John B. Lazar
It was refreshing to reread the 2003 panel discussion on aspects of executive coaching. It is a privilege to reflect on the perspectives that were shared by an extraordinary panel of experienced coaches, deftly facilitated by another experienced colleague, Linda Miller. I offer my own perspectives on this snapshot. There is so much to choose from so I shall be selective, guided by what moves me and where I believe I can contribute. To be transparent, Bill Bergquist and I were co-founders and co-executive editors of IJCO The International Journal of Coaching in Organizations™. Several of the panelists wrote articles that appeared in IJCO or served on the IJCO editorial board.
About excellent executive coaching: Mary Beth had commented on the importance of connecting coaching outcomes to strategic objectives. This continues to be a critical issue for making the business case for coaching. This is one to broach initially when contracting, to consider during discovery and design phases, and to incorporate when designing evaluation measures. The challenge continues to be to include these issues as relevant design elements for the coaching intervention.
Mary Beth also had an interpretation of the reason a client manager would ask about how the client is doing. I appreciate her interpretation and the opportunities it presents – to discuss how the manager is monitoring client performance and to provide informal dialog with the manager about their perceptions. This is tracks with the more formal approach of Mike Jay, an executive/leadership coach. In his contracting, he gains agreement to coach not only the client but their manager. This acknowledges the manager’s influence and importance in the client’s performance environment.
Bill had observed that most of the issues to address in organizational coaching were problems and mysteries. I can appreciate this view. It’s one on which Bill and I wrote several article. Said differently, often the performance issues for which coaching is requested have multiple root causes. They beg for a blended approach (coaching and other interventions), able to address more of the problem variance. I am seeing an increase in clients’ willingness to consider options beyond what they initially requested. It does require accepting the client premise that there’s something worth changing without buying into the proposed solution. As for mysteries as Bill and I have written about them, these are legitimate issues worth exploring and engaging through different coaching approaches.
About coaching themes: Both Linda and Mary Beth commented on the criticality of having clear agreements. This is as true for the coaching contract as between managers or managers and their direct reports for the work to be done. Jeannine also mentioned this in a later section. Agreements between parties (and the related trust among partners) are the foundation on which everything else rests. Taking the time to assure that there is shared understanding is a sound investment. Each party gets to be rigorous rather than assumptive about expectations, conditions of satisfaction and standards. This won’t guarantee that things will go smoothly (in fact, they seldom do); it will affirm that you’ve done your due diligence.
About the value received from executive coaching: Bill shared the perspective that the coaching relationship provided a sanctuary space. In a similar vein, Val commented on the coach’s role to push back. Sanctuary seems to be a fair interpretation, one of the hallmarks of a coaching relationship. It shows up in at least three ways: confidentiality that what’s discussed in coaching stays in coaching; nonjudgmental engagement by the coach; and mutual candor in what’s shared, listened and explored. In these ways, the client is encouraged to be curious and courageous to explore the shape and boundaries of their world, recognize self-limiting beliefs and experiment with new ways of thinking, being and acting. The coaching context becomes a practice field for planning new moves, practicing, then executing and debriefing for new perspective and learning. The sanctuary distinctions contribute to expanding the client’s world of effective commitment and expression.
About evaluation and ROI: Mary Beth talked about her view of what was important in being able to conduct ROI as the selected coaching evaluation method. This maps well with any client organization’s concerns about whether their investment was successful and worth it. The questions she asks at the beginning of the engagement provide the context for understanding ‘success’ and ‘satisfaction’. They also provide the content for coaching focus and the basis of designing evaluation efforts. This ‘expert estimation’ approach seems to be her version of the Phillips ROI Methodology™ and Metrics That Matter™ approach now implemented by the Corporate Executive Board. As long as the client is willing to legitimize a conservative estimation of attributed coaching effect and accept the lack of precision, this approach can work well.
Other approaches, such as Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Study Method, can be used in multiple client contexts. In fact, there are plenty of evaluation methods to choose from, each with its pros and cons. In my view, and consistent with Phillips and Phillips, part of the contracting conversations should focus on evaluation issues as an integral part of the engagement. This will entail determining what success will look like; when, how and by whom the data will be gathered; who will receive what readouts and when. In other words, there will be an evaluation plan to consider, discuss, align on and implement in tandem with the coaching.
- Posted by Bill Bergquist
- On November 17, 2021
- 0 Comment