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  • Writer's pictureDave Veale

The Intangible Benefits of Coaching – What a Case Study Revealed

Updated: Sep 23, 2021


We’ve just completed an important case study, headed by Dr. Bill Howatt, which evaluated the impact of one-to-one coaching on leaders of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

The value of one-to-one coaching has been broadly adopted in the global business community as an effective lever for personalized leadership development.

Both corporate and public organizations recognize the transformational impact coaching has on a leader’s performance but what would the impact be on a diverse group of SME leaders sprinkled around the province of New Brunswick, Canada? We just found out.

Vision Coaching was contracted to help determine the impact of one-to-one coaching on 36 SME leaders being coached over a six-month period. Nine coaches from our current roster of International Coaching Federation (ICF) certified coaching professionals worked with the SME leaders. Our process includes “best fit” coach/coachee matching, which proved ideal for the diverse needs of the SME community in this project.  (There was a great deal of diversity in the size of the SMEs, the language needs of the leaders, the business sectors, and more.)

Despite this diversity – from a company owner in a rural area with 70 employees to a leader running an IT start-up with 3 employees – most of the coachees in the case study described the ‘intangible’ benefits of coaching as having a huge impact on the overall experience of being coached. We think this was a driving factor in why 96.2% of the leaders in the case study said they would be ‘very willing to recommend the Small Business Coaching Program to a colleague or friend’.

As we reviewed the results (we’ll reveal more in an upcoming issue of Fresh Ideas), we were reminded of a subtle but critically important point. As Dr. Howatt states in the case study, “While hitting financial targets and business related goals is critically important, the ‘hard results’ often come from the varying levels of support, or the ‘intangibles’, provided in a professional coaching relationship.” For example, something that the SME leaders experienced with coaching that parallels the feedback we receive regularly from the public sector and executive leaders is the importance of having a confidential, non-judgmental, competent coach focused solely on their needs.

Management guru Henry Mintzberg pointed out long ago that, “Leadership, like swimming, cannot be learned by reading about it”. The results of our case study reminded us that leaders learn from their involvement in a coaching program – there is huge value in this experiential learning.

When asked about additional ‘intangible benefits’ of being coached, the coachees in the case study revealed that BEFORE being coached, 65.4% thought that the idea of having a ‘trusted advisor to share my thinking with’ would be valuable while 100% found this to be valuable AFTER they had experienced being coached.

And when asked ‘Did you receive any intangible benefits as a result of being coached’ the coachees rated these statements as being the most valuable:

  1. I felt supported

  2. I had someone who I knew cared about my success

  3. I had someone who challenged my thinking

  4. I had someone who helped to hold me accountable

  5. I had a confidential sounding board

So what does this all mean? It is a stark reminder that supporting a leader’s success begins with a solid relationship built on trust. This is true regardless of what sector or industry you work in.  I believe that Stephen M. R. Covey, author of the Speed of Trust, said it best…”The ability to establish, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders – customers, business partners, investors and coworkers – is the key leadership competency of the new, global economy.” (I interviewed Mr. Covey in 2012 about the concept of trust – you can read my interview with Stephen M.R. Covey here.)

Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. Email Dave at or follow him on twitter @dave_veale.

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