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ATD Blog

External Coaching


Wed May 18 2016


In my own coaching practice, I have seen consistently that companies prefer external coaches to work with their executives. The nature of their work as well as their profiles call for someone with a different skills set and perspective than someone with another role. They are often brought in because of their reputation and expertise which also allows them to obtain buy-in and earn respect as well as trust from different stakeholders.

External coaches usually have studied coaching extensively and have often earned professional distinctions, such as certifications, that are evidence of their mastery of the field. As part of their formal preparation, external coaches are often required to have a more solid theoretical foundation in coaching as well as many hours of supervised coaching practice before they can begin to work with coachees on their own. Thus, tend to have a wider repertoire of coaching skills and a broader scope of expertise than someone with a different background. In addition, they typically maintain “life lines” with more experienced coaches who continue to serve as sounding boards for different situations that arise during the regular course of business.


As independent practitioners, external coaches have a wide range of experiences, usually in diverse industries and organizations as well as perhaps in different countries, from which to draw depending on the needs of the coachee. Their preparation demands that they stay on top of coaching trends and best practices so you can be sure that they have the most up to date information about the field and that they will bring fresh perspectives to the situation that the coachee is handling. They can be specialists or generalists, therefore, businesses can find the best match to suit the coachee’s needs.

As contractors and coaches who are brought onboard to address specific issues, external coaches do not get involved in the details of the day to day operations of the business and its policies. They come in with a “blank slate” mindset that positions them as objective since they do not have the typical preconceived ideas of how things are or should be of someone who belongs to the organization. Since their presence in the workplace has a specific purpose, they do not get sidetracked by the competing demands that often affect employee availability regardless of position or role. In other words, they do their work and move on to something else without having to worry about internal pressures that could compromise their credibility.

As entities external to the organization who are bound by extensive confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, external coaches are often perceived as more credible and trustworthy than internal coaches. Thus, the “coach-coachee” relationship and trust may develop at a faster pace because many executives are more open to discuss sensitive information with someone who is not part of their everyday work environment. Further, it is easier to maintain the integrity of an external coaching process since internal coaching can easily be misconstrued as mentoring

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