Creating a strong internal coaching provision (Part 1)

Establishing, maintaining and evolving an internal coaching provision does not come with an easy-to-follow instruction manual. 

There are many moving parts to consider, and at times it can feel a tough journey to travel. 

We aim here to offer some key ‘ingredients’ based upon our experiences in supporting internal coach leaders to build effective internal coaching provisions. This blog post — the first of three on the topic — will explore the five key ingredients to consider when setting up coaching programmes.

Part 2 will look at the five key ingredients to developing internal coaches; and Part 3 will cover running coaching programmes and managing an internal coaching pool.

In true coaching style, our ingredients are offered as questions for you to reflect upon and consider with your organisation in mind.

1.   Being clear on the purpose of coaching

  • Is there is a clear purpose for an internal coaching provision?
  • What is your organisation seeking to achieve through coaching / internal coaches (what problem is it trying to solve or what benefit is it looking to achieve?)

Being clear on the ‘why’ before establishing the ‘how’ is critical.  Many internal coaching provisions are established on the back of a passion for coaching from a key individual or sponsor. 

Unless the reasons why coaching supports the organisation are clear, when that individual moves on, coaching can fall by the wayside. The ‘why’ for coaching will change and adapt as the organisation evolves, but clearly attaching coaching to a business need is a foundation for a successful coaching practice.

To help your thinking here, we would suggest reviewing our Why have internal coaches? post.

2.   Understanding where coaching sits alongside other learning opportunities

  • How do your coaching programmes integrate with the broader learning suite your organisation offers?
  • How does coaching work alongside other interventions such as mentoring, sponsorship or training?

Coaching can be brought to life in organisations in a variety of ways — typically, through the learning and development function, but not always. Sometimes there will be movements elsewhere in the business to grow coaching and coaches. 

Having a clear picture of the place of coaching within the talent, learning and development strategy, and where coaching is best deployed to enhance performance will lead to a clearer use of coaching and a clearer understanding of the part it can play to support higher performance within the organisation.

3.   Having a clear definition of coaching

  • How do you help people understand the difference between coaching, mentoring, training or counselling?
  • If coaching is supporting broader HR or L&D initiatives, how do you make the distinction between what coaching will offer compared to other forms of interventions?

The word coaching is likely to be used in multiple ways within your organisation and people will hold different perceptions on what it means. These could range from a very directive (1:1 learning with an expert) through to a very non-directive, almost counselling-type conversation. 

Being clear on what coaching is within your organisation and owning that brand will support a coaching practice to grow on firm foundations. In the future, this will also provide a strong foundation to prepare coachees for  1-to-1 coaching programmes.

4.   Having senior sponsorship

  • Where does the senior sponsorship for an internal coaching provision come from?
  • How engaged are your senior individuals in coaching themselves (and therefore advocates for coaching)?

Senior sponsorship for any ‘initiative’ in an organisation is often critical to its success and while coaching is not a one-off ‘initiative’, it will need senior support to grow, thrive and find its place in the development suite. 

Having senior individuals engaged in coaching themselves can enable them to understand the power of coaching and become its advocate.  A slight note of warning here, often at the very senior levels you engage external coaches for those individuals so its still important to ensure the senior levels understand and appreciate the quality and place of the internal coaching provision. Involving them in coaching process for their team members including 3 way contracting, sponsoring and 3 way evaluation meetings is a strong recommendation from us to create this level of advocacy.

5.   Having a coaching lead / owner in place

  • Who is responsible for coaching within your organisation?
  • Who is driving the strategy and deployment of coaching support?
  • Who is setting and maintaining standards for coaching?

Successful internal coaching programmes do not happen by accident.  They take planning, positioning and managing. 

This can be the ‘side of the desk’ project for some, and for others it is their main role.  Having someone who is knowledgeable (even trained as a professional coach), has a grip on all the aspects of the coaching provision in your organisation and, who is recognised for this role, will dramatically increase the likelihood that your coaching programmes are successful and deliver the greatest return on investment. 

We hope the above questions and thoughts have sparked questions and thoughts for you. 

As always, we would love to hear them and if you would like a conversation with us about your internal coaching programme please let us know — feel free to contact us.

Learn more in partS 2 and 3 of this series

The other instalments in this series of posts on internal coaching provision is now available — read Part 2 here or Part 3 here.

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