Given the private and confidential nature of the relationship between the coach and person being coached, there can obviously be some issues for the budget-holder as to how to ensure you get value for money from the investment in coaching. Here are some suggestions:
1. Ensure the coaching is aligned to business needs – we advocate having 4-way discussions at the outset to ensure there is alignment between:
- Person being coached
- Organisation / budget-holder (e.g. HR)
- Business sponsor (e.g. head of department or managing partner)
In every session, although the individual and the coach will be the people physically there, the interests of these four parties need to be taken into account. To give voice to the ‘silent partners’, the budget-holder should clarify the organisation’s needs with management and communicate priorities to those being coached, and to both internal and external coaches. Areas that might be relevant for such briefings might include, for example:
- Strategic objectives of the firm or the relevant part of it
- Culture and values
- Leadership behaviours expected
2. Set measurable objectives at the outset, such as, write a business plan by [date], and establish a clear evaluation process
Evaluation should start from the moment the coaching begins. Increasingly organisations are using four-way contracting for coaching interventions to clarify the organisation’s desired outcomes; the four parties being the stakeholder groups specified above.
Sometimes senior leaders want to use extended external coaching as a stimulus to deeper reflection about the firm or their role or as a catalyst to thinking “outside the box”. In such a case it might be difficult to plan specific outputs, although “generating more imaginative ideas about the future of the firm / how we should tackle X”, might fit the bill in such a case. In any event there needs to be some substantive answer to the question “why is this coaching happening?” so that it is not, in effect, just a perk or a status symbol.
3. Set a budget of, say, three meetings and have a review before proceeding with any further coaching.
4. Encourage all the stakeholders (person being coached, coach, budget holder, business sponsor) to consider continuously if progress is being made.
The individual being coached might ask:
“Is this being helpful?”
“Am I getting more clarity on what needs to happen?”
“Do I feel more confident about taking this on?”
The business sponsor (e.g. department head) and organisation (e.g. HR) might ask:
“Are we seeing the individual wanting to take action?”
“Do they seem more confident?”
“Are we seeing a change in behaviour?”
The coach might usefully consider:
“Does the individual seem to be engaged?”
“Are they taking actions forward?”
“Am I the right person to be coaching this individual?” (i.e. “Do I know somebody better suited?”)
5. HR (or L&D) and the business sponsor should provide on-going support to the coachee between coaching sessions. These meetings will allow communication from the individual about how the coaching is going.
6. The person being coached could provide updates on progress to the budget-holder or business sponsor. We do not advocate that the coach provide this report, as it risks compromising the important boundary of trust between the individual and the coach.
7. Harvest the learning from the coaching. Through the coaching process, coaches develop a deep understanding of the firm’s leadership behaviour and culture. Panellists at CIPD’s Coaching at Work Conference in 2006 agreed it is acceptable to harvest data on organisational themes. This needs to be done with due concern for the individual’s confidentiality and it must be for constructive organisational feedback and never for punitive measures.
In our experience, when HR departments bring external and internal coaches together to identify and document organisational themes that have emerged from their coaching, it both demonstrates the value of that coaching and provides information that enables the firm to be transformed.
Extract from (c) The Sherwood Coaching Handbook.