Who Makes a Good Candidate for Coaching on Your Team?

POSTED: Aug. 09, 2017

Program ParticipantCoaching can be incredibly beneficial for individuals and organizations, but you can only lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink. For coaching to be successful, the coach, coachee and organization must understand what coaching can do and what it can’t. A coach doesn’t “fix” a passive client. Instead, a coach acts as a guide and catalyst for the individual’s self-motivated change. Coaches can challenge, inform, equip and advise, but it is up to the individual to put in the hard work and leverage those resources. A coach can give an individual the necessary tools, but the individual must choose to use them.

Therefore, if the coachee isn’t onboard, then even the best coach with the best program will be unsuccessful. That’s not to say that the coach and program used don’t make a difference, they do. Neither does it mean that the personality and dynamic between the coach and coachee doesn’t matter, because it does. What it does mean is that the coachee holds the ultimate veto power as to whether the coaching will be successful or not. This means not only should a coach be chosen carefully, but so should a potential coachee.

In my experience, there are certain key characteristics of coachees that make coaching possible and more likely to be successful. Some characteristics are more important than others and no coachee will possess all of them, but this list should help managers, leaders and HR professionals know what to look for in possible coachees.

The Coachee Checklist

Interested and Self-motivated – This is by far the most important. A coachee should be actively interested in being coached or at least in self-improvement. If the coachee is not accepting of and engaged in the process there is no hope of success. Luckily, interest is an easy one to determine by asking the potential coachee. The self-motivation is slightly more difficult to determine, but just as important. A potential coachee might be interested if coaching is offered, but not motivated enough to take the process seriously and put the hard work in. This is where a more in-depth discussion with the candidate and his or her supervisor is necessary.

Willingness to Change – The point of coaching is to help a coachee to change for the better. While self-improvement sounds great to most people, the actual idea of change is uncomfortable to many. A coachee must be prepared to change and want to change before coaching can be successful. You can determine how prepared a coachee is by being honest about the goals of the coaching process, as well as seeing if the employee independently works on self-improvement. If the potential coachee is willing to put in the work to try and change for the better on his or her own, the coachee is very likely to benefit enormously from coaching.

Openness – A coachee must be open on a number of levels. He or she must be open to different perspectives and new ideas. If not, all the coach’s input will simply fall on deaf ears. The coachee must also be willing to be open with the coach. Coaching focuses on self-improvement and therefore, the individual must be willing to be open to looking at his or her strengths and weaknesses. Some insight on this characteristic can be determined through how an individual completes a self-review.

Emotional Intelligence and Humility – This level of openness requires emotional intelligence and humility. A coachee must have the emotional intelligence to engage in constructive criticism and be self-critical or else the coach’s hands will be tied. In my experience, this specific aspect of emotional intelligence comes out of a proper sense of humility defined by a willingness to be honest with yourself. Humility allows an individual to accept shortcomings he or she had overlooked and constructively engage in discussions about how he or she can improve weaknesses. A good way to determine if a candidate is emotionally prepared for this aspect of the coaching process is by reviewing how the individual handles a review process or disagreements in meetings.

Proper Expectations and Commitment – A coachee, as well as the organization, must have proper expectations for the coaching process to be successful. This quite simply means gauging whether a potential coachee has grasped what will be required and the amount of time and work the process will entail. If the expectations are understood then you have to gauge if the coachee is committed to the time and effort it will take. Selling coaching as an easy cure-all will leave everyone disappointed and lead to unsuccessful outcomes.

Potential – Finally, coaching requires resources in both time and money. Therefore, organizations should focus their coaching resources on candidates with the most potential. This should dovetail into an organizations’ succession plan. It also should take into account what the organization’s potential return on the coaching investment could be. An employee could benefit greatly on a number of levels from coaching, but given their position and role in the company this might not translate to increased productivity or benefit the organization as a whole significantly. Potential should be judged not only by the individual’s potential for self-improvement, but also how that individual’s personal improvement will translate to the organization’s overall health and improvement.

The ‘When’ of Coaching

These six characteristics are crucial for organizations to take into account when determining who to coach. There is also the question as to when someone should be coached. Unlike a mentor, coaching is not a continuous relationship. Coaching is done with specific goals in mind and comes to an end when those goals are met. Since coaching is limited to a certain amount of time, there are specific periods in an individuals’ career development where coaching is essential.

Transition – When an individual is in a period of transition, either into a new position or taking on new responsibilities, coaching is essential. Transitions are times of change and coaching is meant to facilitate the required change that the individual must make to be successful in the new role. This also includes learning new skills and gaining new tools that the coachee will need to be successful in the new position.

Leadership – Coaching is necessary for leaders to support the coachee and to help with the continuous improvement of abilities. The health and ability of a leader has a significant impact on the overall health and success of an organization and therefore, those in leadership should be regularly involved in coaching programs. This has the added benefit of creating a culture of coaching and self-improvement that will benefit the organization as a whole.

Need and/or Desire – While coaching focuses on improvement, it can also be used to help remedy certain issues an employee might be having. The employee or manager might recognize a gap in the employee’s abilities that has a negative impact on his or her productivity, which a coaching program could be used to remedy. Also, since the success of a coaching program depends so much upon a coachee’s individual interest and motivation, an employee actively seeking coaching should be seen as an opportune time to provide coaching. The employee’s desire should be taken as a strong indicator that he or she is ready, prepared and committed to the hard work required by the coaching process.

Coaching is a powerful tool that leaders can leverage to improve their organizations through performance improvement in employees. To be successful, HR professionals and leaders should spend as much time and analysis choosing coachees as they do choosing coaches and coaching programs. Choosing a coachee wisely is critical because coaches can give their clients the analysis and tools to change, but only the individual can truly change and maintain that change when the coaching program ends. Therefore, you should choose to coach those candidates who are willing, able and committed to getting the very most out of the time and resources that you are investing in them through the coaching process.