7 steps to agreeing coaching outcomes you can measure
September 9, 2016 by Kevin Oubridge
Corporates are big on goals.
Whatever needs doing in a corporate, from ordering photocopier paper to increasing EMEA revenue by £50 million a year, you know that someone has a goal around it and will be accountable for making sure it gets done.
That’s just how it is with big companies.
With not so big companies as well, come to that.
If you want to work with corporates, therefore, it makes sense if your coaching works along these lines also. You need to agree coaching outcomes at the start of a coaching engagement (that’s the goal bit) and agree how you’ll measure achievement against those outcomes (that’s the accountability bit).
Some of the benefits of agreeing measurable outcomes at the start of a coaching engagement are:
- Gives the coaching participant direction, motivation and momentum
- Maximises the value of the coaching to the participant
- You can involve the line manager
- Can be aligned with business objectives
- You can monitor progress and measure results
- You can share results with others in the client company, adding value for them
- Oh yeah, and you can win further business with the client company
The bottom line is that agreeing coaching outcomes at the start of a coaching engagement is a win-win for your client and for you.
How do you do it?
1. Start with the big picture
When you first make contact with a potential client you should ask her about her work situation. Not too much detail at this stage though, you may only have a few minutes:
What’s your vision for your part of the business?
What are the key challenges you face in achieving your vision?
At this stage you are establishing the relationship.
2. Make it more personal
The next time you speak you can dig a bit deeper:
What’s the purpose of your part of the business?
Describe how you fit into the organisation, including who you report to, the size of your team, and budget / revenue generation responsibilities.
What are your key objectives for the next 12-18 months?
At Accelerated Success we ask these questions as part of a Strategy Session, which we offer free to genuine prospects to give them an experience of working with us.
Strategy Sessions are an excellent way of winning coaching business.
3. Dig a little deeper
During a Strategy Session you should ask the participant about her challenges again, this time digging deeper, down into the pain they cause her and the gain she wants:
What are the 3 or 4 most important and challenging areas of your role in fully achieving these objectives?
What would it be most important for you to get better at, to significantly improve performance in these areas? Try to select something that will extend your capability as a leader / key player, rather than something technical you can accomplish by learning a new skill.
Before the end of the Strategy Session you should arrange a report back meeting, where you’ll take the participant through a summary of what she said in her Strategy Session.
If all goes well the participant will sign up for a full coaching engagement.
4. Uncover the impact of all the pain
Having won the client, you can set up an outcome setting meeting to build on the work done during the Strategy Session, focusing the coaching participant on what she’ll work on during the coaching engagement:
Thinking about what you needed to get better at, what is the situation like now?
What are you doing that isn’t working?
What do you find yourself seeing and thinking and feeling?
What happens as a result of that?
What behaviours does the situation drive?
What’s the impact?
What do you see others doing and saying?
And what is the impact?
5. Identify what the coaching participant wants
Now is when you start to draw the participant’s thoughts together into an outcome:
Assuming you make progress in improving the situation, what can you reasonably expect to see changing over the next 3-4 months for you
What will you see changing for your team?
What will you see changing for other stakeholders?
What will be happening differently around them?
Keep drilling down on this to develop the participant’s understanding of what she wants to achieve:
Will your actions realistically impact these areas?
Can you influence these areas?
To what extent can you influence these areas in the timeframe of a coaching programme?
6. Get the coaching participant thinking about how she’ll measure achievement
Identifying how the coaching participant will measure the success of her coaching is crucial to nailing down a robust coaching outcome – without success measures the job is only half done. Ask:
What are the 3 or 4 most reasonable and reliable indicators of progress which we will use to track your achievement against your coaching outcome?
How will you know if the desired changes are occurring for you?
How will you know if they are occurring for your team?
How will you know if they are occurring for other stakeholders?
Who can you check your perception of the changes with?
And don’t forget to link back to the bigger picture:
How will the changes you make show up in the business?
How will working to improve this situation contribute to your objectives?
How will working to improve this situation extend your capability?
7. Nail down a coaching outcome
We have found that it is best to get the coaching participant to identify a single outcome for the first 3-4 months of her coaching engagement. Once achieved, you can work with her to nail down the next outcome.
This works better than coming up with outcomes for an entire 6 or 12 month engagement, simply because what seems sensible at the start of the engagement can seem less relevant further along the road.
Say something like:
We’ve discussed the one area, that if you made significant gains here, it would be a big deal for you personally and add value to the business. Now we need to identify an outcome for you to work towards in the first 3-4 months of your coaching programme. In three or four sentences, summarise the outcome you want in addressing this area. Make sure your sentences are stated positively. So tell me what you want, rather than what you don’t want. We’ll work on the wording together, so don’t worry about getting it right the first time.
Coach the participant through her responses and write them down. Make sure you write the outcome using ‘I’, as in I want … or I will … Also make sure it covers issues that are within her control or influence – there is no point in developing a coaching outcome the participant cannot achieve.
8. Finalise success measures
OK, I said 7 but as it turns out I actually meant 8 steps.
So here’s the bonus step.
Once the coaching participant has articulated the outcome they want, you should help her finalise how she will measure her achievement against it:
Based on our previous discussions, how will you measure achievement against this outcome?
What indicators will you use?
Where are you against these indicators now?
Ideally, where do you want to be against these indicators in 12 months’ time?
What will be the impact on your business objectives?
Write down what the participant says and get her to agree to what you have written.
When you have agreed the outcome and indicators check how the participant feels about them. Is she still motivated by working on this outcome? Are her expectations realistic? How aligned is head, hand and heart?
What does a coaching outcome look like?
An example of a coaching outcome agreed in this way is:
I want to get an accurate view of the financial performance of my part of the business. To achieve this I will work with Business Operations to come up with one system that has supporting collateral and processes, which will be used by all of my teams, to gather data on financial performance.
We will all be using this system by [date]. I will ensure all of the appropriate people in my teams have had training on using the new system.
Examples of indicators of achievement against this outcome are:
60% of team members will have had training on using the new system by [date] and be using it correctly and have confidence in it.
The remaining 40% will have had training on using the new system by [date] and be using it correctly and have confidence in it.
All of my teams will be using the same system to report upwards to me on their numbers. Reports will be submitted in the right way and on time.
I will be confident that the numbers I’m reporting to Finance are accurate. Finance will accept my numbers and not challenge them.
I will understand why there is a variance in my projections versus actuals and be able to explain this to Finance. Finance will accept my explanations.
Having agreed a measurable outcome some participants have had enough and want time to reflect on where they have got to. Invite them to identify a couple of actions they can take before your next session.
Other participants are keen to get going, so be ready to start coaching for the remainder of the session.
At the end of the outcome setting meeting, invite the participant to reflect on the experience of the session. The chances are they’ll be exhausted by the tough questions and challenging thinking they’ve done but also energized by the progress they feel they’ve already made.
Just as it should be.