Some time ago, one of my clients decided to invest time in coaching members of his firm. He’s the managing partner of his firm and has an informal board of partners who advise him on how to best contribute to the company.

One day, he called me, a little puzzled. “My board wants me to coach the make a meaningful coaching contribution to the top 25 partners in the firm. Something doesn’t seem right about this to me. What do you think?”

I paused a second before responding. “Well, would you rather grow by addition or multiplication?” I asked.

This guy is good with numbers. “Multiplication,” he responded.

“OK, then don’t spread your effort among 25 people. Select the few who you think, after having an investment from you, would be able to coach, mentor, and raise the performance of others as well. That way you’ll multiply your efforts over time.”

The point is simple: Like most of life, the most important investment decisions come at the point of selection. Many companies try to spread coaching evenly in an attempt to be fair. That is simply short-sighted. You are better off coaching a few multipliers than hoardes of people who will grow individually, but never be able (or willing) to pass it on themselves.

How about you? How do you select people to coach? How does your organization decide where to invest coaching time, effort and money? Of the people you are personally mentoring, how many could turn around in the next year or two and coach others?