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The 10th & Final Commandment: No Data Left Behind

The 10th & Final Commandment: No Data Left Behind

by John HooverMarch 9, 2015

Countdown to the Summit

This is the tenth and final week 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 (Amacom), will join, Dr. Harris Ginsberg of Pfizer and Dr. David DeFilippo of BNY University in discussing The Next Big (Coaching) Conversation – The Leader and Organization as Co-Clients.  This joint presentation 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 has been featuring one of the Ten Commandments of Contextual Coaching.  Last week, Human Talent Network featured the ninth commandment of Contextual Coaching: Establish Co-Beneficiaries.

Contextual Coaching commandment number ten:

No Data Left Behind

Coaching is heuristic at its very core.  As a problem solving solution, coaching (especially in executive environments) employs self-awareness and self-discovery.  If the problem is that someone in institutional authority needs to correct counter-productive executive behavior and/or simply needs a coach to help develop undeveloped potential thus preparing the leader for expanded responsibilities, much of the growth will leverage general assumptions, rules of thumb, educated guesswork, intuitive judgment, and common sense.  The behaviors coaches help leaders develop are largely axiomatic.

In examining the Ten Commandments of Contextual Coaching over the past ten weeks, it no doubt became obvious that, if executive coaching is truly conducted through an organizational lens, a great many conversations occur in the course of an engagement.  That could be said of any coaching engagement to a point; the many conversations part.  But, although the coaching client or leader being coached “owns” the data gathered in 360 structured interviews and coaching sessions, this information is the substance and basis for reports that the coach and leader being coached jointly prepare for the purpose of sharing with the coaching or stakeholder coalition (see commandment number four).

The expectation is established early on in a Contextual Coaching engagement that this data will be shared in a format and with the specificity that is approved for distribution by the leader being coached.  If the person or department managing the coaching function in the organization has attended Fielding Graduate University’s How to Manage the Coaching Function in an Organization (ODL-623) or managed to themselves piece together processes and protocols in which data across all coaching engagements can be captured, compiled, and analyzed to identify enterprise-wide leadership trends and patterns—without compromising confidentiality—the organization will save millions paid out to Big Five consulting firms to conduct focus groups, generic interviews, and distribute surveys to reveal insights that are already articulated in intimate coaching conversations.  In short, you’re already gathering that data in coaching engagements; richer data in fact.

Quickly review the other nine commandments of Contextual Coaching with an eye for what type of information will surface in the course of the coaching work:

  1. Coach in the Context of the Organization: Alignment between leaders and corporate strategy is critical to successful executive development (Is there alignment or not? Coaches know.)
  2. Coach with the Art of Alignment: People, performance, and profitability; by aligning what your people do best with what your organization needs most (How much do people in the organization routinely talk about either one of these? Much less how to align the two?)
  3. Keep the voice of the organization present and alive: Make sure the organization’s vocal chords are well exercised throughout coaching engagements (Does the organization have a deliberate, methodological practice of seeking and giving volume to its own voice as it speaks through its senior executives and the variety of internal and external stakeholders inside and outside of the coaching client’s span of control?)
  4. Coach through an organizational lens: Establish the Coaching Coalition—coach, coaching client, coaching client’s manager, and organizational sponsor (In organizations with true coaching cultures and/or high-communication and participation cultures, this is easily done.  The coaching engagement will expose if work is needed and where.)
  5. Co-Create the Engagement: The Macro perspective—Set the expectations between the Coach, Coaching Client, and the organization (It is amazing how many leaders were never told about the things their coaches have been hired to help them learn and change. Even if they are clearly told, clarifying expectations and what they mean is fundamental to meeting or exceeding them on an individual or enterprise level. Coaching engagement data will tell a huge story here.)
  6. Co-Create the Coaching Session: The Micro perspective—Set the expectations between the Coach, Coaching Client, and the Coaching Client’s Manager (As with commandment five, expectation setting at the local or interpersonal level must be aligned with the broader, overarching cultural expectations in the organization. Commandments five and six create two points in the organizational universe that can be compared.)
  7. Establish and Maintain a Coaching Culture: Articulate the shared values, beliefs, and expectations across the enterprise and then consistently coach to them around the world (The capture, compilation, and analysis of data from coaching engagement conversations will inform not only what the leadership challenges are that coaching will address, but also how effective executive coaching is as a leadership development tool.)
  8. Keep the leader and the organization as co-clients at all times: Coach the individual and the organization simultaneously by coaching the real client: the relationship between the individual and the organization (Success for a leader, or any employee for that matter, cannot be determined without a full understanding of the organizational context. It is the health of the leader/organization relationship that matters most. A leader being coached without the voice of the organization at the table will be the proverbial one hand clapping. )
  9. Establish Co-Beneficiaries: Derive maximum value from the coaching spend as the organization and the leader mutually benefit from every coaching conversation (Don’t forget that knowing and accepting what is in it for them is a fundamental component of human motivation. Capturing, compiling, and analyzing executive coaching data will reveal what motivates organizational leaders individually and collectively.  Priceless information. )
  10. No Data Left Behind: Capture data from coaching conversations in coaching reports for organizational analysis and talent development planning without compromising confidentiality (All data points tell a story when subjected to comparative analysis. Confidentiality is often protected by blind compilation and paraphrase of data points. The more the leader being coached discloses about the actual feedback, the higher the reliability of the analysis.)

Unlike most focus groups and surveys, data collected in the course of an executive coaching engagement is truly Action Research in that it is a real-time and real-world study of real people engaged in the course and in the context of their work.  People filling out employee engagement surveys might make judgments about whether or not the organization and/or those reviewing and analyzing the data can handle the truth and, thereby, soften or withhold authentic responses.   Unlike static, self-reporting data gathering, coaching conversations are conducted live and/or in person.   Information gathered by a skilled interviewer across the table, about a real person in real time, is far more reliable.

How much money is being lost by not capturing, compiling, and analyzing executive coaching engagement data?  Ask McKinsey & Company what they will charge to come in and replicate it, which they really can’t do completely because your data is being gathered by seasoned executive coaches in intimate conversations pinned directly to the leadership growth and development challenges of a real executive in your organization.  But, McKinsey & Company will come in and provide you with the next best thing—for a best-thing price.

If organizations have coaching engagements (and thereby coaching conversations) going on all over the world and yet are not capturing, compiling, and analyzing the information, priceless organizational data is flowing into the gutter and washing out to sea and/or evaporating into the ether.  It’s inconceivable if you stop and ponder it.  If for no other reason, the vast amounts of highly-critical and valuable data points that surface in coaching conversations across the enterprise must be captured, compiled, and analyzed to inform the creation of gap analyses and leadership development strategies.

One rule of data, big or small, If you lose it, you can’t use it.

The Next Big (Coaching) Conversation – The Leader and Organization as Co-Clients

Organizations have much to gain by moving toward contextual alignment in coaching and acknowledging that the true client is the relationship between the leader being coached and the organization.  The reasons are clear:

  • Executive coaching must produce a benefit for the sponsoring organization that is consistently equal to the benefit for the leader being coached.
  • The leader being coached and organization must be considered co-clients to ensure the voices of both are heard and honored in coaching engagements.
  • As multiple engagements take place across the global enterprise, the leadership patterns and trends that emerge must be captured, analyzed, and reported without compromising confidentiality to gain full organizational value.

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

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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