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The 9th Commandment: Establish Co-Beneficiaries Using the Coaching Coalition
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Countdown to the Summit

This is week nine 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 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 eighth commandment of Contextual Coaching: Keep the leader and the organization as co-clients at all times.

Contextual Coaching commandment number nine:

Establish Co-Beneficiaries Using the Coaching Coalition

Contextual Coaching commandment number nine twists the lens on the notion of the leader being coached and the organization sharing co-client status.  Taking the conversation a bit further, the coaching coalition must discuss how much of a benefit the organization and the leader being coached will derive from the expensive engagement. Before a coaching coalition is even fully formed (that is, before a coach is selected), the leader, the leader’s manager, and the organizational sponsor must consult with one another to decide if coaching is even the right solution for what is ailing or facing the organization and the established or emerging leader.

There are many other things that can be done with that money.  None f the alternatives will provide as intense and intimate a learning journey as executive coaching.  But, coaching might be overkill.  If executive coaching is stigmatized in an organization, as it is in many, if not most organizations, it might be impossible to convince the leader to be coached to voluntarily “submit” to the humiliation of being coached.

Those sound like strong words, but men and women in positions of leadership can do the math.  If they look around and see that only “problem” people are getting coached, why should they raise their hands or agree to coaching?  It can be a tough proposition to get a leader in a non-coaching culture to cooperate.  Even if he or she feels compelled or coerced to be coached, his or her degree of self-disclosure and transparency is likely to be limited.

In sort of a glass-half-full or half-empty reasoning scheme, I recall a football coach once saying, “When you pass the ball, three things can happen and two of them are bad.”  Needless to say his team rushed the ball a lot.  Not very entertaining football.  Using similar reasoning, there are four levels of coaching cooperation in organizations and only one is truly voluntary:

Level One: Voluntary—Coaching as Opportunity

  • Leaders, emerging leaders, and other potential Coaching clients raise their hands and ask for a coach because they are eager to grow and develop as leaders and they see coaching as a positive tool to help them get better.
  1. Level Two: Glass Half Full—Coaching as an Acquired Taste
    • Coaching engagements are recommended by others (like the boss maybe) and the coaching client comes to appreciate coaching as a rare and unique opportunity as he or she gains more experience with it.
    • Coaching engagements are included as part of team leadership training or Action Learning events and the leaders being coached consider the coaching to be a positive extension of the training. They sometimes ask to sign up for more.
  2. Level Three: Glass Half Empty—Coaching as a Necessary Evil
    • Coaching engagements are recommended by others (like the boss probably), coaching clients don’t like the idea of coaching after seeing only “problem” people get coached, and might find it intimidating and/or pejorative.  They fear that they might be stigmatized by the process.  But, they will go with the program and possibly pick up a positive leadership technique or two, realizing that it is wiser for them politically to cooperate than to push back.
    • Coaching engagements are included as part of team leadership training or Action Learning events and the leaders being coached consider the coaching to be annoying but required for graduation. They go through the motions and tolerate coaching, but will get off at the first exit.
  3. Level Three: Involuntary—Coaching  as Punishment
    • The coaching client is compelled to participate in a coaching engagement that he or she doesn’t feel is necessary, justified, or makes any sense given his or her long-term successful performance with the organization or what he or she perceives to be long-term successful performance with the organization.  Coaching clients can feel as if they are being singled out in a witch hunt and are being used as scapegoats for the poor leadership or performance of others (like maybe the boss).  These coaching engagements can turn out successfully.  However, highly talented and skilled coaches are required; coaches who can coach in the context of the organization and align what individuals do best with what organizations need most. There is thick ice to break through or melt.
    • Coaching is truly a CYA attempt by the organization who has pre-determined the leader is going to, as we used to say at the magic kingdom, “find their happiness elsewhere.” No legitimate coach would knowingly participate in such a ploy.  But, it does happen.  And leaders being forced out often know it.  This doesn’t help build a believable positive image of executive coaching.

The point being driven home here is that coaches, managers of leaders being coached, and especially organizational sponsors of coaching must, must, must establish an authentic value proposition around coaching.  It’s the old “what’s in it for me?” question answered with a compelling case of how growing and developing as a leader is good for both the individual and good for the organization.  In fact, tying the individual leader’s leadership growth and development to revenue growth and profitability of the organization makes coaching a no-brainer.  What reasonable person would opt out?

If the organizational sponsor is well-versed in the diagnostics of coaching or has attended Fielding Graduate University’s How to Manage the Coaching Function in an Organization (ODL-623), he or she will be able to advise the leader, leader’s manager, and any other invested stakeholder with well-articulated apologetics for why organizations get better right after their leaders do.  The principle is universal.  Children get better right after their parents get better.  Students get better right after their teachers get better.  If a person wants to be a respected, effective, legacy-leaving leader, that alone is worth the coaching investment on the part of the organization.

On the competitive rungs of the leadership ladder, any advantage should be welcomed.  If a horrific-but-maniacal weekend golfer is swatting at balls on the driving range and Tiger Woods’ golf coach wanders by and asks, “Would you like a free tip or two?”  Would a bad golfer, but otherwise reasonably intelligent human being say, “No?”  If you are the club champion and Tiger Woods’ golf coach wanders by and asks, “Would you like a free tip or two?”  Would even an already good golfer really say, “No?”  Tiger Woods doesn’t say “No.”  He hired the coach and pays big money for the experience.

If you are an organizational leader, leader’s manager, and/or guide and manage the coaching engagements for your organization, it’s important to point out to the leader about to be coached that this isn’t “free” by any means.  A nice chunk of EBITA is being invested in a unique and potential-packed opportunity for the leader.  Free to the leader?  All but the blood, sweat, and tears that produce a more impressive, stronger, more agile, and resilient influencer on behalf of the organization.  That is the skin in the game that belongs to the leader being coached.

Addressing the leader being coached directly: Coaching, at the core of its craft, is not about you becoming someone else.  It is about becoming the best you possible.  You, after all, are all you and your coach have to work with.  So, you and your coach go to work reflecting, exploring, questioning, and practicing how to be everything you have the gifts, talents, and intelligence to be.

To derive maximum value from the organization’s coaching spend, the organization and the leader being coached must mutually benefit from every coaching conversation as well as the entire engagement.  The more invested in time and attentiveness the balance of the coaching coalition is (the organizational sponsor and the leader’s manager), the more powerful the outcome is for all stakeholders.  That’s a power proposition that’s hard to say “No” to.

Next week, Countdown to Conference Board, Contextual Coaching commandment ten:

No Data Left Behind.

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

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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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