High Performance

How do your teams support performance?

How often have you said or heard one of your managers say, “I would love to be able to increase my teams’ performance?”
If increasing your team’s performance is your goal, you may be chasing the wrong target.
Performance is a by-product rather than a goal in itself,  as with happiness in a relationship.

 Like high performance,
happiness is a desired state;
yet if we chase it, eludes us
Neither can successfully be established
as the primary goal.

Happiness (as with performance) is the result of something – for example meaningful work or a good marriage.  Happiness is the result of focusing on establishing understanding and respect in a marriage, not of a focus on happiness.
In the same way, high performance comes by focusing on developing key elements in your company, not by focusing on performance itself.
High performing companies have three key elements: a clear, compelling strategy in alignment with the company values and people committed to the cause.
 Clear, Compelling Strategy
Remember playing broken telephone – you all sat in a circle and one person initiated a message which was then passed around the circle, whispered from ear to ear until the last person repeated aloud what they heard?  Usually it was a garbled distortion of the original message.  Company strategies are often communicated in a similar fashion.
A strategic communication approach, where it is left for each level of leadership to communicate to their direct reports, has the same ‘broken telephone’ effect.
Understanding (and commitment) decreases with each communication at each level it is passed down.
Even if the strategy statement remains clear, does it engender commitment?  Does anyone care?
A professionally worded statement may be clear, but is it compelling?

 For a strategy to translate into focused performance
it must be clear and compelling

Imagine the focus in a company where everyone has a clear picture (and can tell you in their own words) of the company’s reason for existing, where it is headed and what its strategy is.
If you want to test the uniformity of the direction your employees or team are working towards, survey (formally or informally) and check the uniformity in understanding of:

  1. Why the company exists?
  2. Where is it headed?
  3. What is its strategy?

Personalisation of a clearly communicated, well understood strategy may well give you as many different wordings as people, however, you will be able to tell if they’re all describing the same picture.  If they “get it”, they will have personalised it.
Apart from other obvious benefits, a clear picture of the company’s strategy and goals allows alignment with personal goals.  This strong tangible connection between personal and company goals means the company’s agenda is their agenda.
Companies that show the “performance difference” have a strong alignment between personal and company goals and philosophy.  They are open in their communication around goals and expectations.  They are a partnership grounded in an understanding of simultaneously moving employer and employee towards their strategic goals.  Synergy is the product of this partnership.
VeriFone doubled their revenues in 5 years (to more than $300 million) and former CEO, Hatim Tyabji, was very clear about the importance of alignment between personal goals and company philosophy, expectations and direction.  They used alignment at the recruitment stage.
Before hiring a new employee they were very clear about the quid pro quo of life at VeriFone. The quid pro quo, in return for all the freedom we offer, is a tremendous emphasis on accountability.  Some hear the message and realise “This is not for me.” Fine. Others start but do not fit the mould and leave.  Left, are those who align and this is seen as integral to the company’s success.
Energy, Initiative and Commitment
Alignment leads to personal commitment.  A personal commitment to the success of the business unlocks a passion that energises us.  A community of people committed to the same thing not only feeds that energy, but also increases the accountability and the expectation of success.  The focus isn’t performance – the focus is building a company of people committed to a clear and compelling strategy; people whose personal agendas are met by meeting the company’s agenda – performance is the result.
When the focus is performance the interaction between company and employees becomes transactional which undermines commitment.  However, personal commitment is made stronger by being part of a community (all who work for the company) who are committed to the same agenda.

The result?
Even obstacles are approached with initiative and a commitment
to seeing the strategy work.

A ‘High Performance Culture’ is the result of a focus on:

  1. A clearly communicated picture of a compelling strategy.
  2. Open communication around both company and personal goals and an expectation that they will be strongly aligned. Even to the point where it is part of the recruitment process.
  3. Recruiting for, and rewarding energy, initiative and commitment together with a clear expectation of accountability.

