Confidentiality in a sponsored coaching engagement.
I often get asked as a coach: What can you say about the confidentiality of the sessions?
Confidentiality is one of the main reasons why I do what I do as a personal and team coach: to creates a safe and courageous space of expression where the intellectual and emotional intelligence of my clients can feel free to explore the impossible and undiscussable. Psychological safety in a relationship is key to personal growth and the development of rich and more empowering partnerships.
There are a few elements to consider when an organization decides to support the development of its senior leaders and colleagues:
- To provide clarity and transparency about the objective and expectation of the investment in general for the organization, its stakeholders, and in particular for its leaders.
- To spent time between the line manager, the coach, and the leader to clarify these objectives and expectations in a three-way conversation to provide the clarity and safety of the relationship and the leader need to engage with both the coach and his line manager.
- To build a safe and trusting environment fit for purpose, we always start our coaching engagements by taking the time to frame and design our working agreement and design the nature and quality of the relationship between coach and coachee. One key aspect of that dialogue is the confidential nature of the conversation during the coaching sessions between coach and line manager and also coach and peers if the same coach happens to work with other peers (this would have been explored when we design the larger coaching program).
- Our coaches are all under “supervision”, meaning that all of them take the time out of their coaching sessions to talk with a certified coach supervisor external to the team to ensure their show up ready to apply themselves to their role with integrity and competently.
- Our coaches all adhere to the ethical principle and guidelines of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and EMCC.
Some organizations decide to offer coaching engagement to their colleagues with no questions asked; others decide to work on goals and make them explicit to the team members. It is context dependant and culture dependant.
If an organization decides, via the sponsor in charge to manage the coaching engagements, to ask me about some general emerging themes when I’m working with a few leaders, I will contact my client before for us to decide if and what can be shared and how.
The degree to which one may worry about whether people will share or not share is also a testament to how comfortable one is with the people around about some topic. It speaks the degree of transparency, safety or psychological safety already available among the team members. This in itself would be valuable information for us to explore.
The role of our conversation is often to make the implicit explicit, to check assumptions and clarify hypothesis; this is what allows confidentiality by providing a safe space for expression, deliberation, and experimentation away from the daily activity before deciding what to integrate with the larger system.
What needs confidentiality today is sometimes the very topic you wish you could address with your organization but don’t feel comfortable doing. After a conversation with your coach, you might explore deeper concerns and address some of your findings or support your organization’s growth and performance. It is up to you.
Knowing that you and your colleagues go through a similar process when you are all undergoing coaching helps to create collective comfort and conversations which were not happening earlier. This is often one of the big benefits of coaching.
Chemistry with the coach
To make the above possible and after having worked with hundreds of individuals, I believe it is essential to pay attention to your degree of comfort when you start working with your coach, as feeling safe and open is key to growth and transformation. The certainty is the more open you can be with your coach and with yourself, the higher the return. The more open you can be with yourself and those coaching conversations, the higher the return for you and the organization and all the community you belong to.
Performance and investment
When you work with a coach sponsored by the organization you decided to invest in your employment, you make explicit your desire to support its performance, and the organization is doing the same by investing in you by trusting that whatever conversation you will have with your coach will benefit it in the long run. Some of the conversations are not necessarily easy to host among company members as they involve personal issues and other sensitive topics but are critical to gain clarity of mind and find the focus to support the general mission you are working towards.
In summary, those conversations help to reveal the image in a mirror that helps people to make a decision that drives performance. When our coaching sessions expand the range and depth of conversation happening for you, in between people, then the organization can do the same with its communities and critical stakeholders. Paradoxically this can’t happen without a guarantee of confidentiality in the first place.
Laurent is a Leadership and Developmental for Individual and Teams. He dedicated the last ten years to work and to refine how to support rapid transformations in complex and rapidly changing contexts at the individual and systemic level. He serves brilliant human beings, leaders and founders of fast-growing companies with a strong vision for the community they serve.