Coaching: Making It Work

Dear HR Manager,

I would like to share a few thoughts on launching Coaching program in your organisation.

Before we launch a coaching program in an organisation, it is desirable to have some discussion with the prospective coachees about what coaching is. There are many definitions of coaching; I like the way Sir John Whitmore defines it. “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching.”

It is also necessary, for success of the coaching program, that it is seen as a tool available to those who wish to use it. It should not be mandated. It should not even be suggested! What we need to do is to make people aware that HR is ready to make a good coach available if one requires it.

Let me explain. When we advise a manager that [s]he can undergo coaching if so desired, the concerned manager does not think that a choice is available. The manager will say ‘yes’ to coaching. Getting in to coaching situation when a manager has not felt the need for it, is one of the reason why coaching does not deliver to the fullest.

Moreover, is it not our common experience that whenever a manager is nominated for any behavioural program he asks ‘Why me?’ The coachee opting for coaching with a suspicion in mind is the worst situation to begin coaching.

We ought to appreciate the need for voluntary choice in coaching.

One way to launch the coaching program keeping these basics in mind is to explain to a group of managers that HR can make good coaches available for coaching in case anyone would like to opt for it. You can perhaps share profiles of coaches who HR proposes to engage. This avoids making specific suggestion to anyone and yet makes them aware that the organisation is making a resource available. It avoids making suggestion about coaching as well as the choice of a particular coach. This procedure surely makes a prospective coachee very comfortable.

Usually a very small number of managers opt for it in the beginning. Some others, who are curious, watch whether coaching is beneficial to them. They enter when they discover that it helps. The number swells over a period of time. The best aspect about it is that it is driven by managers who realise that it helps. They come in with more realistic expectations. This also helps in building a very effective coach-coachee relationship.

This way of introducing coaching essentially creates a situation in which a [prospective] coachee makes a choice of coaching; it does not come as a result of HR’s initiative. It also does not come as a result of a mechanical procedure which says ‘arrange coaching inputs for all those who have been promoted or are likely to be promoted.’ Essentially it recognises that coaching will succeed where the need is felt and where the manager makes a choice voluntarily.

I wish you success in your development efforts.