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As we explained in Chapter 7, one of the most important roles of a boss is to create the case for behavior change. It is the task of the boss to tell the client what he or she needs to do differently in order to meet expectations. This is a supervisory task. The coach has no legitimacy on this matter, except as a messenger, which is an awkward role to be in. It is the boss who creates the case for change. The coach
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serves as the catalyst in helping the client to make it happen. The impetus for change must come from the boss during discussions with the client regarding the client’s job performance and its impact on business results.
Another inappropriate task for a coach is to evaluate the client as an employee to see whether the client is the right candidate for the job. Some coaches also do “psychological assessments” of candidates for jobs, and these assessments may have recommendations in them. However, asking a coach to determine whether the client is the right candidate for a job is not a good practice for both legal and practical reasons.
On the practical side, in a given coaching engagement, if the client has a sense that the coach is sitting in judgment on career issues, the coaching relationship is over. The bond of trust between coach and client cannot exist, and the client will, at best, be reluctant to share information needed for the coaching to be successful.
When to Discontinue Coaching
Coaching assignments don’t always go smoothly. They can hit snags. When a snag is recognized, the HR professional has to get involved. It is also possible that the coach will not speak up and so the HR professional will have to step in. It is a good idea to have a meeting with the coach and the client.
Sometimes it’s not just a snag, but a dead end. A coach might recommend that the coaching process be stopped, temporarily or permanently. This decision is usually made after a great deal of consideration. In discussions with the client and the HR person, an agreement might be reached that the client doesn’t have a coaching problem, doesn’t want to be coached, or that the chemistry just hasn’t been good. These can be difficult truths that must be faced by the coach, the client, and the organization. If the coaching engagement has involved communication among the HR professional, the
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boss, the coach, and the client, then there will be no surprises. Although there may be the temptation to lay blame somewhere, all parties would benefit from resisting doing so. Sometimes the client just isn’t ready or coaching is not appropriate (see Chapter 2). In these circumstances, it is important for all involved to practice listening and to keep an open mind.
A coach might suggest the client seek help of another type, in addition to what the coach is offering. Sometimes clients need help with building skills in areas pertinent to their jobs, such as making effective presentations, organizing and planning, or use of technology. Clients could benefit from the quick fix of experts in these areas in order to make more rapid progress. Sometimes clients have personal problems or crises that have to be handled separately but simultaneously with the coaching and require the services of an employee assistance bureau. The client may need to begin to resolve major life transitions involving divorce, death of a loved one, childcare, and eldercare. It may not make sense to stop the coaching while the transition is taking place. The situation may also require that you, the coach, and the boss handle the situation with extra sensitivity in order to protect the client. You may also want to give some attention to how to protect the organization, which had a need for something to happen in the coaching process. As you sort through your options, your challenge will be to find solutions that treat the client with dignity and respect and that also address the needs of the organization.
It is clear that what the coach should not do is terminate the relationship without discussion, notice, and good reason. The HR professional has a role to play by helping to set the tone that enables honest, candid discussion to take place.
In this chapter, you have learned more about the activities that are the coach’s responsibility. These activities include structuring the coaching process, communicating with others in the organization,
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and setting the boundaries for the coaching relationship. You have gained some insight concerning how the coach values communication with you and the client’s boss to be able to adjust goals and solve problems. You have also learned that the coach must manage the timeline allotted for the assignment as well as any work commitments beyond the original agreement. Your role in providing feedback to the coach regarding the perception of the success of the coaching assignment is very important. You have gained some insight into the importance of evaluating the success of coaching assignments and some approaches you might use. Finally, some reasons for terminating a coaching engagement have been provided so that you will know what situations will require your involvement in the decision to discontinue coaching.