An Introduction to the Benefits and Practicalities of Internal Coaching

Internal Coaching

An Introduction to the Benefits and Practicalities of Internal Coaching

Internal coaching is a well-established form of coaching that enables organisations to offer culturally-aligned, cost-effective coaching to their employees.

In addition, due to its cost-effectiveness, internal coaching frequently takes place across a wider section of employees than is typically provided by external coaches.

Some organisations have wholeheartedly embraced it. For instance, in the UK, the National Health Service and the Civil Services have large internal coaching functions.  We have also trained many coaches and coaching supervisors who work within, or manage, coaching functions of varying sizes.

Yet the vast majority of companies, large and small, do not have internal coaching and, if they have any coaching at all, continue to rely on external coaches, many of whom work exclusively at the executive level.

We believe this is something that should change if organisations want to keep pace with the needs of their workforce and the changing nature of leadership.

In a bid to help organisations understand the nature and benefits of internal coaching, as well as practical issues to consider, this article will explore:

  • What internal coaching is
  • What its benefits are
  • The issues an internal coach might work with
  • What training they require
  • 10 steps to implement internal coaching
  • Challenges and solutions to building an internal coaching function

What is Internal Coaching?

Internal coaching is coaching that takes place within an organisation and is delivered by individuals who are employees of the organisation. 

Typically, the internal coach holds another role in the organisation and coaching forms a small, though important, part of their work.

Some organisations employ full-time internal coaches but it remains a rare role in organisations.  Hopefully this will change!

Unlike external coaching, which is carried out by hired professionals brought into the organisation, internal coaching enables a more intimate understanding of the organisation’s culture, objectives, and challenges.

The concept of internal coaching has seen an evolution in recent years. 

Today, it is seen not just as a problem-solving approach but also as a developmental one which can contribute to an organisation’s wider vision and strategies.

Benefits of Internal Coaching

As with any kind of coaching, there are multiple benefits from internal coaching and it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. 

Nor, unsurprisingly, is it a panacea for all the issues and challenges within an organisation.

However, it is clear that there are certain frequent benefits to internal coaching that those considering introducing it can consider.

Improved Employee Performance

One of the most significant advantages of internal coaching is its role in enhancing employee performance. 

It aids in performance improvement by identifying and addressing areas of growth, and accelerates onboarding by helping new employees understand their roles faster.

Increased Employee Engagement

Internal coaching also plays a critical role in increasing employee engagement and retention. 

It builds stronger relationships between employees and management, promotes a sense of belonging, and enhances job satisfaction, thereby reducing attrition rates.

Enhanced Leadership Development

Another key benefit is its contribution to leadership development. Internal coaching aids in succession planning by identifying and nurturing potential leaders. 

It also helps to cultivate future leaders by providing them with the support and guidance they need to grow within their roles.

Supporting Organisational Change

Internal coaching further facilitates organisational change and transformation. 

It helps to manage change effectively and nurtures a culture of resilience, enabling organisations to adapt to new challenges and circumstances with ease.

Cost Effectiveness

Finally, internal coaching is also cost-effective. 

When compared to external coaching, it can be vastly more affordable which enables it to be utilised more widely through the organisation.

Internal Coaching

Choosing Between External and Internal Coaching

The decision to opt for internal or external coaching is often complex, influenced by an array of factors that vary among organisations. 

Both internal and external coaching come with their unique strengths and potential limitations. 

Understanding these can assist in making an informed decision that best fits the needs and resources of the organisation.

External Coaching: Strengths and Considerations

External coaches bring an a perspective to the organisation that is not heavily prescribed and shaped by the existing culture.  This can allow for fresh eyes on a culture and can provide useful when dealing with organisational assumptions and attitudes that may be holding back an individual or wider change. 

They possess wide-ranging experiences across different industries and organisational cultures, providing a breadth of insight and strategies that might not be accessible internally.

Moreover, external coaches can often dedicate more time to coaching than internal coaches, as they are not entangled in daily organisational tasks. 

They can also be called upon for a specific period or purpose, offering flexibility to organisations that might not need or afford a full-time coaching function.

However, external coaching also presents challenges. 

It can be more costly in the short-term, and the coach might require time to familiarise themselves with the organisational culture, values, and dynamics. 

There’s also a potential risk of employees perceiving external coaches as out of touch with the realities of the company.

