Internal or External Business Coach?
A person can receive business coaching from either an external business coach, or from a manager who has undertaken a business coaching course and qualification like the ILM Level 5 Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring.
There will be distinct advantages and disadvantages of either, which are explored in more detail below.
External Business Coach
An external business coach is one who, as the name suggests, is external to the organisation and is invited in to help one or more individuals with overcoming the metaphorical obstacles or concerns which are preventing them from maximising their potential for effectiveness and the achievement of the company's objectives. An external business coach can also provide executive coaching for senior managers and directors.
An advantage of an external business coach is that they will come into the business free of any bias or pre-determined arguments, opinions or apportioning of blame which may be present were a manager to perform the function of providing business coaching sessions (see Internal Business Coach section further down the page). They can provide impartial advice and suggestions, and employees will be free to speak openly to an external coach without having to worry about what they will say.
Although an external coach will be free from bias and pre-conceived notions because they know nothing about the internal workings of the business before arrival, this can also be a disadvantage as they will take time to get to know the various factors affecting the person and understand exactly what is going on and causing problems for the individual. So whilst a coach within the organisation may be biased or create other issues (see below), they will at least be fully up-to-speed with what is going on in the business.
Internal Business Coach
The provision of business coaching used to be considered as something which only specialised external coaches undertook, although many managers used to perform this function with their employees without giving it the label of business coaching or mentoring. Managers can now attend dedicated courses and qualifications related to coaching and mentoring such as the ILM Level 5 Certificate or the Diploma in Coaching and Mentoring which will provide them with all the tools and knowledge needed to be an effective coach and mentor to those under their responsibility.
The advantages and disadvantages of an internal business coach are primarily the opposites of the pros and cons of an external business coach.
An internal coach will already have a tremendous understanding of what is going on and the likely causes of the employee's lack of progression, motivation, effort or other factor, which means that they can get straight onto addressing and trying to resolve the issue(s).
As external business coaches are often highly experienced and qualified, they can often be quite expensive too, whereas a manager who provides business coaching will not cost the company any additional fees (aside from any training that was needed to get them to this stage of course).
The biggest drawback of an internal business coach is their familiarity and closeness with the people and situations. Although it is an advantage in terms of saving time through not having to familiarise themselves with everything, a significant element of business coaching involves complete honesty and openness between the coach and the coachee.
Whilst a person is likely to be completely honest with an external coach who they believe to be impartial, they are unlikely to tell the whole and complete truth to a manager whom they see every day, and may be on friendly terms with the person's colleagues, which makes them worry if what they say during the sessions will be repeated to them either in or out of the workplace. It may also be the case that the manager themselves is a big part of the problem, but a person is unlikely to tell their manager that face to face when it is just the two of them in a coaching session.
Why You May Have to Provide Coaching for the Coach!
Managers Will Need to be Good at Providing Coaching and Training to Impart Their Knowledge to Others
In articles such as Departmental Transfers for Business Coaching and Development we saw how other managers and supervisors within the same organisation can be enlisted to provide coaching and training to an employee or group of employees from a different department. This manager may have skills, knowledge and/or experience which the employee's manager does not have, and may be quite likely if this manager is new to the role of management.
However just because they have the knowledge and experience does not necessarily mean that they will be any good at transferring this information from their head and into that of the employees! For this they will also need to be capable trainers, as just having the knowledge will not be enough to make them good trainers.
Managers May Need a Training Course to Teach Them How to Teach
It may be the case therefore that this knowledgeable manager may need to attend a train the trainer course which will teach them the skills to be an effective trainer. Alternatively if they are going to provide business coaching rather than a more formal classroom-based training session, it will be more appropriate for them to first obtain a qualification such as the ILM Level 5 Certificate in Business Coaching in order to equip them with the tools to provide successful coaching to employees. Without this ability, a lot of their knowledge will remain stuck in their head rather than getting across to those sat in front of them, which is far from an ideal scenario!
Weighing Up the Financial Costs and Benefits of Training
Whilst it may require money to have this experienced manager attend a train the trainer course or gain a business coaching qualification, this initial outlay is likely to prove extremely cost effective in the long run as having the manager being able to productively train workers that join a department will prove much cheaper than having to send each and every one of them on an external training course when they start work for the company.
Express Gratitude to the Business Coach
Who Can Provide Business Coaching?
Business coaching where a coach uses their knowledge and experience to help assist a less experienced worker towards developing plans and goals in order to speed up their development can be provided either by a business coach who is external to the organisation, the worker's experienced manager or a manager within the same organisation but in a different department/area.
Saying Thank You Can Also Keep the Coach Motivated
Whilst it will not apply if the manager themselves is providing the coaching to the individual, whenever another person is involved it is not only important for the worker's line manager to regularly liaise with the coach to ensure that the objectives of the coaching are being fulfilled, but it may also be necessary for the manager to express gratitude to the business coach.
Whilst an external professional business coach will be rewarded through being paid and should be capable of motivating themselves, a manager in a different department may need to be regularly thanked. Even though they will be receiving a salary from the organisation and providing the coaching during working hours, so it is not as if they are giving up their spare time, they may feel slightly put out at having to look after a worker from a different department which takes up their time and prevents them from getting on with their own work.
For this reason it is important for the original manager to express their gratitude to the other manager. Whilst nobody should be expecting lavish gifts or grand ceremonies, a small thank you to show appreciation for their efforts will often keep the manager who is the coach more motivated and willing to put the effort in to helping the worker achieve their goals.