We often hear about management coaching, where a manager hires a coach to help him reach professional objectives. However, coaching in organizational context covers a variety of subjects possibly as large as in the personal development context. Where there is a need, there is a subject — from professional development to team building or business development. A coaching agreement in work setting may also require the coach to sometimes switch roles. Allow me to use an example throughout this section. It will be easier to make distinctions usually unnecessary in private individual coaching.
An example: Group coaching with a team of managers. A coach signs an agreement with a manager who represents the enterprise. Let us call this manager the “enterprise contact”. The agreement stipulates that the coach supports a client-group, made up of sector directors who will have to dish out competitive behaviors in order to work in a fully cooperative culture. They had training in the past, but results are not there and the CEO wants real change.
Group coaching is the solution of choice. It will be more effective to have all directors working together, learning cooperation through successive meetings, and tasks to do between the meetings. The coach feeds the conversations with questions and insights. It may happen for the coach to meet one or more managers in individual sessions, in parallel. By example, a new director has always worked in very competitive companies in the past. He needs extra personal sessions in order to keep the pace with the rest of the group. It is also possible in this context that the first session is so emotionally charged it is impossible to move on. So in that case, our coach would switch to “facilitation” or “trainer” mode and help the group to establish and to maintain behaving and functioning rules during the sessions. Group coaching asks for a lot of flexibility.
About confidentiality. Discretion is a fundamental element of a coach’s success. His clients open to him and share information they do not want to be disclosed outside coaching sessions. When I personally work with a group, I rarely have to bring the subject myself. Almost at every first meeting, one of the participants will say something like: “What is being said here stays here.” His fellows’ attitude clearly tells it is a condition for the whole group to participate in the process. It is important for the enterprise contact and higher management to accept this notion. I once had to explain to clients of a coaching group that I would no more see them, because management wanted me to breach confidentiality.
This position does not keep from reporting to the enterprise contact or high management as often as necessary. Discussion focus is simply away from what has been said and done during the sessions; it is rather about signs showing group progression towards its objective. Indeed, exactly as in individual context, client-group members have homework, tangible things to do between sessions. This shows little by little in their everyday work. Peer pressure also plays an important role with such an approach. These signs are at the heart of the conversations between our coach and his enterprise contact. Focus is never about what has been said, but rather about harbinger signs at first, followed by more tangible evidences about satisfying results. Enterprises pay for results after all.
Scheduling. Since meetings spread through time, one has to take in account both clients and coach availability. Sessions are usually 60 to 90 minutes long, and frequency is part of the agreement with the organization. This format, being comparable to a regular meeting, is easy to manage for the clients. In some cases, traveling expenses would become prohibitive for either the coach or a client-group’s geographically dispersed members. Given the nature and length of the sessions, it is easy to work through phone conferences, even through web conference allowing documents and screen sharing.