Carolyn Maue with Colleen Bastian
What does leadership coaching do? What makes coaching most effective? What qualities should you look for in a coach? In other words, what are the “ingredients” of successful coaching?
Earlier this year, I compiled data on my own coaching services by sending a survey to gather information and insights from leaders and key stakeholders who had participated in the coaching process with me. To build upon this subjective information, I turned to my friend and colleague, leadership coach Dr. Colleen Bastian, knowing that she was familiar with this topic through her research for her doctoral dissertation.
An interesting and thought-provoking article Colleen mentioned piqued my interest with the reference of “ingredients”, as my upcoming book is Gourmet Leadership: Turn Up the Heat on Your Secret Sauce! McKenna and Davis made a bold claim that the active ingredients of clinical psychotherapy could be applied to coaching. Based on empirical research, McKenna and Davis explained that the active ingredients of clinical psychotherapy included:
- client extra-therapeutic factors (which explain 40% of the variance in client outcomes),
- the therapeutic alliance (30%),
- expectancy, hope, and placebo (15%) and,
- theory and techniques (15%).
The first ingredient is the client’s ability and willingness to change, which according to the authors, determines 40% of the positive outcome. As Colleen described, “Even though the article was somewhat controversial, since many people see psychotherapy and coaching as very different disciplines, there are certain things that we know are similar. For example, the success of the coaching engagement is directly impacted by the client’s desire to change.” Colleen went on to describe how she uses this technique in “chemistry” meetings with her prospective clients: “I look to see how open they are to the process of development and change and how suspicious they are. For example, are they worried who’s going to know that they are being coached? I listen to their voice, the way that they talk about it, and the way they express their curiosity vs. skepticism about coaching. And if overall they seem to have a relatively high level of commitment, then I have a good sense that we should proceed.”
The second ingredient is the relationship between the client and the coach, which attributes to 30% of the success. Colleen says, “When I think about the coaching engagements that I’ve had, the ones that I find that are truly successful usually have a strong relationship component. There’s a lot of trust that we have in our working relationship. They’re hiring me because they want me to challenge them, in a respectful and empowering way that helps them grow. So that’s what they come to me for. And that’s why I’m able to help them be successful.”
I find this to be true my own coaching practice as well. This quote from the survey I conducted earlier this year illustrates this ingredient:
“I felt seen by Carolyn. In her own quiet way, she helped me identify strengths I was underutilizing and encouraged me to think bigger and aim higher in my goals for my team and the faculty. After working with her, I now feel excited about exercising my leadership in areas that are important to me like diversity, inclusion and equity.”
An interesting phenomenon that Colleen and I discussed regarding the relationship was the aspect of “fit” in coaching – the chemistry between the coach and the leader. We both have had the experience of meeting a client whom we initially wondered about in terms of fit – stylistically, would we click and resonate? And yet, inevitably, once the choice was made and the coaching relationship ensued, those issues of fit abated as we delved into the issues and solutions generated from the coaching conversations. So both of us have learned that a strong coaching relationship can be built among many different types of leadership and style of coaches.
The third ingredient, the client’s expectations and hope, determines 15% of the coaching success. Colleen pointed to suggestions from the article on how the coach can activate hope within the clients, including sharing stories of success with other clients, connect clients with others who have faced and surmounted the same issues, and recognize that the coach is part of the successful equation. This quote from my survey exemplifies this ingredient: “As I was trying to find my footing in a new role with greater responsibility, she was both a sounding board and a support, validating my observations, encouraging my decision-making, and providing ideas and strategies for addressing certain problems.”
The fourth ingredient is the coach’s theory and techniques, which is 15% of the successful outcome. Colleen and I agreed that it is an essential aspect of coaching to assist the client in clarifying what they hope to achieve in the coaching process. To achieve that, the tools coaches use need to be customized to achieve the outcome of the coaching to the clients. Colleen said, “ I might use a specific assessment tool, or use a visual technique like metaphor, or hold reflective space to encourage the client to think deeply in quiet for a few minutes.” Helping the client focus on what they want to achieve, and finding the tools and path to achieve that, is an essential ingredient of the coaching process.
