News & Insight
August 2003

Preventing Failure In Executive Coaching

Suzanne Boisvert<br />Senior Vice President<br />WJM Associates

Like other professional services, executive coaching requires planning and oversight in order to be effective. But all too often, companies leave it up to the coaches and their clients to manage the process. As a result, client companies, bosses and HR may not know how effective the coaching is, where assignments stand, when they are scheduled to conclude, and if the objectives of the coaching process are being met. Often coaching can continue for long periods of time or peter out with no substantive results for the effort.

In order to enhance the long-term success of coaching and to maximize the investment in terms of time, money and resources, companies may want to follow a simple, four-step process.

1. Determine the need for coaching. How many engagements begin because someone thinks "Joe needs a coach"? Hiring an executive coach without defining the reasons and the objectives is a certain path to failure. As the saying goes, if you don't know where you are going, any road -- or coach -- will take you there. Coaching may not provide a solution if the perceived need is not clearly defined.

2. Define the type of coaching. Once you have determined that someone should have a coach, it is important to define the objective of the process. Is this a "high-potential" candidate being groomed for future leadership? Someone who is assuming a new role? Or a person who has hit the wall and may need some repositioning and refocusing? A developmental or transitional coaching assignment usually calls for six to nine months of evenly spaced meetings twice a month. A corrective situation frequently requires more time "up front" over a three-month period and fewer meetings during the last six months. Clearly defining the type of coaching, the objectives for the process and the required time and effort will ensure that the coaching process is effective, and that the company and the individual being coached receive value for money.

3. Monitor the process. Once the company, the executive and the coach have agreed to the objective and a schedule, it behooves all parties to fulfill their responsibilities to ensure success. For the coach, this means apprising the sponsor of any difficulties, including access, scheduling and information. For the executive, it means committing to the process by keeping appointments with the coach, doing assigned work and communicating with his/her staff about the coaching process. And for the company, it means checking in periodically with both coach and executive to make sure that the process is on track and efficient.

4. Close the coaching engagement. At the end of the agreed-upon time, the company, executive and coach should meet to evaluate the assignment. Did the coach deliver what was promised? Were the objectives of the process met? Was there perceived and real change in the person being coached? What results did the 360-degree feedback measure? What further support is needed in order to ensure lasting change and success of the process? And, finally, is additional coaching warranted?

By following these four steps, companies and their executives should get the most out of their investment in coaching.

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