What makes the difference between success and disaster when it comes to internal coaching schemes? Katharine St John-Brooks, an in-house coaching specialist, gives her ten top tips.
1. Think about governance.
There can be advantages to having a steering group, with members drawn from different parts of the organisation, to keep you focused on business needs and what support managers need. They can also hopefully help you ensure you continue to receive the budget you need.
2. Be really clear about why you are setting up the internal coaching resource in the first place.
Is it just ‘nice to have’ access to trained coaches who can be called upon to turn their hand to anything, or is the purpose tied into the strategic needs of the organisation? Is the intention to grow your own leaders? To improve staff retention? To support a management development programme? To help people transitioning into a new role? To give support to leaders of business-critical projects? As Hunt & Weintraub (2006) said: “The most successful coaching programmes have a job to do”.
3. How are you going to select your coaches? Think about how you can best assess their readiness to be a coach.
You may be able to spot likely people from L&D programmes they have attended. Or you could draw up criteria and approach senior people to ask them to suggest people in their departments who seem to them to have the necessary qualities. Or advertise the opportunity to train as a coach throughout the organisation and then get them to complete a ‘coach readiness’ questionnaire. Large organisations sometimes put together a whole day of activities to assess potential coaches before selecting them for training.
4. Who will be eligible to have coaching?
Will details about the coaches be available to anyone in the organisation wanting a coach? Or will only hand-chosen people – perhaps in business critical roles – be given access?
5. Be sure about what your expectations are of your coaches.
How broad is their remit? Must every session be devoted to business/management issues or are your coaches free to address areas of concern to the client that might be more personal? How holistic are you expecting them to be? And what if the client wants your coaches to play more of a ‘mentor’ role? Will you allow that?
6. Give plenty of thought to marketing and be very careful about balancing supply and demand.
If you market your coaching resource too actively you may find you have more potential clients than your coaches can handle. On the other hand, if you go about marketing with a very ‘softly, softly’ approach, you could find yourself with a cohort of newly-trained coaches who don’t have enough clients (2-3 clients at any one time is the average in most organisations). This can have grave consequences: coaches can quickly feel deskilled if they don’t have enough opportunities to exercise their newly honed skills and can then lose confidence.
7. Work out what depth of training your coaches will need.
How senior will their clients be? Is a qualification important to their perceived credibility? To whom is it important – the coaches themselves or their clients? Do you need something custom-built or is an off-the-shelf training programme sufficient? Do you have existing coaches in learning and development who could run the programme? Do you want it to be accredited by one of the professional bodies?
8. How are you going to support your coaches?
Will you ensure they have continuing professional development after their training is complete? And what about supervision by a trained coach supervisor? Best practice is for coaches to receive either 1:1 or group supervision at least once every couple of months.
9. Make sure you have developed a code of ethics and complaints process for your coaching scheme.
It is very important that your coaches are practicing in an ethical way. Your code can be based on a professional body’s code: the European Mentoring & Coaching Council; the Association for Coaching and the International Coach Federation are the three main professional bodies operating in the UK and they all have codes of ethics.
10. Put in place methods for evaluating your coaches’ work from the outset.
Whether you decide to do something very basic, like asking the clients for feedback, as to what extent coaching has met their needs. Or whether you do something much more sophisticated, that aims to establish return on investment, you must do something! You need to know whether your coaching scheme is delivering value to the organisation so give some thought to how you can best evaluate that.
Katharine St John-Brooks is a coach and author. Her book Internal Coaching: The Inside Story (Karnac Books, 2014) is the only book on the market in the UK devoted to internal coaching and covers all aspects of setting up an internal coaching resource, drawing on the experience of many organisations. Management Today said in its review (June 2014) that the book was: “a thorough, unflinchingly honest guide to the topic that will appeal to a broad audience”.