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Six Success Essentials Needed For High-Impact Leadership Coaching

Over the last two decades, leadership coaching has become mainstream and continues to grow at a rapid pace.

A 2018 industry analysis estimates that leadership coaching is a billion-dollar-plus industry with a 6-7% growth every year. These figures do not include other forms of coaching such as life coaching and self-improvement coaching. This data is supported by what we see as a firm see in the market - a consistent increase in demand by companies for leadership coaching.

It begs the question, with all the investment of money and time, does leadership coaching work?

The answer - it depends. Unfortunately, much leadership coaching is light on process and measurement. Many times the coach becomes a safe and friendly outlet for the coachee with little noticeable improvement or development for future roles.

The good news is coaching can and does work. In our coaching work with over a thousand leaders, we have found that best practice or High-Impact Coaching is comprised of six success essentials. When these success essentials are in place, coupled with a willing participant, the coaching realizes significant and sustainable development. High-Impact Coaching can change careers and even lives.

Six Success Essentials of High Impact Coaching

High Impact Coaching combines a process-oriented approach to behavior transformation with the experience that comes from a trained and tenured coach. High Impact Coaching is comprised of the following six success essentials:

  • Outcome Focused – each assignment is focused on 2-3 areas that are critical for the success of the participant in his or her organization. These areas are surfaced by probing on the questions – What are the Participant's gaps and opportunities? And What does success look like? These focus areas are then defined in observable actions and behaviors. These observable areas act as the focus for the coach and participant.
  • Relationship Enabled – the coach-participant match matters. It is important that the participant feels comfortable with the coach, and believes the coach is a useful and credible resource. Participants also need to be assured that their conversations with the coach are confidential, that the coaching is a safe place to open- up, test new behaviors, and be transparent with their thoughts and feelings. Often, we (CMP) will have participants talk to 2-3 potential coaches and pick the one they are most comfortable with to get the match right.
  • Assessment Driven – at the front-end of high impact coaching is an assessment of the participant. This is done by having the participant complete a validated assessment (about 40 minutes to complete online) and the coach conducting short interviews with 3-6 people the participant works with most closely. The outcome of this phase is a more in-depth insight into the broader profile – the beliefs, worries and wiring that are driving the participant and how it is perceived in their world of work. In the assessment debrief the Participant, learns a lot about themselves – having these “aha” experiences build credibility for the coaching and highlights the source code areas to be addressed to realize sustainable change.
  • Timed – a balanced level of urgency for results is critical for High Impact Coaching. There needs to be a timeline. The actual timeline of a coaching assignment will vary based upon the coaching outcomes identified and the availability of the participant. However, the coaching timeline is generally a minimum of three months and a maximum of one year. Often companies will sign-up for three-month increments, calibrating and deciding on whether additional coaching is needed every three months.
  • Short Feedback Loops – participant progress is reviewed monthly with Sponsors (direct leader(s) and/or HR) and used to calibrate and adjust coaching focus in real-time. In these calibration calls the Coach will discuss the participant’s behaviors and performance but will not share the discussions he/she has had with the Participant – the coaching conversations remain confidential. The Coach is not an intermediary between the Participant and their boss. Instead, the Coach develops the Participant’s ability to navigate the company successfully.
  • Measurable – by defining the outcomes of the coaching in behavioral terms, we can attach the coaching to key business measures, and even measure the financial impact of successful coaching. We have directly attributed growth and savings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for coaching assignments. Such as the Supply Chain VP who saved $112,000 through better retention and engagement, and the Private Equity CEO who formed and led a team that sold the company in two-years for $142 million - before engaging a coach he spent three years frustrated and unsuccessful in his attempts to build a team and grow the business.

These six success essentials of High Impact Coaching create a blueprint for coaching across industries, and from the executive level to the front-line leader. If you are looking to leverage coaching for leader success, we recommend you ensure the coach and process include these success essentials. If you do so, coaching can provide your organization with better leadership and a sustainable competitive advantage.

To learn more about how to design your leadership coaching for ROI, download our e-book.

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About the Author


Joe Frodsham is President of CMP. He has published a number of articles, co-authored two seminal books on careers––Make It Work and Don’t Dread Monday: Your Guide to Career Success, and is a speaker and recognized expert on careers, employee engagement, leadership development, organization development, and talent systems.