Judy Hollis writes about coaching in her blog, The Winning Teams Blog, saying “…its effectiveness as a development tool and the return on investment for coaching spend is still largely unclear and often questioned.” I agree; measurement of the value of coaching to organizations is seriously lacking. Part of the problem is in assuming, incorrectly, that all coaching is basically the same and is intended to achieve similar results.

Elouise Leonard-Cross, writing in the trainingzone.uk.com, said,

Those responsible for evaluating coaching need to think beyond simple happy sheets and start considering carefully how to evaluate within their organisation. One size really doesn't fit all and it is important to consider the type of coaching used and measures that relate to this. Organisations are now considering the use of pre and post intervention assessment tools to help to identify individual growth, including emotional intelligence, self-efficacy and goal focus measures, as individual increases in all of these areas have direct business benefit.

This statement captures the dilemma well. On the one hand, people recognize that to apply the right evaluation method, they need to know what kind of coaching and for what results before selecting a method. But, on the other hand, people want to develop a pre/post measure of coaching. If the intended purpose is to develop “emotional intelligence” (as defined by Daniel Goleman) then we could measure that change with a pre/post assessment tool, which currently exists. However, we still can’t be sure that it was coaching that caused the difference or it was something else (or a combination of factors, which is usually the case) in the organization or person’s life. And maybe the purpose of a particular coaching intervention is business acumen, or team facilitation, or supervision skills, or any of a host of other potential outcomes. The emotional intelligence assessment tool would not be appropriate in these cases. And what about the coaching process itself? Is it a developmental, self-awareness approach or a more directive, advice-giving approach, or a highly structured, teaching approach, or one or a combination of several other approaches. There is no one right way to do coaching. So when we say we are evaluating coaching we need to know what was done and why it was done and what happened during the process to affect the outcomes.

In an article on coaching that appeared in the Mail & Guardian, a beneficiary of coaching wrote:

[The coaching] has undoubtedly affected my personal life and career in a most positive way I would never have thought possible at the outset. This journey to date has been most insightful and has had a deep effect on my outlook on life and my future career in general. It has reinforced my confidence and has brought about change in a way that has been so easy to accept and adapt to.

That’s a wonderful testimonial. Now, I want to know how coaching affected this person’s personal life and career. What happened in the coaching? What did the coach do and what specifically did this person learn? Is there anything else that happened over this time that might have contributed to his learning and change? How has he applied what he learned in his work and outside his work? In what ways are his personal life and career different now? What specifically is the change in him that occurred and how significant is this change? What has been the impact on his work and the people around him? What has this meant to his organization? If I can hear the answers to these questions, from him and from the people around him, then I can understand how this particular kind of coaching contributed to achieving the results that this person thinks he has achieved.