Colleen and I agree that the most important ingredients that make coaching successful are the client’s desire and willingness to grow and change, and the relationship between the coach and the leader. So, if you are considering engaging with a coach, consider the areas of your leadership and work that you’d like to change and improve, and then seek a coach in whom you have confidence and has the skills and experience to help you grow in those areas.
Bastian, C.C. (2015). Does Academic Training Influence Executive Coaches’ Stated Beliefs and
Practices? (Publication No. 3729358) (Doctoral dissertation, California School of Professional Psychology). ProQuest Dissertations.
Maue, Carolyn (2020). Coaching Evaluation by Coaching Clients and Coaching Evaluation by
McKenna, D.D. & Davis, S.L. (2009). Hidden in plain sight: The active ingredients of executive
Coaching, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 2 (3), 244-260.
What does leadership coaching do? What makes coaching effective? What approaches are most effective in coaching, for yourself or someone whom you believe would benefit from it?
These are questions that I continue to explore in my evolution as a leadership coach.
One way to identify these variables is to gather data from coaching clients and their constituents. As part of this ongoing effort, I sent out a survey in 2020 to two groups who have experienced my coaching practice first-hand: 1) leaders who had work with me in leadership development coaching; and 2) key stakeholders in the coaching process, including those who referred or recommended coaching, or decision-makers, peers and staff who had participated in a 360° process to provide feedback regarding the leaders’ effectiveness.
The survey results provided rich insights into what the leaders and key stakeholders I have worked with found most useful in coaching. They also gave important recommendations as to how I could continue to improve my coaching services and delivery. Their input helped inform my objective – to continue to identify what makes coaching most effective, and to clarify what coaching approaches are most useful.
The focus of coaching is often to assist the leader to build skill and competency in specific areas. Here are areas of improvement as seen by leaders and stakeholders in key leadership competencies, accompanied by specific comments when applicable:
- Increased strategic thinking – 80% of the coaching clients and key stakeholders reported significant improvement in the leader’s application of strategic thinking to opportunities and challenges.
- Increased confidence – A high percentage of the respondents noticed increased confidence, executive presence, and composure. ““Thanks to coaching, the self-confidence of each of the emerging leaders soared. Each one became more decisive and sensitive to how they impacted the people around them. Critically, these leaders also became more willing to address poor leadership or behavior in others; their coaching showed them the ‘right path’ and they weren’t willing to accept anything less in the workplace.”
- Leading Others – Over 90% of the clients reported improvement in leading and mentoring direct reports. “The coaching has made me think about my leadership role more intentionally and this has helped our faculty get through a very challenging time with the Covid19 epidemic. Carolyn helped me to see their trust in me as an asset that I can utilize to help when we are asking faculty to do difficult work for the good of the institution.”
- Career Advancement – “Following the completion of coaching, the leader I referred to you was promoted to a newly-created position in a higher-ranking office, built her own team, took on a much larger portfolio of responsibilities, and was recognized by leadership for her accountability and innovativeness.”
- Positive reputation – Key stakeholders noted a strong return-on-investment due to the positive impact on the leader’s reputation with customers, within the department and throughout the organization.
The results also identified the specific approaches used by the coach that they found effective:
- Focus on strengths: “I felt seen by Carolyn. In her own quiet way, she helped me identify strengths I was underutilizing and encouraged me to think bigger and aim higher in my goals for my team and the faculty. After working with her, I now feel excited about exercising my leadership in areas that are important to me like diversity, inclusion, and equity.”
- Provide support and suggestions: “As I was trying to find my footing in a new role with greater responsibility, she was both a sounding board and a support, validating my observations, encouraging my decision-making, and providing ideas and strategies for addressing certain problems.
The surveys were invaluable in identifying ways in which my coaching services could be improved, including:
- Helping clients build their capacity to assume more responsibilities
- Increasing their collaboration skills with peers and stakeholders
- Helping leaders develop their mentorship abilities more fully
- Requesting (Key stakeholders) to be kept in the loop as to how the leader was doing in their development process
I have integrated these into my coaching practice, in the effort to continually improve my coaching effectiveness.
