News & Insight
December 2014

Developing Internal Coaching Skills

Every manager should have one or more subordinates being readied for advancement either to replace the manger or for some other role of comparable value to the organization. To the extent this is not happening, the organization is at risk of not being able to realize its ambitions.

A major challenge for those tasked with the oversight of enterprise talent development initiatives is to identify promising candidates in which to invest and to implement a process for their development. This can take many forms, but one approach could be to coach managers to be coaches in their own right rather than depending solely upon outsourcing that function to external Executive Coaches.

There are, however, challenges to this approach. Many mangers are uncomfortable with the role of coach and feel ill-equipped for it. Any program to address the talent development need must recognize this reality and provide both training and guided experience in actual coaching to participants if it is to succeed.

What Would Such a Program Look Like?

A possible approach could be based upon a successful program conducted at Fairleigh Dickinson University by the author.

The program participants were all current leaders in their respective organizations and early in the program were asked to identify a member of their staff that would benefit from coaching. Using program instruction, each participant undertook to coach that person they chose and reported on their progress in class each session. By the end of the program, every participant had applied the coaching model discussed in class and had real success in helping their coachees overcome significant developmental challenges.

This demonstrated that it is possible to conduct a relatively short, intensive coaching tutorial that includes a concrete coaching project for application and to achieve impressive results. If this could be done in a company setting, the results could be dramatic and the cost quite modest.

A Proposal for a Coaching Skills Development Program

Desired Outcomes:

  1. To establish the foundation for a top-down coaching centered leadership culture that will systematically equip leaders to develop the potential in their organization members through effective coaching.
  2. To significantly expand the contributions of employees to high priority goals by heightened engagement and innovative initiative as a result of coaching.
  3. To groom aspiring leaders to identify, develop and deploy talent in their organizations as a major element in their stewardship strategy.

Design Overview:

For each participating organizational unit, the senior executive selects those subordinate leaders to be included in the coaching program. This may be the current leadership team reporting to the executive or a set of leaders that have the greatest potential for benefitting from such a program.

Throughout the program, the executive acts as Head Coach to the participants. The program consultant provides ongoing coaching to the executive throughout the program.

With the executive’s concurrence, each participant selects one of their reports to be coached. The desired results of coaching are established and agreed upon by the participant, the executive and the person being coached prior to the program start.

The program consultant conducts intensive coaching training for the participants including the executive. This is delivered in a series of three half-day sessions on-site spaced at one month intervals. As part of the second and third sessions, participants share their coaching plan and preliminary results with the group and receive peer coaching.

Upon program completion, participants meet one-on-one with the executive and the consultant to present progress on their coaching initiative. Emphasis is on what the participant is learning as well as the results of the coaching.

A final working meeting of the participants, executive and consultant following the program serves as a review of learnings and of the desired outcomes of the program. This is a focus on the larger issues of building a coaching culture, early indications of return on the investment and possible next steps for sustainability.

What are the benefits and expected ROI from the program?

For the Executive:

  1. Individual coaching for desired outcomes over 4 months.
  2. Serious effort instituted to equip participants to coach. Significant progress in developing the coaching skills of self and participants. (Tangible coaching performance improvement and a plan to build on this to include other unit participants going forward)
  3. Development of meaningful measures of talent development to guide compensation and incentive decisions.
  4. The building of a foundation of trust to improve team performance and shared experience.
  5. Implications for succession management for self and participants.

For Participants:

  1. Training and hands-on experience in coaching.
  2. Increased organizational capacity through developmental delegation.
  3. Increased potential for performance improvement by the coachee.
  4. Enhanced teamwork across the organization.
  5. Practical skills/experience to expand coaching to other direct reports.
  6. The ability to demonstrate tangible talent development results to support performance management goals.

For Coachees:

  1. Receiving hands-on coaching by their manager to expand skills repertoire and guidance to undertake expanded responsibilities and more complex assignments.
  2. Real support to gain self-confidence and demonstrate ability.
  3. Greater engagement in the goals of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Coaching is a strategic idea, an investment in the long-term sustainable success of the enterprise. We may think of it as a means of appreciating our talent assets, much as we value asset management in financial institutions. It is also a way to multiply talent and enhance employee engagement. The above proposal is an attempt to make the desire for development more than just rhetoric.

WJM Faculty Member Robert Goodell is an executive coach with over 25 years of experience assisting leaders, teams and organizations in effectively managing change.

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