Tip 4: Write a Winning Proposal

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The next chapter delves into developing an evaluation strategy for a

coaching initiative. The work proposal provides a bridge from the

value propositions and the groundwork that has been laid to the

design and evaluation of the coaching initiative.Winning proposals

are short and sweet and present just enough information in order

for the senior leaders to make the right decision about moving

forward with coaching. Less is more. If information is not needed

for leaders to make a decision, then leave this information out.Work

proposals must highlight value to the business and respond to the

value propositions of the key players. The requirements for coaching

must be outlined so that leaders know what they are getting

themselves into. Including an evaluation strategy will show the

leaders how they will know if and when the value is delivered. A final

section on investment will help the leaders appropriately budget for

the initiative.

_ Highlight value to the business. This is the headliner in any work

proposal and represents the culmination of the “so that” series

of probes. In fact, if this section is not hard hitting and business

focused, many leaders will not read much further. Paint a

picture of how the organization will be improved as a result of

the coaching initiative. Earlier in this chapter, we talked about

describing the performance gap and how coaching will close

this gap. Connect the dots for the reader of the proposal. Do

not rely on the reader’s imagination to make the conceptual

leap of how coaching will create value and close the performance

gap. Make sure the proposal reflects the value the decision

makers expect.

_ Outline the requirements for coaching. Present the broad strokes

of the coaching initiative: how many people, over what time

period will receive coaching. Show what the coaching will entail.

Describe the initial orientation session. Present the coaching

initiative in a way that demonstrates how the initiative is

integrated with other HR and developmental efforts. For

example, the individual assessment phase may be based on the

company’s leadership competency model. A multisource interview

process will be incorporated into the assessment phase.

Coaching will be formally inducted into the company’s leadership

supply process. Position coaching as a strategic integrator

of the elements making up the company’s people strategy. All

of these efforts show how critical the coaching initiative will be

to meet the needs of the people and the business.

_ Show how the coaching initiative will be evaluated. Accountability

is a precious commodity. Initiatives are often launched in

organizations with big promises of a payoff, but as the initiative

drags on, these promises become a distant memory. For hard

asset initiatives, such as redesigning a manufacturing plant

layout, business leaders are sanguine about cutting the initiative

sponsor some slack. When it comes to the softer side of business,

like leadership development, business leaders are more

hard-nosed. In part this is because of the skepticism many

leaders harbor about the value of people development. It’s a

bigger conceptual leap to think in terms of people development

contributing to business value. It’s turning an intangible (learning)

into a tangible (ROI) that takes longer to understand than

how a tangible (plant relayout) turns into an ROI.

This is where the evaluation plan comes into play. The next

chapter goes into considerable detail about how to design and

execute an evaluation strategy. At this point in the proposal

process, what is needed is to commit that this evaluation will

be done and that the promises made will be kept. The evaluation

plan also provides leaders with some signposts about what

is working and not working. By monitoring these signposts,

leaders have leverage over some risk factors in their investment.

Leaders have some early warnings about the progress of their

investment and can take some corrective actions. The ability to

manage risk lowers the resistance to proceeding with the proposed

initiative.

_ State the required investment. At this point in reading the proposal,

it is hoped that the business leaders are so enthusiastic

that any level of investment will seem modest, in our dreams.

Business leaders will invest in a coaching initiative that

promises to meet their needs, but they may look for options

and choices for moving forward. One of the most frequent

options is to begin with a pilot program. The pilot represents

a subset of the greater population that may ultimately receive

coaching. The risk is less, because fewer people are involved and

the investment is less than full deployment. Another option is

for the client to rely on existing assessments and not pay for

the coach to conduct additional assessments. This option can

be less viable than the first, depending on the quality of the

assessments. Some company assessments that are institutionalized

can become pro forma and do not reveal someone’s true

strengths and improvement opportunities. It is usually best to

give the coach free reign to collect and analyze assessment data

on which to base the coaching.

One popular option is for companies to have coaches train

employees to be coaches and to avoid most of the expense of

hiring outside coaches. These employees can belong to an HR

organization or be line managers in a business unit. Although

there is merit to building the coaching skills of staff and managers,

it should be recognized that these employees will provide

substantially different services than what a professional executive

coach will provide. There is coaching, and then there is

coaching. Like any profession, coaching requires commitment,

education, practice, and achieving certification levels. The

International Coach Federation (ICF), for example, provides

certification and educational accreditation for the coaching

profession. If a company decides to launch an internal coaching

group, then the professional standards of the ICF should be

adopted. The worst-case scenario, which unfortunately is

played out all too often, is that leaders think a weeklong training

class in coaching will get them the same value that an

experienced professional coach provides. In these situations,

the experience with coaching is mixed, and leaders become disenfranchised

with coaching, not recognizing the quality difference

between a low-budget, homegrown affair and professional

executive coaching.

Finally, clients may wish to exercise some choices about how best

to finance the coaching initiative. Clients may decide, for example,

to handle the administrative aspects of the initiative and factor out

of the proposal any fees related to administration. Coaching via the

telephone as opposed to in-person may also reduce the total investment.

The point is that clients appreciate having choices about how

to maximize their investment. Coaches should be flexible as long as

the coaching process is not compromised.