See what's new with COACHING WORLD

Coaching Practice Evaluation: What’s in Your Toolbox?

Posted by Dr. Rosemary Hanrahan, ACC | February 5, 2018 | Comments (1)

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.

Rosemary Hanrahan headshot

Dr. Rosemary Hanrahan, ACC

Dr. Rosemary Hanrahan, ACC is a coach, author, nonprofit advocate and physician, who brings her coaching expertise to professionals and organizations in the academic, health care and nonprofit sectors. She is the owner and founder of Beyond Words Wellness Resources, LLC. She encourages clients to define their mission, vision, values and goals and develop personal and professional strategies to remain engaged, passionate and productive in their chosen profession and create a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. She also leads workshops for community groups and nonprofit organizations on topics such as cultivating caregiver resilience, creating a wellness compass and coaching practice evaluation. Rosemary earned her MD and MPH degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, and is a recent graduate of Duquesne University’s Professional Coaching and ADAPT Career Coaching Programs. She serves on several nonprofit boards including ICF Pittsburgh. She can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Comments (1)

  1. Dr. Erroline Williams says:

    Evaluative measures in coaching is often a forgotten practice, whether coaching individuals or in a sponsor-type format. Rosemary has shared critical components in this article for coaches to reflect upon and/or use in the practices. Coaches
    self-evaluation is important and needs substantive information, whether formal or informal in an effort for coaches to grow
    and develop. Thank you, Rosemary!

Leave a Reply

Not a member?

Sign up now to become a member and receive all of our wonderful benefits.

Learn more