Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Executive Coaching: A Guide for the HR Professional

There are a great plenty of books about coaching, some good and some atrocious. I have read many of those and should I have not had the pleasure of being coached on how to coach, I am pretty sure that I would not have been able to grasp the essence of the process merely by reading the literature. Well, surely books are necessary to provide you with perspectives, add structure and equip you with numerous tools and frameworks, but it's actually coaching and practice that will turn you into a good coach.

Most books will try to teach you how to become a coach. This one that I have just finished reading has a slightly different objective as you can gather from its title: Executive Coaching: A Guide for the HR Professional.

This is not a new coaching technique or philosophy. Actually, as a coaching textbook it's pretty useless. I can recommend you others that would be much better if it is your own skills honing that you are after, e.g.:
          - The Skilled Helper
          - Leader as Coach
          - Co-Active Coaching
          - and many many others
But if you work in HR and you need to come up with an effective and low-cost strategy for developing critical staff, you might find it worth reading.

The authors in an easy and non-intrusive manner tell us when and how to assess the need for a coaching intervention, how to gain the senior leadership buy-in, figure out the ROI and set up a network of those who need development help and those who can provide it. Besides, I was pleasantly surprised that Executive Coaching: A Guide for the HR Professional addressed such issues as:

  • role definitions and clarity: where do the power lines in the HR/client/coach/boss lie and how to navigate the underwater currents;
  • HR issues: confidentiality, involvement, budget, etc.;
  • coaching populations: HiPos, expatriates, female talent, diversity groups, cross-cultural, etc.; 
  • tools: a selection of questionnaires, forms and templates that any HR needs; 
  • special topics when coaching is most needed, especially when we deal with high-fliers: assimilation coaching, executive development and coaching, multi-cultural issues, coaching and diversity.
It is an easy read: I doubt that it will take you longer than a couple of hours to get through the book. It is good reference material and your colleagues would appreciate if you lend it to them, whether they are employees, line managers, senior management or HR - this manual can appeal to a breadth of audiences. Actually, being a decent overview of the subject, I think this book is a good way to begin your relationship with the exciting sphere of coaching.

I had to learn the hard way. When we set up the coaching network back in Shell South Africa, I was not fully prepared to coach managers who were much higher than me in the hierarchy. I did have the support of two professional psychologists, to whom I could bring my cases for discussion and guidance, but that was post-mortem - with the client it always was one-on-one and at times I was simply freaking out. Often I had to make a tough conscientious effort to draw the demarcation line between me as a coach and me as an HR. Under the strict confidentiality agreement that we agreed upon at the very beginning of coaching, I could not use any of the information revealed to me in the coaching sessions in my professional HR capacity, and at times it was really difficult. There were instances of "scope creep" when, for instance, while I was supposed to do leadership coaching, I had to deal with personal problems of a crumbling marriage. At times I had to face situations when the coaching process became a political battle. Going through such experiences makes you a better professional and a better coach, but you can't learn that by reading a book.


  1. This is because individual one-to-one coaching focuses on you and is
    tailored to your specific and precise needs within a structure that will
    have you feeling more motivated and confident in achieving your
    development objectives.

  2. Thank you for informative  post for Executive Coaching. I need this information because still I am doing Human Resource professional course. So its very useful blog for me.
    executive coaching 

  3.  Thank you for this informative post. I really need this blog because still I am doing professional course for Human Resource. So It is very helpful post for me.

  4. You are welcome. I was planning another post on Executive Development, so it's on its way.



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