It is Coaching Week  2017 and  it seems fitting that  we pay tribute to a few of the founders of this amazing profession; Sir John Whitmore, Timothy Gallwey and Laura Whitworth.  Each has had also, unknowingly, shaped the foundation of my coaching.
Thank-you to all of you for your integrity and passion that began and continues to impact the now established profession of Leadership and Executive coaching.
John Whitmore - Coaching Founder
Sir John Whitmore’s book Coaching for Performance was the first book I read on coaching.  He died last month having made a significant impact on the world coaching extending beyond the realm of sports into leadership and business.  As with most executive coaches he entered the profession (or in his case helped build the profession) after success in a previous career – as a British racing driver – with 2 championship titles to his name.
Sir John and  Timothy Gallwey (tennis expert), developed the Inner Game methodology or performance coaching that is the heart of all executive coaching models.
Timothy Gallwey - Tennis Coach Timothy Gallwey - Coaching Quote
More on the inner game and Timothy Gallwey:
“The “inner game” is based upon certain principles in which an individual uses non-judgmental observations of critical variables, with the purpose of being accurate about these observations. If the observations are accurate, the person’s body will adjust and correct automatically to achieve best performance.  Gallwey was one of the first to demonstrate a comprehensive method of coaching that could be applied to many situations, and found himself lecturing more often to business leaders in the U.S. than to sports people.” Wikipedia
I have used this principle with great results in my own life in with my coaching clients.
Laura Whitworth was one of the founders of CTI, the first Coaching School to be accredited and where I was certified.Laura Whitworth - quote
She was also a founder of the International Coach Federation (ICF) which now has over 13,000 members and has been instrumental in establishing Coaching as a legitimate profession internationally.
She entered coaching after some time in Alaska as an Adventure Tour guide and hunter and a stint in the Peace Corps.
Each has lived an interesting life, all are trailblazers.  Interestingly I find this to be true of many coaches I meet.
I am an unashamed champion of coaching I have seen the benefit of it in my own life and I continue to be amazed at how significant an impact it has with my clients.  Not only while they are coaching with me, but long after the coaching has finished.  I guess it speaks to my personal value around impact that lasts.   If you’ve never worked with a coach before (as a company or an individual), do yourself a favour and make the investment.  Choose a certified coach that is a good fit for your need and style.  You won’t regret it!
Share your own coaching stories and tributes in the comments section below.

A book I often recommend to clients is Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box.
The Preface to the book gives a great metaphor for how we can be our own worst enemy when we insist on pushing harder instead of ‘pausing to reflect and try something new’:
“Self-deception actually determines one’s experience in every aspect of life…it is the central issue in leadership…To give you an idea of what’s at stake, consider the following analogy.  An infant is learning to crawl.  She begins by pushing herself backward around the house.  Backing herself around, she gets lodged beneath the furniture.  There she trashes about – crying and banging her little head against the sides and undersides of the pieces.  She is stuck and hates it.  So she does the only thing she can think of to get herself out – she pushes even harder, which only worsens her problem.  She is more stuck than ever.

If this infant could talk, she would blame the furniture for her troubles.  She, after all, is doing everything she can think of.  The problem couldn’t be hers.  But of course, the problem is hers, even though she can’t see it.  While it’s true she’s doing everything she can think of, the problem is precisely that she can’t see how she’s the problem.  Having the problem she has, nothing she can think of will be a solution.

Self-deception is like this.  It blinds us to the true cause of problems, and once blind, all the “solutions” we can think of will actually make matters worse.”

Leaders are intelligent, action oriented people who have learned to trust their decision making and problem solving ability.  It is therefore natural that when they bump into barriers they believe the problem will be solved by changing something external to themselves.
The flaw in that thinking is that they too, are part of the system that needs a solution.  Like little Sam, stuck under the couch, they too are part of the problem.
In some way, to some extent, you and I are all part of the issue that needs to be solved.  It is true that if the furniture wasn’t there, Sam wouldn’t have got stuck.  It is equally true that a broader skill set – the ability to crawl forwards as well as backwards – would’ve enabled him to get unstuck.  As leaders, we need to be asking where our thought patterns and/or skill set is part of what is keeping us stuck.  Where do we need to change or grow?
Without asking in what ways our presence and approach impacts the situation, we deceive ourselves and miss an opportunity to influence.  We remain part of the problem.
What questions could the following people ask that will help them understand their part in the problems they’re encountering?
I have an open door policy but no one lets me know things until it’s too late.
Nothing gets done around here unless I do it.
I can’t seem to get my team to take the initiative, I have to tell them exactly what to do.  They don’t seem capable of thinking for themselves.
The competitiveness amongst our people stops them from collaborating and means that vital information isn’t shared.  It is costing us millions each year.
Breaking out of our ‘tried and tested’ ways of thinking and acting is not easy on our own and it is a key leadership skill for those who want to lead well outside a limited set of circumstances.  This is one of the reasons coaching has become a pillar of many organizations leadership development – executive coaching provides the right balance of challenge and support for leaders to break free from their ‘tried and tested’ ways when circumstances require it.

