Eye on the prize: Hidden treasures

In this regular column, Sara Hope explores internal coaching.
This issue: Hidden treasures

When we set up internal coaching programmes, how much do we open our eyes to the wider benefits for the organisation and the system in which we work? What outcomes do we imagine are possible? These questions are crucial to help build a strong business case for internal coaching, one beyond articulating the immediate tangible benefits.
Often our primary objectives include:
 Establishing internal expertise
 Growing coaches who know the organisation from the inside
 Enhancing performance through more effective conversations
 Adding new skills to managers’ ‘toolkits’.
However, the outcomes achieved from building an internal coaching capability and becoming an internal coach, may be surprising and exceed our expectations. As the stories here highlight, these unexpected outcomes often go beyond the rational short-term objectives, and demonstrate how building an internal capability can deliver far-reaching results for the organisation – and the wider system.
Over the recent decade, research has taught us a great deal about the impact of internal coaching on organisations, clients and internal coaches. For example, Dr Sraban Mukherjee’s research in an ITS Engineering College in India, suggests “there are many direct and indirect benefits gained by managers when they act as a coach. They reported improvements in their interpersonal skills, listening ability, confidence level, work-life balance and visioning. Empirical results showed that it also improved the effectiveness of their transactional styles”.
In another case study, with AIG, Rocke and Donde showed that internal coaching has a significant impact on the coaches, clients, direct reports and the organisation.
Factors of note include (Kirkpatrick Model Level 4 – Business Impacts, such as) improved retention, engagement, productivity and performance – all with a favourable impact on the bottom line.
Caroline Flin set up the award-winning internal coaching programme at Deloitte and went on to be head of people development at Pearson. Flin acknowledges that coaches hold a privileged role; the ability to step into another’s world and, through this, to experience the most profound personal learning.
“I knew I would learn a great deal from this, but I didn’t anticipate that the more people I coached, the more I would connect with our organisation. Coaching helped me view our business from different vantage points, reinforcing the opportunities available in our shared venture. I believe I became a more agile and creative leader because I experienced those moments standing in my colleagues’ shoes,” says Flin.
A similar outcome was experienced with the internal coaching programme at News International. Abbie Jackson (former learning & development business partner at News International) says: “Our internal coaches found the skills they acquired during the training had an impact on how they approached many parts of their roles, not just the coaching. For example, sales people reported that they were asking more powerful questions of their clients when trying to establish what the need was, making it easier to provide the best solution.
“Within a year of launching the internal coaching scheme, approximately 60 per cent of our original coaches had been promoted.”

When ‘doing’ becomes ‘being’
The hidden treasures of internal coaching are also being seen at a wider organisational level, as Jackson shows. “At News International, the language of coaching became more widely used and was instinctively referred to as the desired management style, which opened up opportunities for us to educate people on the benefits of a coaching approach. The success of the internal coaching scheme allowed us to explore, design and launch the internal mentoring scheme.”
Ian Jenner, group head of learning & talent development at McBride Plc, was delighted to see internal coaches take their enthusiasm, knowledge and skills with them into new contexts: “Having ignited their interest, they leave a ‘trace’ wherever they go. It’s amazing to see how this can transform personal and functional relationships.”
Shohil Bhudia, people development business partner at Pearson UK, explained that what began as simply internal coach training, soon attracted a lot of people who were interested in coaching for many different reasons.
“What we have seen emerging is a community of people who are interested in coaching and ultimately in learning for our organisation coming together.”
When Flin created a team of 30 internal coaches, she knew the coaching team would have a positive impact on the organisation; that they would provide invaluable support for leaders, those at key career transitions and also their mentors. However, she didn’t anticipate that this team would become the most inspiring team she had ever worked with. The ability of every individual to adopt a stance of positive regard, self-awareness and the gift of insightful questions led to an explosion in learning, commitment and creativity.
“My experience suggests that coaching offered our team a ‘magic quality’ that we bought to our work; a spark that inspired others and made many curious about how we achieved outstanding results,” she says.
The opportunities for the internal coaching team to be an integral part of the wider business agenda are also apparent. Claire Davey, head of coaching, Deloitte, notes that the team are well-positioned to identify emerging patterns within the business that may benefit engagement.
“We are exploring ways to bring insights from coaching across our organisation to the forefront,” she says.
While we may be mindful of the benefits of setting up an internal coaching resource,
there are still those hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Having an awareness of such hidden gems will help strengthen the business case for internal coaching. 

Sara Hope is director of The Internal Coach. She can be reached at: sara@theinternalcoach.com
To contact the Association of Coaching Supervisors email: info@associationofcoachingsupervisors.com

D Rocke and R Donde, Driving Organisational Change with Internal Coaching Programmes: bit.ly/1dUkHau
The Kirkpatrick Model: www.kirkpatrickpartners.com
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring,10(2), August 2012

Coaching at Work, Volume 9, issue 1

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