ATD Blog

Internal vs External Coaches

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Let’s say you recognize that coaching has a value in the business. The question that can then arise is “Who’s going to do it?” Do you bring in the professionals from outside or do you develop the organization’s own coaching capability, and then what form should that take? These are important questions to ask, since not only are there policy, time and costs considerations, but there is also an overt but also a hidden development potential for staff involved too.

Imagine for the moment that you have a leader who has come to you about a team member whom you believe needs development. They aren’t very senior but they have potential. Let’s say she has had some training but it is the implementation that’s the issue, along with development of certain behaviors. This might be a classic case for coaching. The leader, let’s say another she, considers she has potential and is worth the investment. If she had coaching skills, she could coach her herself. So, she’d need to get some training in coaching, since a total amateur could do more harm than good. Many people confuse coaching with instruction and tend to do the latter! Also, she is very close to the issues, and she is building and maintaining a relationship. Then she’d need to manage her time differently in order to do this, although there may well be longer-term gains. She might benefit more from somebody who is more detached, which is a common reason for using trained coaches. So, you might bring in someone else within the organization who has been so trained and who has a level of detachment, as an internal resource. So, the business would have needed to have trained some people, who’d need to be available, in line with an organization-wide policy in this respect. Finally, of course you look at your resource bank of external coaches.

In all this, we’ve not mentioned what the potential coachee herself might want, but for the record many staff prefer those as much away from the job as possible and would probably jump at having a real live external coach, even though you might flinch at the cost.


Thus at each stage in this, the cost and resourcing issues increase, along with the way this might be managed across the organization from an HR perspective as well as a line management one. Thus the business may decide this is a more appropriate direction to move, i.e. towards a greater professionalization of the coaching activity. However, it’s a lot less common for organizations to bring in external coaches for other than more senior managers. Rather they tend to invest in developing their own capability to some extent. For many businesses today, this is also about building a coaching culture, with the benefits that flow from devolved accountability and decision-making in today’s fast-moving, high-skilled and complex organizations. And this brings in the hidden benefits of developing your own coaching.

With coaching it helps to distinguish between the role of the professional and the skill set involved. Coaching is not just an activity. It is a whole approach to working with people, in which the asking of the right questions can nurture accountability and stimulate the individual’s own thinking and motivation to take action, to change, and to grow, often in very significant ways. Many have for long even seen it as a way of managing people, and research has shown the benefits to them and to the business of having among a range of high-performing leadership behaviors an orientation towards developing people. Therefore, there is a very significant benefit to developing coaching skills in leaders themselves.

About the Author

Margot is a Consultant with Kenexa, who looks after Kenexa’s coaching offering internally and with clients. She is a Business Psychologist and an Executive Coach with experience in leadership and personal development, coaching, training delivery and design, assessment and selection. She has worked with a range of clients in both Europe and Middle East; developing leaders from graduate level to executive directors through development centres, bespoke development programs, facilitating workshops as well as providing coaching and giving feedback. Margot is passionate about her disciplines; she continuously drives her own development and invests her energy in organising conferences, workshops and learning forums. She has strong work ethic; she always strives to deliver the best quality outcomes. She works in partnership with clients building close relationships with them based on mutual trust, respect and an in depth understanding of their issues.

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.