Why do people hesitate to invest in coaching until after issues arise? It usually comes down to ROI. To be honest, I had the same hesitation myself when I first considered coaching: How can I calculate the return on my investment of time and money? But now that I’m a few years into providing coaching programs for dozens of top-tier companies and hundreds of professionals at all levels, not to mention investing deeply in my own personal growth, I finally understand how to accurately evaluate the ROI -- and maximize it for yourself and your team.
"The greater the doubt, the greater the awakening; the smaller the doubt, the smaller the awakening. No doubt, no awakening." - Chang Chen-Chi, The Practice of Zen
The amount of growth you and your team will experience from coaching--the ROI--is determined by several factors:
How open and willing is the individual participating in the coaching?
Is the coaching holistic, focusing on work plus life plus spirit? Does it explore the depths of who you are, what you believe and how you think so you can reach your greatest potential?
What is the quality of the coaching? That is, how skilled is the coach? What is the fit between the coach and coachee? What is the level of trust in the relationship?
Contrary to the popular belief that people do not change, people do change. You can't change them, but they can change themselves. And once someone experiences effective coaching, they do change, forever.
Coaching is not skill development, it is human development.
Human beings are dynamic and have layers of life experience that shape them into who they are throughout life. Coaching that is only targeted toward one aspect of their being, leadership or communication, leaves out all the other factors that have created their leadership or communication style. To really create change and positive impact, coaching needs to support the whole of who someone is. People are not machines, they are ecosystems of experience and pre-wired ways of being — coaches need to access the totality of a person to support their ultimate growth.
I have met people who have experienced corporate coaching and didn’t share the same transformational experience that I did. In fact, my first coaching experience as an executive in the corporate world was far less than transformational. Was it better than nothing? On the surface, yes, but it did not create long-term change or growth or even a perspective change. If you’ve experienced coaching that’s fallen short of step-change results (that is, an abundant ROI), it’s likely because one of these key factors was missing:
Skill: The skill of the coach is determined by their investment in their own growth -- their training, their own personal coaching and deep healing, and their natural talent. Often coaches have an extremely high EQ: They are able to see the truth of a situation or someone’s feelings by observing body language, facial expressions, the words being used, the intonation in someone’s voice … and know the exact right question to ask in order to inspire growth, new perspective and new possibility. I would never hire a coach who hasn’t done their own deep work and invested in their own personal growth. This is why most coach training programs require each coach to hire their own dedicated coach. A common saying in coaching is that a coach can only take you as far as they’ve gone themselves.
Fit: The fit between the coach and coachee is critical. We listen to people we think have something to offer us. This is why coaching at higher levels is often more expensive. Coaches who can support, hold space for, and accelerate executives and top performers are those who have seen the underbelly of performance and success. They see the truth of the games, because they’ve played the games and worked through them to something better.
Trust: The level of confidentiality between the coach and coachee also impacts coaching’s ROI. This is why I do not recommend that an executive team all share the same coach for deep personal and professional growth. One coach to provide team coaching, facilitation or meditation, yes, that is best with one coach leading -- but to experience the most personal benefit from coaching, each person needs their own private and dedicated coach, both to maximize fit and confidentiality. This isn’t a concern about coaches’ ability to maintain confidentiality; it’s about the fear a coachee may feel about being completely transparent when that same coach is speaking to their peers or boss. Experiencing the full ROI of coaching requires an individual to fully show up and be open, honest and willing to go past the surface to what lies underneath their beliefs.
Ultimately, the ROI you get from coaching can be measured through shifts in perspective, which is permanent and lasting and creates new possibility. How much more open and expansive is your team’s thinking? How much more personal responsibility do team members take for their behavior and contributions? How much has their maturity evolved when it comes to challenging or difficult situations? We can measure all of this — and, more importantly, you can measure all of this.
And remember, if you're an organization with teams of people, you're in the people business. You not only get talent and experience when you hire someone, you get fears, beliefs formed in childhood, every big mistake ever made, every wall that's been put up, and every mental limit that's been created. Coaching supports people to expand their EQ, self-awareness, and their capacity to connect with others in a meaningful way (which is the basis of leadership, communication, teamwork, marketing, problem solving...).
Of all the people we have coached, 100% report that coaching helps them perform their best at work. Here is some of their qualitative feedback on the ROI of coaching:
"Work never stops. Having a 1:1 coach who understands the culture but is not actually in it helps give perspective and guidance to navigate and improve my performance." "Having a private coach allowed me to break down areas where I was inhibiting myself without realizing it."
"I didn't know how much I really needed a private space to talk out loud about some of my fears and challenges when it came to work. I have so many ways now to evaluate my thoughts and feelings in order to not just be successful from a career perspective, but also happy."
"I was in a dark place, overwhelmed with stress and anxiety. Coaching gave me insight into the issue and triggers and provided me with tools to deal with it."
"Coaching has encouraged me to have important yet difficult conversations, which have allowed me to evaluate my behaviors and tendencies that impact my attitude and approach to certain work situations."
Of course, ROI is not calculated by the result, it is calculated by the result in comparison to the investment. I have yet to hear a price tag for coaching that I do not believe will deliver the ROI if all these factors are met: ready and willing participant, whole-human support, and high-quality coaching (crucial when it comes to cost). If you have questioned the ROI of a coaching program, likely one of these factors was not in alignment.
Within organizations we have found that a 7% investment based on salary is the best starting point to make a real difference in a team’s day-to-day experience, leaving everyone feeling supported and valued but also allowing enough room for team members to materially experience the ROI of coaching. Disengagement, on the other hand, costs employers 34% of an employee’s annual salary (Gallup 2019). Not to mention its effect on colleagues.
For private clients the ROI can be measured as a direct reflection of what you're working to create. What is what you want worth to you? Your coach is there to support you in creating what you want. If you could wave a wand and have what you want, what would you pay? Invest the amount that feels accurate for what you are going to create.
Lastly, at Collective Gain, we partner with our clients with the intention to maximize the impact for the coachee as well as deliver ROI for our clients. We believe in a win-win; it’s the only way. Below are some of the top-level stats from our programs. Imagine if you or your HR /L&D team were tasked with moving the needle in each of these areas for large portions of your organization without outside support. What would that cost? What would it take to deliver these results?
Inspired and motivated: 100% of participants say working with a coach helped them feel more inspired and motivated in their role
Full potential: 96% report that working with a coach has helped tremendously in their ability to perform at their best at work
Performance and mindset: 74% say coaching is the #1 benefit their company provides that makes a positive impact on their performance and overall mindset
Boost in morale: 74% say that the biggest shift after 3 months of coaching was a boost in their overall attitude and perspective
Clarity and focus: 73% report that coaching increased their clarity and focus