Business Coaching Processes: Phases of the Coaching Engagement

{Klopper & Van Coller-Peter, 2018. Business coaching processes that facilitate the successful implementation of business improvement projects. IJEBCM 2018, Vol. 16(2), pp. 20-31.}


Implementing, managing, and maintaining excellence achieved through Business Process Improvement Projects (BIPs) is more about changing the behavior and human thinking than making changes to the process itself. People’s response to the impact of the changes depends on their commitment and buy-in to the process.

Success lies in getting the best out of talented people instead of only changing processes or updating systems.

Coaching is a human development process to promote desirable and sustainable change for the benefit of the client and the client organization.

Coaching from a systems view helps people acquire new skills and develop the competencies to create personal and organizational shifts, considering the organizational culture and dynamics and the changing environment.

How do coaches select the models, strategies, tools, techniques, and processes to use?

A Coaching Framework

Perspectives: What will inform us?

What kind of coach do I want to be? Education, beliefs, values, and worldview. These also inform the purpose, defining client selection and the outcomes the coach seeks to achieve through his coaching.

Process Model: How will we get there? How will we achieve the coaching purpose?

Purpose: Where are we going and why?

Business coaches work towards a specific business need, which calls for collaboration between multiple people or groups and stakeholders.

Business needs can focus on creating a culture to ensure the organization adapts to a changing environment, on strategic transformation, and on creating operational improvements to processes, structures, and information. These are the three main lenses of Culture, Strategy, and Operations.

Coaching goals and themes include aspects of leadership development, team motivation, team alignment and improved teamwork, resilience, self-awareness, dealing with uncertainty, improved problem-solving, and work-life balance.

A Generic Process Framework

Dimensions of a generic process framework: Environment, Individual, Coaching relationship.

The Business Coaching Process: Key Process Steps

Entry Contracting with the Organization –> Orientation & Initial Brief –> Contracting with Client –> Assessment –> Coaching Implementation –> Evaluation & Closing

Phase 1 Entry contracting with the organization

One approach to the contracting step is for the organization to develop its Business Coaching Process (BCP) to facilitate the implementation of the Business Improvement Project (BIP) in which case the contracting with an external Business Coach (BC) is more focused on financial aspects of the coaching service.

The second approach to the contracting step is to ask the BC to develop an approach and BCP to facilitate the implementation of the BIP. In this case, the contracting has to be more structured and defined.

Entry contracting involves mainly explorations in the environment dimension.

Involve the Program sponsor, Program manager, Function manager, General manager, Line manager, and HR.

Arising themes include the coaching context, coach background, and outcomes required.

Sub-process steps of entry contracting (Steps to Take)

(1) Discussion on the purpose of coaching

(2) Identification of the outcomes and expected results

(3) How will the program be measured

(4) What information will be gathered or used

(5) Agree on how frequently to meet

(6) Establish how development will be monitored

(7) Align with other development activities

Entry contracting is a key process step which we name a Phase.

A key process step comprises sub-process steps which we name Steps to Take.

Every step entails actions to be performed, skills to be employed and exercised, and outcomes to be targeted.

Sub-process steps utilize Models and Tools, including techniques, forms, reports, plans, questionnaires, theories, approaches, guiding frameworks, orientations, principles, structured inquiries, and structured processes.

Models and Tools are guiding us to Outcomes.

At each phase and for each outcome generator, we aim for clear tasks, responsibilities, outcome definition, rationale, guiding structure, announcements of beginnings and endings, announcement of outcome, celebration, purpose, potential obstacles, alternative ways, decision points, milestones, evaluation, feedback, and a report generated.

Entry contracting may begin with an introductory meeting to brief the BCs on the company approach, pre-training or orientation for the BCs, and introducing the BC’s coach-specific methodology to the Program manager and stakeholders.

The Steps to Take can form an agenda for a single entry contracting meeting, or the agenda may disperse over several meetings with different stakeholders.

Step (1), a discussion on the purpose of coaching, may give an overview of the internal goals of the business improvement project (BIP), elaboration on strategy documents, organizations charts, company policies, job profiles, and a rationale and analysis for the coaching project based on an internal audit or survey. This is also the step for the coach to present his approach, model, and relevant information such as work history and CV.

Step (2), identification of outcomes and expected results, will have as inputs the company mission, vision, and values, recent market indicators and research, and business goals formulated at multiple levels and across different domains.

Step (3), how the program will be measured, may have as inputs pre-engagement assessments, climate and culture surveys, leadership and performance feedback, performance scorecards and competency frameworks, and learning style assessments.

Step (4), what information will be gathered or used, may include some items from step (3), measures identified to track the program’s effectiveness at multiple levels of goal impact, and the business results achieved with the program. These also form direct inputs to step (6), establishing how development will be monitored. An output of step (6) may be an ROI Implementation Plan.

