|If you haven't tried any
type of performance coaching before - life, career, executive,
or business - you may wonder why coaching works. I know I
did. Until I got coached myself, coaching was just another
idea I really wanted to believe in, but I could not feel, in my
daily life and experience, the truth of it.
You will probably wonder all the more if you have never had
any kind of coach, not even an athletic coach, at a high level
of performance and competition - or if it was just a long, long
time ago. But coaching does work, for athletes like Andre
Agassi and Tiger Woods, celebrities like Oprah Winfrey,
executives like former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and
Donald Trump, and many other business owners and people from all
walks of life.
In this article, we'll look at an overview of the benefits of
coaching and then turn to some recent studies of the eye-opening
return on investment of coaching. Then we'll briefly see
why coaching works so well, and summarize the many professions
and skills from which coaching draws its power. Finally,
we'll look at the twin pillars of coaching's effectiveness,
commitment and accountability, before turning to the really
interesting stuff: some real-life examples of how coaching
compares to a do-it-yourself approach.
Some Benefits of
Coaching Provides Clarity and Support in Transitions
Recent Studies Into Coaching's Value
Introduction to Why Coaching Works
Coaching Synthesizes Many Professions and Techniques
The First Pillar of Coaching is Its Commitment to Your Expanded
Coaching Works Because It Makes You Accountable - To Yourself,
The benefits of coaching are as varied as the ways in which
people can change. So any list of benefits is already a very
partial one. But here's a list that will get you going for
greater clarity on what you want, whose values you're
expressing, and where you want to go - three things you must
know to get anywhere.
your daily, weekly, and monthly actions aligned with your
longer-term vision, your values, passions, and strengths, and
your desired career, so that you can consistently move closer to
the kind of life and work you want.
Get unbiased and objective insight, guidance, and feedback - a
real sounding board.
accountable to yourself and your goals, organized, and focused,
so you can move forward decisively.
more efficient, effective, and productive at home and work.
a fuller experience of personal and professional fulfillment and
a sense that you are finally living the life you were meant to
Coaching supports clients in identifying and then doing what
they really want to do in their lives and careers, their
businesses and professions. For most of us, that's the hard
part: we don't even know what we want to do or we don't know how
to get there, or we need a bit of help in unearthing the courage
we already have. But if it's fear that keeps you from admitting
that you already know where you want to be, a coach is a
stalwart ally in confronting and overwhelming the fears that
hold you back. A coach will help to open up a space in which you
are free to brainstorm openly about what you really want. And
we'll also provide or suggest useful tools like
self-assessments, state-of-the-art personality and workstyle
tests, or journaling.
These are all just words, you might say.
Marketing-speak. I shared your skepticism. When I founded
my first coaching firm I knew I didn't want to adopt a sales
mentality. Too many people sell to make money and not because
their product or service provides real value. I needed to
know coaching was real. In my own coaching and my
colleagues' coaching, we saw how real it was. And then the
studies began pouring in. I'll focus on a few here.
Executives and HR managers know coaching is the most potent
tool for inducing positive personal change, ensuring
better-than-average odds of success and making the change
stick for the long term.
The Ivy Business Journal, September-October 2000
Recent Studies Into Coaching's
Two milestone studies of the effectiveness of coaching for
executives have showed returns on investment in excess of 500%.
In other words, for every $1 a client paid out, the client
received in return (or saved, which was the same thing) an
astonishing $5. A rate of return of 500% is unheard-of in
business. For comparison, consider the 12% annual return
of the stock market as a whole. That may well be because
businesses usually measure metrics other than the
ever-surprising human will and the individual's capacity for
change and growth.
Businesses measure things less flexible, malleable,
changeable, and powerful than what's inside each of us. If
you can't believe in coaching, it may well be that you don't
believe in the power of the will and mind generally - or perhaps
just your own. This series of lessons, and the free
coaching sessions we offer, could do much to change that.
In one of the studies, by Manchester, Inc., the return on
investment of coaching was calculated at 5.7 times the
investment. (1/4/2001 Survey Results). In the second
study, a Fortune 500 company saw a very similar return on
investment of 528% (5.28x). The Fortune 500 company and
Pyramid Resource Group, a coaching services company, had engaged
MetrixGlobal LLC to determine the business benefits and return
on investment of a coaching program for executives. The
Fortune 500 firm had launched an innovative leadership
development effort that was expected to accelerate the
development of next generation leaders. The participants
in the study were drawn mostly from the ranks of middle managers
and from many different business units and functional areas.
The study's authors concluded:
Coaching sessions were rich learning environments that
enabled the learning to be applied to a variety of business
situations. Decision-making, team performance and the
motivation of others were enhanced. Many of these business
applications contributed annualized financial benefits. Other
applications created significant intangible benefits.
Overall, the participants appreciated their coaching
experiences and would highly recommend coaching to others.