Internal Coaching: Strengths and Considerations

Internal coaches, as employees, inherently understand the organisation’s culture, politics, values, and history. 

They can align coaching interventions with the company’s strategic objectives effectively and quickly, thereby driving transformation from within.

Internal coaching also provides a cost-effective solution for organisations requiring ongoing coaching support. 

It strengthens the internal capacity for change and growth, fostering a coaching culture that benefits all levels of the organisation.

However, internal coaching can also pose challenges. 

Internal coaches might face conflicts of interest, particularly if they are coaching individuals within their line of management. 

Ensuring objectivity might be difficult, and confidentiality issues can emerge. 

Also, if not given proper training and dedicated time, internal coaches might struggle to fulfil their coaching role effectively while managing their primary job responsibilities.

Making the Decision Between Internal and External Coaching

When choosing between internal and external coaching, organisations could explore these factors:

  1. Organisational Needs: Consider the specific coaching needs. Is it for a specific, short-term purpose, or a more systemic, long-term developmental goal?
  2. Budget: While internal coaching can be more cost-effective over time, establishing a robust internal coaching function does require initial investment in training and resources.
  3. Cultural Fit: How well would an external coach align with the company culture? Conversely, is the organisation’s culture conducive to effective internal coaching?
  4. Confidentiality and Objectivity: Can an internal coach maintain confidentiality and impartiality? If not, an external coach might be better suited.
  5. Expertise: If the coaching requires specific expertise not present within the organisation, external coaching could be the better choice.

By contemplating these factors, organisations can make a thoughtful decision that supports both their immediate coaching needs and long-term developmental objectives.

Typical Issues Internal Coaches Work With

Internal coaches typically engage with a wide array of issues related to the personal development, career progression, and overall performance of individuals within an organisation. 

They also play a key role in enhancing team dynamics and facilitating organisational change. 

Here are some typical issues that internal coaches work with:

Individual Performance Improvement 

Internal coaches often work with individuals who are struggling to meet performance expectations. They help identify the underlying issues, be it skill-related or attitudinal, and then support the coachee in creating and implementing a plan for improvement.

Career Development and Transition

Coaches can provide valuable support for individuals facing career transitions, whether it’s a promotion, a lateral move, or a shift into a new role or department. They can also guide employees in longer-term career planning and development.

Leadership Development

Coaches frequently work with emerging leaders or existing ones to enhance their leadership skills. This might involve improving communication, decision-making, delegation, strategic thinking, or other leadership competencies.

Team Dynamics and Collaboration

Internal coaches often facilitate the resolution of team conflicts and improve team cohesion. They work on enhancing communication, collaboration, and understanding within teams to improve their collective performance.

Change Management

Coaches play a significant role in times of organisational change, whether it’s a restructuring, a merger, or a change in strategic direction. They support individuals and teams in navigating the change, managing uncertainty, and adapting to new roles or processes.

Work-Life Balance

In the face of increasing workplace stress, coaches can help individuals find a balance between their professional and personal lives. They support individuals in managing stress, preventing burnout, and enhancing overall well-being.

Building a Positive Work Culture

Coaches work with leaders and teams to promote a positive and inclusive work culture. This might involve addressing issues of diversity and inclusion, promoting employee engagement, or creating a culture of feedback and continuous learning.

Self-Awareness and Personal Development

Coaches also help individuals enhance self-awareness and work on personal development goals. This could involve improving emotional intelligence, building confidence, or developing effective interpersonal skills.

By addressing these issues, internal coaches contribute to the overall health and success of the organisation. Their work supports individual growth, team effectiveness, and organisational performance, making them an invaluable asset within the company.

Internal Coaching

Training Requirements for Internal Coaches

Establishing an internal coaching function necessitates identifying and training suitable individuals who can effectively assume the role of internal coaches. 

To fulfil this role efficiently, potential internal coaches must be equipped with specific skills and competencies through structured and comprehensive training programmes. 

Here are the essential areas of training for internal coaches:

Coaching Skills

This is the foundation of a coach’s role. 

Training should cover essential coaching skills such as active listening, powerful questioning, direct communication, and providing constructive feedback. 

Coaches must be able to guide conversations in a way that encourages self-reflection, self-discovery, and goal-setting. 

Coaching Methodologies and Models

Internal coaches need to be well-versed in various coaching models and methodologies such as the GROW (Goals, Reality, Options, Will) model, the OSCAR (Outcome, Situation, Choices, Actions, Review) coaching model, or other relevant frameworks. 

