Coaching to build capacity

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"Coaching" is an approach to technical support that can be an alternative (or supplement) to traditional consulting. Lisa & Jonah are experimenting with the coaching approach in their tech consulting practice.

The idea is to build organizational skills and capacity – not just deliver a product and leave.

How does it work in practice? For example, consider an organization that needs a CRM solution. Typically, the newest & most junior staff member (in this case a program assistant) is given the task of selecting the CRM. The consultant/coach meets with her weekly, helps her plan the project, sets up a work plan, etc.

The coaching approach has some good consequences:

  * Knowledge stays in the organization when the consultants leave.
  * The organization has some buy-in to the tech decisions and implementation, since those came from within
  * The staff gets some real professional development. (Let’s note that this is a meaningful approach when organizations wonder “What can we do to diversify more?”)
  * Less consulting hours means it's cheaper. (Not surprisingly, this proves to be a big factor.)

Jonah believes that coaching gives "a lot of impact per hour of engagement" when compared with traditional consulting.

There are professional bodies that certify coaches (ICF is the main one). Lisa & Jonah’s coaching is more an approach or philosophy – they’re not certified coaches themselves. However others in the session gave suggestions & resources for learning about training & development for professional coaching (c.f. Roadmap Consulting and the Coaches’ Training Institute.)

Some tips for successful coaching engagement:

  * Choose your client well! The organization must be ready for it. There must be organizational capacity. 
  * There must be somebody there who WANTS to be coached, has time, and has coaching in their work plan. (Be aware that in some situations employees may actually see coaching as punitive – a sign that they’re in trouble or in danger of getting fired.)
  * There must be a potential benefit that the coachee wants. There must be a potential benefit that the organization wants.
  * In any mentoring or training relationship – there’s a real value in “holding back”; you try NOT to give materials and solutions, you want the person to find those for her/himself. But that can raise a contradiction, because the organization is eager for the solution.
  * Clients must be patient, because this approach takes much longer than traditional consulting.
  * To be a coach you must be your biggest self. It illuminates your own blind spots. Personally very challenging, but also rewarding.
  * If you believe that coaching is a good thing, you should probably be meeting regularly with a coach yourself!