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Coaching the Young Client

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Making It Happen I: Coaching in Graduate School Programs

Within the last five years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of graduate schools integrating coaching skills into their curriculum and providing the opportunity to work individually with an executive coach throughout the graduate program.  The use of coaching in graduate programs, particularly MBA and Executive MBA programs, started as a value added competitive advantage for some programs, while others recognized the impact that coaching would have on the success of their graduates in program and post program because the Deans or faculty had experienced coaching themselves or, in some cases, were executive coaches.

Coaching in Management Schools

One of us [VF] worked extensively with a university whose Executive MBA program includes 32 hours of coaching over 21 months for each student.  We found that this university was a pioneer in integrating coaching on many levels into a business graduate program. We might describe it as “deep and wide” coaching. The objective of the coaching is to be a catalyst of change in the lives of the participants, using an integrated systems approach to learning. The coaching is applied in multiple delivery modalities. For example, individual executive coaching with an assigned coach is offered to facilitate the transformation of the emerging executive leader. Learning cell coaching reinforces critical reflection, inquiry and questioning, problem solving and decision making, and reinforces the team formation and performance model. Classroom-based coaching integrates classroom instruction and key learning points with practical application for the participants in their organizational roles. Finally, self-directed peer coaching in small groups builds relationships, enhances problem solving, and provides support. The selection process for the executive coaches includes coach certification, diversity in terms of industry, functional expertise, and diversity of gender and ethnicity. The coaches participate in an extensive orientation process which includes meeting with the faculty to understand course content, key learning objectives, and expectations of the coach and the participant.  In addition to the coaching components, the curriculum includes an executive conversations course to teach the students core coaching skills such as listening effectively, envisioning new possibilities, exploring assumptions, and giving and receiving feedback.

We can offer several other examples where coaching is used effectively in a graduate school setting. As described in its literature by the Wharton School of Business (University of Pennsylvania), the MBA program at this prestigious institution provides coaching and mentoring to students in two applications using second-year Leadership Fellows in two ways:  (1) facilitating quarterly learning team feedback sessions, provide coaching and help solve team conflicts; and (2) coaching first year students in their leadership development.  We would expect that using second-year Leadership Fellows in this capacity has a dual objective as the first year student receives the benefit of the coaching and the second year student increases his coaching and facilitation skills.

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