There’s a whole school of thought built around how to measure effectiveness in coaching relationships. It’s called evidence-based coaching. Google it sometime.

The popular definition of evidence-based coaching is a method to ““…describe executive, personal and life coaching that goes beyond adaptations of the popular self-help or personal development genre, is purposefully grounded in the behavioural and social sciences and is unequivocally based on up-to-date scientific knowledge” (Grant, 2005)[1].

Magnifying Glass

Sometimes the only facts you have is what’s changing.

While evidence-based coaching is an emerging approach, the most common temptations for coaches is to measure their effectiveness on either 1) whether the coach uses solid coaching technique throughout the relationship or 2) whether the client is pleased with the outcomes of the coaching conversations.

Unfortunately, neither approach tells the entire story.

Coaching is a relationship that is built on a commitment to work on challenges of the client’s choosing. It might be based on problem solving or acquiring new skills. Bottom line: If nothing is changing, it’s not coaching. Or at least not effective coaching.

Think about your coaching relationships and focus on the ones that have caused the most change toward the client’s purposes. What was the relationship between coach and client like?

Effective coaching relationships only have one or two common themes: there is high trust between coach and client and the client sees change in their life or outcomes. Ideally, there is both.

We’ve covered the need for building trust on this blog in multiple places Like here. And here. And here.

But what about facilitating change? Effective coaches think strategically about how they will function to facilitate change in the client. Ideally, this change was pre-determined by the coaching agreement.

Coaches adapt their approach to what the client needs to move toward their purpose, goals and plans. The key outcome is that the client must name their purpose or plan themselves, and not have it supplied by the coach.

Effective coaches do whatever it takes–inside of effective coaching practices–to help the client actually say the words that describe what they’re after. Typically this happens multiple times in a coaching conversation, starting with the intake process.

Coaches then spend time and energy working to confirm progress toward that outcome. This is what it means to work with a coaching agreement. (The Coaching Agreement is one of the International Coach Federation’s Core Competencies for coaching.)

But what if the coaching relationship uncovers a growth area that seems outside of the coaching agreement?

Then the coach must focus on the core competency of Creating Awareness. The ICF defines Creating Awareness as the “ability to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information and to make interpretations that help the client to gain awareness and thereby achieve agreed-upon results.”

In this situation, you’ve got a great opportunity help the client shift their perspective, and that is the core of masterful coaching. Once the client is fully zoned in on the new insight, questions can then explore the possibility of change in client’s situation.

Masterful work with creating awareness combined with the potential for change may lead to a re-negotiation of the coaching agreement.

What do you think? What do you do to help your client’s change? How do you measure your effectiveness in coaching? I’d love to hear your comments!

  1. (Grant, A. M. (2005). What is Evidence-Based Executive, Workplace and Life Coaching? [References] Evidence-based coaching, Vol 1: Theory, research and practice from the behavioural sciences (pp. 1–12). Bowen Hills, QLD, Australia: Australian Academic Press; Australia.)  ↩