Five Essential Principles If You’re Going to Make Your Coaching Successful

Coaching Concept More and more organizations are leveraging coaching internally. Whether it’s a manager coaching for performance, an HR business partner coaching for development, or a designated coach in the organization working with a variety of people, coaching helps people perform at their best.

To be effective, coaches at every level need to follow five principles. Failure in any one of these five areas can quickly take a positive coaching experience and turn it negative.

1. Confidentiality

Even if they don’t mention it openly, people often are concerned about whether details of their conversations with coaches will get back to their managers with potentially negative effects. Some hesitate to be vulnerable or to share their real issues until they are convinced that the coaching relationship is safe. Being crystal clear about what is confidential (and what isn’t) is critical. A breach of confidentiality will harm not only the coaching relationship, but has the potential to harm ALL coaching in an organization. Word gets around.

2. Defining Success

As an external coach and subject matter expert, I often work with clients who are building an internal coaching capacity or hiring external coaches to work with their senior leaders. One of the key conversations I have with organizational sponsors is how they define success measures. It’s disappointing when a client makes huge leaps and gains, only to find out that the boss or others don’t feel the right targets were hit.  Identifying success measures can be hard work.  It is surprising how often the boss says “I’ll know it when I see it” but can’t articulate the change. (Note: this should be a warning sign to a coach.) If success measures can’t be defined, it is even more important to ensure that the boss or others stay informed throughout the process about coaching impact and outcomes.

3. Clear Agreements

A skilled coach never walks away from a coaching session without ensuring that their client is clear about what happens next. A good guideline is to follow the old journalistic rules of what, who, when, and how. It is also important that both the client and the organization are clear on agreements to ensure everyone is on the same page. Who gets informed of what, and when? What reporting will be done? How will vested parties know the coaching is working? What is the organization’s responsibility in supporting the client being coached?  For example, examine assumptions to ensure everyone defines the experiences the same way. Getting agreements in place before coaching starts increases the likelihood of successful outcomes.

4. Permission to Give Feedback

While it’s often assumed that a coach has full permission to give feedback, it is important to check in with the client. Asking “May I give you some feedback?” signals to the client that useful information is coming. There is an art and a science behind giving good feedback. One of the reasons feedback works so well in a coaching relationship is that the coach has no other agenda other than to serve the client.

5. Managing Multiple Agendas

It is a naive coach who thinks the client’s agenda is the only one that needs attention. If you are an independent coach working with a client who has come to you for support, you must manage at least two sets of objectives:  to serve the client’s desired outcomes and successfully run your business.  As an internal coach, you must balance the needs of the client with the needs of the organization.  As an external coach working for a company that provides coaching to other organizations, you must meet four sets of objectives: the client’s agenda, your own need to schedule and complete the coaching, the needs of the organization you work for, and the needs of the organization who is bringing in the coaching.  Making sure you know what weight to give each and how to blend each seamlessly takes thought and practice.

Set Everyone Up for Success

Effective coaching requires that a coach be strong in all five of these areas. Missing any of these critical factors will negatively impact the coaching outcome. Take a minute to check your own coaching agenda.  Make sure you are setting yourself—and your clients—up for success!

About the Author

Patricia OverlandPatricia Overland is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

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