“If you deprive yourself of outsourcing and your competitors do not, you’re putting yourself out of business.” Wise words from the former Prime Minister of Singapore. Although, the secret is to go beyond tactical implementation. To truly reap the benefits of outsourcing your leadership coaching vendor, you need to approach it with a strategic mindset.
Why outsource leadership coaching?
As a business reflecting on how to deliver coaching, first consider your overall goal. Whether you want to increase productivity or improve accountability, in essence, you’re looking for a change in behavior.
The chances are that internal coaches are already blindsided and part of the culture you want to change. It isn’t easy staying independent of a corporate culture we’re immersed in. That’s not to say that internal coaches can’t support a culture change.
Nevertheless, one of the key benefits of outsourcing a coaching vendor is that external coaches bring a wide array of current experiences. With these, they can more effectively spot your blind spots and provide strategic insight. Remember also that they’re constantly exposed to a multitude of businesses and industries. This alone gives external coaches a unique viewpoint that you can’t cultivate internally.
Alongside this access to expertise, companies enjoy decreased labor costs while leaders save time. Small businesses particularly feel this impact. To them, less headcount, leadership support and training investment make a huge difference.
Naturally, it’s tempting to focus solely on transferring time-consuming activities into outsourced tasks. You have to think differently though if you want the benefits of outsourcing coaching to be a competitive advantage.
When you choose to outsource, you have to be fully transparent and consider each other as partners. The success of one partner correlates to the success of the other. We’re not talking about business process outsourcing where companies simply pass over some of their IT processes.
Strategic partnering is when you align your goals and your vision and agree on how to communicate. You are now one team. The question is how can you embed your vendor into your culture and vice versa?
How to strategically maximize the benefits of outsourced coaching vendors:
- External expertise. Ask your coaching vendor how they choose their coaches and ensure a variety of styles and approaches. You still want your employees to choose their coach but make sure you’re supporting a diverse perspective.
- Agree on metrics and long-term monitoring. Don’t make these typical mistakes when choosing a program but make sure you define with your vendor what success looks like.
- Psychological safety. It’s normal for internal coaches to be bound by the internal HR process. Employees know that anything they say can be used in meetings or even a 360 with their managers at a later date. That mindset alone hinders growth and behavioral change. With an external coach, employees are comfortable being fully open and vulnerable.
- Increased efficiencies. External coaching is more scalable, with greater cost savings. With reputable coaching vendors, employees can access a multitude of different coaches. Compare this to internal coaches that normally count in the ones or twos.
- Cross-industry insights support innovation. Collaborate with your vendor to explore how their coaches can encourage creativity and strategic insight. With multiple views from different industries, external coaches can open up your employees to many more viewpoints. That’s how people get inspired to experiment and try new things.
- Cross-cultural exposure. External coaching vendors can also bring you coaches from all over the world. This can be a compelling way to promote cultural vulnerability with your emerging leaders.
- Improve performance. Last but not least, one of the major benefits of outsourcing coaching vendors is that you create a learning environment. There’s always a bit more pressure to make an effort when external people are present. Moreover, external coaches drive longer-term impact because they can coach your leaders to adopt a coaching style.
Dispel the risks of outsourcing
Successful outsourcing is about measuring the outputs and nurturing the relationship. If you can get that right, you’ll stay away from the disadvantages of outsourcing. Although to fully realize the benefits of outsourcing a coaching vendor, you need to appreciate what can go wrong.
Companies often start by defining their requirements and then going out to search for vendors. Whilst this linear approach makes sense, it primes the relationship to be tactical. A more powerful approach is to work with the vendor to finalize the requirements together. That way, both parties co-create a solution and are equally motivated to achieve it.
By following a more linear approach where businesses impose their requirements, vendors often have little opportunity to advise different best practices. Moreover, they don’t feel as engaged. Essentially, we tend to be far more passionate about something that we’ve helped create.
Of course, you still need a vendor selection matrix but give them a chance to propose potential solutions. Furthermore, as this paper on the vendor selection process shows, the chemistry between you and the vendor is what really matters. You can more easily test that chemistry by getting feedback on the initial requirements before you sign with your preferred outsourcing company.
When you choose to outsource your leadership coaching, you might worry about privacy issues or turnaround times and hidden costs. All these issues disappear with emotional intelligence and a communication plan.
As this study on the relationship between emotional intelligence and buyer’s performance, higher emotional intelligence has a huge impact on overall vendor performance. The irony is that your leaders and managers might need coaching to improve their emotional intelligence.
Mitigate misunderstandings, misalignments and inflexibility by following these steps:
- Full transparency. Some businesses get nervous about sharing confidential and strategic information. Of course, we’re not saying you should divulge your deepest secrets. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that strategies are specific to companies and their abilities. As this article on copying successful firms can make you worse off shows, companies need to make their own strategic decisions. So, be transparent and stop worrying.
- Cross-link internal processes. Leveraging the benefits of outsourcing coaching vendors is best done by aligning business operations. For example, how can your vendor’s milestones and KPIs integrate into your existing processes and performance reviews?
- Align core competencies. Coaching vendors can easily match their competency frameworks to align with yours. This makes things easier to align your coaching vendor with your priorities.
- Communication plan. You need to set expectations while also asking the vendor what they need from you. What will the touchpoints look like and how will they differ from more formal progress updates? Add to that an agreed cadence with the various formats such as email, app, or phone and your process will be off to a good start. Alongside that, you and your teams might benefit from a language coach to optimize your own communication skills.
- Measure and monitor. It’s a basic business practice to know your ROI as well as your progress to date. Only then can you strategically review lessons learned and feedback with your vendor to drive for continuous improvement.
Reap the benefits of an outsourced coaching vendor
Getting an exceptional service and enjoying the benefits of outsourcing your coaching vendor relies on emotional intelligence and collaborative communication. The more transparent you can be about your processes and culture, the more easily an external vendor can partner with you.
When you develop a partnership approach, the outsourced benefits far outweigh the risk. In fact, you’ll automatically mitigate any downside because your goals will be co-created and your frameworks will be aligned.
Then, you can enjoy increased efficiencies, strategic insight and improved performance. How can a business possibly say no to that?