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How to choose..how to choose..

Choosing coaches for your organisation

If you’re looking to source external One-To-One Executive Coaching for leaders within your STEM, Biotech or Pharma organisation, this blog is for you. We’ll explore some key areas of focus to consider, when choosing Executive Coaches for your senior leaders.

Alignment with your ‘system’ and organisational direction

A systemic approach to coaching your leaders will bring a hugely more impactful shift in culture, behaviours and performance than by inviting leaders to find their own coaches in different places. Working with a team of coaches that understands the goals, vision and culture of an organisation, a business unit or a team, brings a much broader impact from coaching, than working solo.

Executive Coaching that is funded by an organisation, needs to align with the direction of travel overall. An awareness of the goals from the top is critical, when exploring personal alignment with the mission. If we work with your most senior lead teams, I promise you’ll feel the benefit across all the leadership coaching too. Wisdom that we have gathered while working across a whole organisation can be shared quickly to accelerate any coaching engagement.

When we have consent agreed with each leader, we can also share thematic feedback that lights up areas of hot spots for you. We hear, straight from the horse’s mouth, when there’s a strange “coincidental” mention of the same tricky leader in a different team..or when everyone says they’re feeling too exhausted..or that “everyone knows why no one comes back after maternity leave”… The types of themes that emerge across groups of senior leaders in the same place are diverse and rich, with potential to transform your understanding of the people and the hot leadership topics in your organisation. If the contracting is clear, conversations around the coaching can reveal as much as many pay-for diagnostic processes.

Alternatively, you may wish to invite every leader to explore his or her own separate values, goals, beliefs, aspirations, blockers or behaviours with a coach. Still the benefit of working under the same umbrella means that every coach is set up with a great briefing and understanding of the organisation. The work of the coaching team is cumulative and timely. Inviting every leader to work independently with a separate coach can lose this massive opportunity and go ‘divergent’ rather than ‘convergent’ with its progress.

Creating enough energy to cause a shift

You may decide to put one particular set of behaviours into the spotlight for every member of a team at the same time, in order to achieve a shift in culture or behaviours. A current piece of work here is aiming to move everyone from “suspicious hidden working” to their own agreed aspiration of “transparent courageous curiosity” within a measured timeframe. This is a 90 day programme, but could also be part of something bigger. Everyone buys in, and changes with the same mission, along the same timeline. The trust builds across participants AND coaches, such that energy grows and the shift can be achieved.

Saving time and energy

Some of the Heads of People, OD or HR who choose to work with one coaching consultancy do so to access the logistical benefit of one trusted point of contact. Gill Martin, who is now Lead Coach for the Clearworks Coaching Circles, has a client-side OD background and describes the great lift she used to feel when partnering effectively with a trusted agency. She says that knowing she could simply access a fantastic team of coaches and facilitators from one consultancy that knew her organisation and sector, as well as her personal preferences and ways of working, saved hours of work and skipped many steps of stress for her.

When you describe a leader or a scenario, we can quickly suggest a match for style, expertise, personality, geography and capacity. Time and energy is saved in your process. In the unlikely event of a mismatch with a coaching partnership, we could even replace the coach quickly too.

Ensuring standards

If you’re offering coaches to your leaders we’d very strongly urge you to explore the qualification standards, professional accreditation and supervision in the coaching team. There is no single standard professional benchmark in the coaching world, so we have designed one in-house. This includes accredited training school or post-grad coach education; supervision, ongoing professional development as well as professional gravitas and sector confidence. Each coach specialises in at least one psychometric tool and as a consultancy we have clear values that everyone understands and supports.

Number of hours coached is a useful measure too, though obviously, theoretically, someone could be delivering bad work for hundreds of hours! 750 hours minimum is a common benchmark for that ‘level up’ to a real depth of experience, and remains our minimum here. Experience with the top teams too. Among the many guidelines on standards at The International Coaching Federation (ICF), The Association for Professional Executive Coaching & Supervision (APECS) and The European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), the management of ethical dilemmas is a key area of focus. Coaching across peer groups, lead teams or connected leaders is difficult (sometimes impossible) work and needs to stay in the hands of Exec Coaches who understand the dynamics and boundaries of top teams and leaders.

What it feels like

Great external Executive Coaching is tough stuff. It isn’t often described with soft and fluffy adjectives alone. In our view, exceptional Executive Coaching has an edge. It has to have enough oomph and challenge (in perfect balance with the warm support) to energise change and should feel substantial and even ‘brave’ sometimes, if it is going to loosen the knot of established behaviours and beliefs. We would recommend a time-limited engagement to begin with too – though there can be a place for the long term sounding board for senior leaders, and also for mentoring – but that’s different from pure Exec Coaching. The aim is self-reliance not dependence.

It’s possible to buy some coaching cheaply online and in amongst that coaching, there will be some exceptional coaches, some of whom may have just started out. You might get really lucky. You may know some amazing coaches who don’t charge much yet. We’ve all been there. But there are also some under-regulated under-qualified folks working within complex areas of behavioural psychology without supervision or training. Please tread carefully. As the saying goes, if you think this service is expensive, you should see the cost of buying it cheap. Tracy Skyrme, on the Clearworks team and a Director at the ICF, recently described Executive Coaching to me as the equivalent of a hand made or Saville Row suit. Tailored perfectly to fit the individual, with assured high quality and style. “You can buy cheap suits that might be fine for some circumstances, but seriously..sometimes the quality of the fit really matters and certainly in the lead team that’s true!”

Diverse, external approaches

If you’re internal, you’re internal and that’s that. The people that you’re coaching know that you’re internal and that will impact your coaching interactions, no matter how great your contracting and coaching. (Internal coaching can be better than external coaching, for true in-house capability development, by the way). Our team is built to bring a diversity of external “lenses” through which to see the world, with no skin in the game. Diversity of gender, colour, ethnicity, age, sexuality, physical ability for sure – and also diversity of sector background, coach training and approach. Some of our coaches have a strong commercial, corporate background as blue-chip leaders or management consultants; some have a more integrated coaching-first career, and some come from the intuitive, even alternative end of the coaching spectrum, working effectively in boardrooms near you, right now! There is a place for each of these approaches and we can help your leaders decide what might serve them best, to help them proceed.

Talk to us

Sometimes your internal coach or coaching team will provide exactly what you need. And sometimes you will benefit hugely from sourcing external expert Executive Coaching. If you’re looking for that, and you’re in the STEM, Biotech or Pharma sector, we don’t think you’ll find a better match. Please get in touch by booking a call with Clearworks’ director, Aly King-Smith here

This article was written by Aly King-Smith. Aly is Director of Clearworks and writes for Clearworks and others as Aly KS & Co Ltd. Please get in contact via aly@clearworkscoaching.co.uk