While individual success is a goal inherent in all Executive Coaching models, the design of a comprehensive organizational coaching strategy is often overlooked. The goal of such a strategy is to develop the right blend of coaching talent, organizational supports, and measurement mechanisms to drive higher performance of individuals and organizations. With a clear strategy in place, communicated effectively to both coaches and clients, executive coaching can become a powerful tool for identifying the intersection of individual strengths with bottom-line results.
Executive Coaching has evolved in the business world over the last 20 years, but has become a staple of executive development just within the last five. Looking to other professions, there is plenty of evidence showing the value of coaching. Tiger Woods. Mia Hamm. Michael Jordan. Venus Williams. Top-tier athletes from diverse sports and backgrounds, but with two common success factors: disciplined focus on their improvement and coaches who know the right combination for unlocking their raw talent, potential, and temperament to create extraordinary artistry and skill. In the business world, one need just read the headlines of any city newspaper on any given day to find countless examples of the desperate need for leaders who understand how to bring their unique blend of talent, potential, and temperament to their organizations.
So why the seemingly sudden need for coaches in the business world? With social, political, and economic forces necessitating quantum and constant change in individuals, businesses, and whole economies, methods for developing leaders in this new world require equal revolution. As the complexity of organizations has increased and the pressure of shorter timeframes has risen, the days of passive executive-level mentoring has given way to a need for a more active and intentional approach to executive development. In this context, a customized approach, which takes into consideration the individual and the culture in which they are operating, yields a much higher ROI than a one-size-fits-all event. It is a situation for which coaching is ideally suited.
In most organizations, though, Executive Coaching happens on an ad hoc basis. It commonly begins when individual executives, with the best intentions of continuing their development, independently seek out and engage with a coach. Once three or more executives have brought in as many different coaches, the organization begins to feel an impact, either through an increased interest in coaching, requests to demonstrate the ROI, or concerns about the influence the coaches may have on the culture. It is at this point that companies begin to feel the need for a coaching strategy to help systematize the process and ensure that coaching is actually driving performance. Without such a strategy, companies may find themselves funding outstanding individual development, but causing disconnects organizationally. In the absence of proper positioning, coaching may come to be viewed as a status symbol, and the organization may find itself lacking in important skills.
The need for an organizational strategy is clear, and grows exponentially with the size of the organization and the number of coaches it employs.
Laying the Groundwork
The development of an organizational strategy—for coaching or any successful initiative—should always begin with business goals. What are the core elements of your strategic business plan? What is coaching driving in terms of individual and organizational performance around these goals? For example, is your company focused on innovation? On growth? On customer service? What should coaches (internal and external) be coaching towards? If your organization does not have concrete, compelling business goals, you will be well-served to begin your work here. If the goals already exist, then by all means—use them. I am continually struck by companies who take the time to create inspiring business goals, but then do very little to link their programs and systems to furthering those goals.
At this stage, it is also important to asses your current state. Look at it from multiple perspectives:
In the big picture:
- What is currently happening in the business?
- Is the investment (of time, energy, and money) in coaching likely to be supported?
Thinking of development:
- What other opportunities are available outside of coaching? Not every development need is handled best with coaching and no coach should attempt to handle every development need.
- What coaching activity is taking place and with whom?
- How is leadership involved?
Thinking of the HR Function:
- What is the image of HR in the organization?
- Does HR have the credibility and influence needed to successfully implement the strategy, or will the function need to partner?
All are important questions, and will help give focus to your discussions.