Evidence Based Coaching

My coaching process is based upon the most up to date evidence base of what works in leadership coaching and also draws upon research in the behavioral sciences and neuroscience. For a detailed discussion of what works in leadership coaching then please follow the link here – What Works In Leadership Coaching? It’s important for me to link my coaching practice to this broader research evidence base to incorporate knowledge from relevant disciplines into how I work with clients to maximize their outcomes. Below I outline my coaching process and note the evidence bases that serve as a foundation.

So, Here We Are

Most clients are referred to me by HR practitioners or the clients direct manager. There is a developmental issue/need for coaching presented. I then meet with the client and together we determine if we are a good fit for partnering in coaching. If we choose to work together then I dive deeper into what the real issues are, how self-aware the client is and how motivated they are to do the work of further developing their leadership skills. Change takes time and effort. The status quo bias can act as a heavy anchor. Hopefully we can winch it up together, or cut it free and set sail. This early engagement is really important to build a relationship of trust and psychological safety where we can generate hope that sustainable effective change can be made to increase the clients impact in increasingly complex settings.

Know Thyself

At this stage I draw upon The Transtheoretical Model of change to assess readiness to change. Some clients are ready to go and appear to be in the contemplation or preparation stage. Others are in the precontemplation stage, and in the confidential space of coaching are demonstrating ambivalence to change, they have not yet committed to development through coaching or they have tried previously, relapsed and have lost motivation. My experience is that it is more unusual to find clients truly in the action or maintenance stages. Motivational Interviewing is an effective technique to raise awareness of the need for change. This is enhanced by 360 Feedback that I facilitate to get a broader perspective of what it is like to work with the client and what behaviors other people want to see continued, stopped or started, to be a more effective leader. Processing the feedback, identifying strengths and areas for development will usually take a couple of sessions, as does developing the action plan for coaching. Note that an intention to change is not predictive of goal attainment. It’s important that the client transitions into the preparation stage and sets goals that they are truly committed to. It can be helpful to engage the client in a process of mental contrasting to envision their desired future state with the current reality. It is often helpful to raise awareness of core values and character strengths to guide clients towards a future state that is personally meaningful so that motivation is maximized. The Values In Action Survey of Character Strengths is the tool that is used. It is free, valid & reliable. This tool is from the field of Positive Psychology and highlights who the client really is when they are at their best. The clients strengths can then be drawn upon when challenges arise.

It’s Time To Flourish

Setting goals that are intrinsically motivating, engaging and valued by the client is essential. Here I draw upon Self-Determination Theory (SDT) that holds that people have 3 basic psychological needs if they are to flourish. First, autonomy, that they are the author of their story, that they have agency, choice and volition. Second, relatedness, that they feel cared for and are motivated to contribute in return. Third, competency, that they can be effective in their day to day tasks and can learn and develop to reach their fullest potential. SDT is the bedrock of my practice. There is strong evidence that when our 3 basic psychological needs are met, that increases in our performance, engagement, commitment and wellbeing are realized. It’s about inspiring high quality motivation to set goals that are self-concordant, which leads to sustainable goal striving.

Make It Stick

Equally important is that the client is set up for success by incorporating highly effective action plans. The most effective of which according to research are Implementation Intentions. Also known as If/Then Planning, they take the form of: If X, Then Y. X acts as the cue and Y is the behavior. So for example a leader who doesn’t listen effectively to their peers might structure this goal as: If I’m in the exec team meeting, Then I will listen deeply to my colleagues and let them finish talking before I talk. Simple, but some 94 studies have shown this technique to have a medium to large effect size. In fact doubling the chances that behavior change is sustained and that new habits are formed. Facilitating neuroplasticity can be achieved on average in 60-90 days with deliberate practice according to the latest neuroscience research. Clients must maintain the practices for demonstrable behaviour change and performance improvements to be realized and sustained over time.

You’ve Got This

By this stage the client is now engaged in exercising self control and emotional regulation, as they try new behaviors in the real world outside the safety and containment of the coaching sessions. The coaching sessions shift to a focus on the clients experiences of making change, of their thoughts, feelings and behaviors in complex and high stakes settings. Of what is working and what’s not. Identifying and planning for obstacles. Here techniques such as pathways thinking and building agency can help a client greatly. The essence of goal oriented, solution focused coaching is to reframe the presenting issues and the obstacles that emerge along the way as being solvable. The coach encourages the client to engage in pathways thinking, to brainstorm multiple options to get to their desired state and to develop agency, the belief that they can find a way. It’s an exceptionally empowering approach that builds self-efficacy and greater confidence to face the next challenge with increasing competence and resolve. This technique is based on Hope Therapy developed by Dr Snyder and originally incorporated into coaching practice by Dr Carol Kauffman.

The Paradox of Mastery

As the client practices new behavior in the real world, outside the coaching sessions, they need to engage in a process of self-monitoring and seek perspectives from colleagues of how they are showing up. We need to evaluate that behavioral change is being enacted and test that it is effective. Obstacles are to be expected and relapsing to old ways of being are the norm. It’s important for the clients leader, HR, and other stakeholders to know that behavior change is hard and that relapsing is part of the change process. I facilitate midpoint and endpoint reviews with the client and their leader to determine progress towards the agreed upon goals, and to plan for maintenance post-coaching and to explore emerging development needs. We celebrate success and once again look out to the horizon and ask, “What do I need to improve at next?” The paradox of mastery is that it is unattainable, we are forever a work in progress and our operating environment becomes increasingly complex as we progress on our leadership journeys. Yet hopefully we are wiser, more self-aware and in control of ourselves, increasingly effective in relating, performing effectively across the board and more impactful as a leader.

Please reach out to talk about the situation at hand. There is a way forward and I’m here to help.

Please take a look at my Framework For Goal Attainment below. Again based on the latest evidence, it highlights a path to setting goals that are motivating and a proven way to obtain what we really want. Try it out for size, at work and beyond. Wishing you well, G.

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