Success Factors in Coaching, Part 1

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February 14, 2013

There are phases that are common to all individualized coaching programs, and the lack of any of these phases significantly decreases the likelihood for success in executive coaching.

Good Fit Conversation – The good fit conversation is a simple, but effective way of checking on the interpersonal chemistry between the coach and the coachee. It is often done by telephone, usually after the coachee has seen the biosketch of the coach, and normally lasts part of an hour, but it is often valuable for lengthier, face-to-face meetings for upper level executives or in more extensive coaching engagements. The goal is for the coach and the coachee to sense each other’s personalities around the kinds of challenges expressed by the coachee and see if there is a level of comfort in continuing discussions.

Planning & Contracting – The planning and contracting phase is a time for the coach and coachee to delve deeper into the needs for coaching, the expected outcomes for the coaching process, and to create clarity about what will happen during the period of coaching. This is the time for the initial fit to be explored and for the coachee to learn how the coach expects to work, the kinds of demands and expectations for coachee participation, and to get clear on how much work might be involved in coaching. This conversation may take place over the phone, but in-person meetings are not uncommon and are even an extension of the good fit conversation in more extensive coaching engagements. One related area here is to explore with coaches how they approach the issue of stalls that can occur in the coaching process. Working the coaching plan is hard work. It’s extra work and it’s not normally the kind of work that business people are used to doing. It is somewhat akin to applying oneself to a graduate school course but it has a real-time aspect to it, and that means the coaching goals are often present, consuming energy and thought, and available as the coachee sees opportunities for behavior choices in day-to-day interactions. Again, this is hard work. Sometimes coachees don’t fully engage in their work and coaches must evaluate the coachee’s level of commitment to the process and the coaching plan created. I would say that some coaches are more hand-holding while others are more outcome-focused. Fees, expenses, and time frames are discussed at this stage.

Assessment – Humans learn for themselves based on some form of data, input, or experience. Gathering critical information about the coachee (background information and biosketch) as well as feedback from others (frequently in the form of 360 behavioral assessments or interviews) and from psychological preference tests tend to be the predominant forms of assessment in executive coaching. In some cases, on-site observation by the coach or “shadowing” may be used. These latter observational assessments are most frequently done later in the coaching process and often in cases where the coachee gets “stuck” in overcoming a behavioral challenge.