Add Value to Your Company by Training Leaders in Coaching and Mentoring Skills

By Marie Taylor, Steve Crabb

As more companies recognize the value of business coaching, they’re looking for ways to get the best value for money from coaching. As a result, coaches are finding increasing demand for them to work alongside existing teams of coaches or to work with the company to develop its own in-house coaching talent and in-house coaching programs.

The company’s logic is that the in-house team knows the business better than people brought in from the outside, and that in-house coaching is more cost-effective than bringing in an external coach. This logic is often based upon a hunch, because as yet little research has been done into the ROI for in-house coaching.

When making the business case for working with in-house coaches or to assist in developing in-house talent, the coach must work with the client to create a custom-made program. You start by conducting a needs analysis to help the client see which option best suits her specific needs.

You can also talk through the upsides and downsides of training in-house staff to be coaches, in case the client decides an external coach would be better. On the positive side:

  • The in-house coach brings to the coaching conversation one big advantage over the coach from the outside: She understands the culture because she’s part of it.
  • Line managers can coach on the job and are often experts at process tasks.
  • Leaders who’ve been trained to coach and mentor generally have more access and time to coach than external coaches do. Coaching can often be on demand or as needed.

The following potential drawbacks are worth exploring with the client:

  • Being in the business can lead to low-level construal thinking — not being able to see the forest for the trees.
  • Although line managers are experts in processes, the multi-billion-dollar question is: Are they experts in coaching talent transfer? Being able to impart skills to another person is a different skill set from knowing how to do a process well.
  • The in-house coach isn’t immune to the politics of the workplace, and if dealing with personal information, coachees may be disinclined to open up and truly regard the coaching conversation as a safe place to be open, honest, and vulnerable.
  • A challenge for many managers who become coaches is ensuring that they adopt an empowering, supportive role rather than a dictatorial management approach to their coaching. That’s not to say that managers are dictators; we’re just emphasizing that the skill set of a coach is different from the traditional one of a manager.

You can make a valid business case for the experienced coach working alongside the organization to train coaches or to support in-house coaches. No fixed formula exists that has been tested or proven to be best practice — see it as fertile ground for coach and client to explore in search of which options provide the best value.