Friday 14 May 2021

Coaching Evaluation

I attended a very interesting webinar on the evaluation of coaching by Louise Emerson, hosted by the Association for Coaching, this week. I find a lot of things are still buzzing around in my head as a result, so this post is a bit of a 'think-out-loud' as it were, about those.

One is the issue of solely relying on the coachee's perspective when evaluating the value and outcomes of a coaching relationship. Clearly, the coachee's perspective and feedback on his or her experience is very important: necessary but not sufficient.

Louise pointed out that a coachee is not wholly unbiased, nor necessarily the person with the most insight.  In terms of bias, the coachee may well have formed a positive relationship with the coach, which may well colour both what the coachee thinks, and what he or she wishes to say to the coach.  

In terms of insight, coachees are not experts on coaching: it is conceivable that coachees might rate as excellent (because helpful to them) a coaching process that was (from a professional point of view) flawed in various ways. 

At the simplest level, I have, more than once, had the experience of listening to people while they sort out a difficult issue, prompting them with occasional questions, and being awe-struck at the solutions they have created - and then been told 'Thank you!  I always find your advice so useful!'  Whilst I am happy to take the credit, advice is not perhaps the most accurate word; but the process is not important most coachees and they may not attend much to it: it is the outcomes they want.

And there's something else here. Sometimes when coachees have a particular insight, or a shift in attitude, it is easy for them to forget, after a while, that they ever saw the world differently. So whilst the new learning is valuable and embedded, the fact of its being new learning is forgotten. 

So that all suggests that other reference points are needed. One such point may be other people in the coachee's system: colleagues, boss etc.  In some instances that might be appropriate; but of course that needs contracting for (ideally at the start of the process). So that is making me think more about my contracting meetings, and discussing in more detail at that stage how we will evaluate the coaching, both as we go, at the end, and some time afterwards. I already do this, but I think I could do it with more rigour, and in particular, asking who else the coach thinks we could or should include in that evaluation. 

Another reference point is myself, of course. I do have quite a thorough process of reviewing and recording my reflections on my work after each session; so it is about ensuring that I continue to engage with that as an exploratory, learning conversation with myself, not allowing it to slide into a superficial from-filling exercise.

Related to that is supervision. Clearly, this is one of the purposes of my meeting with my various supervisors: to continue to evaluate the effectiveness of my professional practice. However, what I am adding to that agenda is reviewing my approach to evaluation itself, on a regular basis; as well as evaluating the effectiveness of individual sessions or coaching relationships.  That then leads to a rather expanded supervision agenda; for it is not only evaluation, but also things like contracting - and in fact my whole practice framework - that could usefully be reviewed explicitly and regularly.

Something else that occurred to me is that sometimes, at the end of a series of coaching sessions, I am (to be honest) a little disappointed at the coachee's summary of what he or she has learned. I sometimes think they are missing or forgetting learning that seemed really valuable or important. So there is a place for my offering that evaluation at that stage; both as a way of brining it back to the coachee's attention, which is valuable as a learning process; and also as a way of honouring and affirming the work the coachee has done.  Again, I think I could be more rigorous here, and I think that would spring from better note-taking, after each session, so that I can quickly review progress with specific examples to feed back to the coachee.

So, as I said, lots of thoughts to turn into action here: I will discuss these with my supervisor, as I find that one of the helpful ways of holding myself accountable and turning good intentions into action.


With thanks to JĂșnior Ferreira  Charles Deluvio  Aaron Burden for sharing their photos on Unsplash

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