Adding Coaching to the HR Business Partner Role

The HR business partner is a strategic asset to leaders in business units. The HRBP provides advice, solves problems, acts as a sounding board, and more and more often is also called upon to coach the leader.

Blanchard has worked with a number of clients who are using this strategy along with external coaching for executives and senior leaders.

What are the must-have skills and qualities an HRBP needs to be an effective coach?

A desire to serve others. In the coaching world, we call this the C gene. It’s a coaching mindset that is bent toward facilitating learning and growth for others.

Formal training and practice in coaching skills. Anyone can call themselves a coach, but skilled coaching requires formal training and a lot of practice. Great coaches know that continuous learning—honing of the craft of coaching—makes us better able to serve our clients.

A clear directive. A qualified internal coach can answer these questions: Who do I serve? What are the expected outcomes? What responsibility do I have regarding working agreements with the client and the organization?  For example, if an internal coach is coaching an individual and also that person’s manager, whose agenda takes priority? What information can and cannot be shared?

The ability to compartmentalize. When we coach inside an organization, we hear all manner of stories that are juicy, relevant, inspiring, and horrifying.  An internal coach can keep it all in a box without judging the content. A coach is a vessel. We don’t judge. We serve.

Awareness of when to seek external support. Blanchard has trained coaching skills to hundreds of HRBPs in many different industries. HRBPs consistently say it’s hard to coach upward—that senior leaders and executives just won’t open up to an internal coach because it feels too risky.  We also hear that when the HRBP isn’t a good match for the person in need of coaching, the coaching doesn’t work. HRBPs who coach need to know when to leverage outside support.

A good coach can make all the difference for an individual, a department, and an organization.  It’s the thoughtful use of skills in the right place at the right time that will make the HR business partner successful in serving others.

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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