What should you expect from coaching, and what should you look for in a coach? Use this data to help you consider areas of leadership in which you’d like to improve and consider the approaches and qualities in a coach that will be most useful to you!
Hello! My colleague Scott Eblin has written a great piece on blending productivity with connection in the evolving melded work environment. There are some great tips here! Enjoy!
Carolyn Maue and Alyson Lyon, The Maue Center
Alyson Lyon, my Maue Center colleague and President of Higher View Coaching, and I recently presented a webinar to FPRA Volusia/Flagler Chapter on “Leading Through Covid-19” as part of their wonderful and informative series. This is Part II of our exploration of the current state of mental health in the workplace and the important steps that organizations and teams can take Part I can be found here: https://mauecenter.com/blog/
Alyson: Carolyn, science has shown us that when people feel like they belong to something, like an organization or a team, they have a different experience, whether it’s related to the pandemic or other causes of stress. What role can leaders and their teams play in helping people feel a sense of belonging?
Carolyn: Teams are the center of where things happen, the engine that drives work getting done and people collaborating to make that happen. Leaders can inspire their teams to raise the bar and say, “Okay, we will do everything we can to promote health and wellness together as a team.” There’s a tremendous amount of power in that. We know that when team members are at their best and functioning well, productivity is higher, there’s a greater economic contribution, and absenteeism decreases. Leaders can be deliberate about building team cohesion by acknowledging the team’s accomplishments, encouraging team members to recognize and use strengths in one another, and problem-solving in focused ways that help people’s esteem go up. Making sure long and short-term goals are clear and understood and reinforcing them through effective team meetings, like team huddles and strategic discussions, are really important. Providing cross-training to team members is also energizing and can help them feel connected to larger goals while learning and increasing their skills.
One of the participants in our webinar conveyed the importance of being supported by team members:
“it’s been easier for some people to keep going to the office and keep that sense of normalcy. But ever since the pandemic hit, I have worked totally at home with a toddler, so I don’t get a break. I don’t get a coffee break, I don’t get a lunch break, I don’t get just a few minutes to chat with a co-worker about something because I’m working, I have a child, and I’m doing both at the same time. When my team members reach out to me and make me feel included it means so much.”
Alyson: It is important to intentionally build resilience, whether you are helping someone else do that or working on it yourself. When we can bounce back and recover from something like this pandemic and move forward, we take strength with us to develop coping skills for use during future times of stress and crisis. Carolyn, what did you find in your research of best practices of teams during the pandemic?
Carolyn: We discovered that teams play a major role in keeping mental health and wellness at the forefront by: 1) providing opportunities for ongoing discussions for ways to stay healthy, like exercise routine apps, healthy recipe exchanges, and suggestions for meditation practices, 2) integrating humor into the work-week, with times for informal gatherings that include stories and jokes, 3) encouraging acts of kindness, like giving compliments and sending thank you notes, 4) virtual socializing and opt-in meetings, where team members can spend time together informally over lunch, happy hour or other designated times during the week, and 5) celebrating special events, like birthdays or special holidays. Celebration is so important!
Alyson: Carolyn, we know that organizations should build a resilient workplace culture to meet the evolving challenges we face in the future. Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, what strategies can organizations use to support people with mental health challenges and diminished well-being?
Carolyn: Organizations can proactively provide ongoing resilience programs and cultivate well-being through wellness strategies. The impact can be meaningful and significant when organizations design a multi-faceted approach addressing mental health, physical health, and support to sustain a steady state of readiness. Together, resilience and well-being provide a buffer that influences positive change through proactive practices, skills, and behaviors.
Wellness strategies promote a better work-life balance. They include mental, social, emotional, and physical support, assuring that employee health benefits provide mental health services and one-on-one individualized support to increase the likelihood of lasting change. Coaching, mentoring, and Employee Assistance Programs all provide support and development. The Great Places to Work website (https://www.greatplacetowork.com/) has some great ideas, like Employee Resource Groups, which foster cooperation and shared interest.
