How to Avoid the Obvious Snags
Many organisations now appreciate the benefits that training their managers in coaching skills can bring. Some organisations are training their managers purely in skills that they can use day-to-day with their own staff rather than as internal coaches. However, in larger organisations it is very cost-effective to train up a pool of coaches to act as an internal resource to draw on.
I have delivered one to one and group supervision in-house in organisations such as the NHS, Central Government and Local Authorities and applaud the effort being made to provide CPD and support for trained coaches after their training qualifications.
However I have noticed a number of similar issues popping up within these coaching programmes:
- The lack of a coaching strategy to guide outcomes and process
- Poor attention to basic systems around coaching such as a policy on note taking/record keeping
- Lack of consideration regarding risk and ethical vulnerabilities for internal coaches
- Oversupply of coaches and undersupply of coachees due to inadequate marketing
Lack of a Coaching Strategy
Many coaching pools have been set up in a flurry of enthusiasm over the last few years as more organisations started to appreciate the benefits of coaching particularly as a vehicle for change.
During supervision coaches are encouraged to bring any topics that are challenging for them, tricky or things that pique their interest and can lead to greater learning. After all, supervision is about helping coaches to improve their capability as a coach rather than a tick-box or policing exercise.
However on group supervision sessions in particular, I have found coaches listing challenges that are more to do with the set up of the coaching pool in their organisation rather than coachee specific issues. On further investigation it appears that there is no written overall coaching strategy or if there is one, then the coaches themselves don’t know about it. A good strategy would answer many of the “What, When, Where, How and Why” questions that coaches highlight; after all a strategy is “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.”
Here are some of those questions:
- What is the overall aim of coaching in our organisation? Why are we doing it?
- Positioning of the coaching for coachees (e.g. mentoring, career versus other coaching)
- Where and when to meet coachees
- How to share resources for coaching such as articles or templates
- Can I coach outside the organisation?
- Who decides number of coaching sessions? Length of session? Timings?
- Is there a matching process for coach and coachees? How do I get more coachees?
- What evaluation takes place? How do we measure success of coaching?
- Who can access coaching? Who can’t?
- Who is in overall charge of the coaching programme?
- When to use internal coaches versus external coaches?
Process and Systems
Many coaching programmes are setup without enough thought of the systems required for it to run efficiently. This includes questions such as:
- What to do about note taking and record keeping? How to write them? Confidentiality? Reporting lines internally. Who gets to see them apart from coach and coachee?
- How do we harvest the organisational themes across the organisation from all the coaching conversations?
- Who makes the decision and how, on what coach will work with what coachee?
- Can coaches turn down coachees and how to do that before, during and after the start of a relationship?
Ethics and Risk
This is a huge topic and is worrying when major ethical queries arrive at group supervision. Ethical awareness for coaches should be a mix of underlying guidelines pertaining to a framework from an independent body, as well as a statement of intent by the organisation on what they would expect from their own coaches. This then helps to put into context any personal ethical dilemma a coach has outside of this so they can build their own ethical sensitivity.
Without an underpinning framework there are huge questions marks and high likelihood that a coach is going to be putting them and a coachee at risk. Internally this could lead to problems for the coachee. Examples of this I have seen are:
- Coach continuing to coach someone who needs counselling or other specialist help
- Internal coach coaching someone who they have managed previously even though a number of years ago.
- An internal coach working with someone who is connected to one of their relatives
- A coach being dragged into a disciplinary process because there was no cross checking between departments that the coachee had grievances lodged against them.
- An employment tribunal asking for a coach’s notes or a written report by the coach
- Coach being used as a witness in a bullying allegation
My top tip would be to sign up to an external coaching body such as ICF, EMCC or AC (You could be a corporate member) and abide by their code rather than reinventing the wheel. It creates independence and back up too if the worst should happen.
Too Many Coaches; Not Enough Coachees
This a constant issue wherever I go, although it’s not consigned to just internal coaching pools. Many external coaches find that after training there is not the huge supply of coachees they were led to believe were out there during their training. This sometimes loops back to create ethical problems as coaches rationalise working with people that they shouldn’t, because they need to log hours (in the internal coach case) or money (in the external coach case.)
Particularly in public sector organisations the idea of marketing does not come easily and so is often missed. A major consideration is how to encourage enthusiasm for coaching so that you get participants to sign up to any programme and become champions for coaching whether coach or coachee.
There are a number of options you could follow. All the options are best if fronted by executive level sponsors where possible:
- An online presentation to include a video clip of coaching in action to be available if possible on a company intranet. Use of examples of coaching on manager’s key problem areas, benefits, etc.
- A ‘lunch and learn’ presentation on coaching and its benefits. Focussing on what participants would get from taking part, e.g. new skills, career development, and other organisational benefits.
- A half day coaching awareness workshop for people to see some coaching in action from coach trainers or experienced coaches using volunteers. Emphasis on what it is and isn’t, dispel the ‘remedial coachee’ label; see it used on personal topics, etc.
Managers from different parts of the organisation can effectively act as champions for the establishment of coaching. This will enable them to influence within their areas so that enthusiasm for coaching spreads out from this initial source.
As more attend follow up programmes then this will gain momentum and enable the pockets of coaching excellence to ‘join up’. Usually the most motivated and keen managers will volunteer first to coach, and be coached, and help to create a groundswell of interest in coaching.
The above is not an exhaustive overview of the issues relating to Internal coaching provision but if the stakeholders of an organisational plan paid attention to some of the key areas above then I believe we would see a greater impact for coaching across the board…… and that would be a positive step in the right direction.
To get in touch with Julia Menaul, an Accredited Executive Coach and Supervisor of both Coaches and Supervisors, to discuss any areas covered here or elsewhere please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07973924224.