Internal coaches will usually:
- Have a more extensive knowledge of the organisation, its culture, values, strengths, strategic direction, history, politics and problems
- Be better placed to work within and across organisational structures, reporting lines and teams. They may have knowledge of, or working relationships with, team members, managers, etc and be in a position to support change and break down barriers and obstacles
- Be able to provide the executive (and any sponsors) with feedback regarding performance and behaviour change in real time and from more direct observation.
- Be less expensive and sometimes considerably so
External coaches will usually:
- Have no political agenda within the company and are likely to be more objective and impartial.
Be able to build trust and ensure confidentiality more easily. Greater openness is more likely to happen
- Not be subject to conflicts of interest or role (eg., assessing ex-coachees for promotion, holding multiple sets of confidential information).
- Have greater expertise and experience and frequently may have niche specialisms. They can usually engage in a “purer” non-directive coaching mode since they are not influenced by company knowledge or agendas
- Be more expensive although they are usually only paid for the hours used
Research does indicate that a strong indicator of successful coaching outcomes is the trust and relationship quality existing between the executive and coach. There is evidence to indicate that executives trust external coaches more than internal coaches and are more likely to reveal difficulties and capability issues with them. This consideration may help to determine whether the coach most appropriate in a particular situation is internal or external.
Current knowledge suggests that external coaches are most effective working at higher management levels within organisations, in cultures of low trust, and with more complex/sensitive difficulties. Internal coaches are likely to be more cost effective to support internal training programmes and as part of management development programmes.
Whether internal or external, the quality of the coach is of paramount importance. A subsequent article will look at that key question – coach selection.
We work with companies to help their people achieve their performance, development and career goals. We also work to support internal coaches within organisations. If you or your organisation would like to know more, get in touch to see how we can help.