The intent of this paper is to discuss the concept of developing coaching capability in organizations. The elements included for discussion will be the contextual factors of coaching in organizations; and the decisions organizations should consider, to ensuring an effective structure for development and embedding coaching in their organization.
Many organizations use coaching as a valuable learning & development tool for leadership and members who are offered coaching to support personal development and professional performance. Coaching is provided either by external coaches or by internal managers who (have been trained to) master coaching skills.
The development of internal coaching capability is being observed more and more. Within the Dutch government the ‘Intercoach’ initiative has led to a pool of directors, trained to coach the leaders of other departments. A global company in international financial services is currently designing training programs to develop internal coaching capability on several levels within the organization.
Key words:internal coaching capability, elements, contextual factors, coaching decisions.
Literature provides a large body of opinion with regards to how organizations benefit from providing coaching to its members. Strategic organizations, coaching professionals, training companies and other professionals in the field of organizational development tend to agree on the benefits of coaching for organizations.
When it comes to discussing approaches for how to design, develop and implement internal coaching capability opinions differ. Companies who have a need for coaching capability may consult professional coaches for advice and service, or contact training suppliers offering coaching skills training as a solution.
Common denominator however is that internal coaching capability is contextual and exploring the contextual factors first in combination with coaching decisions to be made, provide the starting points for creating effective coaching capability in organizations.
Considering coaching as contextual, it is important to take organizational factors into account when taking coaching decisions and when developing the coaching design.
Contextual factors that affect coaching are:
- Business priorities
It should be considered how coaching might support priorities effectively. Effective coaching should always consider the organization’s priorities as defined in the long term- and mid/short term strategic objectives. Furthermore coaching should be responsive to changes in these priorities.
- Commitment of leadership
The degree of commitment will impact the way coaching is offered and perceived. How supportive is the senior team of coaching? Who are the key leaders and influencers within different parts of the organization? What role does leadership want to play in supporting coaching?
- Organization culture
Coaching needs to be in line with the organizational culture so that it is not rejected and at the same time distinct enough to make a difference. Although there are models available to identify the culture within an organization, professionals might use their implicit sense of what is and isn’t acceptable together with a readiness to experiment.
- Purpose of coaching
The purpose of coaching is influenced by the business priorities and which will have a significant impact on the coaching offer. For example; will coaching support personal development or organizational benefit? What is the role of coaching as opposed to other (learning) interventions?
- Learning & Development climate
The ease with which coaching is accepted depends on how skeptical or enthusiastic members are towards learning & development, the reputation of the learning & development function and the perceived success of previous interventions.
- Perception of coaching
The perception of coaching is often based on prior experience, or simply on a set of assumptions about what coaching is. There may be a need for a conscious effort to reposition coaching in the face of strongly held assumptions.
- Resources available
A key consideration is the availability of resources such as people, funding and, in some cases, time. Not having skilled internal coaches may be a significant factor in the decision to offer external coaches. Conversely, it can be a driver to develop internal coaching capability.
Working through the contextual factors provides the organizational context for coaching that also will enable recognition of the importance of this context when preparing the design and implementation of successful coaching.
Whatever context organizations find themselves in, there are some common dilemmas or taxing choices which shape the coaching offer. To set these out, some coaching decisions need to be made to enable plotting out the current position and ideal future in respect of these decisions and to consider the implications.