In this article Mike Nelson, one of our partners, shares his views on how to find the right coach or coaching organisation for you and your business. Preparation before coaching commences can prevent costly mistakes in time and money.
The Chemistry Conversation
- Bob Baker shared his tips for effective chemistry meetings and how to identify how you know if its there (or not!) in a previous article. As a quick reminder its an opportunity for the coachee and one (or more) potential coaches to speak with each other. The aim is to establish the early relationship and for both parties to get some ‘measure’ of each other. They may meet face to face, by phone or perhaps via electronic media (such as Skype). Such a session should at least contain personal introductions and sharing of backgrounds, an exchange of views of how the coach works (including style/approach) and the expectations and past experiences of coaching from the coachee. There would also normally be a discussion on the initial aims of the work and an opportunity for the coachee to ask any questions they have on their mind.
- This is a process that will vary in size and scale depending on the size and scale of the organisation and budget etc., indeed in small scale projects may not take place at all. At the very least the organisation may issue a specification for the coaching requirement including experience and/or accreditation required.
- Typically, this would include some background on the organisation, the organisational need for coaching, the specification and requirements for the coaches; giving enough information for the coaches and/or their organisations to be able to decide the appropriateness of providing coaching at the size/scale required and to be able to meet the organisational needs. Often, there would be assessment of the potential coaching ‘pool’ which could include structured interviewing or even observed demonstrations of coaches at work allowing the organisation to make a more informed choice of the coaches and coaching skills on offer.
- On a smaller scale, coaches may be presented to potential coachees via a selection of coaching profiles or vlogs allowing the coachee to choose an individual or shortlist of those coaches with whom they may want a Chemistry Conversation.
- Coaching is often one of the more expensive development interventions you can provide as in many cases it is one-on-one and will require a number of interventions depending on the needs and requirements of the coachee(s). This will mean that the sponsoring/budget-holding department would want to get an understanding of the return on investment for such interventions.
- The coaching programme may of course be part of a much wider structured development programme (such as a blended learning leadership programme) and therefore the evaluation of the coaching would form part of the overall evaluation of the total programme. Measures of individual change and progress, application of learning, demonstration of organisational change and/or business results could all be included and there are a variety of well-used methods for collecting such data such as evaluation questionnaires or forms, focus groups, structured interviews etc.
- Build in evaluation at the start, even if it is a single coachee and a short intervention at least some demonstration of the learning by the coachee, changes of behaviour, application to the organisation/department and the impact of the intervention would be useful measures to demonstrate the effectiveness of an intervention.
- One of the biggest challenges for coaches is knowing whether the coachee is presenting the whole of the issue they are working on; very often a coach might be relying on the coachees own point of view. It would therefore be useful if feedback from other parties could be obtained to use in the coaching programme.
- Feedback can be collected in a variety of ways, by the coach, the coachee or using a process such as 360/180° feedback. The effectiveness of using an external coach can be greatly enhanced if feedback is incorporated into the process.
- Some coaches, (I’m amongst those) will also offer to observe the coachee at work. This can provide a rich source of additional feedback and observation for the coach to work with. It also helps the coach see the coachee in context and this can be quite different from sitting in a somewhat sterile meeting room.
How long should it be?
- Typically, a series of 1:1 coaching interventions will take the form of 3 or 6 sessions taking place at intervals of 4-6 weeks with individual sessions lasting between 1-2 hours. Having said this there will be a wide range of variations around the programme quoted and this can depend on the availability of the manager to be released, how the organisation wishes to deploy coaches and whether coaches will visit or work by phone or Skype.
- One methodology is for a coach to provide a “Coaching Clinic” – in this case they may be deployed and available for a day (or half day) where managers can book ‘slots’ of 30-45 minutes – this can be a cost-effective way of utilising a coaching resource inside your organisation. It would not be appropriate however for coachees with more complex or deep needs.
- It is worth asking potential coaches how long they recommend coaches sessions should last – this will give you an idea of their MO as a coach and will help you evaluate whether they are most suited to the kind of intervention your organisation needs.
- This may seem an obvious part of the process and in many cases the coachee working towards a set of defined objectives would be a normal part of any coaching contract/intervention.
Often objectives for coaching will be tied in with Personal Development Plans (PDPs). If objectives are to be set, to tie in with the whole philosophy of effective coaching, then the coachee should think for themselves what the objectives should be even if they are subsequently reviewed by line manager and/or HR.
- Having said this there is a school of thought that coaching objectives can actually get in the way of effective, free-flowing coaching where emergence is a rich source of finding the real problem and/or the creative solution.
- When objectives are set, do allow at least for review and an evolving picture so that new thinking, information can be taken into account when trying to obtain real/effective change for your organisation.
Three-Way Conversations (with line managers)
- Coaches will often talk of the coaching contract, this is both a written and unwritten agreement between the coach and coachee which defines the scope, scale and boundaries for the work. It may also include the practicalities of time, location and evaluation as mentioned elsewhere in this chapter as well as any ground rules and important factors such as coachee confidentiality.
- In organisations where the origination and/or sponsorship comes from a line manager it is good practise to involve the line manager and coachee in a 3-way conversation with the coachee.
- This allows for the line manager and the coachee to agree objective or aims for the coaching, for any feedback from the line manager to be discussed in front of the coach and allows the coach to ask any relevant questions to this conversation to enter the coaching process with as clear a brief as possible.
- It may also be useful to have a three-way conversation with the line manager at the halfway stage and at the end. This would allow for some practical evaluation of progress and any further feedback from the line manager to be delivered in earshot of the coach.
If you want to see the full version of this article then take a look at our book 100+ Top Tips on Managing Your Coaching Needs.