Part 3 of 3
In this series, we have been addressing the question: "Can coaching produce sustainable behavior change?" In my previous column, we explored four factors influencing how we can measure the effectiveness of the coaching intervention: (1) building the relationship, (2) learning from experience, (3) understanding the role of others in the system and (4) developing EQ. Following are six further considerations to how we can measure the effectiveness of the coaching intervention: (5) being flexible, (6) making your ethical code explicit, (7) being coached oneself, (8) creating a development plan with goals, (9) measuring coaching results and (10) evaluating and reviewing.
5. Being flexible
Spontaneity is important, so beware of using a formulaic approach in your coaching. If the coach adheres too rigidly to a coaching model, it can get in the way of the coaching relationship—and the personal and professional growth of the client. It is important that both coach and client learn and change as the relationship grows.
In coaching, as in therapy, the practitioner is not always right. The practitioner is human and makes mistakes; it shows flexibility to admit those mistakes. This enhances trust and safety in the relationship and adds to the practitioner's authenticity.
6. Making your ethical code explicit
When client and coach work together, they enter into a verbal and/or written contract that specifies the parameters and boundaries of their work together. Part of a coach's code of ethics is to honor confidentiality in the coaching conversation; the client entrusts the coach with confidences and must feel safe to do so. In an organizational setting, the coach contracts what will and will not be communicated to superiors, and this confidentiality must be honored at all times. Most members of the professional association Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA) share the COMENSA ethical code with their clients as part of their contracting and setting of boundaries for the coaching process. With which organization's ethical code do you align your practice?
7. Being coached oneself
The importance of being coached or "in supervision" cannot be overemphasized. Both ensure that the coach understands what the client experiences, and both encourage the coach to work on his/her own issues so that they do not become entangled with those of the client. With the emerging professionalization of coaching, clients are now asking: "What are your coaching qualifications and experience, and how do you continually develop your competence?" Create your own professional development plan, no matter how experienced you are. Although not yet a given in coaching, supervision is a fundamental underpinning of psychological therapeutic practice, and it is similarly recommended by coaching professional bodies worldwide.
Take part in the variety of professional organizations available to you. Join a portfolio committee in your country's relevant professional association as a way to develop yourself and the coaching profession.
8. Creating a development plan with goals
To ensure that coaching achieves the intended results, it is critical to create a development plan with the client's overall purpose, strategy, developmental objectives, developmental actions, strengths, areas for improvement and obstacles to achievement. The coach is responsible for ensuring that goal-setting conversations get the best results. Mary Beth O'Neill differentiates between business goals and personal goals, and links the coaching effort to a business result by highlighting and prioritizing the business areas that need attention. Business goals are about achieving external results; personal goals are what the client has to do differently in how he/she conducts him/herself to get business results.1
According to Irvin Yalom there are two types of goals: content goals (what is to be accomplished) and process goals (how the coach wants to be in a session).2 If you as a coach are aware of your goal, you will stay in response rather than automatic mode when your stress is high. The next step is to ensure that your goal is related to your client's goal.3 Most executive coaches would first identify the client's goals and guide the client accordingly. O'Neill says be very clear about your goal throughout the session so that you lose neither signature presence nor "backbone and heart."
9. Measuring coaching results
Take measures of the outcomes of coaching from different perspectives. This could be from the client, their line manager, senior management, the client's peers and subordinates. At Resolve Encounter Consulting, we ask all our coaching clients to complete a questionnaire at the end of the coaching contract and then provide a quantitative summary that indicates the impact of coaching on performance.
Despite being more than 50 years old, Donald Kirkpatrick's four levels of evaluation (reaction, learning, behavior and results) are relevant, not just to training and capacity building, but also to coaching and leadership development.4 The levels can help determine whether the coaching intervention: (a) should continue; (b) helps improve performance; (c) demonstrates the value of the coaching and (d) gives a deliberate process to evaluate performance. In measuring results, coaches need to identify how factors such as leadership and management competence, interpersonal skills, decision making, conflict management, alliance building, teamwork, diversity management, collaboration, empathy and compassion show up in performance.
10. Evaluating and reviewing
At the end of the coaching contract, there are six factors to consider. First, celebrate achievements and plan for the road ahead. Second, highlight the client's recurring patterns that continue to sabotage his/her success. Third, to ensure long-term sustainability of the coaching intervention, finalize the development plan and who will be supporting the client in this work. Fourth, you may want to schedule a follow-up session for feedback in four to six months' time. In this way, you gauge the sustainability of the coaching work.
Fifth, to determine the sustainability of behavior change and performance, ask the client to keep a journal of reflections and learning during the coaching process. At the end of the contract: ask the client for their reflections on the entire coaching period, and where they see that insights and changes have occurred and impacted on their overall performance. Sixth, one of the most helpful post-coaching tools is a reflective, quantitative or qualitative questionnaire. Analyze these for each client to determine what shifted for the client during coaching and what new behaviors they continue to use. If possible, collate the information for all clients and produce an analysis of the coaching within that organization.
While we wait for further, definitive research, experience suggests that behavioral change as a result of coaching is possible and sustainable; one way to begin is to work with the ten guidelines outlined in this and my previous columns. My suggestion is that you contribute to the field with your own client research and evaluation of your findings. In future columns, I will begin to explore coaching models you may find useful for your business coaching practice.
1 O'Neill, M. B. 2000. Coaching with Backbone and Heart: A Systems Approach to Engaging Leaders with Their Challenges. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
2 Yalom, I. 1980. Existential Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.
3 Stout Rostron, S. 2006. "Interventions in the Coaching Conversation: Thinking, Feeling and Behaviour." Doctoral Thesis, Middlesex University London.
4 Kirkpatrick, D. L. 2006. Evaluating Training Programs, The Four Levels. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.