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Keeping It Confidential

This story accompanies Creating Coaches.

Monday, February 13, 2017
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A certain amount of discretion is required in the internal coach/executive relationship. 

HR leaders "have to understand that the confidentiality issue is huge for internal coaches, more so than with external coaches," says Jay Meschke, president of Leawood, Kan.-based CBIZ Human Capital Services.

"People open up to coaches," he says. "They tell them their worst professional fears and they talk about parts of their jobs where they think they're having problems."

HR has a duty to help ensure that all parties are aware of the rules of engagement around sharing information and insight gleaned through internal coaching, says Elise Freedman, director of talent management and organizational alignment in Willis Towers Watson's Washington office.

For the individual being coached, "it fundamentally comes down to trust," says Freedman.

"The coaching process should be a 'safe' place where [one] could discuss a wide range of topics," she says. "If the coach is reporting the specifics of what is being shared, then the coachee is going to be much more reticent to admit things [he or she fears] might be perceived as weakness," for example.

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That said, HR should also help internal coaches understand what type of information they should pass on to HR or others overseeing the coaching program.

For example, internal coaches can and should share progress toward goals, "but not specifics around what those goals are," says Freedman, adding that a coaching recipient's openness to receiving guidance should also be noted.

"There are cases where an organization might get someone a coach, but the person didn't want one or is not willing to engage in the process. If that is the case, then the coach should be able to share that info with HR."

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