Coaching Leaders Through Transition

Training magazine taps 2015 Training Top 125 winners and Top 10 Hall of Famers to provide their learning and development best practices in each issue. Here, we look at CareSource University’s strategy for coaching leaders through transition.

Coaching Leaders Through Transition

CareSource, a nonprofit Ohio-based health plan, understands that stepping into a new leadership position is a critical time for a leader, his or her staff, and the organization. A rapidly expanding healthcare landscape has led to unprecedented growth, making employee retention and engagement a top priority.

Recognizing that developing strong leaders was critical to employee retention and maintaining our 70 percent level of engaged employees, we launched the Leadership Transition Coaching program in April 2009. Our growth resulted in new positions and the opportunity for employees to be promoted into their first leadership role. Likewise, several new leaders were hired from outside the organization at all levels. Our Leadership Transition Coaching program was developed to ensure new leaders had the resources and tools necessary for a smooth transition to their new role.

Program Details

Within a few weeks of starting at CareSource, all new team leads, managers, directors, and executives are provided a personal internal coach. The leader and coach meet every other week for approximately six months to address any topic the leader would like to discuss. Leaders are informed that coaching is a confidential relationship and everything stays between the two of them, unless something illegal or unethical is disclosed. This provides new leaders a safe place to slow down, express their challenges, and consider how to address them.

The coaching program does not follow a set agenda or curriculum. We view each leader as an individual with different needs. However, to help new leaders assess how coaching might support their transition, we structure the first three steps.

First, we ask leaders to consider their personal legacy and what they might need to do differently in this new role to be successful. We then ask leaders about their vision for their team or department. They consider the changes in behaviors, mindsets, and/or processes they would like to see in a year. Finally, based on these two conversations, leaders identify three to five expectations for what they would like to accomplish through coaching. These expectations become the foundation of the coaching relationship.


We have run into a couple of key challenges throughout the life of our coaching program. The program began with one internal coach, certified through the International Coach Federation (ICF), dedicating 50 percent of his time to coaching new leaders. Within 10 months, it became clear this wasn’t sustainable as demand for coaching increased due to the organization’s growth. We presented senior leadership with the feedback we were receiving from new leaders and made the case to devote 75 to 85 percent of that individual’s time to coaching.

Three years later, we began to see the same issue of capacity surface. Due to the number of leaders our coach was working with, he often wasn’t able to start with new leaders until they were with the organization for six to eight weeks, rather than the goal of two to three weeks. We believe it is critical to support new leaders as soon as possible, so we hired another ICF certified coach who dedicates 75 to 85 percent of her time to coaching.

Another challenge was the ability to measure the impact of our coaching program. We utilize two key strategies to measure the effectiveness of our coaching program.

  1. Leaders identify their expectations for the coaching process, and they assess their confidence in being able to achieve that expectation on a 10-point scale. Once the coaching program has ended, we ask them to assess their confidence again, providing a pre- and post-measurement.
  2. Three months after coaching has ended, our vice president of CareSource University follows up to facilitate an impact conversation. She works with the leader to determine how coaching had an impact on the business. This is measured by factoring the percentage impact coaching had on the business outcome.


The implementation of the strategies above helped us identify and articulate quantifiable results and savings from our coaching program. Based upon the pre- and post-confidence assessment completed by leaders, we’ve seen a 91 percent increase in confidence on average. Additionally, our impact conversations identified numerous examples of hard savings as a result of coaching.

Two of the greatest returns we have seen from coaching are in the areas of retention and increased efficiency. Several leaders have credited coaching for retaining them in their role. Likewise, many leaders referenced improved delegation, prioritization, and coaching skills with helping them save time throughout their day. Based upon these scenarios, and several others, we have conservatively estimated a savings of more than $744,000 and a return on investment (ROI) of 211 percent during the five-year life of the coaching program. In 2014, our Leadership Transition Coaching program was recognized by ICF as an honorable mention for the PRISM award for excellence in coaching programs.


We encourage other organizations to leverage the power of coaching to develop their employees. As you do, we recommend following two approaches:

  1. Start small. Identify an area of strategic importance to your organization and determine how coaching can make a difference. Whether it’s working with leaders, supporting your sales staff, or helping front-line staff develop their careers, identify one key area and pilot a program within that group.
  2. Measure the impact of your program from the very beginning. More specifically, we recommend implementing a three-month follow-up process. This is an effective way to help your employees articulate what coaching has meant to them and how it affects their day-to-day jobs. The sustainability and expansion of your coaching program hinges on your ability to articulate your success.

Leaders play a critical role in the success of CareSource, as they do in any organization. We believe it is imperative to provide our leaders with all the resources they need to be successful, and coaching is a critical piece of the puzzle. We encourage you to invest in your leaders and explore how coaching can make an impact.


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