When organizations consider ways to develop their high-potential talent, coaching is often recognized as one of the most effective tools. The benefits are undeniable. Individuals often see a boost in self-confidence, work performance, and overall well-being. Organizations see an exponential impact when people leaders strengthen their communication skills and include coaching behaviors into their leadership styles. Coaching is extremely powerful and valuable but can also be viewed as a high-ticket item. So, before you make the investment, here are three important things to know:
- Coaching is Not a Substitute for Performance Management
- The Coachee has the Right to Confidentiality
- Stakeholder Involvement is a Key Factor for Success
1. Coaching is Not a Substitute for Performance Management
When a leader is recommended for coaching, they may experience a mix of emotions. Initially, they may be excited that the organization is investing in their development. Simultaneously, they may question what is wrong with them that they “need” coaching. This emotional cocktail is challenging on its own and may cause resistance to the process, but it is exacerbated when coaching is the way the company has decided to deliver tough messages to a difficult employee.
While the coach can help facilitate a growth process, the leader who is being recommended for coaching should be made aware of development opportunities before working with a coach. No one likes the feeling that negative conversations are happening about them behind the scenes but when a coach is hired to come in and be the sole bearer of bad news, the leader may be left feeling like no one internally had the courage or respected them enough to tell them about an issue before getting others involved. These conversations can be difficult to have, but it is the responsibility of the manager to clarify performance expectations regarding both what should be delivered and how to do so in a way that is aligned with organizational values. (For more information on how to engage in difficult conversations, check out this article here.)
When entering into a coaching engagement, it is important for the leader to fully understand why they are being recommended for this form of development before entering into a conversation with the coach. If there is a need to address specific challenges that a leader may have, coaching works best when this feedback has been previously shared and when the leader has had the time and opportunity to process these perspectives before being asked to adjust their behavior. This provides a strong foundation for the coaching relationship to be built upon, especially since after meeting the leader for the first time, the coach must create trust and rapport quickly if they are to help facilitate change.
2. The Coachee Has the Right to Confidentiality
Before investing in a coaching program, sponsors should be aware that coaching is confidential. In other words, what gets discussed in a coaching session, stays in the coaching session. For the coachee to be vulnerable and open to the process of having their current behavior and leadership style challenged for the purpose of growth, the coach must provide a psychologically safe environment. (Psychological safety is the belief that one won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.)
In a coaching session, a leader must feel comfortable sharing personal or sensitive information, for example, exposing a mistake that they may not know how to share with their manager. This leader can leverage their time with a coach to discuss the best ways to approach that conversation. Coaching should not replace the conversation with the manager, but in this example, will help the leader to enhance the level of professionalism with which they handle the situation and manage up. If the leader fears that what is shared in coaching will be circled back to sponsors, they may not be so willing to offer real-life scenarios up for examination or to try new ways of working until they find what works best.
In addition, coaches are bound to a code of ethics that states that all information acquired by the coach, be it through assessments, interviews, or coaching conversations, will be kept strictly confidential. This information belongs to the client and cannot be shared with the organization without express permission from the coachee. While coaches certainly want to aid the organization in reaching its goals, they must do so while also respecting the right of the coachee to confidentiality. If an organization needs to gather data to make important personnel decisions, a coaching program or 360-assessment may not be the best tool to do so.
3. Stakeholder Involvement is a Major Success Factor
While coaching conversations and assessments are confidential, the engagement should not take place in a vacuum. Key organizational leaders (which often include the manager and HR business partner) have an important role to play. In an engagement, the leader is not handed off to the coach only to come back a few months later fully transformed. Rather, managers, mentors, HR partners, internal customers, and even family (where appropriate) can check in regularly with the employee being coached to gauge progress, share noticeable changes or differences they observe, and offer support.
Support can come in many forms, including, but not limited to, an additional accountability partner, access to networks or higher-level colleagues, offering additional development resources like books or classes, frequent performance feedback, internal forms of rewards and recognition, etc. This provides positive reinforcement for what is happening within the coaching program or guidance when adjustments need to be made.
Stakeholder involvement during the engagement also sets the stage for sustaining new behaviors once coaching comes to a close. Even with long-term programs, the time will come for a coach to disengage, but when that happens, the leader should still have a robust team of people to rely on. If those individuals are aware of their role even before the coaching process begins, the coachee is more likely to be clear about the company’s positive intentions for the program, is less likely to become dependent on the coach, and will be more confident in their post-coaching journey towards success.
Having this knowledge can help you determine whether coaching is the right solution for your organization’s development needs and will help you ready your leaders for the process. When you do make the investment, you’ll be set up for successful outcomes and the incredible benefits that coaching can provide.
If you’d like more tips on bringing coaching successfully into your organization, we are here to support you. View our blogs:
- Maximizing the ROI of Coaching for Leaders
- Who Needs a Coach?
- The Three Elements of a Successful Coaching Engagement
If you have questions or would like to discuss your organization’s readiness for coaching in more detail, get in touch by sending an email to [email protected].
Director of Coaching & Development