Tips on Publicizing Internal Coaching Programmes

MP900411841“I am an internal coach who is part of a 10 strong team and we are finding that whilst many colleagues are happy to use us, the senior managers are not.  We’ve tried to publicize our work and get appointments with the individuals concerned to discuss what we offer.  Our company has invested heavily in our training and we have rigorous systems in place and also an external coaching supervisor.

We are all managers who applied and were selected for the coach training programme by the external coaching training provider and we understand our organization and the challenges we face. We still use external coaches who have specialist skills but the whole idea was to provide coaching services within the organization and cut down on external coaches wherever possible. We believe that we offer a first class service; however, we do seem to be hitting our head on a brick wall. We don’t know what and whether there is anything else we can do?” 
This is not an uncommon problem and one that most internal coaches come across.  The difficulty often arises as senior managers feel more comfortable talking to someone outside of the organization as individuals find it difficult to admit to development needs or discuss matters which they may feel are personal with someone they essentially perceive as a member of staff.  Regardless of how robust your systems are, the terms of your confidentiality agreement and the quality of the services you offer, you will still be perceived by many senior managers as being too close for comfort.
For example, if a senior manager wants to discuss his or her lack of confidence in certain situations, he or she would have to feel pretty confident in the first place to admit these things to a colleague without feeling vulnerable. Most individuals and especially senior managers spend time in projecting a competent image and therefore anything that is perceived as showing weakness is unlikely to be welcomed.
Although this is frustrating for you and your coaching colleagues, it is why organizations mix internal and external coaches.  This frustration is shared by many internal coaches in a range of organizations. External coaches are used either for specialist assignments outside of the skills base of the existing internal coaching team or for coaching senior managers.
It can certainly do no harm to keep on publicizing your offering, ensuring senior managers are up-dated on the work you are doing.  In time, as the service builds a good reputation, these managers may well refer individuals to you.  However, it may be better for your coaching team to focus on those colleagues more likely to use your services by ensuring you build a good reputation for coaching delivery.  As the message spreads throughout the organization that the internal coaching offer really adds value, you may find that some senior managers will feel more comfortable with using the service.  However, it is also possible that this will never happen.
Interestingly, some internal coaches who have gone on to change careers and become external Executive Coaches have found that once they have become an external coach they have had no difficulty in securing senior managers as clients.
At the end of the day, whilst you can continue to promote your coaching service you may have to accept that this situation has nothing to do with the quality of your offering and more to do with human nature.Tips on Publicizing Internal Coaching Programmes

  1. Use all methods of communication (newsletters, informal meetings, the intranet etc) within the organization to publicize the work of the internal coaching offering.
  2. Place articles in internal newsletters about coaching topics that are of interest to employees.  For example, articles on how to manage work/life balance and how coaching can help with this.
  3. The best kind of publicity is word of mouth.  Therefore as the number of clients who use the service grows, the more people will talk to their colleagues about the benefits they gained and, in time, the reputation of the coaching service will grow.