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Internal Coaching: Why Organizations Need It and How to Perfect It

By Numly - Leadership Coaching Group
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Once a privilege reserved for senior leaders of the organization, coaching initiatives are now emerging as an organizational necessity to drive employee engagement, collaboration, innovation, and productivity. As new challenges emerge in a post-pandemic world, enterprises are taking coaching and trying to embed it into their organizational culture. The role of developing an internal coaching framework to create this coaching culture cannot be ignored.

The Need for Internal Coaching

Traditionally, coaching has been focused on fixing performance issues and skill development. However, given the seismic changes in the world of work, organizations need a more holistic approach to unleash team power, drive innovation, foster diversity, inclusion, and belonging, and elevate employee engagement. 

The workplace demographic has also significantly changed, with the Millennials and Gen Z making it clear that they want careers, not just jobs. The great resignation has already highlighted the need to create more holistic and psychologically safe workspaces. It is becoming clear that disappointing leadership and unsatisfactory growth environments no longer make the cut to drive engagement or retention.

The accelerated pace of change and constant disruption is further creating the need to create supportive systems and structures to help employee productivity and career development. The need to create healthy leadership pipelines in the wake of a rising skills gap makes internal coaching an urgent need across enterprises of all sizes for organizational resilience and profitability.  

What Is Internal Coaching?

Back in 2008, Google conducted a program on what it takes to be a great manager. This program, Project Oxygen, identified ten key behaviors that the organizations’ best managers share. The top behavior on the list was being a good coach. 

Having made this discovery, Google baked coaching into its organizational culture and set up an army of internal coaches. These coaches were designated to help employees across every step of their career paths – right from identifying how to navigate the culture to executive and leadership development. With more than 350 internal coaches, this program is often cited as one of the key reasons that made Google one of the best companies to work for. 

Internal coaches provide continuous support to employees and leaders alike and leverage internal knowledge and experience gathered over the years to problem-solve and improve outcomes. Internal coaching helps organizations expand the coaching culture by embedding it into talent development and ongoing performance management processes. It does not remain an activity used mainly when a performance problem arises. 

Such a coaching initiative focuses on developing all levels of managers and organizational leaders into coaches and helps them adapt their leadership styles to what the new demographic wants – continuous feedback, continuous enablement, and continuous growth. 

Internal coaching is more impactful as the internal coaches are more aware of departmental or personnel landmines and tailor their processes accordingly. It helps individuals discover solutions and meet their goals with greater ease, owing to increased access to internal coaches.

How To Perfect an Internal Coaching Program?

Coaching is a co-creative relationship where the coach actively listens to the learner without any bias or judgment. The coach believes that the learner is perfectly capable of generating their perfect answers and acts as the guide facilitating this process of discovery. 

So, as you can see, it is not about providing answers or solutions. As such, when setting an internal coaching program, enterprises need to focus on the following:

Coach the Coach 

Research shows that in the post-pandemic world, managers need to manage less and coach more. However, most managers do not indulge in this because they do not know how to coach. Just like training the trainer, enterprises need to coach their managers and leaders on the art and science of coaching.

This is important to help managers and leaders develop their internal coaching vocabulary, learn the art of active listening, and identify their individual conscious and unconscious biases. Doing so allows them to release judgment and create a safe space for their employees to be vulnerable and honest about their challenges and weaknesses. 

Plug Internal Coaching into Talent Development and Ongoing Performance Management

Internal coaching can be plugged into talent development and performance management programs to make it an integral part of the organizational culture. Using data-backed assessments to identify skill gaps becomes key to facilitating this move. 

Data-backed skill strength and skill gap measurement and analytics provide transparency into skill needs and help managers coach more effectively. Proactive, timely, and regular feedback from the coaching managers drives continuous improvements and elevates the outcomes of career pathing initiatives.

Deliver Contextual and Personalized Coaching Programs 

Internal coaching programs have to be contextual and personalized to lead to great outcomes. Coaching must at all times be aligned with the skills and specific needs of the workforce. When internal coaches have clear insights into the skill needs and gaps of their team members, they can develop personalized coaching journeys. 

Creating SMART, outcome-driven goals then is easier. These aspects become crucial because context drives effort. When employees can see the context, they are more willing to drive behavioral change and put in the discretionary effort to move ahead. 

Make It Measurable

Since we can only manage what we can measure, creating clear mechanisms to determine the success of coaching programs are important for successful internal coaching programs. 

Internal coaches need to set clear feedback mechanisms and check in regularly to measure the progress of coaching initiatives. Performance can be rated using self-assessment, peer rating, and frequent feedback provided by the coach throughout the process.  

Measuring the outcomes of coaching programs makes manager-led coaching more effective and assists in becoming better coaches. This approach allows enterprises to create an environment of continuous learning and helps managers create knowledgeable, powerful, resilient, and high-performing teams.  

Create Structured Mentoring Communities

An internal coaching program must have the right coaches. Assessing leaders’ and managers’ strengths and assigning them specific roles and responsibilities based on that play an important role here. 

Apart from that, creating engaged communities through regular huddles and round tables help managers and leaders sustain and apply their learnings through definitive interactions. The role of a collaborative and supportive peer-learning environment that allows teams to work together and leverage collective learning is also highly recommended. 

To Sum Up

Creating an internal coaching ecosystem allows organizations to deliver a supportive and collaborative environment to their workforce. Fostering an internal coaching culture in an organization allows enterprises to:

  • Build a resilient workforce
  • Enable competitiveness
  • Create an environment of trust that influences employee engagement
  • Ensure that the organization can remain competitive in the face of constant disruption

Connect with us to see how our AI-powered coaching platform can enable a thriving internal coaching ecosystem in your organization.

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