The science of effective coaching

The need to achieve more with fewer resources at a faster pace is the new normal for business leaders, who are facing an ever-growing list of new and old demands. Many companies have turned to coaching to close the gap — but is it really working?

Research shows that coaching delivers highly variable results, with reported improvements ranging from 3 percent to 97 percent. What’s more, the impact of ineffective coaching can be detrimental for companies and individuals. Accounting for more than $14 billion in business spending each year, it is critical that executive coaching justifies the cost and delivers measurable impact.

The aims of coaching are always admirable, but many coaching solutions are essentially focused on making a person feel better or delivering a mindset shift, in the hope that this will translate into behavior change in the workplace — and that’s not a given.

What works is a consistent methodology backed by science, which is proven to make a difference and increase ROI. When done well, coaching can provide results such as improved employee retention, confidence, job satisfaction, reduced stress, productivity boosts and revenue growth.

Why traditional methods aren’t working?

Traditional coaching focuses on matching coaches and coachees, often based on factors including personality, gender, etc., despite little scientific evidence that matching results in solid business outcomes for individuals or organizations.

Why doesn’t the relationship between coach and coachee make a more considerable difference?

Because, often, likeability and chemistry are in direct conflict with the challenging thinking necessary for a coachee to make meaningful changes to behavior. Coach-coachee matching can also discourage diversity of thought and undermine diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, as we tend to want to match with someone like us rather than someone more likely to challenge our thinking and expose us to new ideas.

This is why focusing on what doesn’t matter is critical. How coaches build trust and a working partnership with their coachee, and setting out to challenge mindsets and support behavior change. If you’re choosing coaching based on the coach alone, at best, you’re investing time and money in an inconsistent approach which may not deliver tangible improvements, and, at worst, you might be investing in a relationship which could be actively detrimental .

A fresh perspective

Fast. Goal-focused. Solutions-oriented. Measurable. These are the qualities of effective coaching that make an impact.

Approaches built on solution-focused therapy, behavioral enablement and mastery experiences have been shown to be more effective in generating solutions to a problem and achieving goals than the typical approach of exploring difficulties (which can be outright counterproductive). Let’s break down these three elements.

Solution-focused therapy. Rather than spending time thinking about the problem that currently exists, the reasons for it and the strengths and weaknesses of the individual that led to this — solutions-focused coaching approaches jump straight into asking what needs to change and the steps to get there.

Behavioral enablement. A key element that determines whether coaching can improve performance is whether there is behavioral enablement in place to overcome the intention-behavior gap. In traditional coaching, the intention-behavior gap creates good intentions for action that people will do in their own time, but those intentions do not translate to the desired behavior. Effective coaching will acknowledge the intention-behavior gap and equip participants with the tools they need to turn intention into action.

Mastery experiences. Mastery experiences involve creating a sense of continuous progress and achievement for the coachee by regularly meeting self-set standards of improvement. This is accomplished by setting achievable goals and focusing on achieving this goal before moving on to the next one — rather than focusing on several different priorities or goals at once and chipping away at them over time.

More does not mean better

Many traditional coaching solutions involve sessions spanning six to nine months, with that time spent setting goals and talking through problems. Having a set number of sessions to achieve goals keeps a tighter focus on what you want to get out of each session and can result in more action-focused change.

On the other hand, with more sessions, you risk having more time for distractions, ruminating over the current challenges and taking your attention away from the real goal. taking action to change.

Results you can see:

There are plenty of solutions that promise change, but most lack rigorous data to support tangible impact. Creating a scalable learning strategy connected to metrics like business performance and organizational priorities is a great foundation for observable, measurable coaching results. There are three important metrics for tracking discernible, measurable behavior change. The first is internal change. this involves measuring the psychological constructs that predict behavior change. Next is behavior change, which measures whether the individual’s behavior has changed in the real world. And finally, it’s important to measure organizational outcomes which showcase impact through engagement surveys, financial results and productivity metrics.

With economic volatility at our heels and the Great Resignation still alive and well, organizations have to balance tightening the purse strings with developing the next generation of leaders. So, when choosing a coaching solution strategy, it needs to connect to metrics where the ROI can be directly linked to changed behavior for a greater organizational impact.

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