Coaching within organizations

{Tulpa, 2010. In Passmore (Ed.), Excellence in Coaching: The Industry Guide (2nd Ed.)}

Organizational coaching framework (OCF), the coach’s perspective.

    1. Building the business case

Systemic profiling; Key challenges; Gain commitment

    1. Ensuring focus

Maintain drive; Identify stakeholders; Clarify business drivers

    1. Creating alignment

Establish aims; Matching criteria; Best fit teams

    1. Contracting

Goals and outcomes; Agreements; Commitments

    1. Delivering success

Build confidence; Solicit feedback; Measure value

Our new ways of living, our high-tech world, have created many illusions, silently eroding our inner space but publicly announcing progress and triumphs of achievement.

Unfulfilled work and social life, devoid of deeper meaning and purpose, fragmenting our sense of self, loss of community, contact, and connection; unbalanced work-play time, and the dissolved boundary between private-public presence.

An organization can establish coaching as a strategic initiative to serve and support leadership, talent, or learning and development programs.

Questions arise about how to procure coaching services, manage them, and measure benefits and value.

Other challenges facing HR practitioners may be: integrating coaching with the bigger picture; opening “closed doors”; meeting the needs of both the organization and the individual; information flow and confidentiality; scoping and controlling costs.

Challenges occur when the coaching program or group intervention is unfocused; the right chemistry or fit between the coach, client, and company culture isn’t there; or there are unclear communications as to the purpose of the program, the way it was “sold in,” or what the outcomes are.

1. Building the business case

Business return on investment and potential outcomes at the individual, team, and organizational levels are useful as a baseline of knowledge when meeting with potential clients.

At this phase, we focus on helping organizations understand and buy into the real value of coaching.

Systemic profiling:

To attract and work with the right clients for the coach’s business, know where to target, and take a systemic perspective. Systemic in the sense of “complete” or looking at a situation in its entirety. Like an investigative reporter, discover information from all angles.

Satisfy your criteria, be clear, and create choice.

Key challenges:

Investigate client organizations’ vision, size, budgets, reporting lines and offerings, culture, attitudes, and past experiences with coaching; take a coach approach in meeting with sponsors.

Develop rapport, listen, ask questions, give feedback, inquire about the sponsor’s goals and challenges, and show readiness and support for the sponsor in building the business case for coaching.

To identify further key challenges, ask SPIN questions, situational, problem, implication, and needs payoff.

Once organizational challenges are unraveled, the client’s level of awareness is raised, and they form a basis for entering into a discussion on how coaching may help.

Typical key challenges

    1. Keeping employees motivated during change
    2. Giving our leaders and managers additional skills to support the strategy
    3. Moving from transactional or task-based culture to transformational
    4. Having our people stay focused during a sluggish market – low performance
    5. Finding ways to build leadership capabilities, innovation, and strategic thinking
    6. Retaining our best people in a competitive market
    7. Discovering ways to reduce stress and increase team morale
    8. Identifying ways to engage our people with the company’s vision and values

Gain commitment:

Coaching has been established as an appropriate tool for the client’s needs;

They understand some of the benefits and what it can help them achieve;

Now gain commitment to an appropriate “next step” or course of action. Draw out options and possibilities from the client, e.g., “what could building a coaching culture at your company lead to?”; from here, guide them into action, which can result in a commitment to an outcome and, if relevant, support them for their coaching needs.

Our approach is adaptable and aims to be systemic.

We stretch ourselves to have greater discipline in holding the focus and aligning with the needs of the client, the manager, the sponsor, and the organization as a whole.

As coaches, we choose and align our services with clients most appropriate to our personal and business requirements; when the fit is right, this is highly energizing and one where there is the most added value.

We may say “no” at times as good practice.

Why am I choosing to work with this particular organization?

Is this prospect or client aligned with my vision, service offerings, capabilities, and passions?

“I’ll take what I can get” is not my strategy.

2. Ensuring focus

In the previous phase, the focus was on understanding both coach’s and the client’s needs. At this point, it is the needs of the sponsor or first contact.

Maintain the drive:

By now, there should have been some encouraging conversations with the sponsor, and they have committed to the next step. So how does the coach maintain the drive?

