8 ways to bake results and value into your executive coaching engagements

One of the dirty secrets about the executive coaching industry is that many executive coaches fail to get specific, measurable results. As a result they don’t last long with clients, don’t get many referrals to new clients, and often don’t last long in the industry.

That won’t happen to you when you join the Center for Executive Coaching. Following are 8 of the many ways we make sure that you bake value and results into your coaching. If you like what you read, I invite you to join our programs to get Certified with us.

1. Follow the 5-10x rule. I won’t accept an engagement with a client unless we can agree together that it is worth 5 to 10 times my fees and the client and organization’s time. Otherwise, the client won’t be engaged and I won’t have the best chance of being successful at the end. Value includes tangible results including financial performance and productivity. However, it also includes intangibles (and often these are the most valuable) such as increased time, reduced stress, loyalty and commitment, clarity about direction, more energy, reduced conflict, and improved communication and impact as a leader. What matters is that the client agrees that the value is there if the engagement achieves its goals. Many coaches do not have the direct conversation needed to bake value in. We teach you how to do it, and role play it to demonstrate it so you are confident when you are in the field.

2. Confirm value with the client throughout the engagement, including before and after each session. Before any coaching session, don’t ask a vague question like, “What do you want to talk about today?” Instead, ask the client for an outcome related to the overall goal of the engagement that would also make the session the best time he or she has spent all week. Similarly, end every session with, “What did you find most valuable from our session today?” Have reviews with the client along the way to check progress and make mid-course corrections on the way to the client’s goals — which sometimes includes shifting the goals as the client’s situation changes. Note that we even give you a template report — proven in the field — that you can use with clients to present progress and results as needed.

3. Measure and track results. This sounds obvious, and yet very few coaches do it in a way that actually demonstrates value. Different coaching engagements require different tracking approaches. If you are coaching a client to use more of his time like a true CEO, then you and the client can track how he uses his time compared to how he used to track his time; you can also have the client ask members of his executive team for advice and feedback. If you are coaching a client on accelerating change, you can track the change initiatives as well as how often members of his team see some key behaviors that relate to leading the change effort effectively. When it comes to improving specific leadership competencies, there are a variety of tools that track and measure before and after changes. As a coach, it is essential that you and your clients are accountable for demonstrating the results you are working to achieve.

4. Focus your conversations based on getting value. There is an art to listening to the client AND making sure that the conversation stays focused on how the client defines value. If the client starts to meander or go off track, bring the client back to what he said he wanted to cover, or give him a choice to redefine the scope of the session/engagement. A good coach makes sure everything he or she says moves the conversation forward towards results and value for the client, the same way that a great novelist makes sure that every sentence is important.

5. Have a set of tools that effectively and efficiently help the client get results. Too many coaches are trained to ask a never-ending series of open questions that lead nowhere. That frustrates clients. Why reinvent the wheel? Certain lines of inquiry lead to results more often than others in specific situations. For instance, if the client wants to engage his team more effective, there are some proven approaches to do that. The same is true for coaching the client to craft a strategic plan, develop leaders and plan for succession, resolve a conflict, prepare for a high-stakes influence conversation, succeed in a new role, and juggle multiple priorities. The Center for Executive Coaching has 27 proven toolkits that serve as guides — when needed — to help you coach clients through their most pressing leadership challenges. They leave plenty of room for you to let the client explore and go where they need to go, and also make sure you cover the key areas for maximum results.

6. Know how to have conversations that hold the client accountable. Just as there is an art to focusing the coaching conversation based on the client’s definition of value, there is also an art to holding clients accountable for doing what they agreed to do during coaching sessions. You have to know when to push, when to explore reasons for why a client is avoiding action, and when to look for new solutions. Without having tools to get the client moving forward and having impact that is measurable, you will not get results. Too many coaches focus so much on inner experiences and theory that they forget that ultimately clients need to perform. Our job is to help them do that more effectively.

7. Start with a nowhere-to-hide assessment. One way to kick off a coaching engagement in the right direction — towards value and results — is with a proper assessment. Another problem in the coaching industry is that coaches do fluffy assessments with unclear purpose, and are not trained properly in what makes an effective assessment process. They use tools that are not well validated or reliable; their reports are no better than fortune cookies. My favorite is the coach who comes with a two-inch stack of questionnaires including the question, “If you could be a sandwich, what kind of sandwich would you be?” A proper assessment focuses the client on the key things he or she can do for maximum impact and success, and focuses the engagement on key areas for improvement.

8. Speak the client’s language, not the coach’s. Some coaches are so in love with jargon, theory, and whatever leadership or pseudo-scientific fad that the latest publishing group is pushing this month that they forget about the most important thing: the client. The client determines results, and they do this in their own, usually plain speaking language. Coaching works best when we listen, understand the client’s world, and speak in clear, simple language. Coaching is about the client, and not about showing how much we know or using words like ontology, amygdala hijack, and the names of various neurochemical pathways in the brain. Less is more when it comes to getting results.  

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