Business coaching rests on a foundation of commitment to working on issues that are holding the client back. That may mean the client must learn new skills, or develop problem-solving abilities. One way or another, however, business coaching means change. If nothing changes, the coaching isn’t effective.
In an ideal business coaching scenario, the client and the coach develop strong mutual trust, which promotes honesty and forthrightness about problems. Ultimately the client should see a positive change in the form of more effectiveness in the workplace, or the improvement of designated business metrics.
But how do you measure the effectiveness of business coaching? There’s no one correct, cookie-cutter method, but there are commonalities that allow measurement of results and honest assessment of how effective the coaching is.
Design Coaching to Be Measurable from the Outset
You can design your coaching approach so that results will be measurable. If you were a high school basketball coach, for instance, you may declare that one of your objectives is to beat your cross-town rival, or make it to the regional playoffs. Whether you meet those objectives will eventually be demonstrated.
It’s not quite so simple with business coaching, but there are things you can do. One of the most important is to ask participants how they’ll know coaching was successful. Can they name existing metrics they want to affect and the degree to which they expect change? It’s important that all participants agree on desired outcomes, align them with business objectives, and determine how to define success.
At the end of the coaching engagement, you’ll have to expect an honest answer to the question of whether and to what extent the client has achieved the agreed-upon outcomes. Speaking with the people your client supervises for specific feedback about changes also offers valuable information about business coaching success.
What You Measure Depends on Your Goals
Exactly what you and your client measure will depend on what the client’s goals are. If the client is after bottom line business results, you and the client need to identify one or two key performance indicators to evaluate at the beginning and the end of the coaching engagement. On the other hand, if the client’s goal is a cultural or behavioral change in the workplace, you’ll have to use different measurement techniques, like one-on-one interviews with stakeholders or questionnaires about changes and whether they’re perceived as positive or negative.
One of the best ways to measure coaching effectiveness is by surveying those affected. T-Mobile did this back in 2001 in their “Coach to Inspire” program designed to improve the skills of line managers. At the end, customer service staff working under the line managers were surveyed with a series of statements which they would rate on a scale of “strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree, or don’t know (not applicable).” Statements included things like “The coaching I receive helps me serve customers better.” Staff were also asked an open-ended question soliciting suggestions for what they would improve in their line manager’s performance.
What if You Uncover Issues Outside the Scope of the Coaching Agreement?
Sometimes what the client thinks he or she wants to address or measure is only a fill-in for what the real issue is. You have to do your best to help your client describe the results they want, and it may take time for this to happen. Subsequently, you expect to work mutually toward that outcome and ultimately measure the outcome.
Occasionally, however, the coaching conversation uncovers an issue that may seem outside the coaching agreement scope. When that happens, it’s your job to offer interpretations that help the client gain awareness of what the underlying issue really is so you can develop applicable, measurable goals. Again, consider a sports analogy. A player may blame her poor batting average on an improper swing when further conversation reveals that the real problem is a loss of confidence for whatever reason. The goal (a better batting average) may stay the same, but how you approach it may change. This can make the difference between adequate and exceptional coaching.
Business coaching can achieve objectives, or it can achieve objectives while improving corporate culture and setting the stage for even greater accomplishments. To learn more about why coaching is crucial and what the core components of successful coaching are, I invite you to consider reading my books, including Powerful Executive Coaching. Here you’ll learn not only critical skills, but also how to gauge feedback and accurately measure coaching results.