Velas Coaching

The Measurement of Executive Coaching

When it comes to executive coaching, the most commonly asked question is, “How do you measure success?” In other words, how do you know that the executive is making progress through coaching? This is a valid question in regards to ANY coaching assignment. According to most coaches and coaching companies, the answer is simple: “Of course people make progress.” Maybe too simple, the truth is, the majority of these positive assertions come from anecdotal data. There is little quantitative evidence to support whether coaching works or not.

I decided to turn my search from from the many coaching companies and practitioners’ websites to peer-reviewed literature. I found several independent studies regarding the overall effectiveness of coaching and the best approach to measure coaching success. Two peer-reviewed studies in particular grabbed my attention:

  1. On the effectiveness of coaching: In 2013, after a thorough study of coaching effects on leaders, Anthony M. Grant outlined his conclusions in the Journal of Change Management: “In addition to demonstrating that executive coaching can increase work related goal attainment, enhance solution focus thinking, develop greater change readiness, increase leadership self efficacy and resilience, and decrease depression, this study has shown that that the positive impact of executive coaching can be generalized to non-working areas—family life.”

This study shows that coaching is effective beyond the workplace, also serving to enhance the personal life of executives. This is the added bonus of coaching: the company gets a more effective leader, while the leader gets a more balanced life. It’s a win-win.

This particular study looked at over 75 university research studies on the coaching arena. These studies have all shown quantitatively what you and I already know; that executive coaching works and produces results.

  1. On measuring the Effectiveness of coaching: Elizabeth Thach of Sonoma State University published a paper in the Leadership and Organizational Development Journal that addressed the question of impact of executive coaching and 360 feedbacks on leadership development. The author’s most important implication is that it appears that the combination of the three elements emphasized in this study—360 feedback, coaching, and follow-up with stakeholders—is a winning approach and the most effective way to measure coaching success quantitatively.

The 360 minisurvey, by which stakeholders periodically rate the executive’s progress with coaching, takes away the potential bias that the coach or the executive might have in regards to the progress attained.

By implementing these types of leadership development processes, which emphasize 360 feedback to promote self- awareness combined with the support of a talented coach, leaders can be developed. High potential managers can continue to hone their skills and faltering executives can be saved. The depth of this study shows the step-by-step process of involving stakeholders in the coaching process and, most importantly, it shows how these stakeholders can rate the executive progress by the use of mini 360 surveys.

These studies have been especially instructional to me as an executive coach, particularly in answering the question of how to measure progress beyond the anecdotal data. Interestingly, this is the very approach used by Marshall Goldsmith and the Stakeholder Centered Coaching model. Now we know that coaching works, but there is still the challenge of retaining the right coach, since it is very difficult to measure progress quantitatively. The Stakeholder Centered Coaching model provides a solution to this challenge.

A final thought: Executive coaching works, but in order to validate this assertion and give clients a ROI, coaches should be able to quantify the progress of the coaching assignment. In order to do this, progress should be quantified by the people who are most affected by the changing behavior of the executive—his or her stakeholders.

Luis Velasquez MBA, PhD

Luis is a leadership coach, employee engagement expert, and management trainer. Formerly a University professor and research scientist, Luis holds a dual Ph.D. from Michigan State University; and an MBA in Organizational Leadership.

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