ACE: A Model for Coaching Evaluation and Return on Investment

by Gladeana McMahon and Adrienne Rosen

As coaching is becoming an increasingly popular intervention at work, Coaches, purchasers of coaching and coaching professional bodies all recognise the on-going need to evaluate the effectiveness of coaching and the return on investment for coaching. To this end we have developed a model that we believe enables a more effective way to evaluate coaching outcomes. Based on a bringing together best practice and a combined thirty five years’ experience of working in an executive coaching arena the ACE Model provides a way for coaches and organizations to structure an effective way of gaining the most from coaching programmes.


The ACE Model provides an opportunity to gather feedback from coaching sponsors and coaching clients relating to business benefits. The model enables the sponsor to be a part of the process from the beginning to the end of the coaching programme.

Evaluating coaching is not easy, there are many approaches to evaluating return on investment (ROI). However in many cases this presumes that there is a tangible immediate benefit such as increase in sales volume or gross margins which are easier to measure. Coaches often engage in coaching individuals who are responsible for leading a team of people where the outcomes are more complex to measure but never the less the individual concerned has an indirect impact on the likelihood of the team remaining engaged and wanting to go the extra mile to reach desired goals and objectives. In many respects coaching is influencing and guiding an individual to think and behave differently and undoubtedly yields a positive result but it is often hard to tie this down to one measureable performance indicator. Such change is also incremental with small changes, openness to learning and involvement can over time which has an impact others.

We believe that the ACE Model provides a means of evaluating how coaching is more likely to have a direct return on investment.


  1. Coaching Needs Analysis

    Stage one of ACE seeks to gain clarification of why coaching is being sought and the expectations both the coaching client and sponsoring organization have from a coaching programme. The initial contact may come from an HR sponsor, the potential coaching client’s manager or the coaching client him/herself. At this stage it is important to gain as much information as possible of what type of coaching is being sought and for what purpose. It is also important to identify who the key stakeholders are in the process The use of a Chemistry Meeting Details form helps to capture relevant information that can then be passed on to the coach. This information is factual, name of individual, his/her manager’s details and also captures what is considered to be the key factors for coaching at that time. For example, the individual’s need to increase team performance, to communicate more effective or to develop leadership strategies, etc.

  2. Coach Selection

    The next part of the process focuses on coach selection and the need to identify the type of coach who best fits the coaching assignment. The details captured in the Chemistry Meetings Details Form should be passed on to the potential coach with the information that will assist the next stage of the process, that of the Chemistry Meeting itself.

  3. Coach/Client Chemistry Meeting

    It is also quite common to provide two coaches for the potential client to meet so as to allow the client a choice of coach. However, this is not always necessary as in many cases it is more cost effective to position one coach and only if the client would prefer not to work with the coach provided position a second chemistry meeting with another coach. Whilst it is important that the client feels that s/he has the right coach to meet his/her needs, the client may not always be in a position to know what he or she may need.

    During the chemistry meeting stage of the process, the Coach begins to elicit from the coaching client the objectives and overall outcomes required from the coaching assignment. This forms the beginning of the Behavioural Contracting process from the client’s perspective. However, apart from focusing on the actual outcomes and creating a coaching alliance, the coach is responsible for:

    1. Discussing the parameters of the coaching programme (e.g. number of hours, location, additional types of support offered such as telephone and email, whether psychometrics or 360 feedback might be used etc.)
    2. Positioning of the Behavioural Contracting making clear the need to speak to the client’s manager to gain from him/her their ideas of what organizational outcomes may be desired and the need for the client and his/her manager to complete and sign off the Behavioural Contract which the coach would then also agree to.
    3. The parameters of confidentiality, types of feedback required when, how and with who are also clarified.
    4. Following this meeting the coaching client then decides whether s/he would like to work with the coach in question. Once the client has made his/her choice the process moves onto Stage Two, Contracting.


    By the end of the Assessment stage of process, the various parties involved: the client, the client’s manager, corporate sponsor and coach should be as clear as possible about what the coaching programme is seeking to achieve and what outcomes will be used to judge the success of the coaching programme. Once this stage is completed the formal Contracting Stage comes into being.

    Note: Next month I will cover the second half of this model which includes Stage 2, Behavioural Contracting and Stage 3, Evaluation.