Negative information is often difficult to give.  So much so that we often avoid it.
How many times have you bitten your tongue even on something critical because to deal with it would have meant letting the other person know that they hadn’t met expectations or hadn’t got it right?
As Canadians we are especially good at compromise and being politically correct.  Perfecting being nice, however, comes at a cost.
Respect demands that we tell and are told the truth.  Honestly said, as hard as it may be to hear, don’t you would want to know the real message your boss or colleague is too nice to tell you?
You are intuitive enough to pick up that something isn’t being said, but if s/he doesn’t tell you the truth you are left guessing.  Even the hard truth shows you more respect and is better than a ‘nice’ half-truth or silence… as long as it is motivated by respect for each other.
Harmony at all costs isn’t harmony at all.  When you have to go home and tell your dog all the things you couldn’t say to your colleague, there is nothing more than a façade of harmony and the beginnings of a deteriorating relationship.  This is costly business behaviour.  We operate in an increasingly complex world that requires a way of being where our strength is determined by the strength of our teams, not the individual star players.  A team without strong, trusting, honest relationships is not a team – it is merely a collection of individuals.
The problem with not communicating honestly about different values, perspectives or expectations is that they don’t go away.  Instead, the person goes away none the wiser and trust is slowly eroded.
In employment law, precedence overrides contract.  This is also true of how people interact with each other.  You may have an agreed expectation around punctuality for meetings.  This is your ‘contract’.  How you deal with lack of punctuality creates precedence and sets a new default expectation or contract.  So, if you uphold the expectation by starting on time regardless of who is late or by taking it up with the individuals who are late and reinforcing the expectation, you uphold your contract.  However, if you allow people to arrive 5 then 10 minutes late and adjust you agenda to fit into the remaining time – they will assume you weren’t serious about punctuality and “arrive within 10 minutes of scheduled time” becomes the new contract.  So, by being “nice” and avoiding the issue, you have unwittingly redefined the expectations.
 If not being upfront creates unwanted results, why do so many people still resist confrontation?  Three possible reasons are:

  1. How you see confrontation:  If just the word confrontation makes you want to run in the other direction, it’s probably time for a new perspective on what it means to confront or deal directly with issues.The dictionary has a number of definitions for “confront”, only one of them involves hostility, yet that is the one most commonly held – that to confront is to be hostile.  The other two definitions; “meet or stand facing” and “bring face to face with” are much more useful starting points in confronting situations that need dealing with.
  2. How you see others:  If you see confrontation as hostile, it may be because you hold certain assumptions around the unmet expectations that leave you in a hostile frame of mind.  Separating observable facts (he is consistently late for meetings) from assumptions (he is incapable of organising his time effectively) allows you to confront the issue without hostility towards the person.If performance is not meeting a manager’s expectations and they bring the individual “face to face” with the short fall with a developmental intention, they are respecting the individual by trusting them to use the opportunity to learn and to improve.  This, of course, assumes that the manager believes the individual has the capacity to meet the expectations and does actually respect them.Suspending your assumptions allows you to focus on increasing understanding of what each parties’ expectations and accountabilities are, thus insuring that precedence supports and doesn’t override contract.
  3. A willingness to be confronted by others: As leaders, we need to model both speaking and receiving truth.  It is important that we create an environment that makes truth speaking safe.  That means you expect others to be upfront with you and to confront your thinking and/or actions when doing so serves the teams’ raison d’être. You thank  them for their input and loop back to them once you’ve processed how feedback has helped you and the team.

