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Executive Coaching - 5 top mistakes
A coach's perspective

David Witt, Blanchard LeaderChat

Executive coaching has become a mainstream development tool for leaders in today’s organisations. The challenge with any tool is to use it properly. Used poorly, a tool can have unintentional effects, or fail to achieve the desired outcomes.

Drawing on her extensive experience helping to implement coaching in a wide variety of organisations, Patricia Overland, Executive Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies, recently shared the five mistakes she sees organisations making most often.

1. Failing to set the context.  

It’s important to be clear on communicating why individuals are being offered coaching. Overland shared an experience of bringing coaching into an organisation where it had been previously used to correct performance and was seen as a last ditch effort to “save” people before termination. The new program was focused on development and helping leaders grow. In this instance, resetting the context of coaching was a first priority. As Overland explained, “Imagine what people would have thought if they were chosen for this new coaching program without first addressing the old way of viewing coaching!”

2. Failing to get top down sponsorship. 

Overland stressed the importance of having a top-down mandate and formal senior leader sponsorship to help with overcoming organisational barriers and easing change management. A successful coaching implementation is much harder without sponsorship. Overland’s advice? Know what is important to senior leaders and address that in program design and in setting coaching objectives.

3. Not vetting the coach or the coaching organisation.

Overland explained that there are several factors to consider when selecting a coach. In Overland’s experience, individual executives often emphasise hiring a coach who is most like them in terms of industry experience and positional title. “I’d like to be coached by a former VP in my industry,” for example. On the other hand, learning and development departments who are bringing in coaches may pay more attention to global capability, cost, and a coach’s past track record of getting results. Vetting the coach in a variety of areas can help ensure that coaches selected are a best fit for your organisation and your people.

4. Ignoring measurement and evaluation of coaching.

Measuring the outcome of coaching can be difficult and time consuming. However, in order to ensure the investment in time, dollars, and effort is paying off, some form of measurement needs to be implemented. The process begins by getting clear on the desired outcomes of the coaching initiative, setting expectations around outcomes, and then coaching to those outcomes. Overland explained that it is not enough for a client to say, “I want to improve my communication.” Be sure to clarify to what end, and how that will affect the person being coached, the people around them, and the organisation.

5. Underestimating the balance between development and workload.

Workload is a real concern. Overland explained that the culture you create, and the permission you give people to take time to be coached is an integral factor in whether or not coaching works. “People want to grow, change, and develop but when the boss says, ‘I need this now,’ not many people are willing to defer and say, ‘I have a coaching call now.’” To address this, Overland recommends creating a culture that engages leaders in the development of their people and where learning is a part of the ongoing daily dialogue.

Overland believes that, with a little bit of care and planning, any size organisation can improve the capabilities of their executives through coaching.s

David Witt is Program Director at The Ken Blanchard Companies


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