Coaching Practice Evaluation: What’s in Your Toolbox?
Coaches universally strive to “make a difference” for our clients and the communities we serve. Many coaches have a good idea of what that difference is, but measuring and clearly articulating success is challenging.
The coaching profession has grown in depth and breadth, with coaches practicing across the globe and interacting with different disciplines. Coaches must understand the needs and expectations of these rich and varied communities and become conversant in the languages they use to define “success.”
Most coaches are not academic researchers. However, we should strive to be what Anthony M. Grant describes as “informed and wise practitioners,” calling upon our experience, knowledge and good judgment to advise and refine our practices.
In a larger sense, as the body of coaching-related knowledge expands, we should also aspire to be “contributing” practitioners who add value to the broader knowledge base.
Embracing a five-step evaluation process helps coaches define, measure and communicate the impacts of their coaching practices. This process can be applied to specific coaching engagements, to expand business opportunities, for further self-learning, and to contribute to the larger coaching community.
1) Identify Success Criteria
Three key questions inform this first step. First, who will be included in the evaluation? Typically, this includes the client, and may also include the client’s manager, and the larger organization. Coach self-evaluation is important in fostering professional and business growth.
The second question: What are the specific areas that the evaluation should address? Drawing on Kirkpatrick’s four-level Model of Organizational Training and Development, evaluation can occur at four levels. Level 1 is the client’s reaction to the coaching process. Level 2 is learning and applies to new knowledge or skills. Level 3 is behavior, or the application of learning and skills. Level 4 focuses on results. Levels 1 and 2 are often short-term impacts, Level 3 may be intermediate or long term, and Level 4 results are often evident later. Especially with newer coaches, the focus is often on Levels 1 and 2.
The third question: What will I do with the results of the evaluation? Collecting information is only useful if the information fits with the goals of coach and client.
2) Choose Evaluation Methods
How will I measure progress and how will I obtain information?
The approach to measurement is varied depending on the needs of the coach, client and organization. Measurement may be simple and consist of a few well-structured survey questions. Or it may be more layered and complex, with multiple variables defining organizational culture change.
Coaches have a broad range of tools from which to choose. Quantitative instruments are data-driven and easier to measure and analyze statistically. Examples include sales reports or amount of weight lost. Qualitative measures are often intangible and involve shifts in attitudes or beliefs. Attitude surveys are a relatively low-resource method of assessing these types of changes. Sources may include coaches’ notes, performance metrics or assessments.
3) Determine Measuring Points
Time is usually the yardstick we use to measure. Two broad methods for measuring are start to finish and finish to start. In the first case, coach and client decide in advance and measure important variables at the start and at the finish and look at the difference
When the finish-to-start method is used, the measurement of variables is taken at the end and an assessment is made of what they were at the beginning.
While measuring at the start and end is the usual preferred method, some impacts of coaching may surface later. Checking in several months or more after the engagement is often helpful.
4) Communicate Results
With individual clients, the process for communicating results is relatively simple.
With a sponsor or with third-party coaching, confidentiality becomes a major consideration. Designing agreements upfront, which protect client-coach confidentiality while respecting the needs and expectations of the organization, is crucial. High-level data summary may be enough. If not, a means of de-identifying data will be necessary.
Also consider whether you will deliver the evaluation in-person, or by phone, email or a virtual conferencing platform, such as Zoom or Skype.
5) Assess the Evaluation Process
Is the evaluation process relevant, realistic and valid, and are there gaps?
Collecting information is resource-consuming. To prevent frustration later, confirm that the information collected is relevant, and fully assess your resources including time, expertise and financial cost, and identify where outside support is necessary.
This final step is also an opportunity to check in with the broader knowledge base and ensure that your contribution to the coaching community aligns with your professional goals and values.
The growing complexity of the coaching profession demands that coaches be informed and contributing members of a larger community. Developing an evaluation process is an important strategy for honing and owning our value as coaches.