If you are serious about leading, don’t buy into the superficial façade of political correctness.  Rather aim for true harmony which uses confrontation to bring people face to face with their observable behaviours.  Have the courage to hear when others confront you and the commitment to confront them for the sake of building truly respectful, trusting relationships.  After all, as the leader, it is your job to ensure that the collection of individuals becomes a team.
Gil Davidson is the founder of advantage management consulting, specialists in “Life-Giving Leadership” of self and others.  By combining her business administration degree with a wide range of Human Resource experience in South Africa, New Zealand, Britain and Canada (as well as running her own business since 2002) she brings a good understanding of business priorities and people dynamics.

Join us by adding comments on the leaders we celebrate or by sharing your own stories of leaders you admire and also by adding your reflections on leaders you admire.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

– Past President of South Africa, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Global Statesman

madela-youngIn his early years Nelson Rolihlahla (meaning troublemaker) was often true to his name.  His childhood had difficulty – losing his father at age 9 and privilege – ‘adoption’ by the chief.  He had access to good education and grew up exposed to high level leadership.  Understanding the broader societal impact of decisions were modelled.
During his initiation into manhood he was deeply impacted by the words of Chief Meligqili explaining that they were “enslaved in their own country. A land controlled by white men where they would never have the power to govern themselves.  Where the promise of the young men would be squandered as they struggled to make a living and perform mindless chores for white men.”  Words that began to formulate his resolve for an independent South Africa.
 Young, bright, talented and impetuous Nelson Rolihlahla ran away from university and his responsibilities at the tribal home to avoid an arranged marriage.  Ambitious, he completed his law degree by correspondence and, together with Oliver Tambo, ran a successful law firm providing free and low-cost legal counsel to unrepresented blacks.
Nelson Rolihlahla joined the ANC youth league where he had a reputation for being impatient and militant.  He was a founding member of the armed wing of the ANC, which eventually led to his arrest and 27 year imprisonment.
If the story ended here we would remember him as a spoilt, angry young man driven by all he hated.
In contrast, he is remembered by his forgiveness, his call to reconciliation.  He is remembered and celebrated globally as a statesman of the Century.  What forged the change?
As young adults he and Winnie Madikizela Mandela (his 2nd wife) were very similar in their approach and commitment.  By the time Nelson Rolihlahla was released from prison, his hatred had been replaced with forgiveness and violence with reconciliation.  His wife, Winnie, moved in the other direction.  Her hatred grew and her integrity eroded, causing her to use the ‘struggle’ for her own gain.  She destroyed. He refined.
How easy it is to judge, yet under the same hardship and injustice, what protects us from following the same path Winnie did and what enabled Nelson Rolihlahla to be molded as he was?
Observing from afar never encapsulates the whole picture, yet there are things we can learn.  Hardship or struggle is obviously a key component, yet it destroyed Winnie and refined Nelson Rolihlahla.  I see 3 key factors that enabled hardship to ennoble rather than destroy him.
Factor 1: His time in prison was spent with other senior members of the ANC, many older and wiser than he.  He and other political prisoners often referred to Robbin Island as “The University”.  The resourceful leaders of the ANC developed systems to mentor and inform each other.  Nelson Rolihlahla had 25+years of incredible mentoring and reflection.  He was not alone, but was supported with love and investment from his leaders.
Factor 2:  Although an angry rebellious youngster, he had the breeding of a chief.  Groomed in what it meant to be a good leader, growing up witnessing good leadership lived out.  The foundations of good character were there from his childhood.
Factor 3:  Although baptised in a Methodist church as a child, it was in prison that he came to a true faith.  His relationship with God is a core component in understanding forgiveness as a requirement of faith and of freedom.  He was known as a ‘closet Christian’.  He kept his faith very quiet because the apartheid government had used the bible to support its policies and he was concerned about polarising people if he was public about his faith.
Contrasting the eyes of the young man (full of anger) and his older self (full of love and light), it is clear that his stance on forgiveness and reconciliation were not political posturing, but the result of a deep internal reality.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela entered prison angry, following a path of violence as the solution to apartheid and came out changed.mandela
South Africans are forever grateful that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela lived during the time that he did and that he emerged from his hardships the statesman that he did.
The world is a better place because he lived.  He will not soon be forgotten.

Where have all the good leaders gone? I invite you to join by sharing your own stories of leaders you admire and also by adding your reflections on leaders you admire.

