New Frontier: HR leader as executive coach

After 30 years in human resources, Daniel Loria was looking for a new challenge. He sought something to boost his professional fulfillment and even provide a legacy. “The answer came through coaching,” he said.

Daniel Loria Millicom

Daniel Loria,  Millicom International Services

Loria now is Chief Human Resources Officer at global telecommunications leader Millicom International Services. He led the discussion on coaching at World City’s HR Connections held Jan. 20 at the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables.

For Loria, internal coaching offered a new platform to add both value to his company and his career. “It’s a strong commitment, but it will change your life,” he said. It’s also a growing field, as every HR leader present raised their hand when asked if their company had some form of coaching.

Loria described coaching as:

  • Facilitating a process where a person identifies a new outcome
  • Shifting mindsets: “There are no good or bad people, just people who see in certain terms.”
  • Helping find self-awareness: “Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know,” and
  • Enabling people to find their own solution and find their own path.

Ana Maria Gonzalez, Citigroup

What it’s not is therapy, consulting or mentorships, he told the group.

“Therapists will start with the question, ‘What is the problem?’ The consultant tells you, ‘This is your problem.’ The mentor says, ‘I know what to do.’ The coach starts by asking, ‘How can I best help you here?,” Loria said. “Do you see the difference in approach? You become an enabler. It’s focusing on the future and focusing on a solution, as opposed to dwelling on the past and dwelling on the problems. That’s where I found the magic.”

Some companies mistakenly see coaching “as punitive, remedial, or a threat,” Loria said, Instead, it should be seen as part of an employee’s development and an investment in the employee’s growth. “Coaching isn’t about calling all the shots,” he said. “It’s about collaboration and teamwork.”

External vs. Internal Coaches

Questions arose on whether to use in-house or external coaches. Most HR leaders present said their companies use both.

“Generally, external coaching programs were seen well,” said Roger Lauredo, HR Director for Medtronic in Latin America. “The coaches are primarily reserved for only strong performers.”

Lauredo also said every now and then, an employee with a performance issue will want to work with a coach, but he nixes the idea. “That will kill the impact and the image a coach has,” he said. “You’re in an elite group if you’re getting to coach.”

Coaching a colleague can be tricky. “I don’t recommend it,” said Cesar Salas, Regional HR and Administration Head at Hamburg Süd. “You work with them on a day-to-day basis.”


Liza Manocchio, Mondelez International

It can take a lot of investment for a company to build a system of internal coaching.

“Sometimes, an employee feels safer with an external coach,” Loria said. “Sometimes, they feel exposed when they have a colleague or someone in HR doing the coaching.”

At Mondelez International, concerns about internal coaching have been reduced by allowing employees to choose if they want to talk to a coach. Leaders offer three to five hours in a dedicated “Growing Week,” and employees sign up if they want to speak to that leader. The approach gives the comfort and safety of an external coach, even though the leader is technically internal, explained Liza Manocchio, Director of Talent and Organizational Effectiveness at Mondelez.

“The ones who are connecting to it are so fascinated, and they are so good at it, that you see other people starting to look up to them,” said Manocchio, “I’ve seen a big shift. Every single employee is looking up wanting to be a good coach and giving a bit of their time. Every year, we do those sessions, and every year there are more hours.”

As coaching as become more prevalent, it’s evolved from a stigma into a badge of honor, said Tom Shea, President for the Caribbean and Florida at Right Management.

In the past, employees who were bright might advance, but if they weren’t leading well, they’d get HR coaching offsite. The mindset then was “Don’t want anybody to know I’m being fixed,” Shea said.


Adriana Leiro, BUPA and Felix Betancourt, Groupo Phoenix

Now, coaching is seen instead as a perk, because “We, the company, feel you are worth investing in,” Shea said.

The Ethics of Coaching

Questions arose over the ethics of coaching, especially in-house. Adriana Leiro, People Director of Bupa Latin American and the Caribbean, pointed to tensions between the confidentiality of an  employee and company interests to obtain information. She asked, “What is the right balance?”

Loria said internal coaches must be taught a code of ethics, and quick certification courses are too short to address the tough issues of ethics. “Those 30-minute coaching certifications will never get you into the ethical space. Those people who think they are professional coaches, and they are not, will often cross those lines,” he said. “That’s when the whole system breaks down.”

Vulnerability is important in coaching too: “The moment you become defensive, you’re in big trouble,” Loria said.

Looking for reputable coaching certification

“How did you assess all the programs that were out there?,” asked Karen Saravia, director of human resources for Tiffany and Co. in Latin America.


Isabel Montes of Starbucks, Karen Saravia of Tiffany & Co. and Maria Morales of Citigroup. 

“I knew I wanted to do it with a highly recognized academic institution,” said Loria, who ultimately chose a program at New York University. “One that had the credentials. One that when done, you’d be proud to show that piece of paper. It will translate into a lot of value for your company.”

HR Connections is one of four event series organized by WorldCity to bring together executives in greater Miami on international business topics. The HR series is sponsored by retained executive search firm Diversified Search, career and talent management specialists Right Management and law firm Littler Global.

The next HR Connections event is March 17. WorldCity also is hosting its annual Global Economic Outlook on Jan. 27