Measuring the impact of coaching is harder than one might think. That’s why it’s essential that any person being coached has a robust development plan that identifies a positive set of outcomes and steps along the way.
Here is what we’ve learned after coaching executives for more than 16 years.
Be specific—specificity is KEY.
In a recent analysis of 35 senior leaders, we found that less than 20 percent created SMART goals. When asked, most leaders could comment on what they wanted to achieve, but hedged their bets on outcomes and impact.
Link development to business strategy.
Blanchard Coaching Services ensures that at the end of every executive coaching engagement, the leader—with the support of the coach—takes time to reflect on what they have achieved during coaching; what they are most proud of; and how outcomes have influenced them, their people, and the business. Then we take it one step further by helping leaders craft a success story that can be shared with others in the company. The intent is to show that leader development has a positive impact on the organization.
Go back to the beginning: what is the purpose of coaching? What are the expected outcomes? How would those outcomes show up in terms of leader behavior? What will those behavior changes provide? To what extent will time be saved, cost be reduced, or quality be improved? What is the dollarized value of the changes? These are just some of the questions to be asked up front before coaching begins. The answers can inform what goes into the development plan.
A recent client example may help illustrate this concept. The executive’s intent was to improve relationships. She had been unintentionally damaging relationships by not listening to what others had to say, and by seeming to make decisions in a silo.
Together we drafted a development plan. Item one: Improve relationships by listening more. Item two: Improve relationships with three key colleagues.
Next, we mapped out some new behaviors we could measure.
- Listen 50 percent more in our weekly staff meeting. In each meeting, ask or say:
- Say more about that…
- What do you need from me?
- What are the first, most important steps for us to take?
- Ask for feedback after each of the next four staff meetings:
- What went well?
- What should I have done differently?
- What other recommendations do you have for me?
- Follow up on feedback by:
- Thanking each person for feedback
- Noting what actions I’ll be taking
- Asking for support by saying “I value your input. Will you please let me know when I’ve hit the target or when I fall short?”
Finally, we identified the benefit of achieving the outcome: Reduction in time to reach collaborative decisions by 25 percent and a time saving to the organization of 16 hours per month. Dollar value: $5000.00.
With this approach, my client could create a simple spreadsheet to tally each action. This also gave us a way to identify a hard evidence metric as a result of the development plan. Ultimately, the client will be able to determine the extent to which the time savings occurred and attach a dollar value to the outcome.
The benefits of doing this include:
- A way to quantify progress that the client was achieving desired outcomes
- A dollar value associated with outcomes that can be used to influence extension of coaching or even coaching others
- A measurement the client can use to determine if she needs to make additional changes
While measuring against a plan is essential for coaches working in a business setting, coaches in private practice may also want to consider how a well-documented development plan can increase the likelihood of the client achieving desired outcomes. That can lead to a stellar recommendation, which fills the business development pipeline.
Ultimately, a great development plan is a win for everyone. Take the time to develop a written plan for each of your clients.
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.