Mahatma Gandhi

– Preeminent leader of the Indian independence movement


Gandhi – Young and Ambitious

As a brilliant young lawyer from a good family Mahatma Gandhi’s future was bright.  He was on track to be a good lawyer and make lots of money until, while riding in first class on a South African train, he bumped into the realities of colonialism in the form of Apartheid.  He was forcibly told to go into the crowed 3rd class cars.
He was not allowed to ride in 1st class because his race was discriminated against by oppressive laws.
He could have chosen to continue as he was and not challenge the powers that be, but a deeply held value in him was awakened that day.
After leading protests against the unjust South African laws he returned to India and pursued a life very different from the one he set out to achieve and one that has his name indelibly written in our history books.


Legendary Leadership

Often misunderstood, he stuck to his values, tested his actions and beliefs with a few trusted colleagues and lived the balance of his life consistently choosing what he believed was right and best for the society he loved.
The last 14 years of his life saw 5 attempted assassinations.  The last attempt, in January 1948, was successful and he died an inspiration to us all.
His life if marked by discipline, consultation, collaboration, standing for justice and counting, not shrinking from the cost, humility and self-sacrifice.
Such leadership is as scarce as it is costly.  We pay tribute to his life.

All the attention of the current US presidential electioning has me reflecting on what is good leadership and is leadership aptitude enough or are there other factors?
I got to thinking about leaders I admire.  Obviously I do not know these leaders personally, however, they are all leaders I’ve taken a keen interest in and followed their lives to varying degrees over the years.  In this short, mini-series, I reflect on what appear to be factors that molded them as good, even great leaders.  Leaders who the world is better for them having led.  Leaders who finished (or are finishing) well.  I may follow it with reflections on a few leaders the world may have been better without.
I invite you to join by sharing your own stories of leaders you admire and also by adding your reflections on

Anita Roddick

– Founder of The Body Shop

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rex Features (1350527r) Anita Roddick of the Body Shop Various

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rex Features (1350527r)

As a young woman she was happily running a small hotel with her husband.  The Body Shop was birthed as a pragmatic response to a selfless act: They lived in England with two small children.  Her husband, Gordon, had a dream of riding across America on horseback.  The dream required him to be away for 2 years.  Anita encouraged him to fulfil his dream, however, that left her with a dilemma.  She knew she wouldn’t be able to run the hotel and fulfill her responsibilities as a mother if she was single parenting for 2 years.  They sold the hotel and she started The Body Shop. In her book Body and Soul: Profits with Principles, she talks about the difficulties she encountered in the time her husband was away.  What struck me about her life and how she grew as a leader was her constant outward focus.  Her concern for the environment was genuine and shaped her policies – it also is a big part of what differentiated The Body Shop and contributed to their success.  Travel broadened her exposure and her genuine empathy for those she met showed in her curiosity about their lives.  Thus was birthed her fair trade.  Her commitment to improving the lives of others by real trade (ie given fair price and gaining products of real value) again proved to be a significant differentiator and contributor to the businesses success.
anita-roddickAs I reflect on Anita Roddick’s life I see a woman who lived true to her values even when it was tough, who didn’t allow ambition to swallow up the greater meaning of live and who built a global business by choosing the right partners (see more in the book) and by actioning, not just talking, about the greater good.  She didn’t set out to be great, but became great through seeing and seizing opportunities for herself and others.  She died in 2007 leaving behind a legacy within her family, her business and her social footprint to be proud of.  We pay tribute to her life.

All the attention of the current US presidential electioneering has me reflecting on what is good leadership and is leadership aptitude enough or are there other factors?
I got to thinking about leaders I admire.  Obviously I do not know these leaders personally, however, they are all leaders I’ve taken a keen interest in and followed their lives to varying degrees over the years.  In this short, mini-series, I reflect on what appear to be factors that moulded them as good, even great leaders.  Leaders who the world is better for them having led.  Leaders who finished (or are finishing) well.  I may follow it with reflections on a few leaders the world may have been better without.
I invite you to join by sharing your own stories of leaders you admire and also by adding your reflections to my thoughts.

