work and during that time multiple coachees can tackle issues that are causing them problems. The short session means minimal disruption to the day and coachees can jump straight into what they need to tackle.

A creative and flexible tool

Coaching surgeries are a useful service to offer more junior managers and leaders. Of course, coaching surgeries may be appropriate for a senior team, depending on the needs of the organisation and what the overarching learning and development programme entails. However, the business leaders we encounter during the course of our work often presume that coaching is accessible to the senior team only.


In fact, the value of offering coaching to leaders earlier in their careers is significant. Providing junior managers with a coaching opportunity doesn’t just help to iron out issues. An opportunity to receive coaching promotes overall good feeling, reinforces trust in senior leaders – by extending the same opportunities to junior leaders it’s clear that the senior team is leading by example – and helps to engage the leaders of tomorrow with their work and how it fits with the organisation’s overall aims.


Coaching surgeries are not just a creative way of targeting a diverse range of employees, the application of coaching surgeries is flexible too. Coaching surgeries could form part of a larger learning and development programme targeting leaders and managers at all levels, or it could be used as a standalone exercise. Frequently, organisations come up against an issue that needs immediate attention, or are perhaps interested in coaching but don’t have the budget or time to invest in a programme that lasts a number of weeks or months. In both of these cases, coaching surgeries can offer an effective alternative to a full-scale learning and development programme.

Coaching surgeries and junior leaders: a match that sparks genuine change

Value for money, engagement, resolving time-sensitive work issues – these are all good reasons for providing junior leaders with coaching opportunities. To really understand why coaching surgeries are so effective for leaders at this level it’s necessary to unpack these factors a little more.

Coaching comes with a price tag and organisations can be loath to part with their budget for staff members that are lower down the leadership ladder. Coaching surgeries counter this, as numerous junior managers can be seen in a day, which helps to lower the coach to coachee cost. Junior leaders also come into contact with a much wider array of staff in the day-to-day running of the business than more senior leaders do. The opportunity for learning to filter through the business and effect behavioural change quicker is therefore much greater with junior leaders. This represents another layer of value as the benefits of coaching are delivered directly, to the individual receiving the coaching, and indirectly, to the staff that come into contact with that person.

Perhaps the most significant reason that coaching surgeries are such a good fit for junior managers is that the coaching sessions fit with the principles of adult learning, namely autonomy. It’s hard for an organisation to dictate the content of, say, eight different hour-long coaching sessions, so junior leaders can direct the session themselves and discuss a topic that’s important to them or an issue that is affecting their work. This learning is then carried off to each corner of the business that the junior leader has come from: marketing, sales, operations or IT for instance. The overall function of the contingent parts of the organisation improves and the sessions generate loyalty amongst junior leaders towards the business and engagement with its overarching aims.

More than a happy glow

Coaching surgeries are less about specific, measurable, business results and more about improving the organisation as a whole. The opportunity for multiple junior leaders to be seen in a day helps to disperse learning widely and quickly through the organisation and brings about genuine behavioural change more effectively.

Showing junior managers and leaders that they are trusted enough to direct their own learning illustrates that the senior team has bought into learning and development generally, and also the success of the entire organisation. This shines a light for junior leaders to follow and they too buy in to the opportunity afforded by coaching, and their own success. By allowing junior leaders into the coaching arena the senior team isn’t cutting itself short but is, in fact, benefitting the entire organisation. And in the long term, an organisation that is led by engaged, proactive and effective people is much more likely to thrive.

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