Friday, May 22, 2009

Five Coaching Questions Leaders Must Answer

Coachj0221841jpeg To coach effectively, the five questions leaders must answer are: What is coaching? Why bother doing it? Is coaching effective? Whom should you coach? How do you coach? This blog answers these questions.

What is coaching?

Coaching is not a one-time event; it is the process of engaging your employees in their ongoing development. The process usually falls into one of the three categories:

Skills Coaching – which is of short duration and focuses on specific behaviors;

Performance Coaching – a longer process that involves setting goals, overcoming obstacles, and monitoring performance;

Developmental Coaching – takes a broader more holistic perspective, often addressing personal and professional growth.

Most mid-level managers require either skills or performance coaching, while higher-level executives frequently choose developmental coaching. In reality, there is considerable overlap among the three.

Why bother doing it?

In a previous blog on the empowering leadership style, I stressed the importance of developing employees as part of a strategy to engage and retain them. Professor F. Leigh Branham confirmed this when he analyzed the data on more than 19,700 employee exit interviews. (1) He found that 60% of employees felt they had received inadequate coaching, thereby contributing to their decision to leave. The Lominger group surveyed 47,592 employees worldwide, asking them to rate their managers on 67 leadership competencies. (2) The employees scored their managers on the competency “develops direct reports" dead last at 67. You should only "bother" coaching your employees if you want them to stay at their job and be fully engaged on the job.

Is coaching effective?

Annette Fillery-Travis and David Lane found only one published ROI studies when they reviewed the coaching literature. (3) The study, conducted by Right Management Consultants, found that external executive coaching delivered a 5.7 ROI. (That’s right, 570%) The 100 executives in the study reported tangible business results that included improved productivity (53 percent), better quality work product (48 percent) and greater organizational strength (48 percent). From an intangible business standpoint, executives described enhanced relationships with their direct reports (77 percent), supervisors (71 percent), and peers (63 percent); as well as greater teamwork (67 percent) and job satisfaction (61 percent).

Teaching sales mangers to coach can make a difference also. (4) Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the sales force of a multinational manufacturer whose managers had undergone a two-day coaching workshop. Coaching represented 36% of the differences in improved performance among surveyed salespeople. A 29% improvement was also seen in sales managers who were coached by executives. These executives had attended separate workshops designed to teach them how to coach sales managers.

Finally, The American Management Association studied the successful coaching practices of more than 1,000 global executives and managers. (5) Overall, they found that coaching correlated with increased productivity, revenue growth, profitability, market share, engagement, retention, customer satisfaction and overall employee performance. A few of their other key findings:

  • Coaching is used in 55% of international companies.
  • Most companies that don't have coaching programs yet, plan to implement them.
  • Using methods to measure coaching effectiveness (e.g., 360 assessments) increased the likelihood of success.
  • Externally based training was more highly correlated with overall coaching success than internal training.

My own experience as an external coach validates these findings. Most of my clients have experienced significant growth. However, not everyone has benefited. I find that unless you select the right individuals, you might find yourself "putting makeup on a corpse."

Whom should you coach?

Early in my coaching career, I received a phone call from a desperate executive in Silicon Valley. She had recently promoted a manager, Bill who was now struggling. She wanted to know if I could coach him through his transition to management. Being an optimistic, energetic new coach, I agreed to interview Bill. During our initial conversation, Bill’s answer to one of my questions should have given me a clue that he was not a candidate for successful coaching. When I asked him if he was willing to commit to the work necessary to make the changes, in order to succeed as a new manager, he commented that he would try even though he was already very busy.

You can probably guess the rest of this story. Bill refused to work on some of his core issues and seldom completed his homework assignments. After three months, I called Bill’s supervisor and her boss (i.e., the executive who had originally called me) and told them that I didn't think the process was working. They turned up the pressure on him and asked me to continue. But it didn't work. As Samuel Butler wrote, “He that complies against his will is of his own opinion still.” At the end of six months, Bill went back to his old position.

Whom should you coach? Bill's story gives us part of the answer -- only those who fully commit to doing the work required to grow. Do not mistake compliance for commitment. The other criteria you might use is level of competence. Since you probably don’t have time to coach all your direct reports to the same extent, I suggest you begin with your high performers. That doesn’t mean you ignore the others. It does mean you spend more time with those who are doing well. If you don’t work with them, they’ll soon work for someone else.

How do you coach?

The process of coaching is quiet similar to the counseling process described in a previous blog. The difference lies in the amount of emphasis and questions asked in each of the six steps. Employ the eXpansive Leadership Method (XLM), seen below, as a guide to your coaching. We’ll step through the entire process in a subsequent blog.


Now you know the five coaching questions leaders must answer to be effective coaches. Let me know how the answers work for you.

Keep eXpanding,


1. Leigh Branham; The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It's Too Late, AMACOM Books, NY, NY, 2005.

2. The LEADERSHIP ARCHITECT® Norms and Validity Report, Minneapolis, MN, 2006, page 499.

3. Annette Fillery-Travis and David Lane; Does Coaching Work or Are We Asking the Wrong Question?, International Coaching Psychology Review, April 2006, 23 - 36.

4. Larry Yu; The Benefits of a Coaching Culture, MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter 2007, page 6.

5. Edward T. Reilly; Coaching - A Global Study of Successful Practices, MWorld, Fall 2008, 15 – 18.


Women Executive Coaching said...

Women Executive Coaching helps female leaders develop the capabilities that are essential to women including leading from the front, communicating from a place of certainty,(without becoming overbearing) setting the tone for her organization, communicating her worth in many forums including asking for a promotion when it has been earned, gaining visibility, confidence and accelerating her development.

Women Executive Coaching

Eshan said...

Excellent post!!! Executive Coaching is a facilitative one-to-one, mutually designed relationship between a professional coach and a key contributor who has a powerful position in the organization. See more at:-