Newswise — Executive coaching is a business strategy that is gaining favor in organizations that give serious attention to developing key talent. Yet there is often skepticism about its usefulness. Two researchers are developing a meaningful way that will measure the value and return-on-investment (ROI) of executive coaching.

More and more organizations are employing executive coaches for top performing and high-potential talent with the expected goal of improved business results. One survey estimates that as many as 60 percent of American companies are using the services of executive coaches and, according to a 2007 study of 472 company representatives from a cross-section of industries, most (78 percent) consider coaching an effective way to develop leaders. The Human Capital Institute and DBM, a global career management and coaching firm, conducted the study.

But is there really a return-on-investment in pairing key executives with coaches? And, more importantly, to what extent is the use of coaching beneficial to the organization?

"That's the $64,000 question and one that decision-makers are grappling with," says Derek Steinbrenner of Boston-based Cambria Consulting Inc., who, with colleague Barry Schlosser of Strategic Executive Advisors, LLC in MA and CT, is conducting a series of studies to measure the impact of coaching and its value to organizations.

They are working with several companies using executive coaches, including Wachovia, Credit Suisse, Deloitte, Citi, Assurant and Booz Allen Hamilton, and have learned that "coaching does have a real business impact."

The two will present their findings at the fourth annual Leading Edge Consortium on "Executive Coaching for Effective Performance" Oct. 17-18 in Cincinnati.Sponsored by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), the consortium brings together leading-edge scientists and practitioners to focus on the psychology, impact and best practices in executive coaching.

There have been many studies showing that coaching is helpful to individuals, but managers want to know if the investment in coaching a key-performing executive is going to be good for the business.

Steinbrenner and Schlosser said all key stakeholders in the coaching engagement (coach, manager and coachee) attributed value to the coaching experience. Managers, though, were less consistently enthusiastic about the benefits of coaching.

"They're looking for credible evidence to show top management that coaching is a worthwhile expenditure and not a waste of time," Steinbrenner said.

The HCI-DBM study also noted that demonstrating ROI was the top challenge in making the case for coaching.

To help make that case, Steinbrenner and Schlosser are in the process of developing evidence-based scientific measurements of the effectiveness of coaching that will be useful to organizations when designing coaching programs and making coaching decisions.

"We're looking primarily at the impact of coaching from the perspective of the coach, the coachee and the manager along with the support of the human resources area of an organization. Coaching affects each of these stakeholders differently and we're developing some working conclusions that will be helpful to everyone involved in the coaching engagement," Schlosser said.

Steinbrenner said one reason why managers were not as positive about coaching is "they are often not asked to play a substantive role in the coaching engagement and perhaps they need to be more involved. It is imperative that the coach and coachee involve managers so they can see the value that is resulting from the coaching engagement. Otherwise managers may see little impact or value." "It's much easier to make a convincing case for coaching if the request is backed up by hard data," said Steinbrenner.

They have found organizations that approach the development of their talent strategically can see the benefit of coaching in accelerating the grooming and advancement of top performers.

Early in the history of coaching, it was often used to keep a foundering executive's career from derailment and getting him or her back on track. Such remedial coaching is occurring less and less and organizations today are proactively using coaching to develop high-potential employees and putting them on the fast leadership track for succession or advancement. "Coaching is an individualized development technique that is gaining favor in some organizations as they systematically review their talent and consider succession plans," Steinbrenner said.

While the cost of coaching, which can range from $20,000 to $40,000 for a six-month coaching engagement, is always a consideration, it should be only one determining factor among several, says Schlosser. Examples of coaching's benefits may include improved employee engagement, greater productivity, greater strategic alignment with business priorities of the organization, improved communication capabilities and career advancement. "All of these can have a positive impact upon business results," he said, adding that it is very difficult to determine the specific economic value of coaching for a given engagement.Value is in the eyes of the beholder and decision makers look for value creation, either implicitly or explicitly, when deciding what to do about leadership coaching, the researchers said in a 2006 article in the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations. "We would suggest that decision-makers are most likely to focus strictly on costs when they do not have a clear understanding and first-hand experience of the value that coaching, if properly executed and deployed, can create in terms of whatever outcomes are of importance in their organizations," they added.

They will be among several speakers at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology's Leading Edge Consortium entitled "Executive Coaching for Effective Performance: Leading Edge Practice and Research" Oct. 17-18 at the Westin Hotel in Cincinnati.. For more information about the Consortium, including the speakers and their topics, go to the Leading Edge Consortium home page at or call Clif Boutelle or Stephany Schings at 419-353-0032.

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) is an international group of more than 7,000 industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists whose member's study and apply scientific principles concerning workplace productivity, motivation, leadership and engagement. SIOP's mission is to enhance human well-being and performance in organizational and work settings by promoting the science, practice and teaching of industrial-organizational psychology. For more information about SIOP, including Media Resources, which lists nearly 2,000 experts in more than 100 topic areas, visit the SIOP Web site at

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SIOP Leading Edge Consortium "Executive Coaching for Effective Performance"