One perspective is to continue with normal coaching delivery, to stay in the comfort zone, and if the sponsor likes the coach, they will call.

Another perspective is to take a proactive view, stay close to the client, and explore ways to support them. Continue to focus your energy on the three key activities from the first phase:

Key activities:

    1. Know your requirements, challenges, and strengths
    2. Know your client’s requirements, challenges, and strengths
    3. Take a coach approach, e.g., develop rapport, effective listening, questioning, and giving honest feedback

+4. Be abundant, take an approach to serve, take responsibility, and stay focused on helping the sponsor achieve their aims, become a true partner, and share your knowledge at the front end. This sets your service apart from others.

Identify stakeholders:

When the sponsor wants to bring in a successful coaching program, they must take a systemic view and look at all those affected by the initiative and adopt strategies for greater buy-in, understanding, and communication.

You have an overall delivery plan, the OCF, and you want to ensure focus and support the sponsor at this phase. Consider the needs of key influencers and decision-makers; get the boss or most senior leader involved; gain top-down support.

At this time, it may be useful to discuss budgets, timelines, other talent, leadership, or change initiatives planned, and any other agendas or priorities that could impact the program’s success.

Key stakeholder groups are the Client, CEO, Boss, Peers, HR – L&D, Direct Reports, Marketing, Clients, Procurement, CFO, Coach, and Coach’s colleagues.

Clarify business drivers:

Successful coaching is linked to the overall strategy and business drivers, shows return on investment, and measures how our services impact the organization’s bottom-line performance.

Start asking questions to clarify what the organization’s business drivers are and, equally, what the priorities are.

Where the strategy is not always clear among the leadership team, help shape and articulate their strategies and offer your leadership and organization development perspective.

3. Creating alignment

During this phase, we focus on aligning the coaching program and matching process with the needs of the client, individual or team, the coach, and the business.

Many outcome studies and surveys have concluded that when done well and managed effectively, coaching makes a difference to an individual’s leadership, management, and communication skills, increases confidence and job motivation, and positively impacts the organization’s bottom line.

Establish aims:

Facilitate a design meeting with identified stakeholders. Link in key challenges, business strategy, and other talent and leadership initiatives. Establish aims, objectives, key messages, positioning, what the coaching is for, and internal selection criteria. Reinforce benefits, discuss potential pitfalls and success factors, and how a coaching approach can manifest culture change.

The purpose is to gain clarity and buy-in from all who can be ambassadors of the program to ensure it gets a first-class start.

Matching criteria:

By now, the overall program has been approved; you have confirmed aims, content, and fees; you have helped the client set up a clear and upbeat communications plan.

Now you ensure your coaching skills and experience align with the needs of the individuals or teams participating. You show you can accommodate the individual needs and preferences of their executives and managers. The more you help them with this concern, the better you align with their requirements.

A matching model comprises tangible domains of expertise and credibility and intangible domains of skills of influence and authenticity.

Additionally, preferences of face-to-face versus telecom, location, and other search criteria, e.g., development need; however, the human perspective and the manager’s instinct are valid inputs to good judgment.

Expertise: experience and qualification

Coaching experience: breadth and depth of coaching; one-to-one, groups or both; at which levels, how long

Business experience: worked on an ExecTeam?; line management experience; entrepreneur: running a business; industry-related experience

Coaching qualifications: models and approach; academic or applied learning; accredited by an independent body

Professional qualifications: degree in discipline; assessment capabilities; member of a professional body; recent CPD, in supervision

Credibility: proven success, “real” insight

Coaching success stories:

Business success stories:

Insight into the human:

Insight into the business world:

Influence: communication, style, relationship

Authenticity: self-awareness, alignment

Best fit teams:

First chemistry or briefing meeting with the client to determine needs, discuss clear ways of working, models used, types of clients who have best suited the coach’s style, in what scenarios. Look out for fit regarding skills and preferences and voice any concerns.

4. Contracting

There is an agreement of fit, the coach has been selected, and the coaching needs are aligned with the business. 

