Coaching – the key to unlocking discretionary effort

In order for organisations to reach for the stars we must all be standing on our toes

How do we unlock discretionary effort across our organisations so that through bringing out the best of themselves our people bring out the best in the organisations they work for? When I was researching this subject I tapped into the academic powerhouse of our partners at Massey and spoke with Patricia Bosson’s, Director of Executive Qualifications for Massey Business School.

Unlocking discretionary effort is probably the greatest motivator for organisations to engage with executive coaching for their people. The positive psychology field is all about unlocking discretionary effort, by focusing on people’s strengths, and how to leverage them, and also exploring talents and skill sets that might be in the person and not felt relevant to the workplace.

However, discretionary effort does not solely belong to the model of positive psychology. Rather, the reason positive psychology is useful is that it taps into the underlying human drivers of responding to attention, positive reinforcement, belonging and approval. These are things that build self-esteem, from a very early age. Many individuals in the workforce have had their latent self-esteem dented by their experience of life, through family, school, work and all other situations which help shape us.

When someone feels unrecognised, unacknowledged or frustrated (let alone angry, resentful, depressed), then they will deliver the bare minimum in their role. Their energy and motivation will be sapped, and their effectiveness will be very diminished. When someone feels that their personal values and goals are appreciated and respected by their boss, and their organisation, then they are able to relate to their work at an identity level, rather than just at the level of skills and capabilities.

The work of Gregory Bateson, the anthropologist and later Robert Dilts, with the Logical Levels model of human motivation, can be used as a very effective coaching intervention in this space, to help someone tease out exactly how they relate to their work and organisation, and what motivates them. Feeling congruent at work goes hand in hand with discretionary effort – hours of work, thinking and contribution which are unpaid for, will happen automatically, when someone feels ‘part’ of what they are working for.

The reason coaching is one of the most effective ways of unlocking discretionary effort in executives (and other staff) is that it provides a confidential, psychologically safe space for someone to reflect on their experiences, and their goals, and be facilitated in their reflection by someone expert in the technology of coaching.

Coaching is a process of facilitating another person to come up with their own solutions and insights to their situation. In that way, it is different to any other relationship a person might have – in coaching, the coach has no agenda on the coachee, other than to help them be more effective. The coachee also does not have to worry about managing the relationship with the coach, in the same way as they do with their other relationships – with boss, friend, colleague, husband or wife, etc.

This led us to creating a new programme of learning to build capability in professional coaching in New Zealand.

The IMNZ programme in professional coaching is for those with some knowledge or experience of coaching, either in an informal or formal context.  This could be experience of being coached as well as of doing coaching.  You might want to develop coaching skills for use as part of your management role, or as a professional coach.

Designed to give intensive training to new executive coaches and delivered over six days, the programme is facilitated by experienced international coaching specialists.


Tutor profiles

Dr Patricia Bossons

Patricia is the Director of Executive Qualifications at Massey Business School. She works primarily in the area of Executive Education, designing, developing and delivering coaching, leadership and personal development programmes.

She has worked as a coach herself for over 20 years, and set up the Centre for Coaching and Behavioural Change at Henley Business School in the UK in 2004.  She teaches on the Masters in Advanced Leadership Practice.

Patricia is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and a Board Director of the Association of Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision (APECS).

Her research interests include personality and individual differences, and coaching in different cultures, she works internationally in a number of different countries around the globe, and is a resident of both the UK and New Zealand.

The second edition of her book, ‘Coaching Essentials’ (Bossons, Kourdi and Sartain, 2009) was published in August 2012.  Her latest book ‘Coaching for Leadership, Insights from Neuroscience’, was published in March 2015.


Denis Sartain

Denis has an established reputation as a top-level coach and tutor, working with a pragmatic and practical focus based on his own experiences in the international business world.

He is Associate Faculty and Associate Client Director at Henley Business School, where he specialises in Leadership and Team Development and Coaching. Recent clients have included Singapore

Civil Service College, South African Revenue Service and The General Secretariat of Abu Dhabi.  He coaches and runs Leadership programmes at senior team and Board Level in a wide range of blue chip organisations, and public and private sector companies.

Denis specialises in multi-cultural and global leadership and coaching. His first book, ‘Coaching Essentials’, was published by A & C Black in 2009, and his second – a book on managing stress in the

corporate environment, ‘Under Pressure’, published by Marshall Cavendish in November 2010. His is a co-author with Patricia of ‘Coaching for Leadership, Insights from Neuroscience’.

To find out more about this new programme call our friendly team today on 09 303 9100 or visit for more information.


Student testimonial:

What participants have said from attending this programme in Europe:

The course was outstanding both in terms of gaining knowledge but also developing practical skills that could be deployed in everyday leadership. I continue to use those skills as a CEO and also with my private coaching business.  Roger Mclaughlan. Former Chief Executive, Toys R Us – United Kingdom

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