By Igshaan Soules

The HR department plays a central role in designing and managing coaching activities within the organization. They are key decision makers when it comes to recruiting executive coaches and central to leveraging executive coaching for developing leaders within the organisation.

Yet, human resource practitioners often fail to deliver the quality of coaches, coaching and coaching practices necessary to have the desired impact within their organizations. Following are several reasons I have distilled from my experience (and from conversations with other coaches) for why this may be the case.

Mistake #1. Recruiting coaches that will fit organizational culture

The biggest mistake HR practitioners make when rolling out executive coaching is to recruit and select coaches that is likely to fit the organisations culture. A coach will spend on average between 3 – 6 hours a month working with a corporate leader. Often the coaching takes place outside of the physical work environment. Thus, there is very little opportunity for a coach to interact with your organisational culture. A coach’s understanding of and fit with your culture will add little value to the coaching relationship since they don’t play in your corporate environment.

What I do care about as a coach is what perspective my clients hold about the culture, how they choose to play in it and how they interpret their impact as leaders within this culture.

Mistake #2. Unclear selection criteria

There are a variety of criteria one can use to determine the value a particular coach can bring to a coaching relationship. Yet, not many practitioners have thought through this well enough and are unable to help leaders articulate in precise terms why they need coaching and thus what kind of coach would work best for them. For example, I often have HR practitioners ask me to work with a leader on their presentation skills. My stock answer is, “I don’t do presentation skills training.” This is often followed by a conversation about how I can support their leaders having greater presence, influence and impact when engaging with others in the workplace and beyond.

Most practitioners remain with the superficial criteria such as coach training, credentialing and experience (read hours of coaching).

Mistake #3. Over-rating chemistry

There is general agreement amongst coaches and HR practitioners that a “chemistry session” is a useful way of establishing the degree of rapport between coach and client. However, the mistake HR practitioners make is when they position themselves as the first filter for determining likeability – and then “sell” the coach (or selection of top 3)  to the executive wanting coaching based on this evaluation.

Why is this a problem? What you may like or dislike in an individual will not be the same for others. There are just to many subjective factors that will influence your decision. You are not choosing a soul mate, friend, partner or surrogate child for your leader. You’re choosing a coach who can hold a leader accountable for reaching out to their highest potential.

By allowing yourself to filter according to likeability you deprive leaders from a potential coach that may be just perfect for them.

Mistake #4. Not providing leaders with a roadmap for working with a coach

One of my ongoing disappointments is that HR does not prepare leaders for choosing a coach let alone working with a coach. Few leaders understand their role in selecting a coach. When presented with a selection of coaches to choose from, leaders have no framework or guideline they can use to help determine which coach will be the best for them.

HR should play an important role in providing leaders with a roadmap for working with a coach in their organisation.

5. Coaching methodology bias

There are a variety of coaching methodologies out in the market. Each person brings their own voice and interpretation of that methodology into their coaching.

It is therefor not surprising that many HR professionals who are trained in a particular methodology will demonstrate a bias towards choosing coaches who have been trained in the same methodology or who demonstrates a perceived propensity to support the underlying tenets of that methodology.

This is a mistake. HR practitioners should develop a thorough understanding of what each methodology can bring to their organization and help leaders choose a coach that will fit just perfectly for them based on this understanding.

In Part 2 of this two-part article, I will explore five more mistake HR practitioners make that prevents the organisation from optimising executive coaching as a leadership development tool, including an important tool not being leverage during the coaching process and the most important linkage often ignored during the roll-out.

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