What to expect from executive coaches in your organization

With executive coaching expanding dramatically over the past ten years, many organizations are now looking at it as a strategic leadership development investment vs. something to provide to a leader as a developmental assist.

Executive coaching has become a significant leadership development expense as well. Costs can run to $50,000 and more, depending on the coach or coaches, the scope of the engagement, and the level of the leader being coached.

Given that, your organization deserves quality coaching with positive impact. And you might consider setting certain key expectations for your coaches in order to get maximum value from an enterprise-wide coaching program.

At Cambria, we expect a lot from our coaches. Of course, we expect that they will conduct engagements of the highest quality. From our perspective, coaching is a confidential process; but at the same time, coaching is also an organizational initiative. Therefore, we expect that our coaches will connect to a client’s broader leadership development and organizational goals. We also expect them to keep the client informed of their activities. It’s critical that they relay what they are learning about what’s happening inside your organization outside of their coaching engagements.

If your organization is investing in leaders through executive coaching, here are a few important expectations to have of your coaches — regardless of their source.

Participating in An Organizational Orientation

To be most effective, your coaches should have a broad understanding of your organization. It’s entirely reasonable to expect that all coaches will attend an orientation of some sort, virtually or in person. Make sure to include your organization’s history and culture, strategic objectives, and competitive positioning. Also, communicate your org structure, how the various lines of business operate and integrate with each other, where they’re positioned globally, and leadership development programs that key talent attend.

It is reasonable to expect that all coaches attend such a session. If it’s done on site, most organizations cover travel expenses. It is also not uncommon for external coaches to attend these programs without being paid for their time, since this is an investment in their ability to coach effectively in the firm.

Joining Ongoing Coach Cadre Calls

If your organization has more than a dozen coaching engagements underway, it is extremely useful to have all coaches participate in periodic conference calls. In partnership with our client organizations, we leverage these calls to keep current on what is happening in the organization and to field questions from the coaches. Use this time to engage coaches about what they are learning or are concerned about in the organization, especially if they are coaching several people. This focus helps ensure that your coaches are thinking about the organization as a system and not just focusing on their coachees alone.

Our cadre calls normally occur about every three months, and we expect all of our coaches to attend. We view their attendance as a benefit to them as well as a way to reinforce our strategic view of coaching.

Following Your Rules of Professional Conduct

Our clients customarily expect our coaches to focus on the work at hand and not spend time trying to market other services or sell additional work. Sometimes having a group of coaches in your organization can result in trying to herd cats around the work that is occurring. In addition to coaching, some coaches leverage their presence in an organization to generate additional work that may not be aligned with the focus of the Talent Management or Leadership Development functions.  So, it’s important to be clear on your expectations around coaches generating business for themselves while in the system.

If there is other work to be done — anything from additional coaching engagements to other leadership development services — requests should come via the leader of the talent management or organization development team. That helps ensure that the most fitting approach for the organization plays out. A “no marketing” policy provides you with a path to oust coaches in your cadre who do not respect the boundaries of their work.

Communicating Progress on Each Engagement

What kinds of communication do you expect or want from your coaches? How much do you want, and how often do you want it? We generally request that each of our coaches provides two or three quick updates on progress during their coaching engagements. We also provide them with a simple template to use. Topics could include:

What are the high-level development areas the coachee is focusing on?
What is the coach’s perspective on coachee engagement and development momentum?
How is the coachee’s manager and/or HR involved in the coaching progress and follow-up?
Are there any concerns that the organization should be aware of?

Updates like this can keep the organization from being surprised if an engagement is faltering. They also help ensure that the right people beyond the coachee’s manager are involved as needed to support each coaching engagement.

Avoiding and Dealing with Common Problems

Problems can occur even with the best coaches and the best processes. A manager may want more detailed confidential information about the coaching conversations. A coachee may not be showing up for scheduled coaching sessions. The coach may need guidance on dealing with organizational issues or political sensitivities. How do you want coaches to escalate challenges such as these and others with the coachee, the coachee’s manager, or the organizational sponsor of the coaching initiative?

Defining protocol for how to deal with these types of situations is important. Many organizations overlook this. Yet it takes only one major breakdown to undermine the positive impact of coaching in a system. Investing in defining this and ensuring coaches know what to do if a problem occurs is key. And it is reasonable to expect coaches to keep the coaching practice leader abreast of any issues that may negatively affect the coachee or their engagement success.

Final Thought

You may have other requirements of coaches in line with leadership development efforts. And your expectations might depend on whether they are independent contractors, provided by a firm such as Cambria, home-grown HR professionals or managers trained as internal coaches. But the expectations that we have for Cambria coaches, some of which are outlined above, reinforce our view of coaching as a strategic initiative that goes beyond accelerating the development of individual leaders. These are activities and expectations that you can implement in your organization, and are part of the support that Cambria provides to clients who are establishing, refining, or growing their coaching.

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