Credits: Photgraphy by Amoghavira

Time to think, tailored to each customer:

helps people think outside the box  

....  but doesn't come out of one

Why an external coach?

A completely open conversation can be difficult to have with a colleague who may be on your next promotion panel, or responsible for your  performance and pay grading.  An external coach rather than an internal one is generally seen as preferable in circumstances which include:


Neutrality essential     CEO, or in the top team     Broader, stategic perspective needed      Sensitive, confidential issues


People ask if a line manager can ever be an effective coach? A conclusion: yes they can within careful limits, especially around scope and boundaries, helped if they get some kind of ongoing guidance. Articles are herehere (pps 7-8 ) and here. Power imbalance is quoted in the first:


  • We suggest that much of the training provided for internal coaches has not dealt with the particular challenges that managers face in the corporate environment

  • in particular the power imbalance, a vested interest in the outcome of the coaching and strong pressures to be directive in a coaching conversation.


Role difficulty is quoted in the second article:


  • A consensus within the HR teams setting up development opportunities for line managers that the psychological boundary issues for line managers formally ‘coaching’ their own staff are very difficult to manage.

  • Even if organisations begin with the intention of having ‘coaching’ as a separate activity for line managers with their teams, we haven’t yet found any organisations that have done it successfully.

  • This supports the conventional wisdom and professional standards which say that the roles and responsibilities of line management make formally ‘coaching’ your own staff very difficult.

  • However, it’s clear that much benefit is gained by supporting a ‘coaching style’ in line management, and many organisations are investing in this, often alongside their use of internal and external coaches.


Key ethical dilemmas for internal coaches, quoted in the last of these articles, are found to be:


  • Third parties wanting detailed information / feedback about the coaching client

  • Role conflict i.e. where the coach’s ‘day job’ impinges on the coaching relationship

  • Client wanting to discuss an issue involving someone whom the coach knows well

  • Being told by client about inappropriate behaviour by someone, but coach not being able to act on the information

  • Client’s personal issues affecting their performance (but client not wanting anyone to know)

  • Where relationships between coaching clients set up difficulties for the one person coaching both

  • Knowing something about the client's future that they don't know (and you can't tell them)

  • Being unable to use confidential and potentially vital information that could benefit the organisation

  • Client attempting to use sessions to further own agenda through influencing coach

  • Client wanting to discuss leaving the organisation (and this may be the best option for both parties).


A few examples of squaring the circle can be found throughout John Whitmore's work and (p8) here, here and here.