The people who got coached commended coaching for:
"significant or very significant" impact on at least 1 of 9
business measures (77%)
Increasing productivity (either personally or for their work
Increasing annualized financial benefits due to increased
Increasing employee satisfaction (53%)
Increasing customer satisfaction (53%)
Increasing work output (30%)
Increasing work quality (40%)
There is something important to keep in mind about these
studies. Again, both of the studies above focused only on
measurable returns. They did not include what the authors
called the "significant intangible benefits" that coaching
offers but that resist measurement - benefits most of us want
even more than, say, higher compensation or business profits.
So the actual ROI is even higher than what was measured:
intangibles such as self-confidence, better working habits,
work-life balance, fulfillment.
We want happiness, and we want the enormous relief of making
decisions, at last. Nor did the studies quantitatively
measure the value of the increased employee retention that
resulted from the coaching - or the value of the increased job
satisfaction experienced by the people who got coached.
Similarly impressive results came in a survey by the
International Coaching Federation, which found that over 98% of
surveyed corporate coaching clients found coaching to be a
valuable investment. The way that sophisticated
corporations have flocked to coaching is evidence enough:
Six out of 10 (59%) organizations currently offer coaching
or other developmental counseling to their managers and
executives. . . . Another 20% of organizations said they plan
to offer such coaching within the next year. . . . In
addition, one-quarter (25%) of organizations have already set
up formal mentoring programs, with another 25% planning to do
so within the next 12 months.
-- Manchester, Inc. 3/99 Survey Results based on a
nationwide survey of over 300 companies.
General Electric, Sony and Johnson & Johnson use coaches.
Ernst & Young will spend $2 million this year on them.
Hewlett-Packard . . . spend(s) a lot of time finding coaches
for hundreds of employees.
-- Forbes Magazine, March 6, 2000)
No similar studies have been done on life coaching for
individuals, no doubt in part because individuals lack the need
or the financial resources to conduct extensive studies on
themselves. Another reason is that a human life has fewer
quantifiable metrics by which one could measure coaching.
Where to start? Stress reduced? Potentially explosive
conflicts avoided? Health and longevity benefits of
exercise programs begun? Healthier food eaten? More
satisfying careers targeted?
Indeed, we're often unhappy precisely because we've been
living our lives according only to what we and others can
measure: money, status, hours, things, etc. And because
the techniques of coaching are consistent from executive
coaching to life coaching, and coaching executives has little
more to do with pure business than life coaching does, there's
no reason to think the ROI in life coaching, if it were
measurable, would be much different.
The fact is, in coaching, clients' lives change dramatically.
At Feroce, time and again we have witnessed results like those
discussed above. How does this happen? One could write books on
the subject, but here I will elaborate on a few high-level
Introduction to Why Coaching
Coaching fundamentally works because the client wants it to.
Coaches simply leverage the desire of the client so that it
becomes even more effective. So coaching is first and
foremost about the intent and will of the client. The
client must be ready; better yet, raring to go. This is
one major distinction between coaching on the one hand and
consulting on the other: your consultant can succeed in
large part without your commitment to what he is doing.
Because he's the one doing it. Coaching is do-it-yourself,
but with a crucial difference. A do-it-yourself manual
will not kick you in the figurative butt, request a due date,
toast to your own talents and successes, or gently prod you out
of your own way.
In the broadest sense, coaching works because a good coach
fulfills several human fundamentals:
need for an ally or partner on one's path, particularly during
challenging times. Just as a corporation has a Board of
Directors for advice and counsel, and powerful people have
managers, chiefs of staff, coaches, or PR agents, we can all use
need to be and feel understood - and empowered and
self-forgiving because of it.
facilitation of insight and awareness into what drives us, both
negative or positive.
The curious but true value of receiving permission to change and
support and backing in that change, even from a (credible)
near-stranger, particularly when you fear that changing could
mean growing away from old friends or work colleagues who are
threatened by the change or were, like you, addicted to your old
behaviors. (You can learn more on how we get addicted and
recover from other Feroce writings and from the coaching
tremendous power of commitment and accountability, wherein a
person wanting something must strive harder for it because of a
promise simultaneously made to one's self and another (that is,
a promise or commitment extracted by a coach).
There are many tools and talents coaches use to facilitate
the client's desire for change. Coaching is a profession built
upon many others. Techniques drawn from business strategy,
psychological development, and motivational theory are just a
few. But coaches integrate the tools in a way that the
professions from which we've borrowed do not.
Coaching Synthesizes Many
Professions and Techniques
Coaching is a synthesis of the most effective techniques of
its predecessors, which include:
business and consulting skills - best practices in identifying
core competencies, goal-setting, planning, reverse-engineering
strategy and tactics based on the desired goal, analysis,
follow-up, accountability, deadlines
the more effective aspects of the healing arts, from the
psychoanalyst's attitude of "unconditional positive regard"
and to meditator's listening posture of "non-judgmental
- cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
- existential philosophy and psychology
leadership temperaments and techniques
entrepreneurship and marketing best practices
experience with the course of human beings' personal
development and transformation
spirituality and ancient wisdom traditions
Wow! Now you begin to see that for coaches, coaching is
not something they just do during the day. It's a way of
thinking and being in the world.
