The Pros and Cons of Internal and External Coaches

How to Choose the Best Option for You

achieve goals with executive coachingShould you use an internal or external executive coach to help develop your managers and leaders? As part of this month’s theme on developing teams that think more strategically, the question of using internal coaches or external coaches came up.

Here are some thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of executive coaching. As an overview, I think it’s commendable to devote resources to developing leadership, communication, and strategic thinking skills, whether that means developing an internal program or sourcing an external coach. Both have merits and drawbacks that are dependent on multiple variables within your company.

Internal Coaching

Knowledge of company history, processes, products and servicesToo close to be objective and bring fresh perspectives
Familiarity with employees and stakeholdersMight be typecast within the organization, making credibility difficult
Professional stake in the company and team successSubject to internal politics
Potential accessibilityPressure of other responsibilities
No additional costsMay not have enough time for a significant change process
Trusted internallyAssigned coach may not have coaching skills

External Coaching

Fresh perspectives offered to old and new problemsNeed to learn the culture and internal players to be effective
Ability to safely question long-held assumptions that may not be validRecommendations may not always fit the culture
Professional stake in the client's successRecommendations may not fit internal capabilities or resources
Confidentiality and safe place to examine vulnerabilities without repercussionsMay not be immediately accessible for urgent issues
Politically agnostic adviceCost of an external resource
Variety of coaching styles, skill sets, and background to choose from"Coachee" may not know how to set measurable goals

For most companies, resources are scarce, so it may be tempting to use an “internal coach only” approach. It is more important to ask if your company has natural executive coaching talent currently onboard.

An honest examination needs to be made of the following:

  • How significant are the desired changes?
  • Will an internal coach have enough time and the right skill to bring those changes about?
  • What measurable gains are expected from the coaching? (For instance, improve efficiency, reduce turnover, increase client retention, or drive additional revenue?)
No matter which route you choose, the return on investment should be measured in quantifiable terms. The right coach will be willing and able to help design an executive coaching program that achieves measurable gains for the individual and the company.