Exceeding Expectations

A growing number of outstanding organisations are discovering that, when the goal is to further exceed expectations, professional coaching can be a powerful application. By adding coaching to their already-robust portfolios of business effectiveness and leadership-development offerings, these organisations are seeing huge benefits, including higher revenues, increased employee engagement and enhanced performance.


The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Professional coaching focuses on setting goals, creating outcomes and managing personal and professional change. According to Building a Coaching Culture, a 2014 study of organisational coaching initiatives published by ICF and the Human Capital Institute (HCI), organisations invest in coaching in order to promote leadership development; improve communication skills, teamwork and decision-making; and increase productivity and employee engagement. However, the benefits coaching yields for these organisations exceed expectations. The organisational decision-makers who responded to the ICF/HCI survey reported a host of positive impacts from professional coaching, including:

  • Improved team functioning (81 percent)
  • Increased engagement (79 percent)
  • Improved employee relations (74 percent)
  • Increased commitment (73 percent)
  • Faster leadership development (71 percent)
  • Increased productivity (70 percent)

Organisations with strong coaching cultures also report higher revenues and employee engagement ratings than peer organisations without strong coaching cultures.

acr-exceedingThe process of successfully implementing coaching in an organisation begins with research and education. ICF’s Research Portal (housed at Coachfederation.org/portal) hosts dozens of scholarly articles and case studies that offer powerful insights into how coaching can be used in service of achieving strategic objectives.

Organisations are also encouraged to launch an internal communication campaign to educate leadership and staff members alike about what coaching is and how it will be implemented. Within many organisations, a misconception exists that coaching is a remedial intervention—an offering designed to “fix what’s broken.” Advance education can change the conversation around coaching and position it as a meaningful employee benefit.

It is also crucial for organisational decision-makers to reflect on their goals and objectives for the coaching engagement, in order to identify the coach practitioners best-suited to help achieve them. Whether an organisation sources external coach practitioners individually, partners with a consultancy that can provide multiple coaches, or creates a cadre of internal coaches, decision-makers should ask the following questions of prospective coaches during the hiring and/or matching process:

  • What is your coaching experience (number of individuals coached, years of experience, types of coaching situations, etc.)?
  • What is your coaching specialty or areas in which you most often work?
  • What types of businesses do you work with most often? And, at what levels (executives, upper management, middle management, etc.)?
  • What is your philosophy about coaching?
  • What types of assessments are you certified to deliver?
  • What are some of your coaching success stories (specific examples of individuals or organisations that have succeeded as a result of coaching)?

Most importantly, decision-makers should research each coach’s training, professional memberships and credentials. As the coaching profession grows globally, it’s crucial for consumers to have a credible, reliable way of discerning trained practitioners with strong ethical commitments from untrained individuals who call themselves coaches. These consumers benefit from ICF’s work to construct and uphold a robust global standards system for the coaching profession.

Organisations with strong coaching cultures report higher revenues and employee engagement ratings than peer organisations without strong coaching cultures.

As the world’s largest organisation of professionally trained coaches, ICF offers coaching consumers a sense of security surrounding their hiring decisions. In addition to adhering to the stringent ICF Code of Ethics, all ICF Members must complete at least 60 hours of coach-specific training that meets ICF’s rigorous standards; as a result, consumers can have confidence that ICF Member coaches are well-trained and well-prepared to offer their services.

Possession of an ICF Credential is another clear sign of a coach’s willingness to take his or her professional performance to the next level. As the only globally recognised credential for professional coaches, the ICF Credential represents the gold standard in professional coaching certifications.

The 15,000-plus coach practitioners who hold ICF Credentials represent the best in the coaching industry. ICF Credential-holders have fulfilled rigorous education and experience requirements and demonstrated a strong commitment to excellence in coaching. To be eligible for an ICF Credential, a coach must complete coach-specific training; achieve a designated number of coaching experience hours; partner with a Mentor Coach; and demonstrate the appropriate understanding and mastery of ICF’s definition of coaching, Code of Ethics and Core Competencies.

Industry research shows a positive link between coaches’ credentials and their clients’ overall satisfaction with the coaching experience. According to the 2014 Global Consumer Awareness Study, 93 percent of consumers who recalled that their coach held a credential or certification reported satisfaction with the coaching experience.

ICF Credential-holders have fulfilled rigorous education and experience requirements and demonstrated a strong commitment to excellence in coaching. 

A coaching engagement typically begins with a personal interview (either face-to-face or by telephone or video conference) to assess current opportunities and challenges, define the scope of the relationship, identify priorities for action, and establish specific desired outcomes. Subsequent coaching sessions may be conducted in person or over the telephone, with each session lasting a previously established length of time. Between scheduled coaching sessions, clients may be asked to complete specific actions that support the achievement of their goals for the engagement. Many coaches provide additional resources in the form of relevant articles, checklists, assessments or models to support proactive thinking and actions. The duration of the coaching relationship varies depending on the needs and preferences of the client or organisation.

When it comes to measuring the efficacy of coaching, return on investment (ROI) and return on expectations (ROE) are two powerful metrics. ICF recommends using the following formula to calculate the ROI of coaching:

  (Gain from investment – Cost of investment)

_____________________________________  X 100 = Return on Investment

                             Cost of investment

Other tools used to measure the success of coaching include 360-degree feedback assessments, employee engagement and satisfaction surveys that can be traced back to coaching participants, and surveys collecting feedback on coaching engagements. Although the information these sources provide is qualitative rather than quantitative, the findings still provide powerful insight into the broad-ranging impacts of professional coaching.

To learn more about how ICF-credentialed coaches meet high standards and provide services that help transform organisations. Download ICF’s free report, The Hallmarks of Success in High-impact Organizational Coaching Programs, at icf.to/ACR.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of All China Review.