We are often asked this simple question. The answer is a bit more complicated.
Factors to consider in the coaching process include the total number of meetings (shown as N below), how long each meeting is (shown as T below) and the frequency of the meetings (F) shown in the model here:
Results = (N x T)/F
Coaches who follow a published process such as the 2 models our Associate Coaches use: Co-Active Coaching© or The Four Windows Process© are more likely to have built-in timeframes, but that doesn't mean it always applies.
Many coaches "develop a custom approach" for each client to ensure the unique needs of the individual or situation are addressed appropriately which means the open-ended engagement is more likely.
HR professionals and those who purchase coaching services favor engagements of 90 Days or even less. If you are interviewing a coach you may want ask if they can create a program for you with a specific period of time in mind - and then allow for some flexibility for both you and the coach.
Most coaching programs assume that the client and the coach will usually meet every week which is a factor in determining the length of the engagement. If you cannot commit to a weekly meeting approach, keep that in mind when determining the length of the time involved.
Most coaching programs assume that the length of each meeting (or session) will be 1 hour; however many clients prefer to limit their meeting time to 30 minutes. In those cases, expect that the length of the engagement may need to be longer to ensure enough time is allowed to complete your objectives.
Do different kinds of coaches have different approaches?
Absolutely. Business or Sales coaches usually recommend longer engagements. Their work is different however. Coaching an individual with a process with time limits can be compared to working with a business person or senior leader to improve skills, strategy and performance. It is harder to predict the scope of an assignment in those situations so we recommend that discussions occur between the coach and the client periodically to ensure the client's need for progress are satisfactory.
Research indicates that:
- HR professionals at larger companies (+1000 employees) tend to favor coaching of 90 days or less, usually opting for weekly meetings.
- Employees at mid-sized organizations favor weekly meetings and a 3 to 6 month time frame.
- Employees at small firms look for meetings every other week inside a 6 month time frame.
Even the best laid plans can change.
Executive coaches who work with senior executives report that it is much more difficult to work on a predetermined schedule. In the upper echelons of leadership, coaching clients are frequently called away on travel or called into emergency meetings, thus forcing canceled meetings. That can change the frequency of meetings and the length of an engagement significantly from the way it was planned.