The Three Pillars of a Successful Coaching Relationship

The Three Pillars of a Successful Coaching Relationship


A typical coaching engagement in the business world consists of three primary stakeholders – managers, coaches, and learners.

An ideal coaching relationship should comprise alignment between all three stakeholders to achieve the goals set at the start of the engagement.

This blog will cover the three pillars of a successful coaching relationship and the various aspects that need to be considered before starting the coaching journey.

Pillar 1: The Coach

“Choosing the right coach is a crucial first step in a successful coaching relationship.”

The right coach can bring out the best in a learner, both professionally and personally. Apart from being a good listener, the right coach can also ask the most relevant questions to the learner.

A big part of the coach's role is to keep the conversation going. They do this by asking questions that encourage the learner to open up and discover more about themselves.

How can a learner identify the ‘right’ coach? >>

At Peakperformer, we often encounter this situation where a learner is unsure who to pick up as a coach. This is why we recommend that our learners take a chemistry session to align themselves with a suitable coach.

Importance of a chemistry session

A chemistry session can be an opportunity for a learner to bond with a leadership coach and see if they can connect with the latter on a deeper level.

The right match is key to trust and the success of a coaching experience. A chemistry session can also clarify several factors such as the skill and experience of the coach, the actual process of the sessions, and what different stakeholders aim to achieve with the journey.

Why objective goal tracking matters

While coaching as a business tool continues to gain legitimacy, the industry is still not mature, thus leading to the objective impact of coaching not being measured in many cases.

Here is an alarming stat from Harvard Business Review on the impact of a coaching relationship:

“​​ While 70% of coaches surveyed said they provide a qualitative assessment of progress, fewer than one-third ever offer feedback in the form of quantitative data on behaviours, and less than one-fourth offer any kind of quantitative data on business outcomes of the coaching engagement ".

And the data mentioned above is optimistic considering the fact that it comes from coaches themselves.

So, for coaches to stand out amongst the guild, it becomes imperative to get certified by associations such as ICF, EMCC, etc., and provide objective data after completing the coaching journey.

Pillar 2: The Manager

As organizations become more complex, founders and top executives realize they cannot have all the answers and are increasingly turning to executive coaches to solve various issues in their firms ranging from culture to team dynamics.

One more reason why coaching has become popular in recent years is that coaches who specialize in a niche typically have been in the shoes of the leaders before and can relate to their challenges better.

Here is where the role of a manager comes into play. As the agent representing the sponsor, managers play a huge role in the success of a coaching relationship.

Companies typically fund a majority of executive coaching sessions, and the manager needs to be invested in the learner's success and clarify the expectations of the relationship at the very beginning.

Here is what ICF had to say about the definition of a sponsor.

“Entity paying for and/or arranging or defining the coaching services to be provided.”

A recent survey by HBR suggests that the coaching industry is fraught with conflicts of interest, blurry lines about the coach's responsibilities and what should be left to mental health professionals, and sketchy mechanisms for monitoring the effectiveness of a coaching engagement.

Managers ought to ensure transparency and privacy in a company-sponsored coaching relationship to ensure no violation of one’s trust/confidentiality.

It is also imperative that there is a strong commitment from top management to developing the executive.

Therefore, setting up ground rules before starting the coaching engagement and during the process becomes a good practice.

An excellent example of a ground rule can be not to engage a coach if the real agenda is to push the executive out or fix a systemic issue beyond the control of the coached individual.

Pillar 3: Learner

The learner sometimes referred to as the coachee, should ask several questions before beginning the journey to ensure a good fit.

An example of such a questionnaire would be:

  1. Am I motivated to transform myself?
  2. Can I relate to the coach?
  3. Do I have good chemistry with the coach?
  4. Is the coach a good fit for my needs right now?
  5. Does the top management have a solid commitment to developing me?

Ideally, the learner should say an emphatic aye to all the questions in the questionnaire.

4 Tips that a learner can follow for a successful coaching experience

1. Stay focused

Effective coaching in any setting requires the focused attention of the learner. The learner should identify the critical areas of improvement and monitor them religiously.

2. Effective time management

Being methodical and planning meetings by setting up the agenda of the next meeting ahead helps you to cover a wide range of topics and make the coaching sessions more meaningful and valuable.

This also enables both the coach and the learner to reflect on the conversation and deepen the learning.

3. Be accountable

Change starts with one’s self. The learner eventually achieves the vast majority of the work (and 100 percent of the results).

So learners should ensure that they measure success by behavioural change.

4. Consistency is key

It takes 10-12 months to complete and wrap up a coaching journey. As a learner, being consistent and reflecting on the sessions is crucial for success.

In the end, achieving real, measurable change in those areas is all that matters.

Otherwise, the entire point of the coaching relationship has been missed.

Final thoughts

It takes three to tango. All three – coach, manager, and the learner contribute to the success of the coaching journey.

We hope you found the article a good read and helped you understand the three pillars that make up a successful coaching relationship.

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