There are some mind-boggling stats when it comes to leadership challenges and change: leadership transitions fail at a rate of 40%, according to our research. What’s worse, attempts to address specific leadership challenges have an outright failure rate that ranges from 50% to 70%, and culture transformation initiatives fail 80% of the time.

That leaves HR professionals with a paradox. On the one hand, we see how coaching helps individuals and teams increase performance and satisfaction at work, and on the other hand we see organizations struggling with strategic leadership challenges that are common regardless of industry, region or size.

Something is wrong with this picture. Often clients come away from coaching interactions feeling engaged and transformed. But clearly there is room for improvement for organizational impact. That’s why there’s a clear reason to incorporate research into the coaching process.

Coaches can improve results by putting their coaching strategy and questions in the context of larger organizational goals.

Let’s say your company wants to coach Angela, a talented woman who has successfully been leading a business unit and is now in line for a promotion to the top leadership team. Organizations will typically focus solely on Angela’s personal development needs. We think it is vital that organizations focus on her development needs through the lens of the needs of the organization.

Imagine the goal in coaching Angela is to help her transition smoothly to the leadership team and particularly help your company launch a new service offering in which she has particular experience.

Here’s how your company should integrate research in the coaching process to have optimal impact:

  1. Use research-based diagnostic instruments. 360-degree feedback is a starting point, but it‘s important to measure and test how Angela responds to different situations that relate to the organizational context, and particularly the challenges of launching a new service. What are Angela’s different habits and how do they relate to the phases of this launch? How does she respond to particular stressful events, like internal pushback to new service offerings? You can use diagnostic tests to evaluate.
  1. Glean insights from research on a particular leadership challenge. What are the specific success and derailment factors that will impact Angela as she transitions to your top leadership team? Don’t guess what the answers are. Use research to have a clear understanding about what these factors are and use these insights as part of the coaching engagement.
  1. Use research as part of ongoing evaluation. Angela has completed her initial engagement with her coach. Great! But the work doesn’t stop there. This third pillar of research-based evaluation and measurement is crucial for success. This includes surveys that measure personal and organizational impact and also information directly correlates to the stated goals articulated at the outset of the coaching intervention.

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