Leaders can help build resilience in teams and individuals by conveying that they value one another’s contributions and care about one another’s well-being.
Here’s a wonderful story from a webinar participant:
I had a co-worker when I was working at a theme park, and I thought she was really great. I think about the way she interacted with me personally. Often, she would ask me, “How are you? ” I was the manager on the team, so I would immediately say, “No, how are you.? “And she would stop and say, “I want to know how you really are. Are you okay? I really want to know how you are doing.” I want to emulate that moving forward.
Finally, leaders have the opportunity to role model self-care and resilience for others by adopting these practices for themselves. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a great time to pay attention to this issue and implement some new strategies! For more information: www.mauecenter.com.
Carolyn Maue and Alyson Lyon
The Maue Center
Alyson Lyon, my Maue Center colleague and President of Higher View Coaching, and I recently presented a webinar to FPRA Volusia/Flagler Chapter on “Leading Through Covid 19” as part of their wonderful and informative series. Together we explored the current state of mental health in the workplace right now and identified action steps leaders could take.
Carolyn: Alyson, why now? What is important about helping organizations stay healthy and addressing mental health in the workplace right now?
Alyson: At a time like this, the organization’s role is to meet people where they are. It might seem like we are all going through the same “storm,” but we are in different boats, and everyone’s circumstances are different. People need us to remind them that we’re all in this together. As COVID-19 was spreading worldwide, no one could predict the rate of infection, the number of lives we would lose, the impact on the economy, or the long-range detrimental effect on our mental health and well-being. While we focused on mitigating the spread of the virus, starting with the lockdown and social distancing, another epidemic was taking hold: an epidemic of mental health challenges and declining well-being.
Carolyn: What are some of the conditions in the workplace right now regarding mental health that you think are most important?
Alyson: With US adults reporting their highest stress levels and burnout since the beginning of the pandemic, it is essential to raise the red flag to make mental health and well-being a priority. COVID-19 is having an extraordinary impact on people. Current research shows 88% of people with depressive symptoms (3 times higher than pre-pandemic) and 89% report a decline in workplace well-being. We know that mental health impacts the level of productivity, level of interest or engagement, the ability to concentrate, and the ability to communicate effectively with co-workers. In general, leaders are not equipped with the resources or knowledge of how to handle employee mental health challenges and declining well-being at this magnitude.
Carolyn: What role does burnout play in mental health in the workplace?
Alyson: Recently, the Harvard Business Review published a series of articles on burnout based on the research of Jennifer Moss, Christina Maslach, Susan Jackson, and Michael Leiter. (please see link below. Their research revealed that burnout is a global problem, intensifying overwhelmed and exhausted workers’ mental health challenges. Long before the pandemic, workers were already experiencing high burnout levels caused by several issues, i.e., unsustainable workload, perceived lack of control, and insufficient rewards for effort. In 2019, the World Health Organization included burnout in its International Classification of Diseases, describing it as ” a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from workplace stress that not been successfully managed.” They described it as a problem that needs resolving at the organizational level, beginning with acknowledging that people cannot keep working at unsustainable levels.
At the onset of the pandemic, burnout was fueled by increased workloads, people feeling overextended and general feelings of unfairness or perceived loss of control. By the fall of 2020, 89% of their respondents reported their work-life was getting worse, and 62% of respondents who were struggling to manage their workloads experience burnout “often” or “extremely often.”
Carolyn: I’d like you to describe resilience and why is it important in relation to mental health and burnout. But first, I have a story! One of my clients had Covid19, and it swept through her family. Everyone came out of it okay, but by the time she returned to work a month later, two of her staff had left their roles: one due to a serious depression, and the other left to take a less stressful job. It was like a tsunami for her; she could barely keep her head above water. And she continued to be so concerned about her staff and their well-being, even when she herself was not well. I was able to help her step back and concentrate on how she could build her own resilience through self- care, support her team members in doing the same, and having conversations with them about how they could counter-balance the stress with activities that both replenished their energy and prepared them for the ongoing stress.
