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The 5th Commandment: Co-Create the Engagement

The 5th Commandment: Co-Create the Engagement

by February 2, 2015

Countdown to the Summit

This is week five of the ten-week countdown to the Conference Board’s 2015 Coaching Summit.  The Summit will begin with a pre-conference event on March 9 with the keynotes and breakout sessions on March 10 & 11.  On March 10, Dr. John Hoover from Partners in Human Resources International, co-author of The Coaching Connection: Developing Individual Potential in the Context of the Organization, will join Dr. David DeFilippo of BNY University, Dr. Harris Ginsberg of Pfizer, and Dr. Eric Hieger of ADP in discussing The Next Big Conversation – The Leader and Organization as Co-Clients.  This panel is designed to introduce and discuss the significance of keeping the voice and interests of the organization alive and involved in executive coaching engagements.

For each of the ten weeks leading up to the Conference Board’s 2015 Coaching Summit, Human Talent Network is featuring one of the Ten Commandments of Contextual Coaching.  Last week, Human Talent Network featured the fourth commandment of Contextual Coaching: Coach through an organizational lens.

Contextual Coaching commandment number five:

Co-Create the Engagement

In Week Three, the discussion focused on keeping the voice of the organization alive, present, and participating in executive coaching engagements through the formation of a coaching (or stakeholder) coalition.  The coaching coalition has at least four members: the coach, the coaching client, the coaching client’s manager, and the organizational sponsor.  Organizational sponsors are usually Human Resources people.  Sometimes they can be organization development, learning, or talent partners.   The important issue is to bring multiple perspectives to the coaching engagement.  Among those perspectives, the interests of the organization will be represented, protected, and even promoted.

Since executive coaching engagements are sponsored by organizations to help skill up, smooth out, or otherwise enhance a leader’s ability to lead in a productive and profitable manner, the engagement is not a completely private affair between a coach and his or her coaching client.  The leader being coached and the coach enjoy a special relationship; one that is marked by respect, trust, professional bonding and, of course, confidentiality.

Just because an organizationally-sponsored coaching engagement is an experience shared among the members of the coaching coalition doesn’t mean that it violates traditional coaching protocols, which include the privilege of confidentiality.  Co-creation of a coaching engagement or an individual coaching session means that the experience and the work involved is shared among at least two people.

One of the reasons that the term “coachee” is falling into disfavor is because it can sound disempowering.  To be a “coachee” makes it sound as if something is being done to the poor individual rather than the individual being a full partner in the process.  Terms like “coaching client,” “participant,” and “leader” are used with increasing regularity in reference to the individual being coached.

The elevation in status of the individual receiving the coaching is consistent with the belief that a coaching client is a privileged individual in whom the organization has chosen to make a sizeable investment.  Common logic would suggest that someone in whom an organization is willing to invest a large sum of money must be valuable to the organization.  Executive coaching is arguably the single most expensive investment an organization makes in leaders along the leadership talent development continuum.

All this to say that an organization has a right to expect results—a return on its investment, if you prefer.  The act of co-creating the engagement; that is the entire coaching process for the leader receiving the coaching is an important step toward ensuring a maximum return on investment for both the individual leader receiving coaching and the organization.  That’s why co-creating the engagement is a macro or big picture endeavor.  Together, every member of the coaching coalition discusses what is going to take place throughout the engagement and comes to agreement on how the engagement design will most benefit everyone involved.

As mentioned in Contextual Coaching commandment three, the coach must be organizationally savvy and function as a facilitator to make sure all voices in the coalition are heard and acknowledged as the coaching engagement is designed.  That’s the only way the voice of the organization can be heard.  Whereas the basic outline of executive coaching engagements remains similar from one engagement to the next, specifics of what happens inside the engagement are almost never the same from one engagement to the next.

This macro perspective—setting the expectations between the coach, the coaching client, and the organization—is essentially how the engagement framework is built.  And the contextual framework will be consistent from one engagement to the next across the organization; thus ensuring enterprise-wide consistency, continuity, and quality as leaders are developed.  If you use executive coaching to build the leaders who will build your business, you need to take steps to ensure that the framework for coaching engagements is fully aligned with your organization’s leadership development and business strategies.

As the individual responsible for managing the coaching function in your organization, you must hire organizationally-aware coaches and be a good teacher for your coaching clients and their managers to make sure everyone understands that every coaching engagement across your organization marches to the beat of your organizational leadership competencies, values, and/or disciplines.

Every coaching report that’s filed (ad there should be no less than an Action Plan with a mid-term and final update) paints a backdrop of how the leader being coached is growing and developing in the context of the organization sponsoring the coaching engagement.  Once again, the essential question that cuts to the chase with any coaching engagement is, “How is this helping our organization?”

Specific details such as how many face-to-face sessions will be conducted between the coach and the leader being coached, how often the sessions take place, how many reports will be developed collaboratively between the coach and coaching client, and how often will the coalition will meet together to discuss the reports are all macro issues when it comes to engagement design.  Most Contextual Coaching engagements will involve a 360-degree assessment comprised if the coach conducting a series of structured interviews.  As also mentioned in the third commandment about the coaching coalition, the coalition negotiates which feedback providers will be approached to provide multi-rater data and which questions will be asked to ensure the most urgent and salient challenges are surfaced for the coaching.

These are all macro issues of co-creating the executive coaching engagement.  Next week, the micro-issues of co-creating the individual coaching sessions take center stage.  The reason alignment is emphasized so often is because the macro design of engagements—to ensure the organization is continuously engaged in executive coaching—must resonate with the micro challenge of making sure the individual leader’s unique growth and development needs are successfully addressed; which they cannot be completely unless the macro context of the engagement is established.  And so goes the dance of executive coaching, where what individuals do best aligns with what organizations need most.

Countdown to the Conference Board Coaching Summit – March 9, 10, 11, 2015 to be held at the Westin New York at Times Square.  For conference information and registration instructions, contact or


Photo by JaseMan

About The Author
John Hoover
John Hoover, PhD, is a Senior Vice President at Partners International in New York City where he reports directly to Founder and CEO, Amy Friedman. John is a New York Times best-selling author, a former writer/producer of marketing projects at The Disney Company, and a Divisional General Manager for electronic publishing at McGraw-Hill. He has commercially published more than a dozen books on leadership and organizational behavior (some decidedly satirical) from Amacom, Barnes & Noble Press, Career Press, HarperCollins, John Wiley and Sons, McGraw-Hill, and Saint Martin’s Press, which have been collectively published in two dozen languages. John is a veteran executive coach, certified by the International Coach Federation and is a coaching supervisor, certified by the Coaching Supervision Academy. Along the way to his PhD in Human and Organizational Systems, he became a Marriage & Family Therapy intern, licensed by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Hoover is a thought leader and serves as a thinking partner to Human Resources and Organization Development executives to develop global organizational leadership and talent development strategies that align what individuals do best with what their organizations need most. Dr. Hoover co-created the Contextual Coaching™ framework at Partners International and teaches a new graduate certificate program he developed called “Managing the Coaching Function in Organizations” through Fielding Graduate University.

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