How I Measure Success in Coaching by Barb McAllister

An executive coaching client getting what they came for from their coaching experience is of the utmost importance.   If they get more than they hoped for, then great, that’s an added bonus.    To have a successful coaching experience, then, the client has to be clear what they want from the coaching.  This sounds simple enough, yet many clients are unclear at the start of the engagement what they want, because they are more focused on what they don’t want or like about their life, work or leadership.

The first thing I do with my coaching clients is to support them in creating their intended results. Not only do I help them clarify what they want to create out of the coaching, but also by when they want to get the result.  I have them write out how they will measure success; how they will know they’ve got the desired result.   Some clients struggle with this, for many different reasons, including a belief that they can’t get what they want, or maybe they have forgotten their dreams.    If this is challenging for a client, I remain patient, continually encouraging them to shift from what they don’t like to what they do want to create.

Once the coaching client is clear about their results, the next step is to assess their “current reality.”   The client needs to know where they are starting from, so this baseline needs to be an honest assessment.  In executive coaching, this is typically done using a 360 Assessment .  I then create a development plan with the client that includes his/her intended result, vision statement, current reality, and action steps.  The plan keeps us both focused on the intended results.    In any coaching conversation, I always bring the conversation back to the client’s plan.   You’d be surprised how often the conversation can veer off to a side track without the structure of the plan.

What is most important in coaching is for the client to “own” their intended results.  This can sometimes be challenging because we may be hired by our client’s organization to work with the client on some specific issues.  In these cases, I work with my client to find “what’s in it for them” to create a specific result.  At the start of any coaching engagement, I always clarify up front that it is the client’s responsibility to create the results.   My role as coach is to provide structure, support, accountability, and a safe environment for the client to do their work.

So, if the client is responsible for creating their results, then the client is the one to say if the coaching experience has been successful for them.   As coaches, we may be tempted to say our coaching was successful because this or that happened; yet we don’t truly know unless we ask the client.   This is why, during the last session of every coaching engagement, I do what I call a “completion exercise” with my client.    During this time, the client is able to reflect on what they learned from the coaching experience, what they actually accomplished, what new skills they acquired, and most importantly what is left undone, i.e. what is next for the client after our coaching is complete.

For coaching to be successful, I believe that my clients need to take a look not only on what they are doing, but also who they are ‘being’ while they are doing.  While my coaching is focused on supporting the client to accomplish their intended results, I am also coaching the client on how they show up in the world.  We look at whether the client is in integrity, authentic, transparent, empowered, in alignment on the inside and out, or other things that may be of interest to any particular client.   These ‘being’ qualities may be less tangible to measure than a specific result that is created, however they are equally important.

While I believe that the client is the best judge of their success in coaching, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say some of the things I look for in a successful engagement.

  • Was I able to build trust with my client?
  • Were they able to hear my coaching?
  • Did my client become more self aware, including understanding their impact on others?
  • Was my client able to navigate through the predictable challenges in a coaching engagement, including setbacks and straight feedback?
  • Did I partner with my client, allowing them to access their internal wisdom and guidance?

To assess all of this, I do my own “completion exercise” when my coaching engagement is winding down.    This is a great time to reflect on what worked well and not so well.   Taking a moment to reflect, learn, and be grateful for each client is certainly a measure of success in my coaching.

To arrange a complimentary consultation with Barb to discuss what you might get out of a coaching engagement, click here.