City 3-1

Asking someone what the value of coaching is might seem like a pretty strange question to ask. It depends on who is being asked.  For anyone who has worked with a coach for even a few sessions it’s likely that they will have benefited in a number of different ways. The changes they will have made in the way they do things and the impacts they have on those around them will have been noticed.

So where does the value of coaching itself come from? It’s down to a combination of the formality of the engagement as captured in the Coaching Agreement, the role the coach plays (and doesn’t play) and the professional relationship that is built between the coach and the coachee.

The Coaching Agreement

There is always an initial reason for starting to work with a coach. It could come direct from the coachee, their manager, HR or the coaching could be part of a wider development program. This background information will be captured in a Coaching Agreement between coach and coachee along with any logistical arrangements. This might include reporting back to the business on progress but will never break the confidentiality between the coach and coachee.

This is really the start-point to the coaching engagement. It includes identifying goals to be aimed at and desired outcomes to be achieved. In other words, capturing the value of the coaching.

How the engagement develops and what is focused upon is entirely up to the person being coached but will be influenced in business environments by their situation.

The Coaching ROI?

Basic Return-On-Investment (ROI) calculations are valid here whether a coach is external or internal providing the outcomes can be measured in some way. And this is where the difficulty in determining the value of coaching comes in. It’s virtually impossible in a business context to prove direct causality between the coaching and a particular outcome.

The coachee will recognize distinct changes while they are working with their coach and others in the business will start to appreciate differences in approaches or new ways of working. The views of those working alongside the coachee can supplement any ROI measures and will be able to provide indications as to whether the coaching is having the desired effect or not.

Whether all this can be truly measured is somewhat debatable.

Unless it can be reasonably argued that there is a positive correlation between investment in coaching and improved business performance why would you do it?

The Role Of The Coach

So what is the role of the coach in all this? Well, once the Coaching Agreement has been sorted (and it might also include a manager or HR representative) and the coaching starts for real the coach is the one who listens, and listens a lot. They are listening to what is being said and how it is being said. Likewise, they are listening to what isn’t being said, avoided perhaps.

By asking questions, prompting, reminding and maybe bringing to the fore issues that a person isn’t particularly comfortable with the coach is able to assist that person in determining their own way forward. And the ratio of listening to talking for a coach is (at least) 80:20.

Manager As Coach

Can a manager be a coach? This might seem pretty straightforward to some and in many ways it is. In an ideal situation a manager acting as a coach can work well and good managers and leaders will use a coaching style as part of their repertoire.

However, managers or leaders also need to focus on business delivery and not exclusively on the development of the team-member they are coaching. The culture of the business also needs to allow for managers to adopt a coaching approach and not all do.

Who Coaches The Leader?

Then there is the business leader or business owner. Who do they turn to when they are unsure of things and how to progress? The answer to this is in exactly the same way as happens with anyone else. They will work with a coach to determine what goes in their particular Coaching Agreement. Working with a coach enables them to talk through issues they probably wouldn’t want to share with other in the businesses.

So how do leaders and business owners judge the value of their coaching? Leaders may not find it easy to get objective feedback from their employees and peers. If they are sufficiently self-aware they ought to be able to judge whether or not people are responding in different ways to them. Conversely, they will probably be best placed to gauge changes to the bottom-line and the likely role their coaching has had in it.

So What Is The Real Value Of Coaching?

So is it possible to put a figure on the value of coaching? The direct cause and effect between a coaching engagement and an improved bottom-line is notoriously difficult to prove. Those who have benefited from working with a coach often value the experience as priceless, far outweighing the opportunity cost of their time and fees paid.

Remember that coaching engagements can be short term, maybe five or six sessions over a number of weeks or longer term, perhaps 12 months or more. Many business leaders will work with a coach throughout their careers so there must be some value in it.

Follow Paul Slater on Twitter and see other articles of his on Linkedin.

© Paul Slater and Reflect & Lead, 2013.



Michael Hoffman · May 22, 2016 at 8:53 pm

Excellent article Paul. Most executives have an intuitive guidance system telling them whether or not they are benefiting from coaching, and while that may not be extremely scientific, it is still quite reliable. Coaching is also expensive, and no matter their salary, executives don’t like waste. So even if it’s hard to measure in a spread sheet, I think we can rely on most competent leaders to quite easily determine if their coach is adding value or not. Incompetent ones, I couldn’t say.

    Paul Slater · May 23, 2016 at 6:50 am

    Thanks Michael. I agree completely. Most of us are able to judge pretty quickly whether there’s a benefit coming from coaching – coach and client. It can also be the case that a series of coaching sessions runs it’s course and is no longer required, for whatever reason.

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