The Muddy Waters of Measuring Executive Coaching

Topic(s): coaching, training
Publication: Consulting Psychology Journal (JUN 2009)
Article: Measuring and Maximizing the Business Impact of Executive Coaching
Authors: A. Levenson
Reviewed by: Taylor Roberts

Given the amount organizations invest in executive coaching programs, it would be refreshing if someone could develop a reliable and efficient way to measure their effectiveness.

Organizations are complex entities, so developing a measurement tool like this would be a notable challenge. Levenson (2009) explored a dozen coach-coachee pairs to contribute to this ongoing conversation and shed some light on this measurement dilemma. Given the constraints of the study, the author cautioned that we should interpret his findings lightly.

To recap, studies already exist measuring coaching’s effect on:

  • The executive’s actual changes in behavior
  • The degree to which those around the executive perceive increased effectiveness of the executive
  • Changes in what the author calls “hard” performance measures (e.g., unit productivity, number of tasks completed, ability to meet goals, etc.)


The author suggests that we should “start with the organization’s strategy.” He recommends that we should determine whether the business impact we care to measure most is strategic or financial. For example, if a company has a strategic aim to increase sales to a certain demographic group, then the outcome should be designed to target that strategy – not an indirect, less-related financial goal.

He also warns that we should consider the complexity of the executive’s job in relationship to the functioning of the organization. Building on the sales example above, if the executive’s primary role is to make decisions and cultivate a productive working environment, then he or she may not actually have all that much impact on increasing sales to the target demographic group. It would be difficult to evaluate the business impact of coaching if the executive’s role has little business impact to begin with.


The author reminds us that if other needed training programs or selection systems are being implemented around the time that executive coaching takes place, then you will be much more likely to see organizational changes in the direction desired. Larger changes to an entire system often will have more business impact than executive coaching alone.

Finally, is executive coaching always the answer to our organizational problems? Not necessarily. The author cautions that the intervention needed will depend on the issue at hand. An executive might also gain critical skills from a stretch assignment if the key issue is professional development. Or if team performance is slacking, perhaps team development would be best to compliment coaching. You are more likely to see results if the interventions you select are targeted appropriately.


Levenson, A. (2009). Measuring and Maximizing the Business Impact of Executive Coaching. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 61, 103-121. 10.1037/a0015438.