Do you ever wonder how your coaching work is going? I certainly do. Coaching colleagues is a little harder to track than, say, building widgets. People just don’t behave like widgets. They make progress. They fall back. They show promising signs and they exasperate us – sometimes all in the same conversation.

And the minute I feel a little superior to the person I’m coaching, I look in the mirror. I’m the same way. And I both delighted and exasperated more than a few coaches over the years. (If you ask my current set of coaches and advisors, they would probably say I’m still pretty good at that – at least the exasperating part!)

This fuzziness inherent in working with these wonderful creatures called humans does not mean that you are completely without indicators. I’ve talked often about the importance of formal and informal feedback. Check-in conversations and formal feedback should be a staple of any coaching relationship.

But here’s another informal barometer I use: the phone. If my phone occasionally (or regularly) rings and I find my colleague on the other end, soliciting help or wanting to bounce an idea off me, I know that I have started to achieve trusted advisor status with that person. If my phone (or email, or blackberry, or whatever) is generally quiet, I have to ask myself what’s going on. Have I not clarified what we’re working on and how I can help? Are we working on things that they don’t really care about? Do they care about the issue but question my motives? Have I just failed to prime the pump by sending them input, becoming a useful source of help and information? Do I listen enough when we speak together or do they walking away thinking “that guy’s a know-it-all and I just feel worse when we talk”?

It’s not scientific – but then again, human relationships defy scientific measurement so often!

How about you? What are your informal indicators of progress when you’re providing value to colleagues?