Research Paper By Olga Bassai
(Life and Career Coach, INDIA)
Have you ever been in this situation? You are receiving a client for a discovery session and she/he asks you “What are the measurements that you use to assess the result of your coaching? How do you know if coaching actually works? What is your value? “
Personally I have heard those questions many times and I was not able to give a clear answer to my client, except “Well…it works because…”
How as a professional life coach can we start to develop an effective evaluation of the coaching process which will meet the clients’ requirements? And most importantly, how can we help clients to understand and to acknowledge the major changes and progress they have made with the support of a coach?
These questions have initiated my idea for this research paper. The purpose of this paper is to provide a structured qualitative methodology for measuring results of the coaching relationship as well as to demonstrate the way coaching brings about change from the perspective of individual clients rather than that of the organization.
Most of the research that has been done on coaching is from executive coaching perspective working with organizations that mainly focus on the impact and return on investment of executive coaching within the organization (quantitative approach).
However, there is limited research done on life coaching and its impact on life satisfaction from qualitative point of view. This leads to the idea that coaching cannot claim a positive impact on individuals if coaches cannot prove its value, which may make the life coaching profession vulnerable.
Considering that the means to build up a professional evaluation for an independent life coach are much more challenging than for an organization, we want this paper to be a small stone for building up the wall of an effective qualitative approach for life coaching assessment.
In the world of coaching both quantitative and qualitative outcomes matter. The balance between numbers vs. feelings and perceptions should be improved to give more insight into qualitative measures.
I. Two Main Coaching Specificities
An increasing number of people are using life coaches to identify what they want personally or professionally and to get support in achieving a life they really want and love.
Coaching is becoming a very popular people development tool – “coaching is a personalized development process that engages every client in a unique way” (Anderson & Anderson, 2005, p.41). At the same time it is seen as an abstract activity when the outcomes rarely can be quantified.
Indeed, the challenge is that many of the shifts experienced by a client are qualitative rather than quantitative: clear vision and life purpose, better work/life balance, increased self-awareness and increased clarity of thought, better relationship with family, etc. As the authors of Co-Active coaching state, “We believe that coaching is about discovery, awareness, and choice…”
How to do to measure this discovery, awareness and choice?
In 2009 the Harvard Business Review conducted a survey in which they asked coaches ‘What should a client look for when hiring a coach?’ 32% of the coaches ranked the ability to measure success as a ‘very important’. 70% of coaches surveyed said they provide a qualitative assessment of progress because results are intangible, so they have to measure only in qualitative terms vs. financial terms.
In this context, for an independent life coach it’s very important to establish a good set of qualitative measures so to ensure that the right things get done well.
The second specificity of coaching is a long-term vision where the coaching is viewed as a journey rather than a destination. So the impact that the client will experience will be long-term.
The impact of small shifts in attitude and behaviour are cumulative over time continuing way beyond the boundaries of the actual coaching session.
Some of the key features of coaching are: goal-specific and action-oriented. These elements all lend themselves to some element of measurement framework and hence evaluation.
However, these goals and objectives emerge as part of the process (journey), rather than exist at the beginning as part of the current situation.
How can a coach, by taking into consideration these two main coaching specificities, fit the client’s requirement regarding the value she/he wants to get from this relationship?