Coaches are often part of group practices, while others work alone. Many coaches are certified through several recognized organizations; others have built their skills and competencies through years of valuable practical experience.
Cathy Lange, who leads the Human Capital Advisor (HCA) Leadership Coaching practice, strongly advises organizations to find coaches who have experience leading groups or organizations or who have run businesses, so they can better relate to the challenges of today's leaders. "There is absolutely no substitute for having been there and probably done that," she says, "and it's particularly valuable if your coach has P&L or budget responsibility."
Step 1: The Sponsor's Engagement
Most coaching projects are initiated by sponsors, people who either suggest coaching or who will track its progress inside an organization.
The coach must understand the perspective of the sponsor. A meeting between the two should lay out the high-level expectations and growth targets for the executive to be coached. A few ground rules are established to ensure the sponsor understands the nature of the relationship between coach and executive. The single most important understanding is that what is discussed between the coach and executive over the course of the assignment is strictly confidential.
Step 2: Selecting a Coach
After a coaching firm is selected, the sponsor or human resources department should suggest the executive interview two coaches to ensure a good coach/executive fit. The coach selection must be made by the executive. This is critical to a successful outcome. Before meeting the coaching prospects the executive should prepare questions that focus on the coaches' business background, coaching experience and the coaching process and style.
Step 3: The Handoff from Sponsor to Coach and Executive
Once selected, the coach, sponsor and executive meet to discuss the process and desired outcomes to ensure everyone is on the same page:
- Agreement is essential to the success of the initiative. The coach will outline expectations, time required, frequency of meetings, preliminary evaluations, status reporting, follow-up, etc.
- Establishing how "coachable" the executive is is foremost. He or she must be willing to receive, process, respond to and accept/embrace feedback; otherwise, a successful coaching outcome is unlikely.
The coach will set up an in-depth information gathering session with the executive to learn more about the:
- Specifics of the executive's role in the company and the environment in which he or she operates
- Organization's structure, culture and mission
- Important personal issues such as career path, strengths, areas for improvement
Step 4: Assessment Tools
Assessment tools (discussed provide insights into individual personality styles. These styles can provide great clues and insights into behavior and accelerate the coach's understanding of the executive. HCA, for example, uses a variety of research-backed assessment tools to:
- Understand the core personality-driven attributes of the executive
- Gauge perceptions of co-workers, subordinates and superiors to better understand the dynamics in play
Step 5: The Engagement and Working Sessions
It isn't necessary to wait for all the assessments and information collection to be completed before beginning the engagement itself as the initial discussions between coach and executive will be broad as the two begin to develop a rapport. Initially, they will:
· Set specific goals based on the assessments and coach/executive discussions
· Establish meeting schedules (usually weekly or bi-weekly) and action plans
· Share goals with the sponsor
Coach/executive meetings are usually held in the work environment, perhaps in the office or a conference room but sometimes outside the office. Executives are also encouraged to call the coach between sessions to discuss issues in real time.
Step 6: Monitoring Performance and the Coaching Impact
During the coaching process, the coach and executive should review the original 360 interviews, identifying the specific behaviors that need to be addressed. Then they should solicit feedback from direct reports, superiors and colleagues to determine if they've seen changes in the executive's behavior. This feedback loop helps to identify the impact of the coaching.
Step 7: The Conclusion
During the coaching engagement, the coach should have the executive prepare a "lessons learned" document to reinforce new behaviors acquired, as well as uncover areas needing more development.
At the end of the coaching assignment, the sponsor or immediate supervisor, executive and coach consult to determine which goals were achieved, which need further work and to gauge the overall impact the engagement has had on the individual and the organization. The coaching itself may end but the executive's ongoing application of what he or she has learned should continue until behaviors are truly automatic.
To learn more about Human Capital Advisors, visit their website, or email Cathy Lange.