What’s The ROI Of Coaching?

This post has been updated on Reflect & Lead

This might seem like a pretty strange question to ask. For anyone who has worked with a coach for even a few sessions it is highly likely that they will have benefited in a number of different ways. It all depends upon the initial reason for starting to work with a coach, there has to be a start point to any coaching engagement. How that engagement develops and what is focused upon is entirely up to the person being coached.

So what is the role of the coach in all this? Well, the coach is the one who listens, and listens a lot to what is being said and how it is being said. 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.

This might seem pretty straightforward to some and in many ways it is. The questions that often arise are “Why can’t people do this for themselves or work with their boss to do this?“. In an ideal situation the manager acting as a coach would work well and good managers and leaders will use a coaching style as part of their repertoire. At the end of the day, however, managers and leaders do need to focus on business delivery. The culture of the business also needs to allow for managers to adopt a coaching approach and unfortunately this isn’t always the case.

Then there is the business leader or owner. Who do they turn to when they are unsure of things and how to progress? Working with a coach enables them to talk through issues they probably wouldn’t want to within their own businesses.

So what about people doing this for themselves, self-coaching? Perhaps the most disciplined people out there can do this but there is something about building a professional relationship with someone who is non-judgmental but at the same time holds you to account for what you said you aimed to achieve. A coach has no agenda or stake in how things turn out. Managers and potentially internal coaches in large organizations too may not be seen as so objective.

So is it possible to put a figure of the value of coaching, the Return on Investment (ROI)? The direct cause and effect between a coaching engagement and an improved bottom line (which is what everyone is after) is notoriously difficult to prove as it is for any other developmental activity. Those who have benefited from working with a coach often value the experience as priceless and far outweighing the opportunity cost of their time and the fees paid to the coach. A positive ROI for sure.

Remember that coaching engagements can be short term, maybe five or six sessions over a number of weeks or longer term, perhaps 6 months or more. Many business leaders will work with a coach throughout their careers so there must be some value in it.

Five Signs of Coaching Failure

Coaches and their clients need to keep a careful eye on how they perform and avoid these mistakes

Helping individuals or groups to change their outlook or behavior which leads to demonstrable differences in their performance both at work and at home is what coaching is all about.  Whether it’s Executive or Life coaching the end product usually covers more aspects of an individual’s existence than was originally anticipated.  Having said this it’s all too easy to lose track of what that original purpose was whether working with an individual or a group.

The following Five Signs to Coaching Failure will serve as useful reminders for coaches of what not to do when working with clients. Any one of them can lead to an unsuccessful outcome. They are also useful for clients to look out for in their coach!

1  Ignoring the Obvious Signals

Whether you are coaching an individual or a group there are always those tell tale signs that something is not quite right.  An over-long silence on a phone call or nervous shuffling in the seat when dealing face-to-face usually mean there is something in what has just passed that is worth remembering for later or delving deeper. 

When working with groups the dynamics that an experienced facilitator is used to picking up on – posture, open and closed body styles and rolling of eyes when particular individuals speak are far more expressive of what might be going on than the words being used. 

Many leaders and senior managers are used to talking at length and expect others to listen.  They may or may not be articulate but they will need challenging otherwise they’ll keep on hogging the airtime to avoid dealing with the issues at hand.

2  Sticking to Your Tried and Trusted Agenda

Any coaching engagement is likely to move into areas that can’t really be predicted so it’s not unreasonable to assume that a rigid agenda or programme followed by a coach is not going to succeed.  Planning out a route map after initial meetings with clients makes absolute sense, especially so if this is developed with the client.  Even if it just for the coach to start thinking ahead it can only help. 

Where this approach goes wrong though is when the ‘Coaching Programme’ is followed to the letter regardless of what is covered during individual sessions.  Some clients may like the idea of following a pre-arranged course of specific sessions aimed at delivering them particular outcomes but this is not really coaching.

3  Not Worrying About Failure

Coaches like other independents working ‘from the outside looking in’ have a great opportunity to see what co-workers or family members do not.  With that comes responsibility to provide objective feedback and appropriate challenge.  The idea that a coaching engagement will be a success regardless of whether it meets its initial aims or not because the client will always get something out of it is a dangerous one. 

Remember who your client is.  Is it the individual you are working with or is it the organization that brought you in to coach its people?  Or is it both?

Confidentiality is paramount of course but you should never lose sight of the original set of requirements for the coaching engagement.  It’s easy to renegotiate with an individual if you are working one-to-one but less so if that person is receiving the benefit of coaching funded by their employer.

4  Not Developing as a Coach

No-one is incapable of improving their own performance.  That after all is why many people enter into coaching relationships so it shouldn’t be any different for coaches themselves.  Continuing Professional Development is talked about for many professions, indeed it’s mandated in some.  Learning new techniques, employing a coach yourself or researching related fields all will benefit the long-term performance of a coach.  Simply reflect on each coaching session using the following three questions.

  1. What worked?
  2. What didn’t go as well as planned?
  3. What wouldn’t you do again (and why)?

From the perspective of the coach this is an extremely effective way of taking stock of what’s just happened.  Even if you are coaching a number of individuals over the course of a day it is worth spending five minutes after each session and then again later on to review the day as a whole.

5  Staying Only With the Here and Now

When working closely with individuals, especially over a period of time, it is all too easy to get caught up in the here and now of that person’s work and/or life.  Even experienced coaches can be drawn in, which if not checked can render a session as no more useful than an idle chat. 

Remembering what the initial objective was and considering how you might bring in something you have heard from a previous session or what new ‘challenges’ you can introduce will all help in this.  In many ways this is where telephone coaching can help as it’s far easier to refer to notes than when dealing with someone face to face.  The rough route map you put together to start with and perhaps added to over subsequent sessions will be a real benefit here.

These Five Signs of Coaching Failure will be familiar to most coaches.  They sound simple and obvious but they are all too easy to ‘achieve’ if you are not careful.  A quick check every now and again on how you have performed against them might be useful. 

If you are working with a coach then think back to see if any of these situations have occurred during your sessions.  If they have then providing some appropriate feedback to your coach would seem to make sense.