Characteristics of Successful Coaching Engagements That Deliver Lasting Change

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A successful coaching engagement goes beyond just supporting an

individual’s realization of specific coaching goals. A successful

coaching engagement will have a cascading effect, creating positive

change beyond the experience of the person receiving the coaching

and has the following four characteristics:

1. The change is targeted to meet the development needs of the

individual and the strategic needs of the organization. Both the

coach and the client need to be looking at the big picture when

setting the intentions for the coaching engagement. From the

client’s perspective, the big picture is a willingness to stretch

himself in ways that lead to greater personal effectiveness.

Shoot too low, and a real opportunity is lost. Shoot too high

and the goals do not engage the energy and imagination of the

client. From the organization’s perspective, the big picture

involves aligning the development of the individual with the

strategic needs of the organization.

2. The changes that occur through coaching are lasting. This is a

key point and a true differentiator of coaching that creates personal

transformation versus coaching that only scratches the

surface. Surface coaching focuses on having the client change

the way he or she does something without much regard for

changing the client’s perspectives that allows the behavior in

the first place. The new behavior is “pasted on” to the outside

of the client, so that when things are going well it appears that

he or she has acquired a new skill or approach. But when the

going gets tough—and it will—the person will revert back to

the original behavior because it feels safe and familiar. For

change to be lasting, coaches have to work on multiple levels

with clients, guiding them to gain insight and translating those

insights into specific actions. The actions that are taken need

to build toward the intended goals. This progressive process of

insight guiding outer change delivers significant, lasting

results. This inside-out process is the essence of coaching and

is discussed in more detail later in this chapter.

3. The outcomes of a coaching engagement lay the foundation for

continued development for the client, with or without the partnership

of a coach.When coaching is done well, the client learns

not only new skills and ways of approaching challenges but

also how to learn. The process of reflecting on experiences to

gain meaning and insight enables people to continue to grow

and develop with or without the support of a coach. As a

coach, one of the most rewarding moments in a coaching

engagement is the time when the client starts to coach himself.

With practice, the client becomes accustomed to taking time

out periodically to reflect on intentions and performance and

finds ways to improve.

4. The change continues to evolve and add value beyond the individual

who experiences the coaching. Coaching is contagious.

As coaching clients make changes in how they interact with

others, how they communicate, and how they lead, the people

around them are often influenced by the changes. A person

who works with a coach long enough to make significant

changes will almost always start to coach others. Some people

are purposeful about sharing what they have learned, often

taking time to share insights and new approaches with their

colleagues and direct reports. Others just naturally pick up

on the coaching skills they are exposed to and consciously or

unconsciously integrate them into their own leadership style.

Although the ripple effect does not generally get picked up on

the ROI radar, it is an important source of lasting value for an

organization.