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How Can We Measure the Impact of Executive & Leadership Coaching Programs and Interventions?

How Can We Measure the Impact of Executive & Leadership Coaching Programs and Interventions?

Executive & Leadership Coaching has become extremely popular over the past few decades. Despite this popularity, there is no comprehensive evaluation framework that can assist organizations in measuring the effectiveness of executive and leadership coaching. In this blog post, I will share with you a brief summary of my presentation at Maslow’s “Leading with Culture” Conference in September 2022. We will discuss two different approaches that can be used in evaluating organizational initiatives or training programs.

Outcome-based Evaluation

As you can see in the figure below, in the first layer, we measure the trainees’ satisfaction with the intervention or program. This layer mainly tells us whether trainees find the program helpful. In most organizations, training evaluations stop at this level. In our model, we still measure 3 more layers of effectiveness. After evaluating the trainees’ satisfaction, it is important to measure the change in trainees’ knowledge and understanding which, in our case, includes coaching knowledge and the improvement in their emotional intelligence and self-actualization. If we see an improvement in leaders’ knowledge, emotional intelligence, and self-actualization, we expect to see an improvement in their behaviours including their coaching and leadership skills.

As a result of a change in leaders’ behaviour, we can evaluate the ripple effect of those behavioural changes on their broader work environment by looking at the change in their team’s psychological safety, work engagement, job satisfaction, and retention within the organization. This model provides a fairly simple but holistic approach to measure a change in terms of what would happen within an organization when leaders become better at coaching and leading their employees.

The first step in conducting an outcome-based evaluation is to ask yourself: What is the goal of this intervention? What are we trying to change? Why are we offering this initiative? Based on the answer to these questions, you can come up with a good model that includes both proximal and distal potential changes.

Another approach to intervention evaluation is using a process-based evaluation. In a process-based evaluation, instead of measuring the outcomes, we focus on measuring every active element in our process because, the underlying assumption here is that, if the process is right, the positive outcome will definitely be achieved.

In the figure below, you can see we categorized the important factors that determine an outcome of a coaching session into 5 main groups. The first factor is the coach. The coaching competencies of the coach and their domain knowledge or previous experience with the client’s industry or circumstances can potentially influence the impact of a coaching session. But a coach is not the only influential person in the coaching relationship, coachees or clients themselves play a big role. If a client has a low readiness to change (also known as coachability), it is quite impossible for a coach to provide them with any value or have any positive impact. If a client thinks the new coaching program is a waste of money and will not make any changes, most likely, their belief will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy negating the potential positive impact of a new training program. Besides that, clients’ expectations of the coaching process and its difference from therapy or consulting is also an important factor. In terms of personal characteristics, coaching sessions would have a better outcome if a client has high self-efficacy and self-esteem, and also has an internal locus of control which means they constantly ask themselves what they can do about the things that are under their control rather than being focused or fixated on things that are out of their control. These two personality traits are critical to achieving great coaching outcomes. It’s important to note that some coaching experts may argue against the role of these personal characteristics and suggest that a competent coach can work with the client on boosting their confidence or shifting their focus on things that are in their zone of control, which is absolutely correct. But here, in this process-based model, we still prefer to include these factors in our model as we are trying to put together all the important and influential factors and elements that can differentiate a successful coaching initiative from an unsuccessful one.

Another main factor is the relationship between a coach and their client. Factors such as rapport, trust, collaboration, and commitment play an important role in determining the outcome of an executive coaching program. The coaching process is also important. In a successful coaching program, the coaching process includes critical elements such as assessment and prioritization, challenging and identifying blind spots, and supporting and encouraging the client’s growth.

The last but not the least category is organizational context. We know from previous research that organizational context is usually what differentiates effective interventions from ineffective ones. In terms of organizational context, it is important to have an opportunity to practice and integrate the newly learned behaviours into your current work routine. It is quite impossible to turn new knowledge into new behaviours without having an opportunity to practice, make mistakes, and receive feedback. Besides that, supervisor and peer support play an important role in forming new behaviours. A client will have an easier path to make changes in their work life when their supervisor and colleagues are supporting them all along the way. Finally, work demands and job autonomy can also determine the level of success of a coaching program. If a leader is overloaded with work, they may have not the time to think about what they have learned and how they can implement them in practice resulting in a coaching program not being as effective as it could have been.

In summary, from the lens of process-focused evaluation, if all these elements work in harmony, we will have a coaching program that is going to be successful and effective and deliver its promised outcomes.

At Maslow, we have the capacity to offer and conduct both outcome-based and process-based analyses on organizational interventions. If you are in the process of evaluating the impact of an intervention or you are thinking about adding an assessment component to your organizational interventions, feel free to email info@maslowleadership.com and ask for a free consulting session.