How to Build an Integrated Coaching System

Excerpt drawn from "The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Coaching in Organizations," published by Jossey-Bass in collaboration with the Center for Creative Leadership and edited by Douglas D. Riddle, Emily R. Hoole, and Elizabeth C.D. Gullette.

At the core of this book is an idea: Human Resource leaders can create the conditions that permit the growth of a developmental culture and of climates that encourage individual and organizational learning. They can do this through implementing coaching systems based on lessons derived from organizations all over the world, in many sectors and industries, of all sizes. Coaching, mentoring, and other developmental activities are only part of the total work of Human Resource professionals; they are important to the health of the organization and the growth of those being coached, and they are an essential element of organizational change. Furthermore, we believe that Human Resource professionals are ideally located within the organization to activate a variety of resources leading to leadership growth.

Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) research consistently has shown the consequences of trying to execute brilliant business strategies without the benefit of adequate leadership. The realization that implementation of business strategy requires a corresponding leadership strategy has shaped CCL’s research and portfolio for more than a decade. However, this book recognizes that it is nearly impossible for any internal HR professional to know all that is necessary to implement practical and effective coaching systems. We have gathered in this book experience and research from all over the globe in one place for busy HR and organizational development leaders who recognize the need for coaching as one piece of a comprehensive orientation toward development. This book focuses on the opportunities and challenges of the professionals working within an organization responsible for doing coaching or implementing coaching systems.

The key word is system, because we have come to appreciate an ecological perspective, which always seeks to broaden the attention beyond the current definition of a given situation. For instance, an HR leader may be called on to coach an executive who is in danger of derailing. In years past, the leader might have been content to counsel the individual, warn him of his potential fate, and consult with him until he either changes or flames out. An ecological perspective changes that approach and helps HR leaders recognize that they sit at the crossroads of a rich set of resources and are likely to be much more effective by activating the help of others, all for the benefit of the executive and the organization. HR leaders who think in terms of the system will help derailing executives enlist the involvement and support of many others.

Overly simple approaches to coaching tend to focus on the modality that’s familiar to a leader in the organization. The popularity of executive coaching, for example, has led many organizations to limit their use of coaching to engaging pools of executive coaches or to starting formal mentoring programs. In the least effective applications of coaching, organizations rely solely on the use of external coaches for executives and do not provide other leadership development or learning experiences. In our work globally at CCL, we have found it extremely valuable, as well as cost-effective, to have coaching systems with multiple elements, but we have yet to encounter an organization that has made full use of the range of coaching modalities discussed in this book.

Specifically, we’ve seen that successful integrated coaching systems typically have several elements in common that span the full coaching spectrum. They include executive coaching, mentoring, peer coaching, HR coaching, manager as coach initiatives, digital goal tracking and reminder systems, and team and group coaching. When embarking on an effort to develop an integrated coaching system, you will want to give serious consideration to the following steps:

1. Develop a compelling vision of the kind of company you need to be. Give thought to how it needs to operate and what kinds of leadership will be needed to fulfill the vision.

2. Assess current gaps and opportunities for advancing leadership development. (Chapter 2 provides detailed guidance on assessing your current situation.) Using CCL’s five-stage model, determine where you are now in implementing coaching in a comprehensive, integrated fashion.

3. Engage in appreciative inquiry to locate formal and informal current uses of coaching approaches.

4. Create a well-plotted strategy based on the broad vision and the results of assessment.

5. Use disciplined management systems that can ensure ease of use for everyone involved. Devoting adequate administrative and process or project management resources will pay off right away. Neglecting the practical questions of how people find out what and how they can participate will undermine even the most brilliant programs.

6. Start small and develop over time. When you can, choose to elevate attention on current positive activities over starting new programs. Build initial programs on existing platforms.

7. Win supporters first and continuously.

8. Create cross-functional advisory groups for all new initiatives:

  • Use them to generate market data within your organization.
  • Use them to develop rules to ensure application of the right approaches for the desired outcomes.
  • Use them to identify meaningful targets for evaluation of success.

9. Build evaluation into the whole system.

10. When possible, start at the top (you may never exceed the leadership performance of the senior team). If you have access, engage the board (ultimately responsible for the success of the firm).

Every organization has unique needs and opportunities to use coaching to develop leadership. Across the board, organizations intent on growth carefully apply the right coaching modalities to save money, experience powerful effects, and benefit the mission of their organizations. Careful thinking about what is to be accomplished and how the whole organization will be engaged can yield sustainable processes far outlasting the formal programs that kick it off. As a Human Resource professional, you can create lasting change in the culture and practices of your organization.

This excerpt is drawn from The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Coaching in Organizations, published by Jossey-Bass in collaboration with the Center for Creative Leadership and edited by Douglas D. Riddle, Emily R. Hoole, and Elizabeth C.D. Gullette.

Douglas D. Riddle is global director of Coaching Services at Center for Creative Leadership and also serves as senior adviser to the Harvard Institute of Coaching.

Emily Hoole is group director of Global Research And Evaluation at the Center for Creative Leadership.

Elizabeth C.D. Gullette is vice president in Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness at Alix Partners and previously served as senior faculty and coaching practice leader at the Center for Creative Leadership.  

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