As a certified executive coach, naturally often I am asked about how results happen in executive coaching. Andrew Neitlich, Founder & Director of the Centre for Executive Coaching, summed up his perspective by highlighting three ways, and I agree with him on his three points. I will summarize them in this blog, comment briefly from my own perspective on each of them, and offer two points of my own:
1. The coach asks some amazing questions and the coachee has a life-changing epiphany. While this can happen, this is rare. As noted by Neitlich, there is a myth in the coaching world that coaching has to be transformational in every conversation. Neitlich puts it this way: “Most progress in coaching is more like BBQ — cook it low and slow.” To try to manage expectations, I tell potential clients that it typically takes about six coaching conversations for them to start to see the value in coaching.
2. The coach and coachee agree on an assignment that the coachee will take on between coaching conversations, and that process enables positive change. I often tell potential clients that the “real work” in coaching takes place between coaching conversations. At the end of each coaching conversation, I typically ask the coachee to sum up what they are taking away from the conversation as their action plan. For example, the coachee might decide to ask a few colleagues for feedback and advice about what they are doing well and could be doing better. As Neitlich noted, this simple process — assuming the coachee is able to receive feedback and constructive advice — can help the coachee become more aware and also strengthen relationships.
3. Meeting with an effective coach over time naturally leads to progress. I encourage a coaching conversation at least every couple of weeks to get into a coaching rhythm, and to allow the coachee time to carry out their action plan (see 2 above). Effective coaching encourages introspection, expanded thinking regarding challenges and opportunities, and insights that help the coachee make progress. As highlighted by Neitlich: “It takes time, it is gradual, but it is powerful. It’s like tugging at different threads in a knot over time, loosening and loosening until the knot disappears.”
I offer two additional points to Neitlich’s list:
4. The coach acts as a confident and provides a safe space for the coachee to explore difficult topics that they may feel they can’t discuss with others, and/or sensitive topics such as their own insecurities. One related tip that I offer is, before a coach is retained, ensure that the coach is credentialed by a reputable body, such as the International Coaching Federation, which has a Conduct of Conduct. Confidentiality by the coach is usually paramount in a coaching relationship. (Full disclosure – I am a member of the International Coaching Federation.)
5. Progress can be accelerated in coaching through relevant data/information that is shared with the coach by the coachee, such as the coachee’s recent performance review or 360 feedback. The coachee often has a perception of how they are performing in a particular area, but that perception may or may not be reality. Accurate, relevant reliable data/information shared with the coach can help to save the coachee money and time.
Practically speaking, assessing actual results can be challenging when it comes to executive coaching. But hopefully these five points will help you with your assessment, and also help you to manage your expectations.
Andrew Neitlich, Nov. 16, 2023, LinkedIn.
© Dr. Karen Somerville, PhD, C. Dir., MBA, CPA, CGA, CEC
Karen is a Certified Executive Coach (CEC) and a Certified Resilience Coach, with more than 20 years experience as a coach. She also has more than 25 years of experience as a leader and has worked in all three sectors – the private sector, the public sector and the non-profit sector.
Karen holds a PhD in Management, an MBA, a Chartered Director designation, a Certified Executive Coach (CEC) designation, a Certified Resilience Coach designation, and CPA/CGA designations. She is also a CTT Certified Consultant, qualified to use the cultural transformation tools available from the Barrett Values Centre, a global leader in values and culture. Karen is the President of Performance Plus Group: www.performanceplusgroup.com .