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We believe organisations can significantly enhance their leadership effectiveness through addressing their people at their strengths, through developing relationships of trust, and through building a coaching culture.

Internal Coaching Success Guide: Trust

“No way!” exclaimed my close friend and senior executive, when I asked him why he would not discuss his development goals with internal HR coaches at his organisation. Upon my insistence, he explained that he had once trusted an internal coach, expecting her to be of help to a disagreement that he had had with his boss. Right after, his boss sent him an email, letting him know that the next time he would talk to HR about him, he would have to “watch his back!”

Even in the most open minded and trustful organisations, an executive will find it difficult to “open his heart” and fully disclose “areas for development”. After all, how one can be sure that this opening up to an internal coach/HR person will not negatively impact their next promotion within the organisation.

Our latest ICF ACSTH  certification course is exactly about Internal Coaching.  One of the main prerequisites of a coaching relationship is confidentiality, but when you as an internal coach have to play a double role, maintaining confidentiality can be hard. On the one hand, you have your current responsibilities within HR, you have to take decisions about people future, you know future plans, and on the other hand, you undertake coaching assignments with internal clients, abiding by very specific ethical rules. Thus, balancing an HR role together with an internal coach role is a form of art.

Internal coaching is on the rise. According to the latest 2016 Ridler report, internal coaching accounts for 39% of the total coaching volume delivered, just behind external coaching that makes up the 42%. Moreover, 75% of organisations expect internal coaching to rise within the next 2 years.

So...more and more organisations are training their own group of coaches so as to generate greater benefits for their people. It is no doubt that internal coaching is beneficial in multiple ways.

1.    Internal coaches know the organisational culture from within and can readily understand the ins and outs of a coachee's topic.

2.    They are more readily accessible. Scheduling a coaching assignment with them takes lesser time than setting up a session with an external coach.

3.    They are a more affordable choice than external coaches.

However, If the ethical considerations of internal coaching are not addressed, it may not be so beneficial anymore. It will probably continue to exist, but it will be regarded as one more developmental chore, something to get over with quickly. Thus, the opportunity to actually support people’s development through coaching may be lost.

Beyond abiding to ethical rules, confidentiality needs trust building between the coachee and the coach. In the case of Internal coaching, it involves setting clear expectations and defining the boundaries of what can and what cannot be discussed. For instance, would the coachee be able to discuss an offer from a rival organisation, and how would the information be treated internally? Also what would HR do in case of conflicting feedback from the boss and another employee? What processes would be followed and how transparent will they be?

In a nutshell, it’s about putting together an operating framework within organisations through which internal coaches can deliver high quality services and move seamlessly and ethically between the role of HR and an Internal Coach.

The following list includes some of the key elements to consider when offering an internal coaching service:

  • Clarify the roles and accountabilities of: Internal coach, Coachee, Line manager, HR representative(s) and communicate these explicitly between all involved stakeholders.
  • Set a transparent process of the steps involved in the Internal coaching assignment: from coachee intake to the closing of the project.
  • Minimise ethical barriers by matching coachees with internal coaches outside hierarchical lines.
  • Include in the Contracting procedure what topics can and especially what cannot be included within a coaching assignment.
  • Communicate within the organisation what coaching is and how it is differentiated to other forms of services like training, mentoring, consulting, psychotherapy.
  • Adhere to the Code of Ethics of one or more of the major professional bodies for coaching (indicatively ICF, EMCC, AC).
  • Have in place a Complaints procedure that will allow coaches air concerns related to the coaching they received.
  • Last but not least, give your internal coaches access to supervision to get support as to how to navigate successfully between the two roles.

If you would like to talk about developing your coaching skills as a leader or about how we might work with your team or group, contact us for more information.