A Coachee Community – How Do You Know It’s Valuable?

When Jackie sat down on the empty subway train, it was already 11pm. After a contentious meeting with her demanding collaborator from offshore, she was exhausted and starving. Yet she was contented. Thanks to her coaching session the previous Friday, she stood up to her collaborator today, and rejected one of his three unreasonable requests. She was firm and eloquent despite a strong urge to say “Yes” and get the conversation over with. She didn’t manage to stand her ground for all 3 requests, but, well, at least one was a start. One was something.


Jackie took out her phone out of habit. A notification from the coaching community app her coach invited her to use was flashing. “How did it go?” It was a new discussion message from an online friend, another member of the same community. Jackie beamed. “Fantastic. Imagine how nervous I was yesterday when we talked!” she replied. As she clicked “Submit,” the message attracted 5 instant Likes. A surge of pride took over. Jackie thought for a moment, and started a new status message in the community’s homepage, the very first one in a long time from this habitual online lurker:


Big win today! I took the first step of confronting someone who I never learned to say “No” to. It wasn’t that bad. #hallelujahtocoaching, #youcandoit2


As a coach, who wouldn’t want to see such a status update from a client? She took a big step forward, had the virtual support from her fellow coachees who she had never met, showed great appreciation for coaching and most importantly, was a little bit more confident than yesterday that her time-long problem could be solved. Now many have seen and liked her post, and will have the courage to do their own respective first steps. In a difficult and lonely journey of personal transformation, at least she was not alone any more. Isn’t the coaching community wonderful?


Now before we get too carried away, this community doesn’t exist yet. Before we convince any corporations to build one, we need to convince a group of stakeholders of its value. Dreams and stories are all great, but how exactly does this community add value in terms of revenue amount? How to make a strong argument about its measurable results? Even the most coaching-friendly stakeholders, in companies who already have a robust coaching culture, would wonder about that.


How do you answer?


To leverage Wenger, Trayner and De Laat’s evaluation model of online community’s values, value about a community devoted to coachees could show itself at five different levels:


  1. Participation itself


The idea is that community members’ participation and interactions online, by itself, was a value achieved for their benefit. Given the fact that personal transformation journeys and coaching experience are often silo-ed, such interactions and the sense of belonging to a community are precious, and supportive of the coachee over a long period of coaching agreement.


Potential measurement metrics:


Frequency of signing in, number of discussion threads started, number of status messages shared, number of “ah-ha” moments hashtagged, quality of posts and sentiments measured by the number of “likes”, evidence of support and shared vulnerabilities…


  1. Learning Achieved Through Participation


Once coachees are actively engaged in the community in between coaching sessions, learning occurs beyond mutual support. When one member shares her own experience of designing valid experiments to test potentially ungrounded assumptions, for example, such experience can inspire another member, in her next coaching session, to design more relevant actions. Some may also share research articles that are situation-specific, such as “How do Millennials handle workplace conflict”, that potentially gives a Millennial coachee more options in similar situations.


Potential measurement metrics:


Number of articles and links shared, number of times words that indicate learning are used (e.g. “helps”, “good idea”), level of trust indicated by number of shared sensitive topics, frequency of citing a different tool, posting a TED video or sharing an analogous work place situation, etc.


  1. How was the learning applied?


To measure how exactly the coachees leveraged learnings from the online community, we need to combine the demonstrated results and the reported results from both such sharing online and during the subsequent coaching sessions. As a coach and a potential community manager of this online support group, we can track the application of learning that originated from the online community by keeping a log during sessions while keeping track of online interactions that reflect success stories.


Potential measurement metrics:


Number of success stories attributed to initial learning online, use of shared tools and resources in real life situations, number of new action options generated, etc.


  1. What’s the Positive Result after Application?


This stage of value is achieved indirectly, when the coachees apply the community learning in their real life situations and achieve positive results towards their coaching goal. If the positive result involves a dollar amount, such as increased revenue, salary, market share, this would be the stage to capture it.


At this stage of value creation, however, it is challenging to make a direct connection between the learning acquired online and the positive results. Since coaching tackles the coachee’s mental models as a whole, it is often difficult to see which insight or incremental change of perspective alone caused the visible traction towards the end goal, let alone which insight from the online community. Therefore, this would be a weak link in terms of being persuasiveness about the potential value of an online coaching community. Thoughts on how to make the causal effect more evident? Please comment below and let me know.


Potential measurement metrics:


Any advancement towards the coaching goal, defined by the measurement criteria agreed upon in the first coaching session.


  1. What else do they know now?


This type of value reflects the change of mindset and increased mental complexity that the coachee has achieved from the multitude of “ah-ha” moments and heightened self-awareness from coaching and the usage of the online community. Such value is not what the coachee set out to seek when she first start a coaching relationship, but is often a welcomed by-product. Some may argue that this is THE most valuable gain from any coaching relationships.


Key measurement metrics would vary wildly case by case in terms of such value. In general, an indicator would be any evidence that shows the newly gained mindset, mental complexity, beliefs, and coping skills are leveraged to solve other issues that are different but analogous to the coaching topic.



Does the analysis above make it easier to sell the idea of a coaching community to coaches and organizations? Let me know what you think.

2 thoughts on “A Coachee Community – How Do You Know It’s Valuable?”

  1. I really love the way you tell these stories – it makes the whole user scenario come alive! I also really appreciate how you are pushing the boundaries on what might seem to be a very challenging use case (coaching) and not only suggesting how enterprise social media might play a role, but exploring the metrics. You certainly nudge this more toward it being a real possibility in my mind.

    For what it’s worth – anecdotally – I have seen “informal” coaching and sharing like this in different online spaces. Just makes me think that making it more “formal” is not such a stretch…

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