By:Paul Shemilt, CHRP. © CCH Canadian Limited.

Professional organizational coaching has become an important strategy for organizations that face the continuous challenge of achieving ever higher performance. This article provides an overview on organizational coaching.

What Is Achieved by Coaching?

Coaching is fundamentally about change. It is designed both to create short-term results and to strengthen the capability of the client to be more resourceful for the future. The coach works collaboratively with his or her clients to create solutions for which the clients are accountable. The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as follows:

Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches help people to improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.

Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach's job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.

Organizational coaching is a general term to describe coaching that is being carried out strategically within an institution with individuals and/or teams. Coaching in an organizational context goes by many names, including business coaching, corporate coaching, executive coaching, performance coaching, workplace coaching, and leadership coaching.

Either internal or external coaches, or a combination of both, may be employed by an organization. Simply stated, internal coaches are regular employees of the organization, while external coaches are employed by contract. For coaching to be most effective, there must be absolute trust between the parties involved. Absolute trust means that individuals being coached must feel certain that all conversation between themselves and the coach is confidential and will never affect their employment or status in that organization.

Organizational Coaching Initiatives—Categories

There are literally hundreds of different types of coaching initiatives; it is probably more useful if we attempt to categorize these types. Generally, there are two categories of coaching initiatives:

  • small-scale, "one of" initiatives; and
  • "large-scale" initiatives, which can also be subcategorized as coaching individuals or teams, and/or a combination of both.

Assessments may be used for these coaching initiatives and may be either those that the organization has administered, or that the coach or coaching organization has available. They may include assessments to measure feedback and personality types.

"One Of" Coaching Initiatives

This type of coaching initiative is most associated with the term Executive Coaching. This one-of type of coaching is traditionally used to strengthen the leadership skills of the executive to address a performance issue. For example, an executive might be concerned that his or her team is not aligned with the executive or the organization's vision or values, and may want to develop a strategy to ensure alignment.

More recently, coaching has extended beyond executive to mid-management levels, or, generically speaking, to anyone responsible for making a lot of decisions, especially difficult ones. As organizational structures have become flatter, managers have also had to take on greater responsibility, and thus the need for coaching initiatives has progressed into the managerial ranks. "One of" coaching initiatives generally fall into the category of either skills or performance development, or of addressing the executive's or manager's specific agenda, which may be professional, personal, business, or a combination.

"Large-Scale" Coaching Initiatives—Individuals

Typically, a large-scale organizational coaching initiative will be linked to specific business issues, for example, to change the organizational culture, or to overcome a challenge that may be seen as a possible threat to part of the business. Another example of a challenge might be the need to accelerate an organization's internal leadership development as a result of "baby boomers" exiting the workforce. Another concern could be that of attracting and retaining highly skilled workers. For these reasons, many organizations are initiating large-scale coaching initiatives to accelerate leadership development and to improve employee retention.

"Large-Scale" Coaching Initiatives—Teams

Large-scale coaching initiatives may also be done on a team basis. For example, executive teams, management teams, or functional teams may need to perform at a higher level. A coach will work with individual teams as one entity to determine what they want to achieve, and then create multilateral actions in alignment with their organization's values to achieve the desired result. Another application for organizational coaching is in instances where an organization has decided to make a significant change. To facilitate this change, the organization may have created a cross-functional team, and it is critical that the team execute in a planned and cohesive manner across the organization. A coach may be hired or assigned to work with the sponsor of this initiative to work with the team to ensure that the team does perform as required.

Benefits of Coaching Initiatives

As with any strategic initiative, it is important know what kind of return on investment (ROI) to expect from a coaching initiative. When researching ROI, one can find statistics that show a return of between six to ten times the costs of the coaching. Other studies will show that when organizations engaged coaches, their employee satisfaction and employee retention increased by approximately 70%. Further reports show that employee training will be four times more effective if followed up by coaching. There is much statistical data to support the benefits of organizational coaching initiatives.

However, one should be cautious when establishing the expected ROI of a coaching initiative. It can be challenging to measure coaching effectiveness qualitatively because so many factors can affect learning, performance, and results. Qualitative measures must be very specific. If you are attempting to calculate an anticipated ROI prior to the coaching initiative, it is advisable that you thoroughly understand the current state. Depending on what you are attempting to change, this may involve completing formal or informal assessments. Ideally, the person hiring the coach should work with the potential coach or coaching organization and those that are to be coached to determine potential successful outcomes for that coaching initiative, and if required, convert those possible results into ROI. As well, because coaching is about change, it is very important to follow change management practices, particularly as part of any large-scale coaching initiative.


Organizations that are investigating methods to achieve improved business results may want to investigate organizational coaching. Organizational coaching is being used by small and large organizations alike, to meet the need to continuously improve. Before proceeding with any large-scale coaching initiative, it is important to have a good understanding of the current state and what it is that you want to accomplish.

Contributed by Paul Shemilt of HR-HUB (, which focuses on maximizing personal, team, and business effectiveness. Paul may be reached at (E-mail) or (Tel) 905-842-0347.

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