Understanding how coaching can empower whole organisations

Businesses want to gain the positive impacts of coaching, but also need to be able to accurately measure its benefits to ascertain its effectiveness
By: | April 5, 2019


About the Authors
Ambica Saxena is the Asia-Pacific Director and Head of Singapore at  YSC Consulting and Jessica Ng is an Analyst at YSC Consulting.

When it comes to building leaders in our organisations, it can be tempting to jump straight to training as a solution. Investing in a cohort of people to collectively build capability is an attractive option and often perceived to be more cost effective.

However, businesses find that only about 20 percent of the skills or knowledge taught in leadership training programs are transferred into new leadership habits.

Training programs often teach the theory and technical skill behind leadership, but don’t provide insight into a leader’s individual style of leadership.

Training programs don’t tap into what leadership looks like for that individual, and how they translate learnings from the training into actionable change in their context.

They may better understand how to behave like a leader, but they may not necessarily understand the environment they create for their people – that is how they motivate, assign levels of accountability and create an environment for people to support each other.

An alternative to training is coaching, but although coaching scholars and providers have demonstrated the positive impact of coaching in numerous domains, there is an enduring spotlight on its effectiveness.

Coaching leaders can be perceived as a hefty investment with some businesses reporting spending about a quarter of their learning and development budget on leadership development.

This persistent focus on finding the impact of coaching is unsurprising given that coaching is estimated to be a growing US$2 billion global industry.

It’s clear that businesses want to gain the positive impacts of coaching, but also need to be able to accurately measure its benefits to ascertain its effectiveness


How should leaders be measured?

Academic research highlights the personal benefits of coaching such as well-being, self-insight, confidence, perspective-taking and so on, but neglect the measures that matter to businesses.

Many studies that aim to measure the impact of coaching heavily focus on the level of change and subsequent performance of the individual receiving coaching.

This narrow focus on coaching ignores the dynamic context of the individual and the impact they have on others and the broader system.

As a result, providers grapple with calculating the true return of investment of coaching. At best, ROI values that are available have been retrospectively estimated and reduced to approximate the impact of coaching.

These values are not usually validated, nor replicated and involve a lot of guesswork.

Only one study to date has looked at the benefits of coaching on others beyond the coachee themselves. The study found that those who received coaching experienced a significant increase in psychological well-being and were more likely to be perceived as a transformational leader.

However, the positive effects of coaching did not just stop there. Those who were more well connected with the leader being coached were also more likely to experience positive increases in well-being.

The researchers suggested that as a leader is coached and shifts their communication, their interaction with others is altered.

This new interaction acts as a reminder for the leader and others of their joint purpose to achieve organisational goals, and this focus on meaning then positively impacts well-being. This is the coaching ripple effect.

Part Two: How leaders can enable a ripple effect with coaching