Desmond Tutu (aka The Arch)

– Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town
tutu-youngDesmond Tutu was born in South Africa in a time when it wasn’t easy to be black.  He chose a life as an Anglican minister and became the first black Archbishop of Cape Town.  This was at a time when even the church was segregated.  It would’ve been easy to become either bitter with anger or arrogant at his success, but he did neither.  It would also have been easy protect the privilege of his position by avoiding controversial issues.
Desmond has a wife and four children and he chose to be true to his calling as a prophet – as one who speaks truth and holds those in leadership to account.  The end result was a Nobel prize, but the cost of that prize were years of being misquoted and maligned in the press.  Death threats – even people phoning his home and letting his young daughter know that they are going to kill her father.  He remained strong and true, eventually leading South Africa through the Truth and Reconciliation process.  A process globally recognised as revolutionary in its power to heal.  Many sat back and watched as the Apartheid government was replaced by a fully democratically elected black government and wondered if he would have the same courage to speak truth and hold this government accountable.  He didn’t even miss a beat, but continues to play a pivotal truth speaking role in South Africa and globally.

As I reflect on “The Arch” (as he is affectionately known) I see a man having to choosing again and again to do the hard thing because it is what he is called to do.  tutu
A man with a deep faith and a deep dependence on God that is his strength.  A man who refused to be chained by bigots or by anger but who channelled his anger (with forgiveness) to stand for truth, justice and reconciliation.

Coach CredentialsThe last 15 years has seen a steady increase in companies embracing executive coaching as a core piece in their leadership development suite of tools. Those who’ve been coached swear by it. Others are still skeptical. A large component of the distrust stems from the lack of compulsory regulation in the industry, leaving consumers vulnerable as they try to discern the value they can expect from their coach.
Choosing a coach may be easier and lower risk than you think.  There are essentially 2 core components to evaluate in your choice of coach:
1. Are they qualified?
2. Are they a good fit?
Are they qualified?
Experience in business or as a leader doesn’t always make for a good mentor and that is even truer when it comes to coaching. Unfortunately many consultants see themselves as an expert in their field and then add the title of “Coach” to their name. Would you hire someone as an accountant or an architect if they were not certified by their profession? Coaching is also a profession with clear professional requirements in training and in conduct. When hiring a coach 2 questions will quickly tell you if they are a qualified professional; “Where did you get your coaching certification?” and “What International Coach Federation (ICF) credential do you hold?” If they are not credentialed and are not certified by a professional coaching body such as the ICF you are not hiring a professional.
The ICF is the largest international professional coaching body. They issue 3 levels of coaching credentials (ACC, PCC & MCC), they hold coach training schools up to a high standard and hold their coaches up to a code of ethics and a professional standard for the protection of the public, similar to other professions.
Be sure they have the training and credentialing and are not simply a consultant calling themselves a coach?
Are they a good fit?
Fit is a key pillar of the success of coaching – both for the individual receiving the coaching and the company who is hiring them. If a coach doesn’t mention the importance of fit, but sells him or herself as able to ‘coach anyone’ beware. Everyone has different styles of learning so the same coach may be loved by some and not by others. Even a good wine isn’t everyone’s taste! Fit is as important for the individual receiving the coaching as it is for the company who is hiring them. Once you’ve determined that a coach is qualified (credentialed and certified), you move on to checking for fit. This means that coachees (people receiving the coaching) benefit from having a selection of coaches to choose from. As we began working with executive teams it became necessary to build a diverse team of qualified Professional Coaches in order to give our clients choice – so they would easily find a good fit for their style of learning.
Fit for your organization is as important as fit for the individual coachee.  
Do they understand business?  They do not need to be an expert in your field (in fact that can be a disadvantage), but do need to have enough experience to understand the context in which the coachee exists.
Do they fit with your organizational culture and values? When you meet with them assess if their language, values and approach will fit with your organization.
Other questions to factor into your decision making process:
How long and at what level have they been coaching? 
Do they seem too cheap?
Surveys show that, at CEO and direct report level, Executive Coaches’ monthly fees are:37% over $1,000 per month, 24% at $800 to $1000 a month, with only 9% charging under $400. With more than 62% of coaches’ charging $800 or more, you should think twice about hiring a coach who thinks they’re only worth half that. If you’re paying at the low end, are you really getting value for money?
What do their clients say about them?
Do they offer other services that may complement the coaching? For example, we, measure the coaching effectiveness through a survey co-designed with our clients.
I hope that you found this 2 part article useful and that it takes some of the risk out of hiring a coach.  We’d love to hear your comments and how you’ve put any of this in practice.

