Coaching the Coach – Who, Why, When & What?

Are you a Leader of Leaders? If you have the responsibility for coaching leaders then you will appreciate that part of your role is coaching them to be better coaches. What are your coaching goals? When might you intervene? Why is this important? Who will you focus your discretionary coaching time on? Questions, questions, questions!

I was recently asked by one of our Blog Subscribers how I provide follow up coach-the-coach support to participants in my Coaching Master Class Program (CMC). He is aware of the CMC program but has not participated in it himself. Good question I thought. I know what I do, but I have never written it down for the benefit of others. So here we go. Let’s put that right and summarise coaching the coaches in two distinct phases: Phase 1 is immediately after the CMC training; Phase 2 is the ongoing workplace coach-the-coach support.


The Coaching Master Class is a full day event for Leaders of Leaders and Functional Leaders who work in the same team and report in to the same boss. Ideally I like to work with groups of up to 12 participants. Twelve is a magic number. They can sit in table teams of four. I change them round during the day. They complete their role play practice in triages. So everyone gets to work with everyone else in the day.

Participants will have completed pre-work comprising a self-assessment, pre-reading and preparation of their own cases for the role play practice sessions. We start the CMC day with a shared understanding derived from the pre-work. What is coaching, and by implication what is it not? We decide together where the group is collectively based on the aggregation of their individual coaching self-assessments. We now have a platform from which to proceed.

The core work for the morning of the CMC training is in the form of two, four layer sandwiches:

  • Input from the trainer;
  • Group discovery exercise and discussion;
  • Case study practice in threes with feedback – coach, coachee & observer;
  • Review best practice, reflect on learning and agree the way-forward.

The two ‘sandwiches’ are:

  • The GROW Coaching Model
  • The Four Core Coaching Tools

For more information on these see the Coaches Toolkit.

In the afternoon we focus on further role play coaching practice, but this time with ‘real’ material based on the participant’s case studies. This way each participant will have been a coach at least three times in practice sessions and have feedback from me and from observers. This is a great platform for the coach-the-coach sessions that follow.

It’s at this stage in writing this Post I made a startling discovery. Having not written down a summary of my post training coach-the-coach process before I did not realise I had a valuable acronym on my hands. Here it is – the ARCH process. This is what I do in four stages with about 6-8 weeks between each stage. Each stage includes preparation by the participant then application of the learning in the workplace. Then we have a coach-the-coach session to reflect on successes and best practice and decide how it will be adopted in their daily leadership role. Throughout the ARCH process I have participants complete my Coach Supported Self-Study Module. This is partly for reinforcement of what they have learned in the Coaching Master Class training. I also use the module as a platform for introducing additional tools and techniques to the participant on a ‘just in time’ basis.

  • Activity

My goal is for the participants to embed coaching for performance in their monthly one-to-ones with their direct reports. I ask them to pre-schedule and deliver at least five substantial coaching for performance sessions. I ask them to complete and send me a Leadership Learning Log template (see the Coaches Toolkit) for two of those five sessions – the best one and the most challenging one. My goals for the first coach-the-coach session are twofold. Firstly, that the participants have completed at least two coaching session since the training. No evidence of this equals no coaching session. The second goal is that the participants have achieved a benchmark confidence level in the use of the GROW Model and the Core Coaching Tools. This is what I explore with them through asking questions, listening, challenging and giving feedback in coach-the-coach session #1.

  • Results

My goal is for the participants to forecast and demonstrate a planned return on coaching investment and business impact. They do this by running a further series of pre-scheduled coaching session with their direct reports. The template I ask them to complete and send to me this time looks for evidence of them applying the GROW Model and the Core Coaching Tools. It also asks them to record examples of ‘What’ they did and the associated ‘Benefits’. The ‘What’ being how they applied the coaching. The ‘Benefits’ being the results achieved (or forecast), the business outcomes, the impact on others and the metrics they used. This is what I explore with them through asking questions, listening, challenging and giving feedback in coach-the-coach session #2.

