Make the most of coaching

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 18 October 2011



Hawkins, P. (2011), "Make the most of coaching", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 10 No. 6.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Make the most of coaching

Article Type: How to … From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 10, Issue 6

Practical advice for HR professionals

With the world facing more complex challenges, leaders need to grow their individual and collective capacities. Millions have been invested in leadership development, and coaching has been one of the fastest growing areas of investment. Yet today, people are questioning whether coaching really delivers the required individual and organizational value. The next phase of development in coaching needs to be fundamentally different. There will be a growing demand for coaching to not only serve individual development but also the strategic and commercial development of the whole organization. Below are five steps required to create an effective coaching strategy.

1 1. Start with the end in mind

When developing a coaching strategy first explore the organization’s strategic ambitions and what it wants to achieve over the next three to five years. This leads naturally to the challenges in realizing these ambitions, both externally and internally, and how the organization’s culture needs to change.

To paraphrase the great Mahatma Ghandi, “leaders need to be the change they want to see”, or “leaders get the culture they behave”. Careful exploration of this provides a foundational line of sight that links the individual and team development required to lead and manage the organization in a way that is culturally aligned with the organization’s agreed ambitions.

2 2. Design the coaching provision

After establishing the goals that coaching is there to serve, the key internal executives and HR need to design the right mix of coaching provision. This involves the following actions:

  • Identify the key organizational challenges and align coaching to support leaders in the transformational activities.

  • Integrate coaching with other leadership and management development processes and link to the performance objectives of individuals.

  • Address the mix of individual and team coaching to support leadership development.

  • Identify the coaching skills among managers and leaders and discuss how these capabilities can be developed.

3 3. Supervise and evaluate

In research Bath Consultancy Group carried out for the CIPD in 2006, 88 percent of organizers of coaching and 86 percent of coaches believed that coaches should have regular ongoing supervision of their coaching. Supervision should be in place whether trained internal coaches or external coaches deliver coaching. Most organizations now have a mix of both, with external coaches being carefully used where they will deliver most value. However coaching is delivered, all coaches need to be continuously updated on the organizational strategy so they can effectively serve the organizational need.

4 4. Develop the coaching culture

There is a danger that once coaching provision has been designed and established, other initiatives take precedence. Our experience suggests that to realize the full return on investment the coaching provision needs to be built into a sustained program of developing a coaching culture.

There are common development stages in coaching. It will initially start with external coaching before moving onto developing internal provision. A coaching culture begins when leaders actively support coaching and team coaching is developed. When it becomes embedded in HR and performance management processes there will be a marked increase in organizational learning. In turn coaching becomes the dominant style of management. Finally it becomes “how” business is conducted and leads to a more coaching style engagement with all stakeholders.

If organizations only focus on the supply side of their coaching strategy – such as a panel of external coaches or creating a cadre of trained internal coaches – they are unlikely to realize the real potential outcomes that coaching can produce.

5 5. Harvest the learning

Once an organization has built its community of internal and external coaches the learning from the many coaching conversations needs to be harvested. Each coaching relationship needs to have three-way contracting: the coach, the coachee and a senior person who represents the organization. All have a contracted responsibility for ensuring a successful outcome. At the same time harvesting the learning happens through the following:

  • Regular gatherings of internal and external coaches to hear the challenges facing the organization and provide a forum for questions about the organization’s people/culture and development.

  • Facilitating supervision trios on key coaching relationships with managed confidentiality.

  • Working with coaches on structured systemic pattern identification, to identify the key patterns that will enable or block the organization in meeting its objectives.

  • Facilitating dialogue with senior executives and coaches on emerging key themes and how coaching can contribute more to the next stages of the organization’s development.

6 Conclusion

In this time of economic austerity, recession and restricted credit lines, it is inevitable that every line of cost will be regularly reviewed. There will be increasing pressure for coaching to demonstrate its return on investment and increase its capacity not only to develop leaders in a cost effective manner, but to be part of effectively developing the organization to better succeed in a volatile and fast changing world.

Peter HawkinsBased at Bath Consultancy Group and is Professor of Leadership at Henley Business School.

About the author

Peter Hawkins is a leading Consultant, Writer and Researcher in organizational learning, managing complex change, development and leadership and executive coaching. He is Chairman and Joint Founder of Bath Consultancy Group, Professor of Leadership at Henley Business School and professor at Oxford Brookes University and at the University of Bath. Currently he is Honorary President of the Association of Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision, and Chairman of Connect Assist (a telephone and e-coaching company). Peter Hawkins can be contacted at:

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