Creating a strong coaching alliance: How do I know coaching is working?

So you have been thinking about hiring a coach, but are unsure of where to start. Why do I want a coach? How do I find the right professional for me? What happens once I hire my coach? How do I tell if it is working?

Professional coaching is a relatively new and currently poorly regulated field. Navigating the uncharted terrain can be challenging and confusing.  This series of posts is designed to take the reader through the process of coaching.  Previous posts in this series addressed why you might want a coach, how to find the right coach for you, and what happens after you hire your coach.  This fourth and final in the series discusses how to tell if the coaching is working.

A bit on goals and objectives:

As stated in my previous post, the coaching experience alone is subjectively highly rewarding for most clients.  It feels great to be the center of someone’s attention, talking about what you want and need with someone who is a really good, caring, compassionate listener.  People tend to really, really like that a lot!  But, a good coach will help you identify goals that are critically important to you, help you create objectives to support those goals, and measure your progress towards your goals.      Ideally a great coaching experience will leave both client and coach with both the subjective experience of success, and objectively measurable evidence of success.

Subjective experience of success:

This is your gut instinct about whether coaching is working or not.  You will invariably know if something’s not right.  What sorts of thoughts and feelings (yes feelings) are you having surrounding your next coaching appointment?  There is a wealth of information on how the coaching is working for you right there.  Are you looking forward to your meetings?  Are you preparing in advance?  Are you feeling guilty for not completing what you said you would?  Do you know that in your session, you will be the center of the discussion?  Will the time be wide open to go where you want and need?  Do you trust that your coach respects you, “gets” you, your goals, your dreams?  If not, I suggest you take some time to clarify within yourself what feels not quite right, and find a way to discuss it openly with your coach.  This will be a good experience for you and  your coach can handle it, I promise.  It is likely the result will be you getting more of what you want and need.  If you can’t make the relationship work for you, you will know.  It’s perfectly fine to seek other alternatives.

Objective Reporting:

Typically the subjective experience is a greater priority to most people, but the rewarding experience of setting and achieving objectively measurable goals is fantastic.  I specifically love to work with highly capable smart people with BIG goals that help humanity at large or some subgroup.  Some examples are, starting and/or improving a nonprofit that helps children, improving healthcare service delivery, improving relationships, improving teamwork, creating life balance, increasing personal and professional influence.  It is an honor to partner with people in achieving these goals.

So in order to achieve these big goals we translate them into measurable objectives together.  Your coach will guide you through this activity.  If your goal is to improve teamwork, for example, the question might be, “How will you know teamwork has improved?”  The answer might be, “Team members will take more risks, work more effectively together, there will be less interpersonal undermining during projects, they’ll involve me less in the problem resolution process.”  “Each of these can be formally measured, if desired, or can be informally measured depending on the client’s needs.

A word about cost

Hiring a professional coach can be expensive.  Not hiring a coach can be more expensive. In the beginning, it is a challenge to help companies and individuals understand the value of professional coaching.  I like to help both individuals and organizations see the value of coaching, and the cost of the status quo. What is the value, speaking of both dollar value and the value of personal well being, of getting that promotion you want?  What is it worth to you to create your ideal life?  What is the cost in both revenue loss and logistical headaches to your company when you lose a key executive, or worse, have a disengaged executive staying but not producing what he or she could.  Now that’s expensive.

The bottom line is each of us deserves the time and space to create the life of our dreams. There are many ways to go about doing it.  Coaching may or may not be for you.  Life and work can be exciting and fun.  In whatever manner works best for you, go for it!

Written by: Terry Hoffmann

Terry Hoffmann specializes in partnering with physicians, executives, and teams to drive profitability, foster patient loyalty, enhance provider and staff engagement and satisfaction, and create high performance work cultures. Terry's educational background includes a Master's degree in counseling psychology from the University of North Florida and a Bachelor's of Science in psychology from Colorado State University. She is a board certified coach, and also credentialed through the International Coach Federation.