No matter what type of organization you are in, in my experience there are 3 critical things that need to happen for organisational coaching to be successful.
However, they are often the 3 things that many coaching projects miss completely, both organisational key stakeholders who engage coaches and coaches themselves. And why in many cases, coaching has sometimes been seen as a ‘cosy chat’ rather than getting the real, very powerful results it can manifest for an organisation.
These 3 critical aspects all need to happen to ensure the most successful outcome to a coaching program. None is more important than the other as such: I see them as equal sides of what I call the Triangle of Coaching Organisational Success.
If any one of the three is out of balance, at best the sides of the Triangle will not fit together properly and the coaching program outcomes will be adversely affected: at worst it may collapse and break down entirely.
This can result in significant damage to the organizational development culture, even the organization itself. And will almost certainly reduce the effectiveness of future coaching in the organization – even total loss of faith in the coaching process entirely.
Each of these areas is a topic in itself, which are covered in more depth in other articles, but to briefly cover each one:
1. Correct Coach/Coachee Match
In a 2008 American Management Association and the Institute for Corporate Productivity survey, participants were asked to what extent their organizations used certain criteria to match coaches with coachees. Almost three-quarters of respondents (74%) said matching decisions were either frequently or a great deal based on finding a coach with the right expertise to address specific issues.
Expertise in itself is important, of course, and must be a factor in selecting a coach match. However, to be the sole deciding factor in matching a coach & coachee is like expecting an employee to be the right match for your organization based purely on their skills & not taking into account personality, cultural fit, working methodology, values, etc. Unfortunately many organizations do this with their staff too, which explains why many hires don’t work out (but that’s a topic for another article!).
Many organizations leave the choice of coach to the coachee, which means the coachee gets the coach they want. That can be OK if the coachee is very self aware & critically self-appraised about their development… but many aren’t (which is why they often need coaching!).
To ensure maximum success from a Coaching Program, the coachee needs to have the coach they need… as opposed to want. The two may be very different. Also, the coachee must have the coach the orgnisation needs for the coachee, to ensure maximum success for the organization and hence the individual.
2. Specific Outcomes
I learnt very early on in running organisational coaching programs that without very clear outcomes for an organisational coaching program (i.e. where the organization is engaging a coach to coach an employee) things can go horribly wrong!
When I say clear outcomes, I’m not talking about goal setting here – that’s usually part of the coaching itself. What I mean is when the organization is paying for coaching to develop an individual or team.
In this case, the organization usually has a reason for engaging the coach & usually has a particular outcome or outcomes in mind they want the coachee to achieve. There are unlikely to be cases where there aren’t specific requirements: even if a coach is engaged for an Executive, say, purely as a sounding board, there are still usually outcomes required as a result.
Getting very clear on what these outcomes are is critical – for the success of the organization, for the success of the individual, and for the reputation of the coaching industry as a whole.
Otherwise the coaching can again end up as just a “cozy chat” – which anecdotal evidence I hear says many “Executive Coaching” programs seem have been. And research indicates similarly: in a 2010 Executive Coaching Survey by The Conference Board kilometre capital research showed on average only 37% of organizations formally evaluated the effectiveness of the coaching engagement.
Those “Executive Coaching” programs may have benefited the individual, but that benefit often may not be evident to the organization that has invested in the Executive Coaching.
In my opinion, a lot of damage has been done to the coaching industry because of the lack of clarity of organisational outcomes for the coaching, so the perceived value of the coaching has not been evident. And a lot of damage can be done to the coach and coachee too!
Calculating a bottom line return on investment for any coaching is very enough (especially as a great coach will be getting the individual to “learn how to fish” rather than “give them fish” so the part a great coach plays in the development may be masked!).
Getting clear on the outcomes the organization wants so there is a clear and visible outcome is therefore crucial