How to Assess a Coach

If you are on this page, most probably you are asking yourself: how should we assess the performance of a coach? are you as coach living your full potential? and what kind of impact are you really making?

Coach’s North Star

In his article, Len Lagestee tries to share a new perspective to tackle those questions. Len defines the coach vision or what he prefers to call the coach’s north star as:

“A fellow human with the ability to create an environment of hope and possibility, the energy to inspire others to visualize a new future, an approach to guide them along a journey towards this new future, and finds deep satisfaction in observing others grow and flourish as this future becomes a reality for them.” – Len Lagestee

coach’s North Star

Coach assessment pains

The coach’s role is widely known as ambiguous. In the absence of tangible products and physical outcomes, it becomes difficult to probe for quality. Len Lagestee [1] mentioned some reasons that are helpful to understand how the coaching assessment is different from other roles we know:

  • Styles and Personalities: the variety of coaching styles may create a bias on the assessment by creating “false positives” and even worse “false negatives”. A coach with an extrovert personality could get some accolades from people being coached. A highly skilled coach in facilitation could be seen as a highly competent coach by groups being coached.
  • Variation of experience and approaches: it is difficult to say what success looks like in only one way. Today, too many coaching ways, certifications, pieces of training, and agile frameworks.
  • Gaps between interaction and actual impact: the lead time for a change in the people’s behavior is too long.  By lead time I mean the time from a coaching engagement and the visible manifestation of impact.

Manifesto for coach assessment

We are uncovering better ways of assessing a coach.
Traditional performance assessment approaches will need to be abandoned and replaced with fundamental shifts in assessment techniques and behaviors.

Through this work we have come to think creatively about those fundamental shifts:

From feedback gatherers to evidence seekers.

From quality control police to movement creation sensors.

From performance reviewers to change impact monitors

That is, while there is value in the items on the left, we value the items on the right more.

Manifesto for Coach Assessment

Some comments on the manifesto:

  • Evidence seekers: We are not looking at what people are saying about the coach…we are looking for clues that those people being coached have actually changed.
  • Movement creation sensors:  We are not looking for perfection in our coaches…we are looking for movement creators and resistance fighters.
  • Change impact monitors: We are are not looking to assign ratings to our coaches or to categorize them…we are looking to reward them for their ability to manifest change.

Coaching Ecocycle

We will bring this manifesto to life by looking for evidence, movement creation, and change impact in 4 distinct areas.

Coaching Ecocycle by @hghorayeb, inspired by Len Lagestee, work in progress

For each of the defined areas, we do both: Seek evidence,  Sense, and monitor:

Some comments on the above quadrant “excerpts from Len Lagestee “:

THE IN-BETWEEN HOURS

Seek evidence of:

  • Learning from the community. Are they soaking in new knowledge and experiences from other coaches? (inside and outside of the organization)
  • Preparing with creativity and context. Are they designing vibrant experiences and activities for the people they are coaching? (the right thing at the right time for the right people)
  • Connecting with the community. Are they sharing what they are learning with other coaches? (inside and outside of the organization)

Sense and monitor for:

  • A heavy dose of inquisitiveness. Without continuous learning, coaches become irrelevant.
  • A spark of ingenuity. Without creativity, coaches become stale.
  • A heart for sharing and connection. Without community, coaches will struggle.

IN-THE-MOMENT PRESENCE

Seek evidence of:

  • Sharing with clarity. Can they blend what they are learning and have experienced into an easily consumed message?
  • Interacting with energy. Can they get people excited about what is being coached? Can you tell that the coach believes in what they are coaching?
  • Engaging with bravery. Can they address tough situations? Can they overcome resistance with grace and stamina?

Sense and monitor for:

  • Smiles and laughs per hour. The presence of a coach should stir something up within the people they are coaching. We are delivering a message of hope and leading the way forward towards a new reality. This should cause a few smiles.
  • Furrowed brows per hour. But change is often painful and introducing new habits aren’t always fun. Sometimes, what a coach is sharing will sound like a foreign language because it is radical compared to how people are working today. If all we have are smiles then we may not be pushing hard enough. People should be questioning what they previously believed to be true about how work gets done.
  • Twinkles in eyes per interaction. Ultimately, through all the highs and lows of working with a coach, people should find hope in themselves and others. And coaches should find belief in themselves so look for the twinkle in the coach’s eyes as well.

SHORT-TERM EVIDENCE OF POTENTIAL IMPACT

Seek evidence of:

  • Excitement generation. Has their presence generated enthusiasm for what is being brought to life?
  • Convert creation. Are people joining the movement? Do we actually see new behaviors or habits in people?
  • Incremental results. Are the people being coached taking the knowledge and experience transferred to them and immediately producing valuable outcomes by working in fresh new ways?

Sense and monitor for:

  • “Revolutionists” gained per day. We don’t look at the coach…we look at those being coached. They should be coming alive and helping spread a healthy virus to others in the organization.
  • Small behavior and habit changes. Those being coached are practicing new things in small ways.
  • A few scars. Being a coach in the trenches of organizational change can be treacherous. Sometimes the seeds being planted won’t sprout no matter how good a coach is…and that’s ok. Every time this happens should be treated as a blessing and used as nutrients to bring back into the coaching community.

LONG-TERM EVIDENCE OF ACTUAL IMPACT

Seek evidence of:

  • Sustained growth in those being coached. Has the presence of a coach caused others to be strengthened, encouraged, and emboldened?
  • Running towards “meatier” problems. Is the coach actively pursuing the most challenging coaching opportunities in the organization?
  • Greater thought-leadership. Is the coach becoming a force in the broader coaching community?

Sense and monitor for:

  • Stories from the trenches. Listen for stories from those a coach has interacted throughout their experiences. Stories of bravery, of experimentation, of being uncomfortable, of increased strength. Sometimes the language is subtle so you may need to listen closely.
  • Large(r)-scale presence. The coach has become a powerful force within the community and organization. You’ll notice them just “showing up” at places as they have the instinct of where they will add the most value. People are naturally following the coach and seeking out the advice of the coach.
  • A legacy of change agents. There should be wave after wave of up and coming coaches and change agents by our coach sharing with and mentoring less-experienced coaches.

In Summary

Notice preparation and connection, search for short-term clues of potential future impact and then if you have the privilege of observing a coach for a longer period of time, begin to scan for evidence of actual impact.

Additional Materials

Hereafter a try for a first visual quadrant showing the 4 areas and the associated assessment focus:

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