Q: When is a good time to hire a coach? I have an employee who would make an excellent candidate for a more senior role, but he’s not quite there. Would a coach help get him ready for leadership, or are coaches more for aiding failing employees?
A: Executive coaching is all about getting ready for and improving leadership, and it sounds like you have a great opportunity. Most executive coaches would rather work on a developmental opportunity than remedial situations, but they can do both. One of the goals your organization should have when considering a coach is what skills and experiences this employee may need to reach what you consider “there.”
Someone who is either newly promoted or entering a new stretch role is an ideal candidate for coaching, and hiring a coach to ensure their readiness is a vote of support for someone’s success in your organization. As managers become less available to mentor and coach due to the demands of the workplace, executive coaches are being brought in to do more of that individual development work.
Development, as opposed to a last-ditch effort before separating someone from your organization, is where you want to direct a coach. They are not there to “fix” someone who is a bad match for their role. However, if there are remedial situations where one behavioral blind spot is causing an employee not to succeed, then those situations do have the potential to be addressed by a coach who can lead that employee to a successful outcome. Often people need to learn a new behavior to replace an old one they thought achieved results.
How a coaching opportunity is introduced to the employee is very important. Coaching needs to be presented as a gift and an opportunity for a valuable contributor, not as a watch dog used to identify everything the employee does wrong. Involving the employee in coach selection is an effective way to have them create a bond and an initial investment in the success of the relationship. If you’re not careful with the introduction and how the coaching is framed and it is perceived as a negative, then the organization will likely not welcome additional coaching assignments, especially if individuals who are coached are no longer at the company.
Coaching doesn’t last forever. A good coach comes in, and they work with the managers, leaders, or HR to assess what the development needs are. They then conduct assessments with the individual, develop an action plan, work on that action plan, and then organize methodology for sustainable learning and development. Then, they leave. This isn’t a long-term, permanent relationship, but a professional boost to take someone to the next level leaving the individual better off and the company with those benefits of a stronger contributor.