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7 November 2022


What is the difference between the two?

In March 2021, I got the opportunity to work for Robert Walters as part of their global talent development team. The role entails coaching Robert Walters global leaders, both in 1-2-1 and team coaching scenarios.

I was interested to see how working as an internal coach for a global business would compare to working as an external coach and also for the personal development opportunity it presented.

I’m glad to say Robert Walters was flexible when I asked if I could work part-time for the firm and keep my external coaching business running in parallel. 

For the past year and a half, I have had a foot in both camps: internal and external coaching. So how do the two experiences, internal versus external coaching compare?

The first key difference for me is that internal coaching allows an enhanced service offer to that which is typically bought in via an external coaching relationship, where the price is a key determinant. 

Some of the added value elements, such as including 360 stakeholder feedback as part of identifying client coaching goals, can be seen as cost prohibitive and often left out in external coaching, which is a shame as it can play a key part in shaping coaching goals and for referring back to in coaching as a reminder to the client of how they are perceived.

The second key difference I would say is working as part of an internal talent development team versus working as a solo external coach. The opportunity to share ideas, models and approaches to support working on client goals (whilst respecting client confidentiality) is beneficial to the client and coach.

The third key difference would be that you don’t have to find clients as an internal coach; the talent development process and the movement of people within the business constantly feed the client's demand.

The fourth key difference, which is similar to the third, is that client demand comes in 1-2-1 coaching, but also far more team coaching demand than it does typically in external coaching.

The fifth key difference is that whilst internal coaching has allowed me to work with clients all over the world, external coaching, whilst more UK-centric has allowed me to work with clients from a broad array of organisations.

The sixth key difference is that in my internal role, typically we coach associate directors and above, whereas in my external role I coach all levels from new team leaders to CEOs.

The final key difference is that in having an internal coaching offer, Robert Walters, as an organisation, has a sound understanding of what coaching is and how it can add value at all levels of the business. This coaching culture and encouraging managers to add coaching to their people management approach can add real benefits in terms of staff satisfaction.

Whilst there are differences between the two models, fundamentally they both work on a very similar coaching process model, which begins with understanding the client's need and agreeing on the three-way relationship between client, coach and sponsor, followed by agreeing on the coaching objectives, commencing coaching and keeping the sponsor (typically line manager) in the loop whilst managing client/coach confidentiality.

Finally, both finish with formally closing coaching and reviewing delivery against the coaching goals.

I enjoy working as both an internal and external coach and the insights that each brings to the other. The Robert Walters opportunity has surpassed the expectations I had when I started and has also been a great all round experience.

As always if you have any questions concerning this topic or any other coaching topic, please get in touch.

From the author:

As coaching is not an advice-giving service, these blogs are not written with the intention of proposing solutions to common leadership challenges. Instead, they are thought pieces with the aim of prompting the reader to think more deeply about the topic and reflect on whether it warrants further exploration, with or without a coach.

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