Step (7), aligning with other development activities, requires a link to business strategy, talent strategy, capability management, and L&D processes.

All Steps to Take of the Entry Contracting Phase can repeat or continue in the next phase of Initiating the Program, which entails mainly explorations in the individual dimension. 

Phase 2 Orientation or Initiating the Program 

This is the Business Coaching Program launch. It could also be considered a part of the initial entry contracting phase.

This phase is about creating alignment between the client goals and the organizational goals. Creating a baseline for measurement and an initial goal formulation is aimed.

The initial brief mentioned in the entry contracting phase may repeat, continue, or happen the first time in this phase.

The initial identification of needs and outcomes, the initial goal setting, and initial assessments may follow.

Involve the coaching client, program manager, HR, and program sponsor during initiation.

Sub-process steps of orientation (Steps to Take)

(1) All relevant steps from the entry contracting phase

(2) Initial brief

(3) Selection and matching

(4) Agree on the evaluation process

(5) Decide upon a feedback loop

(6) Discuss and review the business coaching process, i.e., departure points

The coaching program launch may be preceded by (a) an orientation for coaches onto the program, and (b) introducing clients to coaching including coaching definitions and a coaching brief, announcing organizational and business goals that are aimed for by the business improvement project.

Step (2), the initial brief, involves identifying needs and outcomes, initial goal setting, and initial assessment. The coaching brief, an assessment questionnaire, and a coaching plan are inputs to this step.

Step (3), selection and matching, covers introducing the business coach’s approach to the client, introducing the coach to the client, and the client selecting the coach to work with. Input to this step may form the coach and client’s personality and emotional intelligence profiles.

Step (4), agreeing on the evaluation process, is crucial in evaluating outcome effectiveness. Gaining commitment to measures, monitoring processes, and data collection, from the sponsor and stakeholders during this early phase positively impact progress reporting and outcome evaluation, as well as making the coaching program meaningful in the eyes of the participants and employees. Without this early commitment, it becomes difficult later on to persuade these parties to get involved actively and take responsibility to engage fully. This step’s input may include the 360-degree feedback method, observation and self-analysis, competency-based assessments, and leadership inventories.

Step (5), deciding upon a feedback loop, involves a clear agreement on confidentiality and boundaries, reporting structures and responsibilities, and agenda and dates for three-way sessions of coach, client, and line manager.

Phase 3 Contracting with the Coaching Client

Client contracting involves mainly explorations in the coaching relationship dimension.

Involve the coaching client.

Sub-process steps of client contracting (Steps to Take)

(1) First meeting, building rapport

(2) Confirmation of initial goals, Contract between client and coach

(3) Agree on confidentiality

(4) Gather information and review

(5) Establish the real problem or challenge

(6) Define success criteria

(7) Help the client formulate her report (on the agreement and her public goals) to her manager and establish client reporting responsibility

Inputs to client contracting are the coaching contract, checklist for establishing the contract, and the ethics code.

Phase 4 Assessment

Assessment involves continuing explorations in the coaching relationship dimension.

Involve the whole system, colleagues, and internal and external clients.

Phase 5 Coaching Implementation

This is mainly the coaching relationship dimension. Involve the coaching client, the program manager for process reporting, and the line manager in three-way sessions.

Sub-process steps of coaching implementation (Steps to Take)

(1) Assessment as one of the continuing processes in the coaching engagement (the other two being challenge and support)

(2) Planned sessions

(3) Check-ins

(4) Coach CPD

Planned sessions include individual and group sessions, team coaching, and workshops as required. Inputs to planned sessions are the session structure, session tools, action plan, evaluation form, and progress report.

Check-ins include coach supervision check-in and check-in with the program manager following the program guidelines.

Coach CPD (continuous professional development) is the reflective practice of the coach, yielding a self-development plan in the areas of self-awareness (mindfulness); practices applied; selection and application of tools and processes; coaching model: improvement, deepening insight, impact; coaching process: awareness, effectiveness, impact.

Session Structure and Coaching Implementation of Planned Sessions

(a) Confirm problems and challenges

(b) Generate solutions

(c) Explore options

(d) Plan to implement actions

(e) Review actions

(f) Review lessons learned

(g) Define opportunities to practice

(h) Evaluate session, Evaluate progress

Feedback to the line manager, program manager, and program sponsor is as agreed.

Phase 6 Evaluation and Closing

Evaluation and closing involve continuing explorations in the coaching relationship dimension.

Involve the program sponsor, program manager, line manager, and HR.

Sub-process steps of evaluation and closing (Steps to Take)

(1) Review success criteria

(2) Review results

(3) Define continuing learning plan

(4) Review initial contract

(5) Re-contract or closure

Inputs to evaluation are 360-degree analysis, observation and self-analysis, all previous progress reports, and the closeout report.

The project should end with announcing an end.