How to Create a Roadmap for Coaching Internal Clients

by JD Supra Perspectives

Who was your favorite coach, and why? What attributes made him or her stand out in your mind?

We love to start our “train the trainer” coaching sessions with this question, because it’s always directly applicable to what we’re trying to convey to would-be coaches: the role of the coach on a sports team is the same as that of a business coach – to bring out the best in people, maximize performance, and hold team members accountable for their efforts. 

Gain Buy-In and Set Expectations

When building an internal coaching program, start small. Find your champions, and work with the willing; it is ok to stack the deck with high performers. Once you demonstrate results with a small group, it’s easier to build on that momentum to launch a larger program. Start with clear communication and open dialogue with firm leadership that conveys the desired outcomes of the program, discusses behaviors and expectations, defines how you will measure activity, and ensures everyone is on the same page. 

Marketers often try to quantify ROI for an initiative like a coaching program, but we also encourage you to measure ROE – the return on effort. ROE includes the total tangible and intangible costs of establishing and executing the activity and measures the incremental value generated by the efforts for the activity. Business development has a long tail, it’s important to sustain motivation which is where measuring effort can be very impactful.

When setting expectations between coach and coachee, you should understand boundaries, validate trust, make commitments (particularly for how often and how long you will meet), and be accountable. Sometimes a coaching session is a therapy session, and your role is to listen, intently and actively. Other times, your role can be a mentor, friend, or accountability partner. 

Determine What Type of Coach You Are

David B. Peterson, Leadership Development and Executive Coach for Google, has identified four types of business coaches:

1. Feedback coaches use both objective and subjective data to help the coachee identify development issues.

2. Insight and accountability coaches help the coachee clarify goals, values, and desires and then look at what specific actions can be taken to achieve them.

3. Content coaches focuses on improving a coachee’s skills or knowledge through pre- and post-measurement tools.

4. Development coaches take a reflective, beyond-the-specific-task approach that looks at the individual’s beliefs, assumptions, and attitude as a whole.

It is easy but pointless to get into a debate on which approach is best. Each can be important and necessary depending on the needs of the coachee. Discussing the different approaches is an excellent way to integrate concept and practice. 

For our coaching programs, we use DiSC profiles to understand our and our coachees’ natural tendencies. I am a D on the DiSC spectrum, which means I emphasize results but can often be too blunt. My business partner is an I, which means she can influence and persuade but can often be too optimistic. It’s helpful to understand these tendencies and be cognizant of them and the need to flex our styles depending on the relationship and the situation. 

Dive In

Before your first coaching session with an internal client, do your homework. Understand their current clients, types of matters, financials, and personality profile. During the session, remember to listen more than you talk. Ask probing questions that help define goals – what do you want to accomplish and what will accomplishing it do for you? Ask curiosity questions that help you get to know them better – if you could remove one burden from your work life, what would it be? The goal for the first session is to set goals, establish some short-term activities, and develop a target contact list. 

...remember to listen more than you talk.

The most important aspect of an internal coaching program is accountability. Be sure the coachee knows they are required to be responsible, and remind them of their responsibilities clearly and often. 

By setting the stage, establishing expectations, understanding your coaching style, and then diving in, you will be well on your way to a successful coaching program that creates value for your coachees and your firm. 


[Society 54 Co-Founder Jill Huse is renowned as a trusted professional services advisor. Jill, a certified Worldwide Association of Business Coaches Coach, is highly regarded for her progressive ingenuity, research-based strategy and, most importantly, her ability to deliver results for clients.]

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