Tools for the Executive's Organization:
Guidelines for Executive Coaching in Organizations


Members of The Executive Coaching Forum have found this resource helpful, but we have not formally reviewed it for complete accuracy or endorsing the claims made by the creators.

If you are introducing or expanding executive coaching initiatives in your company, consider the following guidelines:

1) Align executive coaching with your executive development and business strategies. Coaching initiatives not only influence individual performance. They can greatly affect your organization's capacity to execute. Therefore, it is critical that you take a strategic approach to executive coaching. Ask yourself: why are we doing this? What is the business objective? Is it to build bench strength? Retain top performers who are at risk of leaving? Prepare key executives to take on new strategic roles? Or is it to manage "stars" with serious shortcomings? Answering such questions will help you develop a coaching program that supports individual, organizational and business needs.

2) Carefully assess each coaching inquiry. Requests for coaching can mask other issues. Determine if executive coaching is the best solution for both the individual and organization. Ask questions like: is the individual's need for development best suited for one-on-one coaching? How open is the individual to feedback and learning? How motivated is the individual to change? Is the organization ready to have executives coached? Will people be supportive?

3) Clarify stakeholders' roles. In any coaching engagement, you must manage the responsibilities and expectations of a variety of stakeholders (e.g. the executive, his or her manager, coach, HR partner, executive development manager, etc.) The roles and expectations of these stakeholders will vary depending on the situation. However, each coaching engagement requires a written contract that explicitly documents who is involved, roles, intended outcomes and other agreements.

4) Establish confidentiality guidelines. Why do coaching engagements fail? The most common reason is the breakdown of trust. Put yourself in your executive's shoes, who will likely ask such questions as: "Who knows that I'm being coached? Who will have access to my information? How can I be assured that what I say won't be shared with people I don't trust?" The coach and others will have access to delicate personal and company information. Create general confidentiality rules for the program and then establish particular guidelines for each coaching engagement. Make sure that guidelines are jointly agreed upon in the learning contract before coaching begins. And then steadfastly maintain them during and after the coaching.

5) Set learning and business contracts. The best coaching happens behind closed doors after you have established clear standards and a learning contract. Learning contracts include: purpose and objectives, timelines, scope and types of assessment, measures of success, identification and roles of stakeholders, confidentiality agreements, use of personal and coaching information, communication and distribution of information etc. Business contracts include: purpose and objectives, total costs of service (including who in the organization is paying for the service), fee and payment schedules, company-sponsored proprietary and confidentiality statements, expense reimbursement rules, etc.

6) Assign someone to manage the executive coaching program. A senior HR person adds value by overseeing the program. This program manager acts as the contact point for coaches and executives, conducts needs analysis, creates and maintains standards, sources and qualifies coaches and resolves issues. The program manager ensures that the coaching is a solid investment for the business and individual.

7) Carefully select internal and external coaches. Finding and qualifying experienced coaches with a wide range of expertise is time-consuming but necessary for a successful program. Look for overall competence and coaching experience, expertise, industry experience, business savvy, cultural fit, maturity, forthrightness, integrity, relationship building skills, coaching philosophy/perspective, and willingness to partner with you.

8) Match potential coaches with executives. A critical success factor is allowing the executive to choose his or her coach. Consider the coach's experience, skill sets, style, perspective and unique criteria (also age, gender, race, if appropriate) when fielding a slate of potential coaches for the executive to interview. Suggest to the executive that he or she choose a coach who makes him or her "comfortably uncomfortable".

9) Orient the coaches to your company and individual. Make sure the coach understands your company's norms, structure, and history. This is an efficient and effective way to help the executive and coach get started. Provide background and context to the coach about the individual executive's coaching needs.

10) Define and monitor how success will be measured. Set goals and business metrics for both the individual engagement and the overall coaching program. Measurements may include: behavior change, learning goal achievement, overall satisfaction of stakeholders, business improvements, retention figures, and performance measures.

Implementing these guidelines will go along way to ensure that each coaching engagement is worthwhile and that the executive coaching program is a valued investment for your company.