  • Capability

My goal is for the participants to reach both team and individual minimum or aspirational levels of coaching capability. Participants complete a self-assessment of their coaching capability against 12 criteria in the Assessing Coaching Capability template. We then complete an extended coach-the-coach session #3. In the first part of the session I act as the coachee and the participant coaches me using a case study scenario of their choosing. In the second part we work through the Assessing Coaching Capability template together comparing their self-assessment with my recent experience of being coached by them. From this we agree a final assessment of their current coaching capability. They carry this forward to the next stage with their manager along with their coaching development goals in the form of a PDP.

  • Handover

This is where practice turns into theory. I have completed the first three stages of the ARCH process literally hundreds of times. When it comes to the ‘H’ stage I’m ….. well, a bit intermittent! My goal is for the participants to seamlessly transfer their coach-the-coach support requirements from me to their manager. Participants complete preparation based on accumulating their learning and coaching practice from the previous three stages: Activity and Confidence Levels; Benefits from Coaching & Results; Current Capability & Coaching PDP. I then facilitate a three-way coaching session in which the participant presents themselves as a coach to their manager against the GROW model. The Way-forward being their ongoing coach-the-coach support needs from their manager. I intervene to reflect, challenge and remind the participant of their blind spots – both positive and negative. The psychological metric for me at this stage is the participant is ready to fly solo and is no longer dependant on me – that’s assuming they ever felt they were, ha ha! The baton is handed over to the manager. I’m sure there are many other metaphors to describe the goals of this stage. That will do for the moment. Let’s look at the next phase which is ongoing coach-the-coach support from their manager.



I will start by differentiating between coaching supervision and coaching support.

Supervision is beginning to play a key role in the continuing professional development of both internal and external coaches. Some organisations are using supervision to create a sustainable coaching culture, however it is not a widely adopted practice. Inspiration and best practice for coaching supervision are often drawn from the fields of psychology, psychotherapy or counselling, where supervision is well established. This tends to make it the domain of HR professionals rather than line managers.

My goals in this Post is to direct your attention to a model (versus a process) whereby you as a leader who coaches other leaders can provide them with high value coach-the-coach support. This will be an ongoing series of planned and unplanned interventions. It is not linear like the ARCH process above. It therefore lends itself to a more values based approach rather than a defined set of guidelines, templates and ‘rules’. It is more about mind-set than technique.

Here I will borrow from a short coaching video I made recently to support a friend of mine who was making a presentation to students in his home town. See ‘Other Resources’ in the Subscriber Resource Pages section.

The values based mind-set I think you can adopt for your ongoing coach-the-coach support is summarised by: Belief; Dream; Plan; Execute.

Believe in yourself, and that you can and will make a difference to your direct report’s lives through coaching. Believe in their potential to grow and succeed with your help.

To dream means creating high positive expectations for yourself and for others.

Of course you’ll need a plan. Create opportunities to intervene. For you as the coach’s coach it means adopting an inquisitive, non-directive approach. Asking purposeful questions, listening and giving feedback. That’s it. It’s so elegantly simple isn’t it?

Execution means putting your coaching plan into action. Create a timeline, milestones and define your expected outcomes or goals for your coaching. Goals for yourself and goals for those you coach. Nothing happens until you make it happen.

In the executions of your plan I believe the purpose or goals of your coach-the-coach support are well defined by the four R’s model below. I have personally followed this, but to a much lesser extent than the ARCH model above.

  • Robustness

You are concerned with maintaining and improving the quality of your direct report’s coaching according to established best practice within your team and within your organisation.

  • Reflection

You are concerned with the development of your direct report as a coach according to their PDP. They follow a thorough coaching process, apply the tools intelligently and are both coachee and business outcome focussed.

  • Resilience

You are concerned with their emotional resilience: how they react to different coaching situations and coachees and how they reflect on their own reactions and responses. They may be affected emotionally by being present, being curious and being empathic with their coachees. To remain effective, coaches also need to attend to themselves.

  • Resources

You are concerned with making the appropriate platforms and tools available to them on a ‘just in time’ basis. This may be from your own resources, from additional training, books or from an online resource such as the Coaches Toolkit on this website.


Further reading:

Mind Tools ‘Coaching the Coach’

CIPD ‘Coaching Supervision’

Author: Trevor Sherman

Trevor Sherman: Author, Blogger and Coach. What do I do? I develop leadership training material and personal learning modules. I am the owner and operator of this Blog. I coach senior executives for their development and role transition. I am based in Northamptonshire UK and operate globally - in person and through technology.

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