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The External Coach, or Coaching Consultant

Table, chairs, blue sky

The Business Coaching series is now available to download as a free ebook Creative Management for Creative Teams.

Having looked at Different Types of Coaching, in this post and the next in the series I will outline the two basic roles for a business coach: the external coach (or business coaching consultant); and the manager-coach.

The external business coach

An external business coach is a consultant brought into the organisation to work with individuals and/or teams, usually in sessions lasting 1-2 hours. Ideally the coaching conversation is a face-to-face meeting, at least for the first few sessions, although the phone and now webcam are increasingly used, as they allow for greater flexibility in scheduling appointments. Coaching sessions are often interspersed with e-mail reports on agreed action items.

Below are some of the advantages of using an external business coach. It is important to remember that these advantages do not make external coaches intrinsically ‘better’ than manager-coaches – just different. Ideally the two roles should complement each other.

In many respects, the position of an external coach is a privileged one, since she is free from many of the restrictions that apply to managers – so there is a responsibility to use these advantages wisely, for the benefit of the individuals being coached and also the organisation as a whole.

Advantages of using an external coach

A fresh perspective

An external coach brings a fresh perspective on people and events in the organisation. This means she can notice patterns and make connections that are not apparent to those on the inside. So she can act as a valuable ‘sounding board’ for people’s thinking – by asking questions, listening and giving feedback from her perspective as an outsider.

A strong focus on the client’s needs

Because the external coach does not have the direct responsibilities of a manager, it is relatively easy to devote her entire attention to the client’s needs during the session. This can lead to an intensive, high-energy form of coaching that can produce significant results in a short time. In longer term coaching, it can provide a very strong foundation for an individual’s development.

A confidential forum for discussion

Because the coaching session is confidential between coach and coachee, people sometimes feel more comfortable discussing sensitive information or personal concerns with an external coach than with their line manager. This can lead to resolution of ‘unspoken’ problems that have been interfering with critical business processes.

Highly developed coaching skills

External coaches have typically received a more extensive coaching training than managers, and have spent more time coaching people. This means the organisation benefits from highly developed coaching skills and a wealth of coaching experience.

Specialist expertise

In addition to their core coaching skills, many external coaches have specialist expertise that makes them particularly suited to certain coaching assignments. Specialisms can include leadership, sales, negotiation, mediation, presentation skills, creativity, psychology and emotional intelligence.

Next in this series – The Manager as Coach