Workforce Magazine was in touch recently to get our input on the subject of how best to demonstrate coaching’s impact for developing leaders. It’s an issue we’ll see more and more in business — as clients come under increasing pressure to develop leaders faster and across more areas of the enterprise.

But the impact and value an organization receives from its investment in coaching depends a lot on how and why that coaching is used. In our experience working with dozens of organizations over the years, we have found there to be five basic types of organizational approaches to coaching — each of which has advantages and challenges — and all of which provide at least some value to the organization.

The five types are:

1. Corrective — This is fix-it coaching; these organizations primarily provide coaches to executives in remedial situations in an attempt to improve performance or correct problem behavior. Often, coaching is used as a last-ditch effort to save a derailing leader. Even most organizations that do not have a formal coaching practice or processes have at least had some of this type of coaching taking place. A pitfall is its tendency to create the perception that being provided a coach is an undesirable signal of weakness and failure. Many organizations that have taken one of the more advanced approaches to coaching do retain this ad hoc offering. They often re-label it as “performance consulting” or similar, and use a different cadre of resources, in order to distinguish it from developmental coaching.

2. Responsive — This is order-taking; these organizations have begun to put some of the infrastructure in place to support an ongoing level of developmental coaching activity, systematically responding to inbound requests from across the enterprise in accordance with defined processes. They have often identified central points of contact for coaching, qualification standards for coaches, pools of pre-vetted coaches, coaching process requirements, and criteria for determining who can be coached. They work to promote coaching internally, educate others on coaching processes and expectations, coordinate coach-coachee matching, monitor coaching progress, ensure adherence to requirements, and approve invoices.

3. Proactive — These organizations have developed a “menu” of coaching offerings – expanding on their responsiveness to inbound requests for coaching by building organizational buy-in for a more proactive stance, targeting one or more populations of leaders to promote and offer specific forms of developmental coaching. These may include specific circumstances (executives on the succession plan, new leaders being on-boarded into the organization, leaders in transition, newly-formed teams, executive sounding board, etc.) or programs (participants in a leadership development or training program, participants in a 360-degree feedback program, etc.). One of the temptations is to create too broad a menu which can be confusing to the leaders and to the HR community.

4. Strategic — These organizations have limited the coaching that is available to their organizations and have linked those limited offerings to the organization’s talent priorities and business strategies. They apply coaching selectively to accelerate the development of successors and high-potential talent, implement targeted coaching initiatives for leadership populations, and integrate coaching elements into key management and leadership development programs and people processes. Coaching goals are linked to business outcomes and impact. Their top executives understand the importance and value of coaching to its talent strategy, and advocate for its effective use.

5. Mission Critical — A growing handful of organizations at the vanguard of coaching are able to leverage coaching as an essential element supporting its business strategy. They have transcended the traditional uses of coaching for supporting development and transition by applying it to business strategy implementation. It has become a powerful tool supporting such mission-critical priorities as operationalizing shifts in strategy into needed behavior change, breaking down barriers and resistance to change, facilitating successful strategy execution, and fostering innovation and openness to new ideas. In these organizations, coaching has emerged from purely the development space to become a vital resource supporting the success and sustainability of the enterprise.

Ultimately, coaching has the most impact when it’s aligned with an organization’s strategy and mindful of industry and business realities confronting the organization. A critical bottom line: Coaching needs to be managed as a strategic initiative tied to other developmental initiatives such as core leadership training, talent review (including developing high potential leaders), and succession — which is largely about preparing people for the next big job.

Coaching’s value can’t be maximized if it’s viewed as an administrative function — where coaching requests are matched to available resources. And in order to scale coaching so that it has maximum impact, organizations need to develop cadres of internal coaches and managers as coaches.

In future blog posts, we’ll explore specific ways to build coaching muscle internally.

For now, in terms of creating coaching programs for maximum impact, our advocacy in Workforce Magazine includes six specific directives:

  1. Target High Performers
  2. Involve Managers
  3. Give it Time
  4. Measure Key Results
  5. Aim for Advocates
  6. Generate Great Stories

We detail each of those in the Workforce magazine piece — read it here.

Please stay in touch and let us know of your experience in tying coaching to strategy.