The role of the internal coach may have different dimensions (Beukes, 2012:80; Maxwell in Bachkirova et al, 2011:185). The benefits for an organisation to invest in an internal coaching capability are far from a second-best option. Internal coaches are ideally placed because of their detailed knowledge of organisational mechanics, politics and culture (Maxwell in Bachkirova et al, 2011:184). This knowledge of the organisational systems has profound advantages for the internal coaching approach within the organisation. However, internal coaches may also be subject to organisational dynamics and confronted by ethical dilemmas. The dilemmas have to be managed within the boundaries of the coaching contract, for instance, where the coach and coachee have a pre-existing relationship, or the coach has input to a disciplinary process against the coachee, or the coach has conflicting loyalties. St John-Brooks (2010) reported research indicating that the highest-ranking dilemma from 10 most common dilemmas was third-party requests for information around the coachee. Cox, Bachkirova and Clutterbuck (2010:4) warn that internal coaches may be constrained by authority structures within the organisation and may be less able to take an independent perspective.
An internal coach has to balance needs of him- or herself, the coachee’s needs, the coachee’s manager, the organisation and his or her manager, and the coaching supervisor and/or members of peer group supervision. There is also the issue of confidentiality of peer group supervision, as internal peer coaches most likely know one another’s coachees.
An international study conducted by McKee et al (2005), where the focus was on leadership development enabled by internal coaching, found that one of the contributing success factors of the internal coaching programme was that coaching “assisted people in developing emotional and social intelligence competencies, and the capacity for resonant leadership had profound and lasting positive impact throughout the organisation” (2005:61). This finding correlates with two of the findings from our study: that coaching contributes to the development of an individual by providing an opportunity for individuals to deepen self-awareness and self-realisation, and to explore and find solutions for personal growth and change; and that coaching enables leadership development by contributing to the development of the competencies and skills of the individuals (Beukes, 2012:72–73).
Organisations have a duty of care to both their coaches and their employees (Maxwell in Bachkirova et al, 2011:191). If the same standards of practice are applied to internal and external coaches, similar codes of practice and ethics must also apply. Therefore, awareness of the systemic dynamics within organisations is crucial, and peer group coaching supervision with an external Master Coach could go a long way towards ensuring facilitated reflective practice, provided that the Master Coach clearly has a deep understanding of the complexity of the organisation. Garnering organisational intelligence from these peer group coaching supervision sessions could benefit an organisational development intervention immensely, provided that the actual individual coach–coachee confidentiality is respected. St John-Brooks’s (2010) survey revealed, however, that most organisations had not completely thought through how they could best support their coaches from CPD to supervision, and most internal coaches were not bound by a professional code of ethics.
Scheepers (2012) provides a systemic framework of large-scale coaching interventions, which included coaching training for managers, mentorship programmes, and supervision sessions for coaches, where the emphasis is on organisational development and alignment between human resource practices. Eaton and Brown (2002) concur with a multifaceted intervention at Vodafone, including a values roll-out, team buildings and performance reviews.
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