The triangular relationship in strategic coaching

Pilar Rojo. Professor. IE Business School

1 July 2014

Strategic coaching is based on the triangular relationship between the coach, the person or group being coached, and the business organization sponsoring the process.

One of the most fundamental aspects of executive coaching is the “two for one” approach. That is to say that not only the coachees – be they individuals, groups, or teams – should benefit from the coaching process, but also the bottom-line results of the company.

Strategic coaching should include both personal development and organizational needs. This focus helps people to develop in order to adapt to new circumstances, and to hone their competences (be they strengths or areas in which they want to improve). It also helps to align collective mind-sets and serves to underpin organizational change. The most valuable type of coaching is probably that which reaches entire management teams, because it fosters cultural change for the benefit of the entire organization.

Strategic coaching is a business proposal designed to induce learning and to bring about a change in behavior and personal growth in order to achieve benefits for the organization. Every coach has a duty to advance coachees’ development, but in the world of business the only way to gauge if it has really been a success  or not is by measuring the return on investment.

The triangular nature of strategic coaching relation requires a commitment between the coach rendering the service, the person or group that receives it, and the organization that finances it. Hence the client is more than just a person or team, we are also talking about their bosses, the company’s HR department, or even the CEO of the organization.

In order to maximize benefits for both the coachees and for the organization, it is important to analyze three things:

1) The organization in which the coachees are going to work: It is essential to have a solid understanding of the objective of all three parties involved in the coaching program, and I want to underscore the importance that the sponsor consider how to integrate the coaching program with other HR initiatives and systems. In order to attract executives it is not only necessary to have a clear objective, but also to have the support of top management, and to establish visible links with the business organization’s needs.

2) The coaches team: the best coaches base their work on a good working knowledge of the organization, its values, culture, strategy and goals, and on all the relations and environmental aspects that could affect the coachee or team of coachees with whom they are going to work. I would underline here the importance of key communication competences that play a vital role in the art and science of coaching, namely powerful questions and active listening coupled with empathy, integrity and dedication in order to overcome coachees’ hidden agendas.

In spite of efforts to introduce universal standards for coaches’ knowledge and competences, clients still evaluate coaches on an individual basis. References from other clients, their university degree and coaching qualifications from somewhere with credentials, and professional experience prior to becoming a coach, are currently the key criteria used to select a team of coaches.

3) Finally, the executives who are going to take part in the coaching process: This is vital to ensure that the process brings benefits, and is not always given the amount of consideration needed to know certain key details: whether or not the coachee is motivated, and is willing and able to lead the process; if he or she has detected important development needs; if said needs will help improve the organization’s results; and if there is the right level of commitment to take part in the learning, growth and change that comprises the coaching process. Also, if the coachee enjoys the support of superiors and/or senior management, this will add to the benefits of coaching.

The key to getting the most out of the triangle of relations that comprise strategic coaching, and to getting maximum benefits for all, is to have an explicit definition of the goals, roles and responsibilities of each party, coupled with a clear show of the triangle comprised of commitment, trust and confidentiality that forms an integral part of a rigorous coaching process.

Published by Via@IEBusiness El


#IECampus, the Campus of the Future

See video
Follow us
IE Agenda
Most read
IE Business School | María de Molina 11, 28006 Madrid | Tel. +34 91 568 96 00 | e-mail:


IE Business School

María de Molina, 11. 28006 Madrid

Tel. +34 915 689 600