The Pros and Cons of Internal and External Coaches
How to Choose the Best Option for You
Should you use an internal or external 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 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.
|Knowledge of company history, processes, products and services||Too close to be objective and bring fresh perspectives|
|Familiarity with employees and stakeholders||Might be typecast within the organization, making credibility difficult|
|Professional stake in the company and team success||Subject to internal politics|
|Potential accessibility||Pressure of other responsibilities|
|No additional costs||May not have enough time for a significant change process|
|Trusted internally||Assigned coach may not have coaching skills|
|Fresh perspectives offered to old and new problems||Need to learn the culture and internal players to be effective|
|Ability to safely question long-held assumptions that may not be valid||Recommendations may not always fit the culture|
|Professional stake in the client's success||Recommendations may not fit internal capabilities or resources|
|Confidentiality and safe place to examine vulnerabilities without repercussions||May not be immediately accessible for urgent issues|
|Politically agnostic advice||Cost 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 coaching talent currently onboard.
In addition, 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?)