Data based coaching

Over the past several years, the term “coaching” has been used to label a wide variety of development activities.  Once reserved for executives, coaching has become one of the most pervasive human resource development strategies.  Training Magazine reports that training expenditures for executives approximated $6.5 billion while expenditures for exempt managers totaled $12.6 and  expenditures for exempt non-managers totaled $12.4.  While not all of this was spent on coaching, the numbers illustrate the point.

But what exactly is coaching and how can individuals and organizations benefit from coaching interventions?  Our view is that coaching is about learning, and that learning can not occur without a learning agenda that is developed from data.  The learning agenda is something that the individual learner can develop together with the coach when some sort of multi-rater feedback approach is used.

The overall coaching process

A typical coaching engagement with Poirier & Associates can be thought of as a series of phases. While all of our coaching engagements are tailored to individual needs and circumstances, most all engagements include the following five phases.

1) Establish the Relationship and Stipulate the Outcomes

The coaching process includes a number of stakeholders; the coach, the coachee, his/her manager and HR business partner. In the beginning of the relationship the roles of each partner need to be discussed and agreed upon. Agreements regarding
confidentiality, boundaries, frequency of meetings and other engagement issues
are stipulated. In the ideal situation the manager will be an ongoing partner to the coaching process and will be supportive of the development goals on a real time basis and providing coaching on an ongoing basis. Establishing this collaborative partnership provides a foundation for ongoing development that extends beyond the formal external coaching engagement.

2)  Gather and Analyze Information

During this phase of the process the coach works with the coachee to determine their perspective on the coaching needs and objectives. In addition, individuals who are part of “key interfaces” are identified. Generally, the manager, direct reports, key peers and sometimes others (internal clients, customers) are part of the qualitative data gathering process. This is typically done through an interview process. However, the qualitative data gathering is often supplemented or replaced by other data such as a 360 survey process, MBTI, FIRO-B, or similar instrumentation.  These help in understanding the coachee’s basic cognitive processing preferences and interpersonal style.

3) Determine Developmental Focus and Outcomes

In this step the coachee and coach determine goals for the coaching. It is essentially a “learning agenda” that identifies important target areas that are meaningful to the coachee and provide clear benefit to the organization. One critical element of this step is to schedule times for “deliberate experimentation” with new approaches to perplexing situations. Another is a “tri-lateral” meeting among the coachee, his/her manager and the coach for the purpose of aligning the
learning agenda with performance expectations.

4) Support and Sustain Progress

The ongoing coaching provides the support needed to sustain progress toward the goal. The frequency of these meetings and the format varies. In any case, however, this time is used by the coach and coachee to put in place behaviors that will lead to
accomplishing the development goal. The coach provides opportunity for
discussion, feedback, tools, tips, and “homework” to enhance behavior change.
Periodic assessment of progress and the generalization of learning are also
included in this phase. In general, the coach is focused on enabling the coachee to sustain his/her ongoing development.

5) Complete Engagement and Evaluate Impact

We feel that it is important to end an engagement with as much thought as starting the engagement. The success and impact of the coaching engagement is assessed, and the ongoing responsibility of each partner in continuing the development
process is confirmed. An evaluation of the engagement, the coach and the
process is performed by the coaching program manager to assist in the ongoing
management of the practice.

Coaching engagements vary in duration, but six months is typical for a first time client.  The total number of hours that the coach is engaged with the client or stakeholders varies, but approximates plus or minus 30 hours over the six month period.  The frequency of interaction between the coach and the coachee is once or twice per month on average.