Beyond the Clock: Invest in Value, Not Time, The Real Math of Executive Coaching Initiatives

Flashback to Simpler Times

When I started coaching individuals 15 years ago I took for granted the relative ease with which I was able to establish new client relationships. They’d contact me via my website, social media, referral, etc., and once we determined we were a good match, it was simply a matter of figuring out schedules, billing, and collecting on-boarding documents.

Since then, I’m fortunate that the demand for my signature services reached a point where I needed to hire some of the incredible coaches I’d trained in my Certified Authentic Leadership Coaching (CALC) program to help out. This is where things became much more complex, time consuming, and expensive.

Hiring Freelancers Versus Firms

There’s a significant difference between hiring an individual #professionalcoach and working with a full-service #leadershipdevelopment firm. The overhead for running a one-person leadership coaching practice is far less than operating even a smaller boutique firm like mine at Authentic Leadership Advisors.

To give you a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes, I’ll share with you a small part of our process for partnering with our #corporateclients for #executivecoaching engagements.

Below is a list of the consistent questions I’m asked regularly by HR representatives and other client-company points-of-contact prior to partnering:

Setting the Foundation

Q: How do you assign coaches to clients?  

A: Based on what I know is required of a coach to best meet the specific needs of the leader, I recommend two different coaches for the client to interview in a fit call. The client then selects their preferred coach out of the two. This tends to give the client more ‘skin in the game’ since they were empowered by being a part of the selection process.

Q: What indicators for a coaching match do you use?  

A: Matches are mostly based on the desired scope of the behavior challenge and the personality style required to connect with and hold the client accountable. 

Q: We’d like to ensure that the coaches have business/industry experience as well as coaching experience and certifications. Understanding other clients that the coach has worked with would be helpful. 

A: Since our #subjectmatterexperts are primarily focused on leadership development, specific industry experience doesn’t necessarily create a major value-add. All our coaches are highly trained, #certified , #credentialed, and have a broad understanding of #organizationalculture dynamics. Over the last 15 years we’ve worked with a wide variety of industries, predominantly tech. 

Q: What is the duration of the bi-weekly coaching sessions?  

A: Typically, 1 hour. 

Q: How structured or organic are these sessions? 

A: A combination of both. Coaching is nuanced and somewhat of an artform.  

Q: What is the process for the 360-feedback collection?

A: The primary stakeholder(s) [e.g.: supervisor, HR] and the client co-create a list of 8-10 people [e.g.: supervisors(s), peers, direct reports, skip level reports, strategic partners (internal and/or external, board members, etc.] to provide confidential feedback. We have 30-minute live phone conversations to interview each person and compile notes. These notes are then used to identify themes and uncover which strengths and areas for development are most prominent. We are extremely careful when presenting the feedback summary to the client, to preserve anonymity.  

Q: What is the engagement requirement of the stakeholders (time/frequency in general)?  

A: Primary stakeholders participate in the kickoff and closing sessions (1-hour each), additional mid-way milestone check-ins are optional, and each 360 interview is 30-minutes per feedback participant. 

Q: Understanding that there’s up-front kickoff to co-create expectations and outcomes, how are stakeholders updated on the client’s progress (or concerns)? 

A: To maintain the International Coaching Federation’s Code of Ethics and the container of confidentiality, our process is as follows: 

Conditions of Ethics and Confidentiality: 

  • The coaching “Sponsor”—the entity (including its representatives) paying for and/or arranging or defining the coaching services to be provided, the “Client”—the individual or team/group being coached, and “Primary Stakeholder(s)” -the person(s) [e.g.: Supervisor, HR partner, Board Member] providing goals, expectations, and performance feedback for the Client, agree to the following: 
  • All coaching conversations are completely confidential between the coach and client. 
  • The goals and intended outcomes of the coaching engagement are set and communicated directly by the Primary Stakeholder(s) and Sponsor in the presence of both the Coach and the Client.  
  • The only information provided by the Coach to the Sponsor and Stakeholder(s) are: high-level themes observed in the coaching process, the level of Client engagement (their investment in the process), and any information not to be kept confidential (e.g., illegal activity, if required by law, pursuant to valid court order or subpoena; imminent or likely risk of danger to self or to others; etc.). 
  • Stakeholders are updated on progress by the client directly, or in group calls where the coach facilitates a discussion on progress. If little to no progress is noted the coach or the primary stakeholder(s) may request a milestone update call. 
  • The coach will not deliver performance feedback on behalf of the supervisor. The supervisor will be expected to communicate their concerns directly to the client in the presence of the coach. 

