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Organizational coaching: Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask

September 9, 2021 - 11 min read

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What is organizational coaching?

5 reasons to invest in organizational coaching

Types of organizational coaching

Choosing an organizational coaching program

What is organizational coaching?

Organizational coaching targets systemic change within a company. Often it overlaps with executive coaching, where the focus is on the development of the individual. Similarly, team coaching often falls under the rubric of organizational coaching as well. Team coaching involves a manager and his or her direct reports.

Organizational focus

In contrast to other forms of coaching, organizational coaching works with the teams that form an organization. The goal is to support their evolution based on corporate goals and objectives. As a result, organizational coaching engagements can be quite large and complex. They may include executive leadership and dozens of teams.

Once company members have structure, organizational coaching can help identify and achieve corporate goals. These development programs might include crisis management, profitability attainment, and diversity and inclusion issues.

What’s more, achieving these lofty goals usually requires a team of professional coaches. The coaching team should be vetted based on levels of experience, areas of expertise, and industry knowledge. While it can be a logistical nightmare to put together an internal coaching team, there are many firms that specialize in organizational development.

5 reasons to invest in organizational coaching

Organizational coaching can be a springboard for corporate change at the deepest level and is crucial for every organization. So why would corporate leaders make a hefty investment in organizational coaching? 

On a macro level, organizational coaching can shift the direction of a company and its cultural propensity for change. Coaches with industry-specific knowledge may be able to point out blind spots the organization is unaware of. They may also be willing to speak up about issues that employees deem too politically dangerous.

Some of the other benefits organizational coaching provides — for both the employee and company — include:

Morale boost

Organizational coaching provides an increase in morale. Teams and individuals feel included in corporate strategy. Morale is also heightened at the corporate and individual level by the increased investment in learning, development, and coaching. Put succinctly, employees feel valued by the investment in organizational coaching.

Increased employee engagement

Employees who feel they are an intrinsic part of an organizational coaching process are truly engaged employees. Since their opinions are valued by the coach/coaches, it’s only natural that increased engagement will follow. If the employee is energized by the coaching process, it’s fair to assume that their level of engagement will flow out through the organization.

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Employee retention

Within an organizational coaching engagement, top employees are more likely to stay when they feel involved in corporate direction and strategy. When high performers truly feel they are influencing, and even driving corporate decision-making, they are inclined to stay longer and participate actively.

Increased accountability

Organizational coaching is all about driving actions and creating accountabilities. Commitments are made in a group setting along with granting the necessary empowerment to get the job done. The very nature of organizational coaching drives accountabilities and makes actions highly visible. 

Development spotlight

Organizational coaches are trained to identify weaknesses within a corporate system. They can pinpoint anything from lack of management strength to underdeveloped employee skills. A corporate coaching engagement can help fine tune the needs of an organization. This helps to develop core competencies and ensure maximum productivity and benefit.

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Types of organizational coaching

Organizational coaching can come in many flavors, and approaches are modified to meet the needs of each corporate client. Sometimes a one-to-one coaching engagement can help an executive identify blind spots. On the other hand, a team coaching focus can improve processes and drive productivity. A good coach, or team of coaches, can clearly identify what type of coaching will be best for a company. Here’s a list (not comprehensive) of different types of organizational coaching:

Team coaching

Companies are built on teams that drive the business forward and are the crucial heart of any organization. Teams can be seen on the factory floor as well as in the executive boardroom. Getting teams to work well and together is the ultimate goal of any organizational coaching effort. 

To make this happen, a coach may need to observe team members in their native environment, ask hard questions, and identify glitches in the system. Once complete, coaches can work with these teams to shore up weaknesses and maximize strengths.

Executive coaching

Executive coaching, or “leadership coaching,” is one of the most common forms of coaching available to organizations. Traditionally executive coaching has been reserved for high potential leaders, with a focus on personal development to drive a high impact. Also, it’s a way to correct a coachee’s career-limiting behaviors early and identify the growth needed to perform at more senior executive levels. 

As part of the process, it’s crucial that coachees are paired with the appropriate leadership development coach. This can be a trial and error process. Executive coaching is often a long-term relationship that combines mentoring and professional development. Given the very personal nature of coaching, it may be necessary for a coachee to try out a few coaches before establishing a good fit.

An experienced executive coach can help create weekly action plans for clients and drive new levels of self awareness. With a proper pairing, coach and coachee can become quite close, and high levels of trust can become a springboard for growth and development.

Integrated coaching

When organizational coaching is part of a larger education and training effort, it’s known as integrated coaching. Employees may be introduced to a coach during the training process, but the real coaching doesn’t start until after the training is complete.  Post-training, coachees work with coaches to reinforce the training they received and bring it into the real world. Coaches can keep their clients on track as they practice new skills and try on new behaviors in the workplace.

Online coaching

Even before the pandemic, online coaching had become the norm for meeting the growing coaching needs of organizations. Employees have become accustomed to working remotely, so adding coaching into this mix was an easy stretch. In fact, all of the types of coaching discussed above can also be delivered in an online format. Unfettered by locations or time zones, clients can benefit from a vast variety of coaches with specialized skill sets. Also, the ability to match well with a coach expands exponentially with a global pool of coaches. 

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Choosing an organizational coaching program

Developing an organizational coaching program at your company can be full of potential pitfalls and wrong turns. And if you decide to use an external organizational coaching firm, any missteps can cost you real time and money. So what should you look for and what steps should you take when vetting coaching firms? What’s more, what should you do if you want to offer organizational coaching at scale across a global organization? The following steps may help:

Check the references of a third party coaching organization

Working with a third party when developing an organizational program can ease a lot of logistical headaches when done right. Depending upon the scale of the coaching organization, facilitators are often equipped to handle many languages. They also have years of experience, with tried and tested methodologies backed by science and research. Be sure to check the references and results of other companies who have used their coaching services. Be sure to verify that the coaching organization was able to facilitate results with their client companies — and has the metrics to prove it.

Review coaching credentials and methodologies

An early step when reviewing a coaching company is to check the credentials of the proposed coaching team. Make sure to hire certified coaches from organizations like the International Coaching Federation (ICF). If they are using specific tools and methodologies when performing client assessments, be sure to verify that they're certified to use them. Lastly, if the coaching panel claims real-world industry experience, ask how that has been leveraged in coaching engagements with other companies.

Establish fields of focus — and hire accordingly

Set specific targets for success or organizational challenges you want to work on. If you’re providing coaching for a sales team or want to take a deep dive on marketing strategy, it makes sense to hire a coaching organization that has experience in these areas. Coaches who formerly held executive positions can be particularly beneficial to C-level members. Be very clear on your needs and speak up early on the issue of coach expertise.

Look for a large pool of coaches

One of the biggest challenges of organizational coaching is ensuring the right match between coach and coachee. A relationship of trust is paramount, and each coachee should be given the opportunity to choose from at least three coaches. A larger coaching organization can provide the sheer number of coaches required to achieve this. Many coaching organizations use algorithms and machine learning to drive success when matching coaches and clients.

Know your goals

Lastly, be very clear on your organizational coaching goals. Long term, are you looking to develop a coaching culture at your organization? Are you hoping to shape corporate values? Are you aiming to have a direct impact on the bottom line? All of these questions should be reviewed often to measure the impact and efficacy of your training program.

The goal of organizational coaching is to drive transformation at the most fundamental level within organizations. Not only can it enhance the achievement of strategic goals and management growth, but coaching can also foster real and long-term cultural and organizational change. And to take your personal development to the next level, don't overlook life coaching

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Published September 9, 2021

Robert Carroll

BetterUp Fellow Coach

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