Getting to a great outcome for coaching can be tricky. Clients—the recipients of coaching—can always tell you if they enjoyed the process. They can even tell you if they found coaching to be helpful. But it’s often more difficult to determine the actual value in business terms or in life outcomes.
What happens on the front end of coaching is critical for identifying results on the back end. Depending upon which role you play related to coaching, properly setting up coaching can go a long way towards meaningful measures of coaching. Let me share four perspectives with some questions that will help.
The Organizational Sponsor. This is the person who is providing the coach for someone in their work environment. Beyond connecting client and coach, the sponsor must be able to articulate the expected outcomes of the coaching. Two questions that will help are “How will we measure effectiveness?” and “Who gets to evaluate that effectiveness?” It is the role of the sponsor to ask both of these questions to ensure that coaching achieves the desired outcomes. You can’t expect the client and coach to hit the right target if you don’t show them the bullseye—but it is surprising how often this is not clearly identified up front.
The Internal Coach. This is the person working in the same organization as the client, and responsible for the coaching. In addition to meeting the individual needs of the client, the internal coach must be able to show direct value—even when not specifically tasked to do so—for keeping a coaching initiative alive in an organization. Questions for the internal coach to ask include “How am I expected to show value for the work I am doing?” and “What contribution does this work make to the company’s vision, mission, and strategy?” It is imperative that the internal coach address these questions to the satisfaction of the people making budgetary decisions.
The Client. This is the person being coached. If the client’s organization is making the coaching investment, there is usually an automatic—yet unspoken—expectation about outcomes. In more than twenty years as an executive coach, I rarely have seen an organization that can readily describe desired outcomes. The client must be willing to engage in conversations with their leader and others in the organization to say “Here is what I’m working on, and why” and “This is the outcome I achieved.” The client should able to complete this sentence “The impact on our business was…”
The External Coach. This is the person who has been asked to coach someone, sometimes at the request of the client, sometimes at the request of the organization. The external coach has a responsibility to help the organization and the client determine a clear line of site between desired outcomes and what happens in coaching (aka the outcome.) It is important to ask the client “What expectations does your organization have regarding outcomes?” and “What expectations do you have?” It is also important to ask “What methods will we use to show that you have achieved your objectives and goals?” as well as “Who needs to know?” Of course there is a whole series of questions that will help the client determine the link to business outcomes and impact as well. Asking “What impact will meeting this objective have on your team and your business?” is a great place to start.
Because external coaching is often a significant investment, showing the value makes an important difference in how coaching is perceived. In all cases, it is important to understand the purpose of coaching—the ultimate reason for the investment in time, effort, and dollars. Equally important is to understand what needs to change and how that change will be measured and, finally, articulating an outcome that shows impact on both the person being coached and the organization. When these factors are addressed appropriately up front, the coach and client are much more likely to be able to show measurable success.
About the Author
Patricia Overland is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.