These tools provide a structured approach to coaching conversations and help in guiding individuals towards achieving their objectives.

Understanding of the Organisation

Internal coaches should have a profound understanding of the organisation’s culture, values, objectives, and challenges. 

Training should provide an in-depth insight into the organisation’s operations and strategic direction. 

This understanding allows coaches to tailor their approach to align with the organisation’s goals and culture.

Leadership and Management

Internal coaches, particularly those coaching leaders or potential leaders, need to understand leadership and management principles. 

Topics might include leadership styles, motivation, decision-making, and team dynamics. This understanding enables them to guide their coachees in developing effective leadership skills.

Emotional Intelligence

Coaches need to be adept at managing and understanding emotions — both their own and those of others. 

Emotional intelligence is key to building strong, empathetic relationships with coachees, and it helps coaches navigate difficult conversations effectively.

Ethics and Confidentiality

Coaches must uphold high ethical standards. They need to understand the importance of confidentiality in coaching relationships and respect professional boundaries. 

Training should cover the ethics and standards set forth by professional bodies such as the International Coach Federation (ICF).

Continuous Learning

Lastly, the training should inculcate the importance of continuous learning and development. 

As business landscapes and coaching techniques evolve, internal coaches should be encouraged to stay abreast with these changes. 

This could involve regular refresher courses, attending relevant webinars, or keeping up-to-date with the latest research in the field of coaching.

By focusing on these key areas, organisations can ensure that their internal coaches are well-prepared to provide effective coaching that contributes to individual and organisational success.

We have trained many internal coaches through our accredited coaching course and we would recommend exploring this if you are considering training for yourself or organisation.

10 Key Steps to Implementing an Effective Internal Coaching Function

OK, so you are convinced and you decide to develop your own internal coaching function for your organisation.

This is a substantial undertaking but it is also immensely rewarding and will have huge long term benefits.

Here are 10 steps we think you should take to implement an internal coaching function:

1. Establish the Purpose and Objectives 

Define why the organisation needs an internal coaching function and what it aims to achieve. 

This could involve improving performance, supporting leadership development, facilitating change, or other specific objectives. 

Clear objectives will guide the design and implementation of the coaching function.

2. Secure Leadership Buy-In 

The support and commitment of senior leadership are vital for the success of the internal coaching function. 

Present the benefits and potential ROI of coaching to leaders to secure their endorsement. 

3. Identify Potential Internal Coaches

Look for individuals within the organisation who exhibit strong interpersonal skills, empathy, a desire to support others’ development, and a deep understanding of the organisation. 

Those already in leadership or mentoring roles could be suitable candidates.

4. Provide Comprehensive Training

Equip your identified internal coaches with the necessary coaching skills through comprehensive training programmes. 

This should cover coaching methodologies and models, the principles of effective coaching, and ethical considerations.

This might be delivered internally or you might choose an external programme. 

5. Create a Coaching Structure and Guidelines 

Define how the coaching function will operate. 

This might include the process for matching coaches with coachees, the frequency and format of coaching sessions, and guidelines around confidentiality and ethics.

6. Allocate Resources

Ensure that your internal coaches have the time and resources to fulfil their coaching responsibilities effectively. 

This might involve adjusting their other job responsibilities or providing administrative support.

7. Communicate with the Organisation

Introduce the coaching function to the organisation, explaining its purpose, process, and potential benefits. 

This can help in gaining employee acceptance and fostering a coaching culture.

8. Implement a Pilot Programme

Consider starting with a small pilot programme before rolling out the coaching function organisation-wide. 

This will provide valuable insights and feedback to improve the coaching function before a full-scale implementation.

9. Evaluate and Adjust

Establish metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of the coaching function. 

This could include feedback from coachees, improvements in performance indicators, or changes in employee engagement or retention rates. 

Regularly review and adapt the coaching function based on these evaluations.

10. Foster a Coaching Culture

Encourage a culture where coaching is seen as a tool for growth and development. 

This can involve promoting the benefits of coaching, recognising the achievements of coachees, and encouraging continuous learning across the organisation.

By following these steps, organisations can ensure a thoughtful and effective implementation of their internal coaching function.

Internal Coaching

Challenges and Potential Solutions

Implementing an internal coaching function isn’t without its challenges. From resistance to change to a lack of resources, these obstacles can hinder the successful implementation and effectiveness of internal coaching. Below are some common challenges, coupled with potential solutions, to aid the smooth establishment of an internal coaching function.