Alyson: Resilience is our capacity to overcome, recover and adapt to challenging situations. It is the quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Becoming more resilient not only helps us get through difficult circumstances it also empowers us to grow and improve our life along the way. Resilience is a source of great hope for many people. When we seek out and offer empathetic support to others by staying connected, we remind people we are all in this together. Like your client who had Covid 19, her resilience was necessary to stay the course, and with a collective resilience, she and her team continue to move forward.
Our capacity for resilience increases through self-care, staying connected to others, learning from the past, and seeking professional help when we have difficulty making progress. With proper amounts of sleep, nutrition, and regular exercise, we strengthen our body to adapt to stress and protect us from mental health symptoms like depression, anxiety, and the stress related to unsustainable workloads and hardship. Resilience lowers burnout.
Carolyn: This is a lot for leaders to manage in addition to the challenges of getting work done and adapting to the new realities of the pandemic. What are some things individual leaders can do right now?
Alyson: One of the challenges with mental health issues in a workplace is sometimes when we see that people are struggling, we just don’t know what to do. A leader’s support makes a difference. Leaders can really be effective by staying connected with co-workers, providing a sense of inclusion, psychological safety, and normalizing what is going on. Leaders can extend empathetic support and keep checking in with people by asking them how they are, how working from home is going, and just providing an opportunity to talk. Finally, leaders will make a difference by role modeling resilience and self-care.
Carolyn: Creating time for people, taking the time to be kind and sensitive, and asking people how they’re doing are so important. In Part II we’ll discuss the steps leaders can take with teams and in organizations to reduce the negative effects of mental health and burn-out, so stay tuned. Here is the link to the HBR articles:
This past year has provided opportunities for many of us to look at our social patterns and how we spend our time – what we value, what we have missed. This article about introverts raises some interesting points and considerations for moving forward, for those of us that have options. Enjoy!
One of the challenges I see with so many leaders with whom I work is the loss of regular in-person communication with their team members. We are all searching for ways to keep that connection and trust real and strong. My colleague Scott Eblin has written a great piece about it with some good suggestions. Enjoy!
A theme I am hearing now in my work with leaders is the challenge of leading as we enter the second year of the pandemic – how to keep teams motivated, how to plan for the future, and how to keep people engaged. My colleague Scott Eblin has generously gathered some great wisdom from experts on what your team needs from you right now. I hope you find this helpful!
Happy Holidays! It seems somewhat surreal to use that phrase, given everything we are experiencing as a nation and a world. And yet, as we have learned in the past year, multiple realities can be true at the same time. Just as in this photo, taken on a windy September morning, storm clouds hover, yet the sun is glistening on the water, and blue is peaking through on the horizon.
This year, we have experienced the grief and tragedy of sickness, death, and loss, we have watched our country divided and harsh realities of racial disparities be evidenced before our very eyes. Simultaneously, we have witnessed the heroic efforts of our healthcare professionals, first responders, and essential workers. We have been part of companies, organizations and families that turned on a dime, ramping up technology to stay connected and efficiently continue to deliver services. We have seen the generosity of spirit every day in people caring for one another.
Perhaps you, like I, have had the opportunity to be appreciative of a different pace, providing a bit more time for reading and reflection. I find myself steeped in gratitude– for my health and that of those that I love, for the professions and jobs we could continue during this crisis, for the amazing leaders I watch as they take their teams into uncharted waters, with courage and conviction to keep going forward.
Thank you for your courage, resilience and spirit to keep growing during these challenging times. We wish you a season of peace, reflection and gratitude.
Carolyn Maue and the consultants of The Maue Center
I don’t know about you but when I saw the title of this article by my colleague Scott Eblin, I thought, “Who doesn’t need this????” He tells an all-too-familiar story of a busy executive who is trying to balance day after day of online meetings with family responsibilities. Scott then suggests a great technique for managing her scheduling and reclaiming some time for herself. I hope everybody does this so we all get 10 more hours a week! Enjoy!