ATD Blog

A Data-Driven Case for Leadership Coaching

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Training budgets are tight. They always are. Talent development professionals are regularly forced to make their case for a share of the organization’s administrative budget. This money funds the programs—from large-scale training to individual leadership coaching programs—that produce a steady stream of skilled leaders ready to tackle today’s trials and future challenges. Sometimes it is difficult to convince senior leaders to fund a popular leadership training program serving a cohort of 25 or more, but how do you convince budget owners to spend five-figure funds for a single leader?

When the leader in question manages one of the largest groups of people in the organization, the return on investment (ROI) begins with considering the overall impact because this individual is disproportionately pivotal to the organization’s success. This individual’s behavior is a key influencer of the corporate culture. Yet the cost per employee in your training budget would be upended with a journal entry for the fee required for engaging a leadership coach for this person.

Here at Dion Leadership, we coach hundreds of leaders every year in various industries and jobs. With feedback like “I’ve made far more progress as a leader working with my executive coach than I ever have in my 25-year career,” we know coaching programs work. However, if word-of-mouth is not enough to convince the budgeter in your organization, here’s some data that makes a case for including leadership coaching in your talent development plans. For the past three years, we have conducted an annual leadership coaching effectiveness survey and are now armed with persuasive year-over-year findings.

Coaching improves leader performance

First, our data shows that coaching consistently improves leader performance. With an average of 95 percent agreement over three years of data, leaders self-report “As a result of my leadership coaching, I am better equipped to utilize new behaviors required of me at work.” In 2022, respondents cited the ability to communicate and listen, lead and manage others, and manage up (executive presence) as the three behaviors coaching most frequently improved.

Why does coaching work? Coaching bestows confidence, and that confidence spurs meaningful behavior change. In our study, 94 percent of participants self-reported that their overall confidence as a leader improved due to leadership coaching. When you believe you can, you can.


Professional coaches can tap into what makes each person unique and powerful as a leader when consistent coaching sessions are grounded in a cognitive behavioral learning process. Coachees can identify their authentic selves and learn to take full advantage of their natural gifts. They can identify and accept the behaviors that have tripped them up in the past. Skilled coaches share valuable tools that the leader can use to modify their behavior and reactions in high-stress situations. Knowing you are good enough and learning how to apply your approach best creates the inner change needed to sustain external behavior change.

Coaching improves well-being

Another key finding from our gathered data will get your budget owners’ attention, especially in today’s wellness-focused world. Eighty-one percent of coachees reported that their leadership coaching improved overall well-being. When a leader takes time to work with a coach to better understand and appreciate their strengths, it allows them to slow down and look at their work with a fresh perspective. This leads to less stress, better health, more focus, and less burnout. When a leader embraces new behaviors producing the results they want, their well-being benefits as a result.


Coaching improves retention

Suppose this data has not yet convinced you. In that case, we have one more critical statistic that points to a clear return on investment: Seven out of 10 leaders reported that coaching positively impacted their desire to stay with their organization. When your valued leaders ignore that recruiter’s call and remain committed to your organization, you have recouped far more than the cost of the coaching engagement.

Training classes, mentoring programs, corporate retreats, and other talent development efforts contribute to an organization’s talent development strategy. They serve a valuable role in building your leadership pipeline. However, when you know that individual leadership coaching is the right solution, don’t allow the cost per employee to rule out this modality. Turn to this study for the data you need to prove to your budget holders that coaching is a highly effective talent development solution. Helping key leaders create sustainable strategies that remove barriers to their performance and improve their confidence and well-being proliferates across the organization.

About the Author

Steve Dion is founder and CEO of Dion Leadership, a leadership and organization development consulting firm based in Michigan. Steve has dedicated his career to understanding and improving organizational cultures through the creation and deployment of innovative leadership development programs, executive coaching, team effectiveness programs, and talent assessment.

Steve is an executive board member at Fast Company. He is a regular contributor to CEO World, Chief Executive, Training Industry, and HRCI’s HR Leads Business Blog. Always innovating, Steve and his Dion Leadership colleagues recently launched a new research-based training product that supports work-life alignment.

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