News & Insight
January 2003

Boss's Involvement Essential To Successful Coaching

Your vice president in charge of sales has been with your company for 15 years. While you have no quarrel with his track record, you've been aware for some time that his abrasive personality is alienating your sales force and causing you to lose good people. What do you do?

One solution is to bring in an executive coach to work with the individual on improving performance. But if you do, keep in mind that the boss's involvement might well spell the difference between success and failure. "Often the boss doesn't want to confront the individual about his or her behavior. He'd much rather turn the difficult employee over to an executive coach," says Diane Russ, a member of WJM Associates' coaching faculty and a principal with The Chrysalis Group. Yet it's critical that the boss play an active role in the coaching process to achieve the desired results. Here is how the boss can help:

  • Before the assignment starts, the boss and coach should meet to discuss the subordinate's behavior, identify desired outcomes and agree upon the boss's role in the coaching process. Some bosses might be willing to offer the subordinate periodic feedback on his performance at meetings and other events; others may prefer just to meet with the subordinate and coach midway through the process.
  • After that initial meeting, the boss should also attend the first meeting with the coach and subordinate. Here the boss describes the behavior that needs to change and the desired outcomes of the coaching process.
  • After the coach and subordinate have developed a plan, they should meet with the boss to review it. "Sometimes the subordinate identifies three things to fix and the boss says, 'I've got a fourth,'" says Russ. "The subordinate's plan has to align with the boss's vision.”
  • During the coaching process, the boss and coach should touch base informally several times and meet at leastonce to ensure that appropriate progress is being made.

At about six months, near the end of the coaching process, the boss and coach should meet to evaluate the effort, provide the coach with feedback on her performance, and discuss any systemic issues that might have contributed to the subordinate's behavior.

"A boss who is willing to participate in the coaching process can have a positive influence on the outcome," says Russ

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