Q: What methods do you use to hold clients accountable to the coaching activities as well as stakeholders’ expectations? 

A: We use direct communication and powerful questions to help the client recognize their lack of follow-through. Ultimately our goal is to help the client develop the skills to hold themselves accountable.  

Q: What values and results have you found by using the Tilt 365 and EQ-i Emotional Intelligence assessment tools?

A: This is a longer discussion, as there are so many examples I can give you! (This will need to be it’s own article.)

Q: What are some examples of the other “tools and resources” provided? 

A: Recommendations of books, articles, TEDTalks, suggested exercises, #mindfulness techniques, etc. 

Q: If we needed broader leadership coaching/training for other managers and executives, would there be a different approach for pricing? 

Potentially, yes. Depending on the size and scope of delivery, we can design a bespoke proposal that would take a ‘bulk discount’ approach. This is what we do with organizations that hire us for ongoing year-long-plus projects. 

But wait, there’s more!

The exchange above is only a brief representation of a highly delicate discussion involving sensitive, confidential information, and that’s just the beginning!

As the owner of my firm, over the course of a typical 6-12 month executive coaching engagement (where several leaders from the same organization are being coached simultaneously), it’s my responsibility to maintain careful oversight which includes:

  • Providing #mentorcoaching and #coachingsupervision to my staff
  • Managing our CRM with records of strictly confidential information
  • Maintaining communication and ethically appropriate boundaries with representatives from the client organization
  • Bookkeeping, legal contracts, insurance, following current trends, etc.

It All Adds Up

For coaches, there are pros and cons to being an individual coach or firm owner.

For companies seeking coaches, there are pros and cons to working with independent coaches versus more established firms that have more coaches at their disposal.

In summary, whether you are embarking on a career as an executive coach or are responsible for hiring executive coaches for your company, it’s important to recognize the value-based scope of complexity described above.

Stop Doing the Wrong Math Equation

If I can impress upon you one key fact, it’s that: coaching initiatives are NOT based solely on cost-per-hour of service delivery. Rather, they are billed as an all-inclusive fixed-fee. If firms like mine actually billed on an hourly-rate basis for all the work we do that goes unseen (on purpose), the investment would be astronomical.

Instead of dividing the contract total by the number of coaching sessions, focus on the #returnoninvestment or #ROI:

A Metrix Global study found that executive coaching has a 788% return on investment (ROI) based on factors including increases in productivity and employee retention.

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) reports the following statistics on the benefits of executive coaching:

  • 70% Increase in Individual Performance
  • 50% Increase in Team Performance
  • 48% Increase in Organizational Performance

Ask yourself how much the following benefits are worth:

  1. Increased Employee Productivity: Executive coaching helps leaders learn how to effectively motivate their team, streamline processes, and create a positive work environment, leading to a boost in overall employee productivity. The improved management techniques often result in employees working more efficiently and effectively.
  2. Improved Leadership and Decision-Making Skills: Leaders who have been coached often report being able to make better decisions and guide their teams more effectively. This can reduce costly mistakes and lead to better outcomes for the business.
  3. Reduced Staff Turnover: When executives are well-coached, they can create a positive work environment that fosters engagement and loyalty. This can significantly reduce staff turnover, saving the company money on recruitment, onboarding, and training new staff members.
  4. Increased Sales and Revenue: Improved leadership skills often lead to improved business strategies and execution, which can result in increased sales and revenue. Companies like GE and Google have reported significant financial benefits from their coaching programs.
  5. Enhanced Communication: Executive coaching often focuses on improving communication skills, leading to clearer and more effective interactions both within the organization and with external clients or customers. This can lead to better team coordination, improved customer relations, and more successful negotiations.
  6. Better Change Management: Organizations undergoing transitions or facing significant change can benefit from coaching. Leaders who are better equipped to manage change can help their teams navigate these periods more effectively, leading to less disruption and better long-term outcomes.
  7. Greater Innovation: By fostering an environment that encourages creative thinking and risk-taking, executive coaching can lead to greater innovation within a company. This can give companies a competitive edge and drive growth.
  8. Increased Confidence and Morale: Leaders who feel more confident and capable are likely to pass these feelings onto their teams, leading to improved morale throughout the company. This in turn can lead to better performance overall.
  9. Enhanced Reputation: Companies that invest in their leaders’ development through executive coaching often enhance their reputation in the marketplace as desirable places to work.
  10. Personal Growth and Satisfaction: While less tangible, the personal growth and satisfaction that comes from effective coaching can improve the overall wellbeing of the executive and, in turn, positively impact the organization.

Thanks for reading!