The Five Practices of an Effective Evaluation Strategy

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By all accounts, the five-month coaching pilot project at OptiCom

was viewed as a success: Comments and feedback from participants

were positive, and the Leadership Advisory Board seemed impressed.

So, given this outcome, Jacqui was a bit puzzled by the advisory

board’s request to formally evaluate the business impact of the

pilot before they authorized full deployment of the coaching initiative.

At stake here was deploying coaching to the top 80 leaders at

this telecommunications company. The pilot had been completed

for almost two months now, and while several of the 10 pilot

participants had chosen to continue their coaching, Jacqui was

concerned about losing momentum for coaching the remaining

80 leaders. She felt a strong sense of urgency to do the evaluation

the Leadership Advisory Board had requested and get it over quickly

so full deployment of the coaching initiative could get underway.

Analysis paralysis could jeopardize full deployment of coaching.

In her role as the director of leadership development, Jacqui

decided to hire an outside evaluator, thinking that the evaluator

could quickly focus on the salient impact areas of the coaching and

produce a report that was credible in the board’s eyes. Michael, the

evaluator, sat down with Jacqui to map out the evaluation. Jacqui

presented the objectives and outcomes that were part of the proposal

for the coaching initiative (Table 11.1). It soon became apparent

to Michael that the coaching pilot could have been better

positioned in the organization. Reading between the lines, he could

understand the board’s uneasiness with moving the initiative to full

deployment. The immediate question before Michael was how to

share his critique with Jacqui in a way that would not make her feel

defensive.

At first, Michael complimented Jacqui on completing the pilot

and shared with her how the board’s request for a business impact

evaluation was a good sign. It showed that they were keenly interested

in coaching and were looking for ways to leverage coaching in

the organization. Besides,Michael reasoned, pilots are conducted to

learn about how best to move to full deployment, and this is really

what the board’s request boiled down to. Michael then shared five

practices of an effective evaluation strategy:

1. Link coaching to achieving business goals

2. Set objectives that include the application of coaching to the

workplace

3. Develop evaluation objectives that directly tie to coaching

objectives

4. Decide how to demonstrate the contribution that coaching

makes on performance apart from other potential influencing

factors (e.g., isolating the effects)

5. Describe expected areas of performance improvement

Jacqui was getting fidgety as Michael took her systematically

though each of these five practices based on the document she

shared with him. He positioned his critique as a requirement for the

evaluation and also a way to better sell full deployment of the initiative

to the board. “Let’s talk their language”Michael intoned.

Table 11.1 The Purpose and Outcomes of Coaching Document at OptiCom

Executive Coaching Pilot

OptiCom Leadership Development

Presentation to the Leadership Advisory Board

July 10, 2003

Overview It is proposed to provide all ninety Leadership Forum members

with five months of executive coaching. Given the level of

investment to implement this coaching, a pilot will be conducted

to determine if coaching would be an effective development

approach for OptiCom.

Objectives The objectives of the coaching are:

1. To provide executives with a personalized five-month

development experience.

2. To incorporate the leadership competency model into the

coaching.

3. To provide each executive with internal and external

feedback so they gain greater perspectives on their

leadership style.

Outcomes The expected outcomes of the coaching initiative are:

1. Ninety executives (ten in the pilot) will have each received

five months of coaching.

2. Participants will have learned how to be more effective

leaders.

3. Participants will have embraced the leadership competency

model as their guide for leading people.

Link Coaching to Achieving Business Goals

In all of the material Jacqui prepared to position and launch coaching,

there was nary a word about how coaching would advance

business objectives. Coaching objectives pointed to developmental

experiences that would enable executives to gain a “greater perspective.”

There are a whole host of experiences and perspectives to gain

that have nothing to do with achieving business goals. Just because

an executive develops in some way does not mean that his or her

leadership style becomes more effective. Gaining a new perspective

and acting on this new perspective to improve the business are two

different things.

The third objective related to how coaching would incorporate the

leadership competency model.Althoughintegrationof developmentrelated

initiatives is appropriate, even necessary, it is rarely sufficient

to sustain or justify the investment in coaching. Linking coaching

to competencies, which are linked to other developmental processes,

is critical to ensure that all activities are appropriately integrated.

However, integration by itself does not guarantee that these activities

will deliver strategic value. Only by linking coaching to achieving

business goals can the promise of strategic value be realized.

Set Coaching Objectives That Include the Application of

Coaching to the Workplace

Learning is one thing, but applying learning to the workplace is

another. In the case of OptiCom, the coaching objectives were

directed to “gaining perspectives,” which says nothing about applying

these new perspectives in a meaningful way in the workplace.

The stated outcome for the coaching of “learning how to be a more

effective leader” says nothing about applying this learning to the

workplace. Setting these objectives is not trivial; and as we will see

later in this chapter, these objectives guide the design of the entire

initiative. A coaching initiative focused on application of learning

to the workplace, for example, may set expectations for both

participants and coaches of realizing tangible application of learning

from the coaching conversations to the workplace. HR managers

may, halfway through the coaching process, talk privately with the

executives about their experiences in applying new leadership

behaviors in their work settings. Midcourse follow-up sessions can

be conducted in which executives discuss what they are doing differently

as a result of their coaching and share success stories. These

open forums provide recognition to those who are experiencing

success and encourage others to take the plunge and apply their

learnings.