Shorter, More Frequent Coaching Conversations Are Better

You can be a great coach, but be less effective because your conversations are too long or too short or not frequent enough. This applies to anyone helping people grow: coaches, managers, parents, and ministers. What length, frequency, and delivery methods produce the most effective coaching conversations? Several studies point us to answers.

A study by Coaching Research Institute LLP polled clients about the behaviors and structures their professional coaches used and the resulting effects on clients. Significantly, those surveyed were clients not coaches, as in most coaching studies. Ninety-three professional coaches from 14 countries did the coaching.

The survey measured 22 results clients received from coaching. Things like:

  • I achieved goals set at the start of the coaching engagement.
  • I am satisfied with the coaching engagement.
  • My direction and vision have become clearer.

It also measured 18 behaviors of the coaches. Things like, the coach “listened until I finished speaking,” “I felt safe to share,” and the coach “did not impose his/her ideas.”

Here’s what the survey found and how you might be able to increase the effectiveness of your coaching conversations by adjusting the structure.

1. The Length Of Coaching Conversations

Length of Coaching Sessions

Length of Coaching Sessions (Source: CRI)

How long are your coaching conversations? You might be surprised the learn that 50% of coaching conversations were between 30-39 minutes. The second most popular length for a coaching session was between 60-69 minutes.

How did shorter conversations stack up against longer ones?

It turns out that there’s not much benefit to a longer versus a shorter time. A separate UK study found that awareness can actually decrease with longer coaching conversations.

Rather than coaching by the hour, how about operating from a results perspective and stopping when the coachee gains new insights that enabling her to move forward?

As with many tasks, having a deadline helps us become more focused and productive. Coaching for 30 minutes, instead of an hour, may help you and your coachee to get a clearer Outcome for the conversation and sharpen your focus on achieving it.

2. The Frequency of Coaching Conversations

Frequency of Coaching Sessions (Source: CRI)

How often are your coaching conversations? The study revealed that 40% were coached every 3-4 weeks, followed by 19% every 2-3 weeks.

What coaching frequency correlated with the most positive results?

This time there’s a clear winner, and it’s 1-2 weeks. By far! Nearly every one of the 22 positive effects of coaching were higher when coaching conversations occurred every 1-2 weeks. The majority of the 18 ideal behaviors of the coach were also evaluated higher.

A study of pastors of new churches also demonstrated a link between greater frequency and results. That study found weekly conversations correlated with around 50% greater results than monthly meetings. An interesting side-note is that monthly coaching conversations were actually less effective than quarterly ones.

I’ve long been an advocate of coaching every 2 weeks. Many people are stuck in a once-a-month mindset, thinking they are too busy to coach more often. But it’s just not as effective. More frequent conversations and perhaps shorter conversations may promote better coaching behaviors from you, and produce better results for the coachee.

3. The Delivery Method of Coaching Conversations

How do you deliver coaching? The two main delivery methods are in-person and by telephone (or something like Skype). The study showed that one-third of coaching engagements were done in-person, two-thirds over the phone.

Which is more effective, in person or by telephone?

On this point the study focused on the coach’s behavior. Clients reported that when coaching was conducted by phone, the coach gave less directions and advice from a superior standpoint. The coach also offered more observations on things he or she noticed. During in-person coaching, the coach provided more value-added information through resources such as books and case studies.

Why the change in the coach’s ability to remain in “coach mode” over the phone versus in-person? Basically, we have to work harder and concentrate more to coach over the telephone. This heightened state may increase our coaching presence, depth of observations, and keep us so busy listening that we are less tempted to begin teaching or advising.

You and your coachee’s preferences do need to be figured in, but overall there is a correlation between structure and your coaching behaviors and coachee results. Shorter, more frequent coaching conversations produce better results.

So, what changes do you want to experiment with regarding length, frequency or delivery of coaching?

Question: What do you find most effective for coachee results? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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