What benefits should an organization expect from a coaching program? Should coaches be managers? How long should coaching last? What are the guidelines for initiating a coaching relationship?

Many organizations have questions about coaching. Here are some answers.

What Are The Benefits of Coaching?

Coaching has many benefits for both individuals and organizations.

For individuals, coaching offers many positive outcomes:

  • Greater self-awareness
  • More self-confidence and interpersonal trust
  • Improved behavior and accountability
  • New skills and knowledge
  • Increased productivity
  • Advancement to new positions and careers
  • Enhanced management capabilities

For organizations, individuals who have been coached well often become role models and change agents, affecting the culture of their organization in many ways. The example these individuals provide can help create a “coaching culture” that instills exemplary coaching behaviors in all organizational leaders.

Should Coaches Be Managers? Colleagues? External Experts?

Having management experience is a plus, but it’s not essential. A co-worker who understands people, is a good influencer, and has the attributes of a good coach can help someone grow and learn. While being a manager adds a level of credibility, it isn’t required.

An employee’s direct manager, though, can be an excellent coach. If there is trust in the relationship, often a direct manager will deeply understand the employee’s capabilities. They’ll know how the employee operates and already have a sense of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, all managers should be effective coaches because of the profound potential impact of their relationship with their employees. And managers who are effective coaches can also serve as objective guides to employees who do not report to them. Any manager who supports employees’ development through coaching is an asset to individual employees and the organization.

Peer coaching is a supportive relationship in which two people of equal status actively help each other to learn specific tasks or resolve problems, with a mutual goal of increasing their personal and team success. Peer coaching is often employed to train new employees or to share knowledge and skills throughout a team.

The benefits of this type of coaching agreement include the following:

  • Each employee receives encouragement and helpful advice from someone with a relevant perspective. An experienced colleague understands the details of how tasks are completed in their specific business environment.
  • A peer coaching relationship doesn’t have the power dynamic found in manager-to-employee coaching.
  • Colleagues can exert subtle peer pressure that encourages greater personal accountability and increased performance to advance team goals.
  • Both people in the relationship receive opportunities to practice skills necessary for their improvement and to reflect on their own growth.

Both internal and external coaches can drive successful coaching outcomes. External coaches may not initially understand the employee as well as an internal coach or manager does, but outside experts will often be more adept at maintaining the confidentiality of the relationship. An external coach can also bring a perspective from other organizations and a broader range of experiences than an internal coach can.

How Long Should Coaching Last?

There are no specific criteria for the ideal duration of a coaching relationship. The duration depends on the complexity of the issue or skills needed and the current capabilities of the individual.

If the coach is external, typically 10-12 one-hour sessions are considered the minimum to begin making progress. If the goal of the coaching is to develop or enhance a narrow range of skills, this may be sufficient, but many successful coaching relationships last longer.

If the coach is internal, especially if the coach is the employee’s manager, ideally there isn’t an end date. A good manager should always be coaching.

For an internal coach who is not the employee’s direct manager, the duration can vary. Again, it will depend upon the specific goals for the coaching.

Establishing a Coaching Agreement

Coaching relationships require candid and thorough discussions about how the coaching will occur, as well as the goals and boundaries of the relationship. Clarifying these topics builds a solid foundation of trust for both participants. Many expert coaches recommend developing a coaching “contract” or agreement that both members create and sign.

Such agreements frequently include the following:

  • Specific goals of coaching and expected outcomes
  • Purpose and frequency of the involvement of the coaching recipient’s direct manager
  • Confidentiality of coaching discussions—what will be shared with the direct manager, or others, and what will remain confidential
  • Communication process with the direct manager and others who are invested in the coaching outcomes
  • Agreements about how to handle differences of opinion or conflict and when to engage others
  • Accountability of the coaching recipient to make his/her own decisions and to accept the resulting consequences
  • Anticipated number of sessions and their duration
  • Whether the sessions are virtual or in-person
  • Cancellation or postponement agreements that respect both members’ time

One critical component is close communication with the employee’s manager if he or she is not providing the coaching. Both individuals should be involved in setting goals and measuring progress. Two-way communications and honest feedback are essential, whether the overall goal is to help the employee grow in their current role or to be groomed for new or expanded responsibilities. Such goals need to be defined, agreed upon, and documented before coaching begins.

If the coach is an external expert, involving the employee’s manager is even more important: not just to communicate updates, but also to ensure alignment on goals and progress.

Meaningful and effective coaching can occur between employees and several types of coaches—managers in their organization, peers, and external experts. Each relationship has benefits and challenges, but all can lead to significant insights and personal growth.

Some organizations designate internal personnel as coaches. Others hire outside experts. For help in deciding which approach is best for your organization, or to bring in an external, expert coach, please contact the Lindenberger group at 609-730-1049 send us an email.