Conduct an Orientation Session to Improve Deployment

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Wendy fully understood how challenging it would be to get the

coaching initiative off the ground. For the most part, leaders did not

understand what executive coaching was all about, and for many

people, coaching still had a negative connotation. Leaders were concerned

about the privacy of their coaching conversations and the

kind of relationship they would enter into with someone who was

a stranger and not an employee of the company. After all, how much

did these coaches really know about the company, its strategies, and

its competitive challenges?

One of the first decisions of the governance board was to proceed

with a one-day orientation session for the coaches and for the

leaders who were selected to be coached. This decision was not taken

lightly, given that most leaders would have to travel to the meeting,

and some of whom would be traveling from other countries.

Expenses would also have to be incurred for the coaches’ travel and

compensation for their time. The purpose of this session was

twofold: (1) to set the strategic context for coaching and (2) to successfully

launch the coaching initiative. Prereading materials were

e-mailed to the participants, which included company background

information for the coaches and biographies of the coaches and

published articles explaining executive coaching for the leaders.

Each leader was also asked in advance to select three coaches to talk

with during the orientation regarding a potential coaching relationship.

Wendy received this information in advance from most of

the leaders, which enabled her to better organize and facilitate the

matchmaking portion of the session. A presession conference call

was conducted with the coaches to better prepare them for the

meeting and to explain their facilitation role.

Table 9.1 summarizes the agenda for the orientation session. This

session accomplished four key objectives:

1. Coaches were grounded in the company’s strategy and culture.

Wendy distributed prereading to each coach about the

company. This information included the company’s history, its

organization, descriptions of products and services, major

markets, and industry analysts’ assessments. During the

session, coaches learned directly from the CEO and two top

business unit leaders about the strategic direction for the

company and how coaching fits into the picture. They also had

the opportunity to ask questions and at least get an idea of what

the company culture was about. Having the coaches facilitate

break-out discussions contributed to their learning about the

organization and how the leaders behaved with peers.

2. Clients were prepared to begin coaching. This session was

designed as a two-way street: the leaders also had some learning

to do about coaching. The prereading assignment helped

frame what executive coaching looks like and how it is being

utilized by many companies in many industries (including

theirs). The presentations by the CEO and leaders helped

clarify how coaching fits into the business and the leaders’

personal development. There was ample question-and-answer

Best Practices for Managing a Successful Coaching Initiative 149

Table 9.1 Agenda for an Orientation Session to Launch a Coaching Initiative

Timing Activity Resources

6:30 p.m. Evening reception, networking, Members of the

and dinner governance board;

CEO Welcome presentation: Welcome presentation

1. Fast-track leadership development

will lead to fast-track business results

2. CEO’s expectations for leaders and

the business

3. Q & A

9:00 Adjourn

Main Session Opening, introductions, review of Opening presentation;

8:00 a.m. agenda and objectives talking points for HR


8:30 Presentation: The strategic Two business unit

challenges facing the company leaders; coaches who

1. Profitable growth in selected acted as cofacilitators

emerging markets for each table (10

2. Closing the leadership gap pairs of coaches

3. Expected contribution from each

leader and how coaching is a key


4. Q & A

Table discussions: Coaches facilitate

each of 10 tables:

1. Key messages from the

presentations by the CEO (last

evening) and the two BU leaders

2. Implications for what the leaders

must do differently to rise to the

strategic challenges

General discussion: Some tables report

out to the general session what they

discussed. Leaders were asked to write

down, on 3-by-5-inch cards, questions

they may have about coaching.

10:15 BREAK

Best Practices for Managing a Successful Coaching Initiative 151

Timing Activity Resources

10:45 Presentation: Executive coaching— Wendy and four

what it is and isn’t coaches present and

(Question cards were collected by conduct a panel;

coaches and then organized.) 3-by-5-inch cards;

After a brief presentation, the panel of Coach/leader meeting

coaches addressed the questions on schedule posted on

the cards as well as questions from wall

the general audience.

12:00 LUNCH

1:00 Coach/leader round-robin meetings Break-out areas for

Explanation of the meeting schedule each coach (20)

and the round-robin format

Each coach spent 20 minutes with a

group of up to five leaders to get

acquainted, talk about backgrounds,

coaching expectations, and experience.

Then, after 20 minutes, the leaders

walked to their next meeting with a


2:30 BREAK

3:00 Expectations exchange: What will Five break-out rooms;

maximize the success of coaching? facilitators for four

Five break-out sessions were each groups that came from

conducted with about 18 to 20 the HR leadership

leaders and 4 coaches: development function

1. What do we collectively need to

do to make coaching as successful

as possible?

2. What do we need from the

organization to make coaching


3. What ground rules for coaching can

we all agree on?

(Facilitators quickly organize discussion

summaries to share with the general


General discussion: Facilitators share

summaries and seek consensus on

operating ground rules.

Table 9.1 Continued

time to address any issues the leaders had. The bridge activity

was when the leaders identified what they must do differently

to support the business strategy. Having the coaches facilitate

these break-out sessions enabled them to see firsthand how the

leaders viewed their role and challenges to achieve the strategy.

3. Clients were given the opportunity to select a coach. Getting the

chemistry right between the coach and client is one of the most

important determinants of a successful coaching relationship.

There really is no way to know in advance how well the coach

and client will hit it off. The round-robin approach enabled

each leader to spend 20 minutes with a coach that he or she

preselected. Although not a lot of time, it was sufficient to get

acquainted and get some hints as to whether the chemistry

may be right. As a next step after the session, leaders sent in

their first, second, and third choices for a coach. Wendy later

honored as many of these choices as possible, while evening

out the workload for each individual coach.

4. Coaches and clients shared ground rules for coaching. One of the

biggest derailers for a successful coaching relationship is a kind

of creeping passive resistance on the part of the client. Clients

are late to their coaching calls or repeatedly reschedule