Best Practices for Managing a Successful Coaching Initiative

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For two years,Wendy had advocated executive coaching for the top

100 leaders of this global large equipment manufacturer. When

Wendy finally got the green light from the new CEO, she found new

meaning in the old adage: “Be careful what you wish for because you

may get it.”Wendy was challenged to provide coaching to 100 leaders

in eight countries around the world and was soon confronted with

the reality that very few companies were capable of providing globally

distributed coaching services.

Wendy turned to a global coaching services provider. This

coaching company had qualified more than 150 coaches according

to criteria including business experience, coaching experience, education,

and other credentials. These coaches, although mostly U.S.-

based, were drawn from other regions around the world as well and

covered most of the countries (and all of the languages) that Wendy

required. One big advantage that the broker provided to Wendy was

giving her a single point of contact to manage the delivery of all the

coaching. This was especially important, given that more than 20

coaches would be utilized over an eight-month period. Another

advantage of using this company was tapping the company’s expertise

in designing and managing a coaching initiative. In fact, a big

selling point for Wendy came when she reviewed the coaching

company Web site and saw how they had drawn from their practical

experiences to describe four best practices for managing a successful

coaching initiative. In the months that followed the launch

of the coaching initiative, Wendy worked with the coaching company

to implement these ideas, which have application to all coaching

initiatives. These four best practices are as follows:

1. Leverage a governance body to sustain sponsorship

2. Conduct an orientation session to improve deployment

3. Set up signposts to gauge how coaching is progressing

4. Build performance evaluation into the coaching process

Leverage a Governance Body to Sustain Sponsorship

As we learned in the previous chapter, sponsorship for a coaching

initiative, like any strategic initiative, must be earned every day.

Senior leaders who sponsor coaching have so many competing interests

that it is often difficult for them to sustain interest and focus on

coaching. Sponsors of coaching are footing the bill, and they typically

expect a return on this investment, whether monetary or intangible.

Sponsorship begins to wane when leaders become skeptical

that the coaching initiative will deliver the value it is supposed to

deliver. The loss of sponsorship will likely stop any plans to expand

coaching in the organization. When leaders begin asking “What

value is coaching providing the business?” it is a sign that sponsorship

may be at risk. If leaders see the value, they will not feel the

need to ask this question. If this question is not answered quickly,

the leaders will fill in the blanks and assume that coaching is providing

no discernible value. Sponsorship should never be taken for

granted.

Some strategies for sustaining sponsorship are as follows:

_ Decentralize sponsorship to a governance body. Given the global

nature and scope of the coaching initiative, Wendy reasoned

that a cross-business unit governance body was required to

spread the wealth of knowledge about the value of coaching at

a high and broad level in the organization. As the coaching

initiative progressed, leaders on this board, and other leaders

that they interacted with, more readily developed a sense of

ownership for coaching. This governance board also proved to

be a valuable resource to capture leaders’ expectations for the

coaching initiative. As the deployment of coaching progressed,

the board was helpful in resolving problems and overcoming

barriers.

_ Develop and share a business case for coaching with the sponsor

or governance body. The business case states the objectives for

the coaching initiative, how coaching will address critical business

issues, the expected intangible and monetary benefits, and

the required investment. The business case can be used as the

guiding light for the coaching initiative.Wendy and the project

manager from the coaching company collaborated early in

their relationship to develop a sound business case for the

coaching. For Wendy, this meant casting coaching as a business

initiative, not just an HR initiative. For the coaching company,

the coaching initiative would begin on solid footing that was

rooted in the business and, as such, was at less risk to be scaled

back or limited in scope by business leaders.

Wendy kept this business case front and center in the discussion

the governance board had about the coaching initiative.

In part, this was done to refresh their memory about why

coaching was launched in the first place. Wendy and the governance

board shared the business case with other leaders in

the organization, which created good buzz for coaching and

added to the momentum for positive change. Coaches and

those being coached were viewed in a more positive light as the

expected business outcomes for coaching became clearer to

people. Key messages from the business case were used as the

basis for articles in the company’s newsletter about coaching.

Wendy developed talking points for leaders so they could

include information about coaching in their presentations and

conversations with employees.

_ Communicate success stories. The business case is just one

source of information to more broadly share in the organization.

Another powerful source of information is the collection

of individual coaching success stories (with permission of the

Best Practices for Managing a Successful Coaching Initiative 147

individuals, of course). Communicating these success stories

increases the understanding of how coaching is adding value

and casts coaching in a positive light. For Wendy, this was an

especially important issue because coaching previously had a

negative connotation in her organization. For years employees

were “coached out” of organizations. Being coached became

viewed as a polite way of firing people. Although the actions of

being coached out had no bearing whatsoever on the executive

coaching initiative, the fact that the word coaching is used in

both contexts was confusing to some people. Communicating

the success stories helped clear the air and cast coaching in a

positive light. Consequently, the support for coaching was

expanded, and a broader base of support for coaching was

created, which also facilitated greater ownership and sponsorship

for coaching.