Challenge 1: Resistance to Change

Employees might resist the concept of coaching due to unfamiliarity or a fear of judgement and criticism.

Potential Solutions

  • Effective communication can help alleviate these fears. Highlight the purpose, process, and benefits of coaching to employees.
  • Encourage a coaching culture by portraying it as a tool for growth and development rather than as a remedial intervention.

Challenge 2: Identifying Suitable Internal Coaches

Finding individuals within the organisation who possess the necessary skills and attributes to be effective coaches can be difficult.

Potential Solutions

  • Identify employees who exhibit strong interpersonal skills, empathy, and a deep understanding of the organisation. Those who already occupy a leadership or mentoring role might be suitable candidates.
  • Invest in their training and development to equip them with essential coaching skills and methodologies.

Challenge 3: Confidentiality and Objectivity

As internal coaches are part of the same organisation, maintaining confidentiality and objectivity can be challenging.

Potential Solutions

  • Establish clear policies and guidelines around confidentiality. Coaches should be trained on these ethical standards.
  • Consider a coaching structure that doesn’t directly align with the chain of command to avoid conflicts of interest.

Challenge 4: Balancing Coaching with Other Responsibilities

Internal coaches often have other job responsibilities. Balancing these with their coaching role can be demanding.

Potential Solutions

  • Clearly define the role and expectations of internal coaches. Ensure they have dedicated time for coaching activities.
  • Develop a coaching schedule that aligns with the coach’s other responsibilities to prevent overwhelm.

Challenge 5: Lack of Leadership Support

Without the buy-in from leadership, implementing an internal coaching function can be challenging.

Potential Solutions

  • Demonstrate the benefits and potential ROI of coaching to leaders to secure their support.
  • Involve leaders in the coaching process, possibly providing them with coaching themselves, to help them understand its value.

Challenge 6: Measuring the Effectiveness of Coaching

Quantifying the impact of coaching can be complex due to its often qualitative nature.

Potential Solutions

  • Establish clear metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of coaching. These might include improvements in performance indicators, employee engagement, retention rates, and feedback from coachees.
  • Regularly review and adapt the coaching programme based on these evaluations to ensure its ongoing effectiveness.

By addressing these challenges proactively, organisations can significantly enhance the success and effectiveness of their internal coaching function, leading to lasting benefits for both individuals and the wider organisation.


Organisations are constantly seeking effective ways to improve performance, foster growth, and manage change. 

Implementing an internal coaching function can be a transformative strategy towards achieving these objectives. 

However, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and the decision to adopt internal coaching should be based on a comprehensive understanding of its benefits, challenges, and the organisation’s unique needs.

Internal coaching offers several notable advantages. 

It cultivates a culture of continuous learning and improvement, optimises the use of internal resources, and aligns developmental efforts with the organisation’s strategic objectives. 

Moreover, internal coaches, deeply familiar with the organisation’s culture and dynamics, can provide tailored support to individuals and teams, navigating issues ranging from performance improvement to leadership development and change management.

Nevertheless, implementing an effective internal coaching function requires careful planning and resource allocation. 

It involves identifying potential coaches, providing them with comprehensive training, creating a supportive coaching structure, and managing the potential challenges associated with confidentiality, objectivity, and balancing coaching responsibilities with other job roles. 

The success of internal coaching also relies heavily on organisational culture. Coaching must be seen not as a remedial measure but as a tool for growth and development, and this mindset should permeate all levels of the organisation, beginning with the leadership.

Lastly, like any significant organisational initiative, the impact of internal coaching should be regularly evaluated and adjusted. 

Continuous feedback and improvement will ensure that the coaching function remains effective, relevant, and aligned with the organisation’s evolving needs.

In conclusion, establishing an internal coaching function presents an exciting opportunity for organisations to enhance their developmental capabilities, foster a culture of growth, and drive their strategic objectives. With thoughtful planning, implementation, and continuous evaluation, internal coaching can be a potent tool for organisational success.

Author Details
Seong Rhee is a professional researcher on coaching and the coaching profession. Her interests lie in executive and corporate coaching and the impact of coaching in the workplace.
Seong Rhee

Seong Rhee is a professional researcher on coaching and the coaching profession. Her interests lie in executive and corporate coaching and the impact of coaching in the workplace.

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