Successful business coaching depends on the client’s commitment to working on issues that are holding him or her back. In some instances that means the client must learn new skills or problem-solving techniques. But whatever the actual process of coaching entails, it’s all about change. If everything’s the same afterward as before, then coaching isn’t effective.
In a perfect coach-client world, both parties develop strong mutual respect and trust. This promotes honesty and frankness about the issues to be worked on. The client should expect to experience positive changes, like better leadership effectiveness or improved scores on specific business metrics.
Many people wonder how you measure the effectiveness of something as seemingly subjective as executive coaching. There’s no set way to do it, but there are many options for measuring results and making an honest assessment of coaching effectiveness.
Your Coaching Plan Should Incorporate Metrics
There are steps you can take to incorporate measurement of progress into business coaching. Say you were a school sports coach. You could state at the beginning of the season that one of your goals for the team is to make the playoffs. Then, of course, it will eventually become evident whether or not you meet that goal.
It isn’t quite as cut and dry with business coaching, but there are ways to measure progress. One of the simplest and best ways is to answer the question up front: How will I know that the coaching was successful? Perhaps you could name a metric and how much you can reasonably expect that metric to improve. All participants should agree on desired outcomes, which should be aligned with business goals, and you should develop a way to define what success means in this context.
When the coaching relationship concludes, it’s important for both coach and client to honestly and candidly discuss the extent to which the agreed-upon goals have been met. Coaches sometimes also speak with the coachee’s direct reports for feedback about how they have been affected, and whether they view the endeavor as having been successful.
Understand Goals to Choose the Most Relevant Metrics
Overarching goals will help shape the exact metrics used to measure success. A client pursuing bottom-line business results will want to work with the coach to identify key performance indicators to measure both at the beginning and at the end of the coaching term. In some cases, such as when the client goal is cultural or behavioral change, techniques such as one-to-one interviews with relevant colleagues or distribution of questionnaires about the extent and nature of changes can be used to measure success.
The Classic Survey Technique
It’s simple but effective: survey those affected by the business coaching relationship. This is what T-Mobile did in 2001, after implementing a “Coach to Inspire” program that was implemented for improving line manager skills. When the program ended, the customer service reps who worked for the line managers answered surveys stating how strongly the agreed or disagreed with statements about changes. These same reps were also given the opportunity to answer open-ended questions about how they imagine improved line manager performance manifesting itself.
What About Peripheral Issues?
Though it’s important to identify the key issues you want to work on as a business coaching client, and develop ways to measure progress, sometimes additional issues crop up during the course of the coaching process. And sometimes these issues appear to be outside the scope of the coaching relationship.
When this happens, it’s important to work with the coach to gain awareness of the underlying issue so that it’s possible to create relevant, meaningful goals. Returning to the sports analogy, imagine a golfer blames his poor performance on improper swing technique. Working with a talented coach, however, he may discover that the real problem can be traced to a loss of confidence. The goal of better performance on the links may be the same either way, but how the golfer and coach approach that goal may change. The ability to identify true, underlying issues is one of the skills that separates the good coach from the outstanding coach.
Business coaching that improves corporate culture and lays a foundation for further great accomplishments is preferable to business coaching that merely achieves objectives. If you would like to learn more about coaching and its powerful influence on not only the client but the entire corporate culture, I invite you to check out my books, one of which is Powerful Executive Coaching, and which expounds upon what makes for the most effective business coaching scenario.