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Are Your Internal Coaches Prepared for the Job?


Not long ago, workplace coaching was available only to high-ranking executives. Organizations hired outsiders who worked one-on-one with the leaders to develop their professional and personal skills. The benefits were real, and so were the bills. Coaching is a powerful tool, but how can it be extended to more employees without breaking the budget? Many businesses have figured out a way: tap into employees to serve as internal coaches. Here's how it works. A manager, human resources staffer or another senior employee holds regular coaching sessions with a worker, just as an external coach would with the CEO. The same techniques of guided questioning, goal-setting, reflection and so on are used to unlock potential. In a survey of 250 UK companies, the Institute of Leadership and Management found that 83% of them engage internal coaches. (Senior executives are mostly coached by external professional coaches.) As I wrote in an earlier blog post on workplace coaching practices, 95% of respondents identified benefits to both the coached individuals and to the overall organization. Problem solved? Not exactly. The ILM survey uncovered troubling evidence that internal coaches aren't being rigorously selected, properly trained or monitored. It's likely that these issues are blocking many organizations from realizing the full benefits of coaching. The selection process is outright lackadaisical at some companies. Sometimes, the role comes with the job, whether it's wanted or not. A line manager is told to "coach" their direct reports. Other times, senior employees or HR staffs are instructed to "have a go" without any direction. Volunteers may be solicited. Even if employees want to coach, there's a good chance they won't receive training for the role. More than a third of respondents (34%) told ILM their organizations offer no support or development opportunities to internal coaches. Those who do say it comes in the form of in-house training (20%), management-development sessions (11%) or train-the-trainer programs (8%). In the hands of an improperly trained coach, sessions can devolve into instruction, which is pointless, or pseudo-therapy, which can release an explosion of emotions. Someone who has been properly trained is aware of these pitfalls and knows how to manage them. An ineffective coach can easily cause more harm than good. Damage to employee careers and company reputations is avoidable. Earlier this year, Standards Australia released a set of national coaching guidelines devised by the experts in the field of professional coaching. Their guide, Coaching in Organizations, assists organizations select suitable coaches and implement effective coaching programs. You can also get in touch with the coaching association in your area for further help. Does your organization use internal coaches? If so, how do you prepare them for their new role and ensure their skills continue to develop over time? Please share your experiences here. References Allan, Leslie (2011). "Survey Finds Organizations Restrict Workplace Coaching", Coaching in Organizations HB 332-2011 (2011). Sydney, SAI Global, Standards Australia Creating a Coaching Culture (2011). Institute of Leadership and Management,

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