Measuring the Success of Executive Coaching

Just recently I answered a question on Quora regarding executive coaching.  The question was Does executive coaching have scientifically proven positive effects on leaders’ performance? . Here is a slightly different version of my answer. 

This is a great question,  the short answer is YES,  there is plenty of academic evidence that executive coaching does work and improves the leader’s performance.  The more complex question is, “How do you measure success?” In other words, how do you know that an executive is making progress through coaching?

From an academic perspective, the conclusion has been yes, Executive Coaching works.  A very comprehensive review, which looked at over 75 university research studies on the coaching arena have all shown quantitatively what you and I already know;  executive coaching works and produces results.

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.  He writes, “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 bonus of coaching: the company gets a more efficient leader, while the leader gets a more balanced life. It’s a win-win.   

Coaching works, but the next question to address and maybe more important to corporations,  how do we know that executive is making progress?  How do we measure coaching success? The answer is simple; a coach should be able to quantify the success of the coaching engagement. Most importantly, progress should be determined not by the coach or the executive but by the people who are most affected by the changing behavior of the executive—his or her stakeholders. So how do we measure success in an engagement assignment?

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 the impact of executive coaching and 360 feedbacks on leadership development. The author’s most important implication is that it appears that the combination of 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. Interestingly, this is the very approach used by Marshall Goldsmith and the Stakeholder Centered Coaching model; measuring progress thru the coaching engagement.

These studies have been very instructional to me as an executive coach, particularly in answering the question of how to measure progress beyond anecdotal data?.  How does my client know that he is making progress?

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.

3 Comments

  1. Excellent synopsis. 360 feedback, coaching, and follow-up are tremendously effective.

    A surprising finding in Thach’s research is that in only 6 months using these methods, executives were able to to increase leadership effectiveness up to 60%, as measured by people around the leader. 60% in 6 months is huge. I have seen already effective leaders double their effectiveness in 12 months and I suspect a longer study would have shown this as well.

    2 Key Points:

    First, we’re operating far, far below our potential and never realize by how much. Keep in mind, these subjects were already at the very top of their peer group as successful executives. This is not 60% from an average professional.

    Second, no one ever realizes the extent of their potential or makes it there alone. No one.

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