Part 4 of The Six Truths of Executive Coaching


Characters Holding a Graph

The bottom line? Executive Coaching is about impacting business results…period! Really…it should be that simple, but unfortunately it isn’t. The vast majority of firms and coaches make little to no effort to align coaching to business outcomes.

As a matter of fact, Alec Levenson in Meeting and Maximizing the Business Impact of Executive Coaching (University of California 2009) surveyed human resource professionals and found:

  • 46% of respondents indicated they conduct no tracking of coaching effectiveness whatsoever
  • Only 14% conduct formal “before and after” assessments
  • Of those who do track, only about a quarter measure leader satisfaction
  • Only about one third actually measure the effect of coaching on behavior.

Ok…so let’s interpret what this study is really suggesting. Ready?

It is largely taken on faith that coaching will enhance a leader’s abilities and eventually yield business results.

How sad! AND…how BAD for all the coaches who don’t work harder to actually align their coaching efforts to business outcomes.

So you might ask me…”Gee…why is that, Dr. Rob?”

My answer is that most executive coaches do not have an executive background. They never worked for, held a strategic position in, or had P&L responsibility for an organization that was a top market leader. In other words, they literally do not have the knowledge or experience to even think about making coaching a business-driven process.

Add to that the fact that the professional literature is void of any “How ya do business-driven coaching” advice. Just go to any search engine and type in: “how to align executive coaching with business results?” to see the nothingness you get. What does come up looks great to the eye…but has no substance…no substantive advice.

So what does a leader who really wants to align the coaching process with business results do?

Simple…prioritize leaders’ needs against an assessment of business-level strategic initiatives. In short, the goal is to focus executive coaching on the key business initiatives that matter most to the current — and future — success of the business. Coaching support should be offered to those leaders (and teams) responsible for delivering those key value-creating initiatives.

To do this successfully, the rd&partners practice uses a unique three-step approach, going well beyond standard practice in order to implement and align executive coaching to actual business needs.

  • Step I: Align Coaching to Business Returns
  • Step II: Link Targeted Business Results and Leadership Competencies
  • Step III: Identify and Assess Eligible Leaders

Now, let’s explore each step further!

Step I: Align Coaching to Business Returns

If you want a strong foundation to ensure the process properly aligned to your business outcomes, first address these two critical questions:

  1. Which initiatives are “mission-critical” to the company, business, or function?
  2. Which initiatives would benefit most from providing the support of executive coaching to its leaders?

Next, evaluate each of the strategic initiatives according to the following Key Strategic Filters (ranking them as High, Moderate, or Low):

A.) Importance to Business Success

B.) Probability of Success Without Coaching Support

C.) Level of Leadership Strength and Competence Required

Typically those strategic initiatives (whether at the corporate, business, or functional levels) considered for coaching would rate as a high priority to overall business success; have a low to moderate probability of achievement without assistance; and require a strong or high level of leadership strength and competence. In Example I below, the organization has five strategic initiatives. Each is evaluated against the Key Strategic Filters.

Example 1

Initiative Importance to Business Probability of Success Without Coaching Assistance Leadership Strength Required
Introduce New Product in Energy Group Moderate High Moderate
Integrate New Acquisition High Moderate Moderate
Launch Business in China High Low Moderate
Implementation of Six Sigma High Moderate High
Strengthen the Leadership Bench Moderate High High

In this example, the Six Sigma initiative is identified as “mission-critical” as it yields high importance to the business, has only a moderate probability of success without executive coaching and requires high level of leader strength for it to succeed in delivering business returns.

Step II: Link Leadership Competencies with Targeted Mission-Critical Business Results

Once the strategic initiative(s) has been selected and its quantifiable business targets are defined, next determine the leadership behaviors necessary for this strategic initiative to produce the desired business results.

Although this may appear to be a complex task, it need not be. To do this simply and efficiently:

  • Review a published list of leadership competencies, easily obtained from public sources. (If you wish, contact rd&partners and we will provide a validated leadership competency list for you).
  • From the competency list select 3-6 key behaviors required to achieve the targeted business results.

Example 2: Analysis of Skills Required for Six Sigma Initiative

Mission-Critical Strategic Initiative Six Sigma
Targeted Business Results Reduce service response time by 40% by third quarter.
Leadership Competencies Necessary to the Targeted Business Results – Managing Change
– Planning & Organizing
– Influencing & Persuading

Step III: Identify and Assess Eligible Leaders

Now that you have determined the key leadership competencies necessary to achieve the targeted business results of the mission-critical strategic initiative, the next step is to determine the leaders who would benefit most and determine their coaching goals. Again, it’s a fairly straightforward process.

Begin by identifying those leaders involved in the initiative. These people are often the process owners. It is also important to include any other key contributors who will be involved in or responsible for this mission-critical strategic initiative. These contributors are often either team members of the process owners or individuals whose roles have significant influence or impact on the initiative’s results.

Example 3: Leaders/Process Owners & Key Contributors for the Six Sigma Strategic Initiative

Leaders Team Members & Key Contributors
Pat Rivers Jamie Boyle
Jean Beaumont Pat Kemp
Don Fernandez Anne Cates
Amala Bhalla
Chris Nolan
Clive Pitts

Next, select those leaders and key contributors who will most likely benefit from executive coaching, based on their demonstrated strengths (refer to the key leadership behaviors and competencies you identified back in Step II: Link Targeted Business Results with Leadership Competencies).

This exercise requires more than a judgment call. Your evaluation of each leader and key contributor should be based on either a competency development tool or a 360-degree performance appraisal. If you need help, rd&partners will be happy to provide such assessment tools.

Example 4 below rates each leader and key contributor (high-moderate-low) against the three competencies identified as necessary to achieve the targeted business results for the mission-critical Six Sigma initiative.

Example 4: Assessing Leader Strength Against Competencies Identified to Achieve the Targeted Business Results

Skills Required
Name Managing Change
Planning & Organizing
Influencing & Persuading
Anne Cates High High High
Jean Beaumont High High Moderate
Dom Fernandez Low High High
Jamie Boyle Low Low Moderate
Amala Bhalla High High High
Chris Nolan High Moderate High
Pat Rivers Moderate Moderate Moderate
Clive Pitts High High High
Pat Kemp High High Moderate

Those contributors highlighted are the best candidates for executive coaching based on leader strength assessment, as they represent those with the highest probability of success from the process.

In conclusion…

By using this simple yet practical three-step approach, an organization can more predictably achieve success, as Executive Coaching is…

  • Based on a mission-critical business need
  • Defined in explicitly in business terms
  • Linked solely to leader behaviors that support targeted business results
  • Provided only to those leaders who have a high probability of success from the coaching intervention

In the next article in this series, Coaching Involves More than the Leader and Coach, I’ll show you how to identify

  • the key stakeholders affected by executive coaching
  • how those key stakeholders benefit from the process
  • How to keep the key stakeholders informed without violating the confidentiality of the coaching relationship.

Until then,
Dr. Rob Denker

Image Credits:
Graph: Renjith Krishnan
Business People: photostock.