Determining the ROI of Coaching
Services are always hard to determine the value of, how do you know if you’re getting good value from your accountant, architect or lawyer?  Executive coaching is no different.  You can’t ‘kick the tires’ of a service before you buy it, but you probably do have a few indicators that help you determine the value you want from a service.  This ‘buyers’ conundrum’ has surfaced enough lately that we interrupt our Series on Leadership Secrets to bring you a 2 part Blog on “How to Measure Executive Coaching”.
We believe you can only see the value if you’re asking the right questions, so we co-design feedback surveys with our larger clients on their coaching metrics.  We measure coach fit, goal achievement, observable impact, coach professionalism and competencies developed.
We coach leaders, high potential individuals who are used to challenging themselves to more.  47% of the leaders we coach are senior management to CEO level and 39% are emerging leaders or middle management.  Coach fit is critical to success as the power of the coaching is only as good as the combination of saftey and challenge.  These leaders have already challenged themselves as far as they can.  The coach must create a safe enough environment for the client to be challenged beyond what they would do otherwise.  Part of that safety is knowing the coach has an unwavering belief in them as leaders. 94% of our clients’ surveyed always sensed my coach’s belief in me personally”, with 6% mostly sensing the coach’s belief.  56% said they always felt safe”, with 44% most of the time and 94% experience the “right amount of challenge to go beyond my comfort zone” most or all the time.
Goal Achievement can be a tricky one as maintaining confidentialty on what the client is working on is key to the success of coaching.  Most of the coaching goals are set by the coachee themselves, however, their boss or sponsor is allowed 1 core goal they put forward for the coachee to work on.  That, in turn is confidential between the coach, coachee and boss/sponsor.  We measure this by simply asking “Did you accomplish the majority of your goals?” 100% of clients surveyed say yes to both the sponsor and self-identified goals!  They can elaborate in the comment box -and many do.
Observable impact is measured by simply asking “In what ways have others observed the impact of coaching on you?”.  We know that behaviour change has taken place when third party feedback confirms it. Examples of third party feedback are: ‘greater trust by others’, ‘More aware of my audience / other team members needs and differences ‘, ‘My boss originally said I wasn’t strategic enough and at the end he said there was a marked improvement. I’m a broader thinker. I am able to stay in a strategic frame of mind and not get dragged into the day to day often. Today I think more corporate than departmental.’ and ‘better listening and different analysis and approach on the issues’.  All difficult to put metrics to, but observable and measurable none the less.
Coach professionalism is used for us to monitor ourselves and to see where we can improve. We care deeply about the coaching profession and aim to represent it well.  100% of clients’ surveyed ranked all our coaches as “Professional” or “Highly Professional” on all 5 indicators, from “Initial Contact” orAddressing any process issues you had” to “Finalising the Contact”.  All would recommend their coach to others!  This high satisfaction level also speaks to the effort we put in around matching clients with one of our 7 coaches as well as the diversity and skill available on our team.
While we do not get clients to give us feedback on their specific goals, we do ask for feedback on core ‘intangible’ leadership competencies developed through their coaching.  We customise  the competencies measured to those most important to the company we’re working with.  Typically we end up with around 9.  Some common competencies measured are; “Self-Awareness”, “Relational Ability”,  “Dealing with Conflict”, “Internal Confidence” and “Influence”.  The feedback usually comes back with the coaching having had significant impact or having exceeded expectations.
If you want to ‘kick the tires’ of a coaching service before you hire them, use these measurements as questions for their references.  If they claim to be a right fit for all your expecutive, beware.  Rather look for a team of coaches, like ours, or hire a coach who advises you to first interview 2 or 3 coaches before deciding on best fit.  Lastly, if you’re planning to make coaching a core component of your leadership development, ask the coaching organization if they’re willing to co-design a feedback survey that provides you with valuable metrics while still honouring the confidentiality inherent in the coaching relationship.
We’ve shared our thoughts with you.  We’d love to hear how you go about selecting coaches and measuring impact of your coaching investment.
Part 2  on Coach Credentials coming soon…….