What Executive Coaches Want From HR

When I had an idea about a post I wanted to write about what executive coaches want from their HR partners, I thought it would be interesting to get a view from a seasoned HR pro on what HR wants from the executive coaches they contract with.

Dan McCarthy is just that guy. He works at a Fortune 500 company as the Manager of Leadership and Management Development, writes the well respected Great Leadership blog and has become a blogging friend. We are co-posting our different views at the same time, so be sure and stop over at his site too for his, What HR Wants From an Executive Coach. We`d love for this to be a conversation, so please leave comments at either or both sites.

1. Hire the best coaches you can find.

Before you contract with a coach, ask for references, business experience, training, credentials, the ethical and confidentiality code they follow, and anything else that is important to you and your organization. Coaching requires a process and a communication skill set that is different from consulting, therapy, and other helping professions. There are low barriers to entering into the profession and coaches who`ve worked hard to get experience and build a reputation appreciate the time and effort you put in to make sure you contract with top-notch coaches. Your due diligence in hiring the best will reflect well on our profession.

2. Understand that you get what you pay for; don`t attempt to choke an experienced coach on their fees.

Experienced coaches cost more. It may well be worth it, as you are paying for their experience (including years as an executive, training, and years of coaching execs in similar situations) which can actually save you money through the results they can help your executives achieve. And don`t expect a coach to be in and out of a coaching engagement in one or two meetings! It can take months for an individual being coached to make sustainable change. An experienced coach should be able to work with the client to make changes in the least amount of time necessary, possibly saving you money on the length of the engagement.

3. Discuss your role in the coaching engagement with the coach before it begins.

Some HR professionals will want to keep in touch with the coach as the process rolls out. Others may prefer to take a back seat. Having full agreement ahead of time will prevent misunderstandings. Collaborate with the coach if you are the process owner, and trust that they know what they are doing from their experience. Most coaches will appreciate your involvement and collaboration in the process.

4. Don`t ask a coach to work with someone you are going to fire anyway.

We don`t want to work with your worst so that you can make the case that you`ve tried everything. This would be akin to throwing money away, and it`s not fun for us to work with these people; in fact, the best coaches will refuse such a gig. It`s better to save the money for the recruiting fees you`ll need to spend for this individual`s replacement or for someone who has great potential to move up in your organization.

5. Hire a coach for motivated executives.

Executives and high potentials who need polish, need to achieve a professional goal, and who are motivated to work with a coach are the best candidates. Never make working with a coach a condition of employment or promotion; they must want to work with a coach without feeling coerced.

6. Ask the person being coached how the experience is going.

Stay on top of things. Ask the executive if they are getting value from the experience of being coached. Find a way to ask the coach to make adjustments, if necessary, based on what you heard. If there are problems, let the coach know. This will help to serve the executive and your organization best. And the coach wants to be successful too, so your interest and suggestions will create a partnership that can only work for their betterment too.

7. Don`t expect the executive coach to divulge confidential information or opinions about the client(s) they are coaching.

General information, such as where they are at in the process, can be requested. But questions such as “are they making their goals?” or specific details discussed in meetings with the client should not be requested. The executive coach should be following a code ethics requiring confidentiality and will not answer these questions. Better to ask the client or the client`s manager about specifics.

8. Don`t blame the coach if the executive being coached leaves your company.

It is not unusual for an executive to leave their company after being coached. They may have had some new insights while being coached and may find that they just aren`t the right fit for your company. This is not the coach`s fault ?€“ it is an occasional outcome of the coaching process and a decision made by the executive.

Coaches: What else do you want from HR? HR: What do you want from coaches? Add your thoughts to the Great Leadership post, too!

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

8 comments on “What Executive Coaches Want From HR

  1. Love your post, Mary Jo. My colleague and I were laughing because its the SAME issues that keep coming up for us in our practice. Lately, number 4 has been a problem. Clients will say they are truly interested in the person, but really don’t give the necessary time to sustainable change. Loved the dual post idea! Congratulations.

  2. Thanks Monica. I had a very productive discussion with an HR sponsor last week about this too. The first client they sent my way was not ideal, but the second one was perfect, and it was wonderful to have that discussion with my “HR partner” so that in the future, we both have the best chance of success in our work together. After all, you and I coach for a living. Our HR partners really want the client to be successful, but may not have the perspective and years of experience that we do.

  3. Thank you for this article. I read the one posted by Dan as well. You make some great points like results take time, coaching should be for employees that have potential, and I also really appreciate you bringing up the fact that after coaching an employee may decide that a company or even the industry is not right for them. I do not work in the HR field, but I have been toying with actually looking for a “business” or “life” coach for myself and plan to use your suggestions to start my search.

  4. Thanks for an informative and detailed article.
    Client expectations of Executive coaches is a hot topic.
    What I find less commonly written about is, the Executive
    Coaches expectations and criteria for client selection.

    For a relationship to be a true partnership then for me it’s about a mutual match of criteria otherwise it seems
    one way and more about just “contracting a service”

    I note on Dan McCarthys blog that someone commented that as Exec Coaches we have no vested interest in the client and we are “in and out” of a business.

    Personally the way I work is that I have a high vested interest. I want to add more value than what the client finacially invests and I want the ROI to deliver way beyond
    expectation. For this to happen, part of my criteria is investment in a diagnostic.
    Too often I find as a result of this, that other interventions are required instead of or before coaching.

  5. Alicia-Ann, thanks for your comments and best wishes with your quest for a coach (and, as someone who has had several business coaches over the years, the experience can be awesome).

    Ruth, Wow, I can see that you must be a great coach. I am not sure about the comment made on Dan’s blog about “no vested interest” but I believe that there is a difference between being personally entangled in a client’s issues (something that will quickly make us ineffective, or worse) and having a vested interest in a client’s success. I think you’ve described the latter well.

  6. I selected an coach a few years back and reviewing your list, I’d say I picked a good one. I can picture or hear her asking, saying or commenting on just about all of your points above. Actually, she is great and I still meet with her from time to time on my own!

  7. Great post, Mary Jo. I love the way you zeroed in on the need for downtime and reflection. Americans, especially, find that hard to do. They feel like they’re “not being productive.” Somewhere along the way we turned life into an extreme sport. We need to reverse that.

    In my programs over the years, we’ve discussed what makes a great place to work, based on the experience of people in the room. The word that came up there that relates to “integrity” is “consistency.” People wanted their boss to be consistent in the way he or she acted and spoke, in the way the culture was enforced, and to do all this consistently over time.

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