So this coaching thing, being pretty nebulous, has taken off recently. Especially “life coaches” are proliferating. And it seems they are moving into a space occupied by the worried well. And so coaching is more popular among men, presumably for two reasons: they identify with the sports metaphor, and men are less likely to seek conventional psychotherapy if they are trying to work through issues. Because coaching is completely undefined and unregulated, any of us can define ourselves as a coach. This means that life coaches could wander into dangerous territory by dealing with people who have serious psychological or psychiatric problems that the coach is unqualified to diagnose or treat.
Another explosion in coaching is the use of health coaches. Health coaches are typically college-educated people with a brief training in the coaching of patients (some as short as 70 hours) to help them coordinate and organize their medications, their appointments and their chronic diseases. Health coaches typically work with care managers who are often nurses. They coordinate between the patient, the care manager, and the primary care office. They are a cost effective way of reducing expensive healthcare by improving the transitions of care and reducing unnecessary care and re-admissions to hospitals.
Executive coaching, while much more of a niche then life coaching, is also expanding rapidly without clear definitions. Including everything from how to change your body language, to specific content knowledge about lines of business service; it is exceptionally hard to measure the impact of coaching. At the end of the day I believe it is in the head and heart of the recipient. Some coaches will interview the client with their boss to clarify the job expectations of the executive. Probably the most widely used methodology for measuring effectiveness of coaching is the use of 360 evaluations. If an executive has a 360 evaluation as a baseline, and then receives coaching, repeat 360s can at least help the client understand if they are improving.
As businesses turn to coaching to help their executives improve, they are likely to want to measure the executive performance in ways other than the success of their business line. Professionals tend to reject “soft” measures of their performance. However my experience in healthcare is that physicians who were initially very resistant to measurement of their outcomes and performance have now accepted that this is how “the market” works and even how they get paid. In my conversations with physicians, there is also an emerging awareness that the literature strongly supports the fact that patients who have a good experience with their physician will have better outcomes.
Executive coaching is here to stay. Health coaches will become ubiquitous as a lower-cost method of coordinating care than the use of a highly trained professional. In the world of executive coaching I expect to see more and more measurement so that companies and individual clients have some sense of how to achieve value in this emerging field.