People buy invisible things all the time. To prove this, one has only to note the billions of dollars spent each year on education and legal advice. Still, the buyers of intangibles don’t make those purchasing decisions quickly or lightly, and rightfully so. The merits of a car can be judged almost immediately, but the value of an opinion or knowledge may take months or years to be known, and by then, the person who sold it may be long gone.
The savvy buyer of intangibles wants proof before they hand over cash. But savvy buyers also know that just because something is invisible, that doesn’t mean it can’t be measured. For example, a university can be judged by the percentage of its graduates who go on to be employed in their field of study, and an attorney can be judged by the percentage of her clients who have court rulings in their favor, or who don’t end up in court at all.
But how do you judge the effectiveness of a leadership coach?
Sterling Integrators’ daily work consists of coaching clients, performing analyses, conveying information (derived from analytical tools), and creating strategies. But that’s not, ultimately, what we are selling. Clients pay us to help them become more effective leaders and build more effective organizations. On the face of it, this may seem like incredibly subjective and abstract work. But if leadership is really as critical as we believe it to be, leadership development should translate into things everyone can witness.
Every six months, Sterling Integrators tracks the progress it is making with its clients by using a combination of the following methods, (depending on what our assignment was):
Personal Experience – Leaders who are leading better should feel better. They should be more engaged, focused, enthusiastic, and resolved. They should feel less stressed out and overwhelmed. Who is better suited to judge the value a leadership coach is adding than the individual being coached?
Financials – Companies that invest in developing above average leaders should have above average profitability because they are able to do more with less and focus on areas where they are uniquely suited to have the biggest impact. Return on equity, net profit margin, sales per employee, and other financial metrics should be positively correlated with money spent on leadership coaching.
Assessment Tools – The Leadership/Impact® Inventory and the Denison Cultural Assessment tools are both utilized by Sterling Integrators to gauge whether or not we’re moving the needle on the objectives we and our clients set for ourselves at the beginning of the client engagement. Both of these assessments provide feedback to leadership from whom it matters most – those within the organization.
What we learn from all of this doesn’t disappear down a black hole. We use it to determine, with our client, what is working and what isn’t. These findings are then used to make adjustments to our leadership development plan. It is iterative and systematic and it works. We ask a lot of our clients and appreciate the fact that they allow us to hold them accountable. In return, this phase of our Leadership Development System keeps us accountable to our clients. If our clients are not successfully closing in on their goals, we’re not successfully closing in on ours.
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