Sorting Out the Cast of Characters

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Our one-act play had two characters: Sarah and the HR VP who was

sponsoring the coaching of three leaders. In reality, consultants have

to deal with a whole cast of characters, including the following:

_ Sponsors. These people (or person) own the performance issue

and the outcome of the coaching initiative. The HR VP was the

coaching sponsor in our vignette.

_ Buyers. Sponsors may or may not have the budget to pay for

the entire coaching initiative. The budget to pay for coaching

often comes from many sources, especially in larger organizations

and those that are decentralized. So, in the previous

example, the HR VP is sponsoring coaching, but the budget

money for the delivery of coaching comes from the individual

business units whose leaders are being coached.

_ Key influencers. Sponsors and buyers have a lot of influence in

the course and direction of coaching, but there may be others

as well who, by virtue of their stature in the organization, can

exercise considerable influence on a coaching initiative. A

couple of examples include a leader who “has the ear” of the

CEO or someone who is widely viewed as a thought leader in

the area of leadership development. Each may hold considerable

sway over decisions regarding coaching.

_ Pathfinders. These people are often initial contacts in an organization

and help consultants learn the ropes. In the case of the

vignette, this could have been a direct report of the HR VP,

perhaps the director of leadership development. The director

could have helped Sarah understand the company culture, sort

out the cast of characters, provide introductions to others in

the HR organization, answer questions about people, and performed

other kinds of orientations.

_ Dragons. Not everyone is enamored of coaching or, for that

matter, consultants. These people will likely oppose coaching,

perhaps have had a bad experience with coaching, or have some

misconceptions about coaching. Some leaders have an axe to

grind that, although not directly related to coaching, will

surface during decision making about a coaching initiative. A

VP of manufacturing, for example, who had a key initiative

shot down by the HR VP will oppose the HR VP’s proposal for

coaching as payback. Pathfinders, by the way, can be helpful in

flushing out these dragons so the dragons can be dealt with as

effectively as possible.

_ Running buddies. Over a period of time, a consultant may work

closely with a particular person and develop a strong relationship.

Running buddies are those people with whom the consultant

can let down some of his or her guard and privately

share concerns or problems regarding the coaching engagement.

There is certainly an element of risk in doing this, but

this sharing is also a reflection of trust in the relationship. As

long as the intention is to always work in the client’s best interest,

and the trust is established, then the risk is well worth

taking.