Ask a coach: what’s an internal coach? Are they the same as a manager who coaches their people? Can I coach my people?

OK, one at a time!  First up, what’s an internal coach? Some organisations have coaches in-house, on the payroll.  They (usually) have a core role that may involve dealing with customers, leading teams, technical expertise – and they also have a role as an internal coach to others.  This can work well for large organisations, where there are plenty of people around, and the cost of hiring external coaches, to work with all those who would benefit, could be prohibitive. The internal coaches develop extremely valuable skills, which enhance their performance back in their core role.  The ‘coachee’ gets coaching with someone who understands the organisation and the employer reaps the rewards both financially and in terms of employee development.   

I think there needs to be a clear link to benefits in the business or the internal coach can find themselves perceived as a ‘nice-to-have’ when times get tough. Volunteering for the role of internal coach in some organisations might be a career-limiting move, provoking responses such as ‘oh, don’t you like the job we pay you for then?’ (I’ve known this to happen). Internal coaches work extremely well in some organisations, helping to grow and retain talent, but they’re not for everyone. 

Second question, is an internal coach the same as a manager who coaches their people?  I don’t think so.  For me, this is another approach: managers add coaching skills to their repertoire.  This means they have additional tools at their disposal in the day-to-day managing of their own team, as opposed to taking on a night job under a different guise.  I’ve seen this work a treat. 

With leaner, flatter and more agile organisations, the old ‘command and control’ approach is (I sincerely hope) phasing out.  What’s more, contemporary employees don’t take too kindly to ‘being supervised’, they may be older or the same age as their manager, and have diverse and complementary skills.  I’m seeing huge appetites for learning in the organisations I work with, and a need to equip managers so that they can maximise opportunities for their team to learn on the job.  Think about the best managers you have worked with, and chances are they gave you a fair degree of autonomy and responsibility to try things out and learn from experience, rather than being 100% ‘taught’ by them.  They were almost certainly coaching you.  In the past such individuals were exceptional; these days the vast majority of managers can be equipped with the skills to coach their people. 

So can you coach your people?  Absolutely!  I believe that very many of us can coach others.  I also believe that many of us can benefit from being coached.  Want to find out more about when and how to coach?  I’ll be posting more about this, so come back soon.

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