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The HR professional needs to be sure that the coach understands the climate and culture as they exist now as well as what the organization intends them to be in the future, so that the coaching can occur within the right context.”
Every consultant knows that every client organization has some kind of “soap opera” going on just below the surface. There are alliances and antagonisms, perhaps resulting from events long ago or from more recent acquisitions or reorganizations. There are friendships and possibly even family connections that aren’t evident to a newcomer. There may be romantic attachments, current or former. There will be winners and losers in the struggles for advancement. The coach doesn’t need the entire story, but should be apprised of the elements that most directly impact the client.
8. Be realistic about information and expectations. There may be several reasons why little information is forthcoming from either the coach or the client. Since initial interactions between the coach and the client involve the establishment of trust, both parties will want to maintain confidentiality. Also, the process itself may unfold over time and it may be
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easier for one or both parties to describe the interactions and milestones reached only in “broad brush strokes.” Finally, if a contract has been established that defines the development plan, then periodic confirmations that the plan is on track may be all that client and coach will communicate to the HR professional.
See the “‘To-Do’ List for Managing Coaching Resources” in Section V for some questions to ask yourself as you fulfill your stewardship role.
Support the Start of New Coaching Assignments
When a client has been identified as a potential candidate for a coaching intervention, you will want to consider the following set of tasks that are important to the start of a new coaching engagement.
1. Make sure this is really a coaching assignment, not a problem that should be fixed some other way. Make sure the client is appropriate for this kind of investment and wants a coach.
Most organizations have well-defined methods and procedures for dealing with personnel issues. As the HR person, you are, no doubt, very familiar with most, if not all, of them, and may even have authored some for your organization. To maintain the integrity of the coaching process, it is important to verify in advance that the appropriate intervention is, in fact, coaching, and not some other process or procedure such as performance management, employee assistance, or informal coaching from the supervisor.
2. Help identify the “right” coach, which often comes down to an intuitive choice once an initial screening has happened.
Helping your clients select the “right” coach will have enormous benefits for your clients, your organization, and your reputation as a valuable professional. You have a golden opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the best questions to ask in coach selection (see Chapter 3). Having to choose among options allows the client to rely a bit on “chemistry” or “intuition,” which will enhance decision making and make it more likely that there will be a good match between the coach and the client.
3. Arrange for clear contractual relationships—not always a written contract, but there has to be at least some discussion.
It is always wise to set up a written contract that specifies the terms of the coaching engagement. However, even with a written contract in place, there is no substitute for the personal interactions and discussions that can occur between you and the coach. There are many good reasons for you to become better acquainted with the coach to assist you in the kinds of decisions you will need to make regarding the coaching assignment.
If, for some reason, a written contract does not exist, then having an understanding of the expectations and knowledge base of the coach becomes even more important. It is important to hold periodic conversations with the coach regarding the progress of the client, next steps in the process, organizational expectations for the client, and anything else that might impact the coaching assignment.
4. Help connect the coaching to important business objectives. For the coaching to be truly effective, both for the individual and for the organization, the rationale for the coaching has to be linked to business objectives. What are the business results that the client must achieve? What are the skills, abilities, and behaviors that the client must demonstrate in order to achieve these business results?
What Is the Role of the HR Professional?
5. Share all the relevant data, including the client’s future potential, with the coach. Relevant data can include many different things such as information pertaining to the client’s past history and future potential in the organization, observations of the client’s behavior from yourself and others, and data from corporate opinion surveys. In short, anything that may provide insight to the coach concerning the client’s character, current situation in the organization, or career trajectory will be important for you to share with the coach.