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There has been much commenting on why companies should include individual coaching as a benefit for its employees. Obviously, if there is a succession plan in existence, developing key people must be part of that plan. Without a succession plan, there is still the need to develop people into managers and managers into higher level managers in order to insure the supply of people when needed and to avoid the cost and internal disruption of constantly hiring new manager from "the outside".

There are differences between a coach working for an individual within a company and a corporate coach who works with individuals FOR a company. I have been in the latter role for decades. While I have seen both practitioners work independently within a corporation, I have often seen a potential conflict of interest between the two.

What are the similarities and the differences?

The goals of the individual coach is clear-cut -- help the client advance their career and/or improve their lifestyle. This could and should include helping to solve current management problems, and developing the individual for their future career opportunities.

While the corporate coach may have the same goals, there is a difference in the underlying focus. The corporate coach is primarily focused on helping the company achieve THE COMPANY goals by developing individual managers and teams. The individual coach does not necessarily have any goals beyond those for the benefit of the individual. Certainly their primary goals should focus on the individual. Most of the time there will be no conflict between the two approaches. Both are confidential advisors.

What happens when the best interest of the individual runs contrary to the best interest of the corporation?

For example -- The individual coach has a client who has worked for the employer for 4 years, is generally happy with the job and the rewards received. The client manages a six person team which constitutes and entire functional department for his company. The client see a need for personal and professional growth in order to move to higher levels within the organization. Past movement up the management ladder has been done with satisfactory speed and the client expects that to continue.

  1. What does the individual coach do if their client hears of a VP job opening with a competitor? Does one advise their client to send a resume?
  2. What do you counsel if your client has been offered a lucrative opportunity to leave their current company with their entire team? Such a move could severely hurt the current employers competitiveness in their market.
  3. What do you counsel if your client expresses a desire to run his own company and go into competition with his current employer?

In my experience, individual coaches counsel their clients to focus on their individual best interests, and help them evaluate the pros and cons of each situation. Assuming that the individual is "ready" to assume the responsibilities of a new role, the individual coach will help develop strategies to implement the chosen alternative. The interests of the employer are secondary, if considered at all. Since the individual coach is being paid by the individual, there is no legal, or ethical requirement to communicate any of this to the employer.

The corporate coach has a much more difficult situation. The individual-client's employer is the corporate coach's "employer" too. Because the three postulated situations could each be harmful to the employer-client while benefiting the individual-client, to which entity does the corporate coach's efforts go?

All three of the above happened to me in my practice. the answer is basically simple in concept but complex in practice.

As a corporate-coach, the primary obligation to the individual-client is confidentiality, as limited by confidentiality statutes in most states. All that is meant by the last clause is that confidentiality applies unless the coach is convinced that the client presents an immediate physical danger to himself or to others. (Since this work is done with "non-patients", this is typically unlikely to occur.) So --- you can't tell the corporate-client about the discussion.

What you can do -- and in my opinion -- MUST do -- is counsel the individual-client to take these possible negative consequences into account and try to find a way to maximize the individual benefits while minimizing the negative consequences to the current employer. Merging the best interests of the two "different" clients is difficult, but by no means, impossible.

The coach can maximize outcomes

In each of the three examples, both the company and the individual ended up maximizing the outcomes.

In situation 1, the client was promoted to VP.

In situation 2, the entire team stayed with the company, but had considerably increased rewards.

In situation 3, the client did leave the company and form his own firm, but did so with the blessings of his employer -- and with a long-term contract from them with which to start the company's life. The employer found it to be economically advantageous to "outsource" the work to someone they knew produced quality work and, at the same time, lower corporate expenses.

These three outcomes would probably not have been maximized for both entities if the coach was only focused on the individual client. The work was highly complex, but having an "honest broker", who understood and cared about both sides, made it possible.

If you would like to talk to us about YOUR corporate coaching needs -- Call TODAY for a free consultation 770-977-3875