The Heart of Coaching, Part 3: What Can You Expect From The Coaching Experience?

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier

Our 3-part series on the Heart of Coaching is dedicated to helping leaders better understand 1) what coaching is, 2) how to offer coaching in your organization, and 3) what exactly goes into a coaching experience. If you missed Part 1 or 2, click here to read more.

By now you know that coaching provides better clarity and focus, increased accountability, and deeper confidence. You know how it differs from consulting, mentoring, teaching, or therapy and how it’s one of the world’s fastest growing professions. But what does a typical coaching engagement include?

In Part 3, we have outlined best practices you can expect during a typical 6-month coaching engagement. Whether you are a seasoned VP of HR hiring a coach or a first-time “coachee” receiving coaching, there are 5 main aspects to a long-term coaching engagement:

  1. Coaching Sessions – Although the cadence will be as unique as each coaching relationship, typically a coach and coachee meet twice monthly once they get to know each other and establish goals. These regular sessions are at the core of every coaching engagement and can be at the office, virtual, on a walk, at a café or anywhere in between. The cadence of each session is driven by the coachee’s preference and can shift throughout the engagement based on comfort level, time commitments and progress. These conversations are completely confidential and not discussed with anyone within the organization.
  2. Goal Setting Session – During the first session of a coaching engagement the coach and coachee get to know each other and co-create a roadmap to follow. Why coaching and why now? What does success look like? What behaviors will shift? How will success be measured? Who else needs to be involved? These questions may be answered in the first session or over the first few weeks as this trusted relationship is formed.
  3. Alignment Conversation – Soon after the goals are established, the 3-way “alignment conversation” sets the foundation for the coachee and their manager to meet and co-create expectations. This happens with the coach present. The sponsor usually decides if a manager attends. (Note: The manager is often the direct supervisor. The sponsor is the person paying the bill. They are not necessarily the same person.) The purpose of the alignment conversation is to clarify expectations among all parties. It is also a rare opportunity for the manager and coachee to have a transparent conversation about realistic outcomes while the coach observes communication skills, engagement and fit. The alignment conversation takes place a few sessions into the 6-month coaching engagement.
  4. 360 Assessment – Identifying a 360 assessment for the client allows other team members to provide feedback. A coach typically provides a few options to the coachee and the sponsor, to ensure the assessment best supports their organization and goals. There are many tools available such as The Leadership Circle Profile, Benchmarks, or the LPI. Organizations may even choose a narrative 360 – where the coach and coachee co-create five questions to ask stakeholders. This expansive and unique report includes 8-10 interviews with leadership, peers, and the workforce.
  5. Shadow Session(s) – During a coaching engagement many coaches recommend a shadow session. This session encompasses a coach observing the coachee facilitating a conversation via a client meeting, team touchpoint, keynote, board presentation or a retreat. A coach can provide vital information about the coachee’s public identity and how they are being perceived at work.

In addition to the best practices listed above, it’s imperative the coachee takes an active role in the coaching process by being honest with their coach and themselves. That includes communicating whatever they need to be fully satisfied with their coaching relationship. The same is true for the HR professional or sponsor of the engagement.

Other coaching factors to be aware of:

  • Ensure your coaches are certified by the ICF or other global-certified programs, confirming ethical behavior and professionalism.
  • It’s common practice to allow coachee’s to choose their own coach. Present them with 2-3 bios.
  • Sponsors shouldn’t ask coaches to “report out” on sessions. Coaches are bound to hold specifics confidential. Sponsors should ask for a monthly progress report on the services above and cadence of sessions. Managers can ask for alignment conversations (see above) or speak directly with their employee about specifics.
  • Typical coaching engagements run six, nine or twelve months. Change takes time.
  • Organizations can expect to pay $15-$25k per 6-month engagement per leader based on market price.
  • We believe leaders at all stages of their career should have the opportunity to cultivate excellence in themselves and the world. It’s not only for senior executives.

Here are articles we found helpful on the topic:

What Can Coaches Do for You?
How to Use An Executive Coach
What Makes Executive Coaching Successful?