The First Pillar of Coaching is
Its Commitment to Your Expanded Awareness
If, once the client's intent is already strong, there is a
single reason for the effectiveness of life coaching - for it
does appear to be more effective in yielding measurable results
than similarly person-centered fields such as psychotherapy -
that reason could well be the power of a relationship of
commitment. The coach is committed to the client, and the client
is committed to the coach, and by extension to herself, to work
with the coach to expand her awareness of both how she's stuck
and what talents she has to call upon to get unstuck.
Unlike in therapy or even consulting, you can have a
relationship with a coach seven days a week, at most hours of
the day. A therapist says "goodbye" after your 50 minutes are
up; you can brainstorm and complain and ask for feedback from a
coach on email, or instant messenger, or even in emergency
The client commits to making decisions she's never made and
to setting and sticking to real action toward her goals. The
only possible result of decisions and actions is this: change
and progress. She also commits to greater awareness of her self,
her patterns, her negative self-talk, the unconscious anchors
preventing progress toward goals, her self-limiting thinking,
her career, her relationships - her situation. Personal power
comes to you through greater awareness of where you are stuck.
This power of commitment is built on the social reinforcement
of people wanting to be who they say they are, and to do what
they say they're going to do. In other words, coaching takes
your own innate honesty and good will and magnifies it for your
benefit. If you tell a coach you will do something - and coaches
often gently insist you tell them what action you'll take
between sessions - you will very often get it done. Imagine
that! That's a benefit. T hat's a real ROI.
Contrast that with the way life normally passes you by.
"Sorry I haven't returned your email in three months. I
really meant to, but I got busy, and then it slipped out of view
in my folder, and then work got really crazy . . ." "Oh,
that self-help book. Yeah, I read through the first few
chapters. Then my sister visited and the dog got sick and
I found another book that I hope to read soon, once all these
projects at work are over."
This is life without a coach. It's more disorderly, and
progress, when it happens at all, comes in fits and starts.
And it takes much longer to get where you want to go, if you get
there at all. Hiring a coach means you have that unique
form of self-awareness and discipline that enables you to say,
"I know I'm not disciplined enough to do this on my own, but I
am disciplined enough to hire someone to help me do it."
Social Contract. So coaching relies on one of
the most powerful forces in the world: the power of the social
contract and commitment. For the same reason that public
marriage vows tend to keep people together longer than they
would in its absence, for the same reason we try harder to keep
New Year's resolutions we have shared with others, coaching is
effective because you have made a promise to someone other than
yourself - it's a public contract.
Closely related to commitment, in the success rate of
coaching, is this fact: coaching is collaborative. It is
two people working in concert toward the same goal. What
power can be harnessed in two or more wills trained on the same
object! And the coach's will is what keeps you accountable
to your own.
Coaching Works Because It Makes
You Accountable - To Yourself, To Others
Though therapy and coaching can use similar skills at times,
they have very different means and goals - including the setting
of goals in the first place. If you hire a therapist, you
are unlikely to set any quantifiable goals (often with valid
reason); at the most specific, you may say you want something
such as self-understanding, or to feel better, or to have more
balance and quality in your lifestyle. (You also don't typically
go to a therapist when you are feeling well and simply want
personal development or greater success in all areas of life.)
Yet without goals, you will not only lack any vision of where
you are going, you will have no yardsticks by which to hold
yourself accountable. And the undemanding nature of the
psychotherapeutic relationship dictates that most therapists
will not usually try to hold you to any goals. Which is as it
should be, in therapy.
But sociologists and business experts who deal in goal theory
know this lack of accountability is the surest recipe for
failure in meeting one's goals. If you're looking for a coach,
failure isn't on your agenda, and so neither should be a lack of
accountability to success.
If you have ever hired a personal trainer, or found a workout
partner, you know that the difference between sitting at home
watching the telly and sporting a new waist, abs, or
cardiovascular fitness is this: you know that every day you are
supposed to be at the gym, there will be someone there who has
prepared for your workout and gotten there before you. You hire
a personal coach, or a trainer, because you suspect you may not
have the discipline or technique to get there by yourself, but
you do know you have the integrity and sense of honor that will
not allow you to let others down - nor yourself, once you have
made a pledge, "publicly," in a sense, to that one other person.
You'll be there. You'll get it done.
Coaches can create accountability in many ways:
extracting a commitment from you to the coach to take specific
action by specific deadlines
asking you to commit to another person
having you check in by email with updates
making spot-coaching calls or emails to check in with you
handing out homework like subjective self-assessments (such as
in our Strategic Life Planning Handbook) or journaling
more . . .
Coaching leverages that power of commitment for results you
simply can't get any other way - or, if you could get the
results, you're likely to take several times as long (and vent
far more frustration).
We could give you a few examples. For now, let's talk
about one common use of coaching: to ease and accelerate