How to get more results from coaching?

Most MD and managers have no idea how little their staff learn during an important coaching session.  What to do to ensure more learning and new behaviour?

Most of us know that our listening retention ability is between 7% and 9%.

It follows that attending a coaching session does not make much of a difference in altering behaviour. It has been established that only 10% to 15% of attendees enjoy a straightforward “talking-head lecture” which many coaching presentations are. What’s more, only 10% to 15% of the attendees take some aspects of what they learned home and put it into practice.

Could we not all agree that these troubling facts are realistic, judging from our own memories and our own paucity of action after a “lecture”? The figures might even seem a bit high.

Highly interactive coaching sessions (some with lots of bells and whistles) do succeed in pushing the enjoyment factor from 10-15% up to 95%. The bad news is that this improvement does not change the low 10-15% number of people who apply what they have learned.

These application percentages are dismal, but there is a way out of this dilemma. How to ensure that your company’s return on investment (ROI) in coaching is higher? How to improve the implementation factor to somewhere approaching 95%?

Firstly ensure that for any coaching you have a well-prepared, very brief coaching module and supporting diagrammes or a professional PowerPoint presentation.

Then follow these 5 steps:

If you are a participant:

1.    Preview the learning material which should be made available to you at least a week prior to the coaching session. Study it. And also learn to do mind mapping. It will boost your initial understanding tremendously if you were to take a pencil and prepare a mind map of the main concepts on an A4 sheet. Or use free mind mapping software.

2.    Participate in the coaching workshop. In a talking-head session (such as a university or college lecture) where most attendees do not participate, their enjoyment and learning is low in both, if they simply sit and listen. If you actively participate in a highly-interactive workshop (where the coach afterwards receives rave ratings of 9 or 10) your enjoyment could be as high as 95%, but regretfully your retention will still fall miserably short (10-15%). Do you and you manager seriously want it to improve? Carry on with the next three steps.

3.    Process the information and enrich your initial mind map in a manner which is meaningful to you. Expand you map and add new concepts. Also copy in free-hand style diagrammes, if these were supplied.  You will retain much more. This is especially the case if you relate the information to your own work situation; if you visualise how you will use it. How and where could you apply your learning when you get back to your office?

4.    Practice on your own – with personal assistance. The key to achieving a 95% rate of application is follow-up one-to-one coaching. Coaches are to follow up their group coaching sessions with a series of one-to-one coaching sessions. New neural highways have to be formed in your brain. Supplement this essential additional coaching through the formal use of Action Learning, where the members of a group assist each other. Here each would highlight an important application problem and the members would ask insightful questions which assist the presenter to find a meaningful solution. Try it.

5.    Produce proof to yourself and to others that you are taking action. Apply your new understanding and learning and get new or improved results. If you cannot apply knowledge, you do not know it. If you are stuck in any way, again go though this 5-step process. Ask your Action Learning members to assist you. (After an Action Learning meeting, the presenter of the problem would go away with new insights, apply these insights and report back until the learning has been integrated and results have been obtained.)

Preview, participate, process, practice and produce over and over again until you become a recognised expert at what you are doing.

Our aim in coaching should be 95% for both enjoyment and application. This will take real determination, commitment and effort.

MDs should actively support the learning process. Insist that managers hold participants accountable. Are they, after a coaching session, applying some of their new knowledge? Do their managers and encourage and assist them to do so?  Admittedly, it will take time and real effort to reach new heights.

Celebrate new learning and application.

A dramatic improvement in learning and in obtaining results is possible.


PS I am indebted to Bruce Elkin,, a professional coach, for the statistics about learning rates, to Toni Krasnic,, for his excellent learning model and to the late Prof Reg Revans, the father of Action Learning, which is being used in Nokia, Samsung, Boeing, GE, Motorola, Marriott, General Motors, Deutsche Bank, and British Airways and in hundreds of other companies.  (For more information visit: .) For excellent free software visit .


8 Responses

  1. Very impressive. Learned some useful techniques that I’ll implement in my coaching, especially with those who are lax to interact, and want just to be taught. Your approach is excellent. Much appreciated!

  2. Bruce – many thanks for your comment!

    Only 6% of all readers of a post comment although many could follow your example, make a contribution and even start a conversation.

    I intend to refer in future posts to your material, as I use it in my work as consultant. You have developed a great approach to coaching.

  3. Great post. Thanks for the troubling statistics and for helpful tips in improving them.

    With coaching, just like with teaching, the goal is student learning and application of that learning. It’s important that coaches/teachers do their part in engaging students, but coaches and teachers alone cannot produce learning and application in students. When both teachers/coaches and students do their part, learning becomes richer and more personal, and easier to put into practice.

  4. Toni – We are all perpetual students and I apply your 5P-approach to my own learning.

    My clients are also students and although some might feel that they are not, the successful ones learn, apply and practice, practice and practice some more. Deliberate practice leads to results. This requires commitment and determination by coach and client to see matters through to a successful conclusion. It is indeed an enriching experience.

    I really appreciate your comment! Many thanks!

  5. Hey Albert – this was thought-provoking writing – thank-you. I like the fifth point about Action. A bit of a challenge for Monday morning.

    All the best – Stephen

    • Hi Stephen – To complicate your Monday, Toni Krasnic further recommends that one identifies key concepts; meaningfully organize and connect such concepts using a visual map; think critically; and ask key questions – and that one does so within each of the five Ps.

      This is to enable you to meaningfully reconstruct information that you hear and read into a new creation (mind map) where someone else’s thinking now exists in your mind within your personal framework.

      This is what you do when you do your journaling!

  6. BTW – I have just been to the Concise Learning website – nice layout don’t you think?
    Someone recently suggested I look at Action Learning to complement the coaching approach I posted and my first response to the CLM site is that it drew me in.

    • Hi Stephen – I have been propagating Action Learning over 25 years and some of my clients have adopted it.

      Reg Revans firmly believed most answers for problems within companies or organisations can be found within an organisation by those most intimately concerned with such problems. The main stumbling block is that people do not ask insightful questions and do not know how to tap their own resources and discover solutions among themselves. They live with problems and get consultants and coaches to ask questions and facilitate solutions or send their seniors to business schools.

      Revans was very unpopular among universities that offered business courses.

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