The Organization Context for Individual Growth

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These stories, as powerful as they were, were played out on a greater

stage—that of their respective organizations. At this point, we transition

to this greater stage. Let’s begin with Jane. Originally, Jane’s

boss convinced her to work with a coach. At first she was unwilling,

because no one else was working with a coach. There were no organizational

objectives for coaching, other than to make sure that Jane

was at the top of her game to successfully deal with the merger. Jane

clearly benefited from the coaching, and we suspect that the organization

did as well, although the organizational benefits are intangible.

Jane’s boss was satisfied with her progress and the outcomes

from coaching, but it did not dawn on him that others in the business

might benefit from coaching as well. For Jane’s boss, coaching

was something that “fixed” people, rather than a developmental

process with potential business impact.

Jack’s situation was similar to Jane’s in that both were struggling

and both were directed to a coach by their respective bosses. Jack’s

boss, however, had his eyes set on a bigger prize than just Jack

“getting fixed.” There were clear business implications for the outcomes

of Jack’s coaching experience: increased client satisfaction,

improved project management, and better teamwork. Jack’s boss

was satisfied when he heard all of the unsolicited testimonials from

clients and team members about the progress Jack had made. So,

these benefits, while valued, were intangible and as such did not hit

the boss’s radar screen. Coaching was not continued in the organization

despite Jack’s success.

Mark’s situation takes us to a bigger stage. He was part of a leadership

development program that included 80 other leaders, and

coaching was an important element of this program. The company,

PharmaQuest (a fictitious name), a large pharmaceutical manufacturer,

had a lot riding on this leadership development program. The

pipeline of new products was dwindling, and in the COO’s words,

“the bureaucratic sclerosis was killing us!” Coaching, in contrast to

Jane and Jack’s experience, was an initiative with an expected business

payoff.We will learn in the next chapter just how important it

is to set the strategic context for coaching in order for the business

payoff to be realized. Without this strategic context, coaching may

produce value but not the kind of value expected by senior leadership

or most needed by the business.

This begs the question: What makes a coaching initiative strategic?

Clare’s experience sheds some light on this issue. Clare was a VP

who, along with her peers and boss (the company president), was

being coached. Coaching was initiated for many reasons. Clare, for

example, wanted a coach to help her rally her peers to embrace her

ideas for integrated solutions. The company president was most

concerned about the eroding product margins and his inability to

focus his direct reports on this issue. Everyone had their own issues,

and coaching was viewed as the solution to each of these issues.

There was no strategic glue to hold all of these coaching relationships

together. The glue was structural in nature (e.g., they were all

part of the senior leadership team), but just because the coaching

was directed at the top of the house does not necessarily mean that

the coaching initiative was strategic. Let’s now turn to answering the

question about what makes a coaching initiative strategic.