What’s Your Coaching Investment’s ROI?

by | Jan 16, 2019 | Contextual Coaching

Organizational coaching has been around for over 20 years and while clear intangible benefits to using coaching to support developmental growth for leaders and teams has been accepted, most firms would attest to only mixed results in justifying their investment. Why is this?

First, firms that approach coaching as “one off” events, without regard for how coaching across the organization may be linked to an overall development strategy, do not position themselves to realize benefits across the enterprise. Secondly, coaching work that focuses only on the individual and not the context that surrounds the coaching work, miss the opportunity to align coaching objectives to organizational goals, thereby diminishing engagement effectiveness.

Organizations that approach coaching with a systems mindset understand the importance of the organization’s context on leadership development work.  These firms recognize that certain attributes in context like strategy, commitment to development, or leadership style can have disproportionate impact on coaching outcomes and sustainable change by the leaders and teams participating in coaching. Further, coaches trained to recognize how to align these attributes with coaching objectives, established during the engagement, position the coaching clients to leverage growth in a way that support organizational aims.

But how does this work in reality? Imagine a coaching engagement with a leader that has strong technical skills but is ineffectiveness in motivating the reporting team. The coach at the beginning of an engagement to work with the leader, may have initial conversations with the leader, the sponsor of the engagement, the supervisor and team members, as part of the intake. Additionally, the coach may conduct feedback interviews during the coaching work to understand those leader behaviors that are most visible and inhibit team effectiveness. With each conversation the coach not only obtains information about the individual leader’s behaviors, but also about the environment the leader is situated in. A trained systems coach understands what information is most helpful for the leader and what contextual information may influence the coaching work. Now, imagine several of these systems trained coaching engagements across the firm. With each engagement new information emerges that eventually form contextual patterns. The patterns may be previously unseen by the organization and can be instrumental in understanding what supports or get in the way of system wide development efforts. Once known, the organization can address these factors and improve the overall environment for everyone.

Although organizations operate in a complex mix of external and internal influences, we know certain elements have more impact on coaching work and by extension leader and team development than others. For example, factors associated with “authentic” engagement in development programing and the perception of organization fairness in how advancement decisions are made, have disproportionate influence on achieving coaching outcomes. Are these things you are measuring?

Our recent research points to ten factors which are influential to achieve desired coaching outcomes and are most influential to achieving sustained behavior change. The factors are multi-dimensional but discrete and measurable:

  1. Goal orientation of the organization
  2. Control orientation of the learner
  3. Perception of organizational fairness
  4. Perceived safety
  5. Level of leadership engagement
  6. Organizational developmental mindset.
  7. Level of engagement by the direct supervisor
  8. Level of peer pressure
  9. Level of organizational accountability
  10. The level of a positive feedback culture

With coaches that are trained to ask the right questions to uncover these factors, coupled with the ability to analyze the patters that emerge, we can supplement what you may already know about your developmental environment in a way that positions you to fully realize a return on your developmental investments. Want to know more about the factors? (add link to full white paper)

So next time you engage a coach, ask yourself what am I really getting?


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Eagly, A. H., & Chaiken, S. (1993). The Psychology of Attitudes. Fort Worth : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (2010). Predicting and Changing Behavior. New York: Psychology Press.

Glasgow, J. M., Yano, E. M., & Kaboli, P. J. (2013). Impacts of organizational context on quality improvement. American Journal of Medical Quality, 196-205.

Gorrell, P., & Hoover, J. (2009). The coaching connection: A managers guide to developing individual potential in the context of the organization. New York: American Management Association.

Gregory, B. T., Harris, S. G., Armenakis, A. A., & Shook, C. L. (2009). Organizational culture and effectivness: A study of values, attitudes and organizational outcomes. Journal of Business Research , 673-679.

Johns, G. (2006). The essential impact of context on organizational behavior. Academy of Management Review, 386-408.

Parzinger, M. J., Lemons, M. A., & McDaniel, K. (2012). The impact of organizational context on turnover and job satisfaction: a multi-analysis study of bank employees. International Journal of the Academic Business World, 39-46.

Porter, L. W., & McLaughlin, G. B. (2006). Leadership and the organizational context: Like the weather. The Leadership Quarterly, 559-576.

Shalley, C. E., & Gilson, L. L. (2004). What leaders need to know: A review of social and contextual factors that can foster or hinder creativity. The Leadership Quarterly, 33-53.

Sila, I. (2007). Examining the effects of contextual factors on TQM and performance through the lens of organizational theories: An empirical study. Journal of Operations Management, 83-109.

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