Contracting: document the legal and financial aspects of coaching; define each party’s goals, roles, and accountability. It sets the psychological contract, helps to define the outcomes, sets realistic expectations, and discusses “what if” scenarios. The ultimate aim is to pave the way for a rich, highly rewarding learning experience where all parties see the results and communication and openness are common.

Goals and outcomes:

To manage expectations before the contracting session, as the coach, contact the client to explain the purpose of the contracting session, who will be attending, and what to expect. Ask the client to reflect on their program goals; send a draft “learning agreement” before the session: company aims; business goals, e.g., team, career; development areas; desired outcomes; any previous assessments or feedback.

At the session, these are discussed with all parties: the coach, the client, i.e., executive or manager, their boss or sponsor, e.g., HR, Learning and Development.

As coach, facilitate the process and encourage open feedback; focus on revealing the link between learning goals and company strategy, key drivers and aims. Check to make sure goals are realistic and there is mutual clarity and understanding. Pay attention not to let terminology and team’s interference get in the way.


After clearly defined goals and outcomes, discuss and agree on terms. Have a one-page overview of draft terms at hand to be finalized at the session. Acknowledge the program as an investment in the executive or manager’s development, fully backed by the company, to set the tone for the level of responsibility required by all parties.

Confidentiality and reporting must be viewed to support the client’s progress, learning objectives, and overall program success. Discuss the types of information that will be disclosed, at which levels, by whom, and how often.

All parties are transparent and comfortable with what is agreed; pay close attention to the client’s views.

Guidelines for agreeing on contracting terms:

    1. Terms of relationships – coaching involves the coach, the client, the sponsor paying for the coaching, and the line manager
    2. Organization of sessions – location, lengths, frequency, and on what basis contact is made between sessions
    3. Commitment to sessions – is the assignment based on a flexible or open-ended program or a fixed number of sessions
    4. Review dates – agreed on measurements and time scales, along with specifying the stakeholders involved in the review
    5. Other participants and roles – roles to be specified and agreed on 
    6. Boundaries – this links with confidentiality and should identify the purpose of the coach’s role and, therefore, the boundaries of the relationship
    7. Cancellation and payment terms – understanding fees, policies, and agreements
    8. Confidentiality – basics include:

– existing organization confidentiality agreements will be adhered to by the coach

– the coach should be part of a professional association and abide by a code of ethics, not revealing any personal information

– the sponsor recognizes the right to confidentiality but may ask for some success measures


By now, goals are in place, agreements are in place, we confirm levels of commitment to the program. We allow time for questions and discuss ‘what if’ scenarios, the promises of each party member, and program success factors.

What happens if: there is a change of goals; after all this coaching, “x” decides to leave us; I require a different style of coach halfway through the program; I want additional coaching for my team outside the program parameters; I find it hard to make time in my diary?

What will a successful coaching program look like?

What does each of us in this room need to commit to?

Discuss and respond, agree on how to respond to these and other arising questions.

5. Delivering success

You have built a strong foundation based on achieving clarity, focus, and alignment; you have gained commitment.

Now you will work with all stakeholders to build confidence, solicit feedback, and measure value.

Build confidence:

Total belief, trust, and respect in self and client.

Coach for influence and impact;

Inspire, engage, ignite, and create change;

Take a systemic view;

Give self and client permission to tell success stories;

Communicate the coaching or leadership initiative widely and often to create larger ripples across the organization;

Gain top-down support and endorsement;

When it is seen as a reward for high performers, helping them become even more successful, it helps to build the case for coaching and create pull rather than push.

Solicit feedback:

Adhere to confidentialities; solicit feedback on a volunteer basis only; follow up with all those to whom it pertains in a specific and timely manner. Keep in mind the various stakeholders the program touches and impacts as you select the type of feedback, i.e., shadow coaching, face-to-face feedback, group feedback sessions, organized surveys, learning surveys for the coach, co-coaching forums, informal feedback forums, client roundtables, coaching evaluation forms in addition to individual assessment and 360 tools, multi-rater feedback. Adapt your coaching appropriately.

Measure value:

Impact; continue monitoring results; look for first-hand effects that coaching has on the clients’, whether individual or team, skills and performance and deeper levels.