This may seem at first glance to be something of a daft heading. Roles and responsibilities in coaching are obvious and implied in everything I’ve ever posted: we coach, they learn. Simple.
But is anything ever quite so straightforward in organizational life?
Coaching never happens in a vacuum. If you’re coaching your own team member it may seem that only the two of you are involved, but that’s probably a mistaken assumption. I’m guessing your boss will be very interested in the outcome of any coaching sessions as they too will undoubtedly benefit from improved results and they’ll also be keen to see how you’re developing. What about the colleagues of the team members you coach? It may be that they have a stake in the outcome too or you may have to seek their support to accommodate the learning needs of your current coachee.
If you’re coaching people from outside your reporting line (and this is well worth considering) you can bet that those coachee’s direct line managers will want to be involved. Deciding how much detail you can tell them about things discussed in coaching their staff is quite delicate. On the one hand you’ll want to treat things discussed in coaching as confidential, but on the other hand they do have a right to know what’s going on in their teams.
It seems our key principle of trust offers the best solution and suggests that the stakeholders in any coaching relationship should get together and establish some ground rules. To take a typical example, this may mean you, your coachee and their boss – if that’s not you – agreeing matters like: how often coaching will take place, what will be reported, how any action points that emerge from coaching sessions will be accommodated in the work schedule and so on. This seems to be the best way to make sure that all parties are agreed on how the relationship will work and avoids any conflict down the line. Attendance at such meetings may need to be extended sometimes to include members of the HR or Learning and Development departments who may have been given responsibility for establishing a coaching culture and need to monitor how that’s progressing.
I think it’s worth stressing that coachees have a high degree of responsibility for making coaching successful and that this needs to be emphasized from the start. Coachees need to engage in the coaching conversations with enthusiasm, give well thought out answers to coaching questions, be prepared to challenge their limiting beliefs and be willing to try some ways forward that might make for a little discomfort. If we do not stress the active role that coachees have to play we run the risk of making ourselves, as coaches, responsible for the outcome. This is unfair. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink, so the saying goes. In the same way you can provide a climate and a structure for coaching but in the end it is the coachees that will need to make changes.
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