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European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology
ISSN: 1359-432X (Print) 1464-0643 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/pewo20
Understanding the factors that determine workplace coaching effectiveness: a systematic literature review
Gil Bozer & Rebecca J. Jones
To cite this article: Gil Bozer & Rebecca J. Jones (2018) Understanding the factors that determine workplace coaching effectiveness: a systematic literature review, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 27:3, 342-361, DOI: 10.1080/1359432X.2018.1446946
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/1359432X.2018.1446946
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Published online: 08 Mar 2018.
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Understanding the factors that determine workplace coaching effectiveness: a systematic literature review Gil Bozer *a and Rebecca J. Jones *b
aManaging Human Resource, Sapir Academic College, Hof Ashkelon, Israel; bHenley Business School, University of Reading, Henley-on-Thames, UK
ABSTRACT Meta-analytic results have established that workplace coaching is effective, however, little is known about the determinants of coaching effectiveness. This paper reports an inclusive systematic literature review, covering the quantitative and qualitative research on workplace coaching. We focus on seven promising areas in the current workplace coaching literature that emerged by the synthesis of 117 empirical studies: self-efficacy, coaching motivation, goal orientation, trust, interpersonal attraction, feedback intervention, and supervisory support. The major contribution of our paper is the systematic integration of well-established theoretical constructs in the workplace coaching context and the new insights we provide in the synthesis of these literatures. Based on our review, we provide specific recommendations to be addressed in future research, including recommended research methodologies, which we propose will significantly progress the field of workplace coaching theory and practice.
ARTICLE HISTORY Received 12 June 2017 Accepted 23 February 2018
KEYWORDS Coaching; coaching effectiveness; learning and performance; professional development; systematic literature review
Workplace coaching effectiveness: an introduction
Workplace coaching is a one-to-one custom-tailored, learning and development intervention that uses a collaborative, reflec- tive, goal-focused relationship to achieve professional outcomes that are valued by the coachee (Smither, 2011). Coaching is a learning and development approach that places the learner at the centre of the learning experience. The popularity of coaching appears to be enduring, with an estimated 53,300 professional coach practitioners worldwide (International Coach Federation, 2016). Further, a growing number of organizations are applying coaching in a range of formats and contexts outside of traditional executive coaching (or leadership coaching) where coaching is provided to a client who has managerial authority and responsi- bility in an organization by an external consultant (International Coach Federation, 2016). Therefore, following Jones, Woods, and Guillaume (2016), we use the termworkplace coaching as amore inclusive description incorporating coaching provided to all levels of employees by external or internal coaching practitioners who do not have formal supervisory authority over the coachee. The terms executive coaching, leadership coaching, business coaching andworkplace coaching are often used interchangeably (e.g., Blackman, Moscardo, & Gray, 2016; Ely et al., 2010; Theeboom, Beersma, & Van Vianen, 2014). We use the term “workplace coaching” as, in our view, it attends to the triadic nature of this developmental intervention (coach, coachee, orga- nization), and reflects the intended outcomes of coaching in an organizational context. Coaching is described as providing the employee with the time, mental space, support and guidance the employee may need to make sense of the information avail- able to them and explore how to apply it most effectively in their
unique situation (Day, 2000). In this challenging, volatile business environment, one-to-one coaching provides an adaptable and tailored learning and development solution to facilitate analys- ing and comprehension from other more instructional forms of training (e.g., Jones, Rafferty, & Griffin, 2006; Webb, 2006). This context helps to explain why the use of coaching has seen such a sustained increase in recent years.
Despite this growth, there are still a number of unanswered questions related to the determinants of coaching effective- ness, such as what key coachee characteristics are associated with improved coaching outcomes, what factors within the organizational setting promote or hinder coaching success, what factors influence the coach-coachee relationship, and how this links to coaching effectiveness (e.g., De Meuse, Dai, & Lee, 2009; Feldman & Lankau, 2005; Jones et al., 2016). Therefore, to address this gap, our paper has two goals. First, to examine critically the theoretical constructs operationalized in past coaching research to provide a deeper understanding of why these factors are important in understanding what determines coaching effectiveness. Second, to identify and discuss fundamental questions to be answered, and appropri- ate research methodologies that can advance workplace coaching research and practice.
To achieve our goals, we conduct a systematic literature review (SLR) in order to understand the theoretical constructs that have been operationalized and tested empirically in the coaching literature. Our SLR differs from previous coaching reviews as first, we provide a fully inclusive review incorporating both quantitative and qualitative literatures, as opposed to recent meta-analytic reviews (e.g., De Meuse et al., 2009; Jones et al., 2016; Sonesh et al., 2015; Theeboom et al., 2014) that focus
CONTACT Gil Bozer [email protected] *Authors contributed equally to this work
Supplemental data for this paper can be accessed here
EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF WORK AND ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY, 2018 VOL. 27, NO. 3, 342–361 https://doi.org/10.1080/1359432X.2018.1446946
© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
exclusively on quantitative studies and are therefore based on smaller sample sizes (k = 8, 17, 26 and 18, respectively). Second, unlike previous literature reviews (e.g., Feldman & Lankau, 2005; Grant, Passmore, Cavanagh, & Parker, 2010; Joo, 2005; Passmore & Fillery-Travis, 2011; Peterson, 2010), we adopt a truly systema- tic methodology by closely following established principles and recommendations for conducting a SLR (see, Briner & Denyer, 2012; Denyer & Tranfield, 2009; Macpherson & Jones, 2010; Nolan & Garavan, 2016). The existing reviews of the coaching literature are positioned as either argument/thematic reviews or expert reviews which do not claim to use explicit rigorous methods (Briner & Denyer, 2012).
An exception to this is a recent review by Blackman et al. (2016) who sought to provide an overview of the benefits or outcomes of coaching, compare coaching with other techni- ques, explore factors contributing to effective outcomes, and understand coach credibility. Whilst this review adopts a sys- tematic search methodology, we argue that as Blackman et al.’s (2016) review combines business coaching, supervisory coach- ing and team coaching studies, the conclusions drawn may be problematic due to the conceptually unique nature of each of these three coaching interventions. Namely, that coaching when provided by a supervisor may impact on the nature of the relationship between the supervisor as coach and the sub- ordinate as coachee due to the pre-existing leader–follower relationship (e.g., Dahling, Taylor, Chau, & Dwight, 2016; Feldman & Lankau, 2005; Jones et al., 2016). Likewise, team coaching contains many unique challenges for the coach not present in one-to-one coaching that could influence the validity of conclusions drawn when studies exploring one-to-one coaching are combined with studies exploring team coaching. For example, Jones, Napiersky, Lyubovnikova, and Chretien (2018) demonstrate that team coaching requires the coach to demonstrate coaching skills not necessarily required in one-to- one coaching. Such as, simultaneously managing multiple per- spectives and facilitating the building of trusting relationships between the numerous coachees present in the same team coaching intervention. By combining studies that examine busi- ness coaching, supervisory coaching and team coaching, it is impossible to draw conclusions regarding factors such as the impact of the relationship in coaching due to the distinct differences in these different types of coaching.
To achieve our second goal, by synthesizing the literature on coaching and the wider relevant psychological literatures, we formulate a series of future research directions for scholars including recommendations on appropriate research methodol- ogy and indicate our view of the priority for our suggestions. In this respect, the diverse nature of the coaching literature means that our paper is likely to be of interest to scholars working in a diverse range of disciplines, such as psychology, HR, manage- ment, leadership, and organizational behaviour.
Method of review
In conducting our comprehensive review, we adopted a sys- tematic approach as outlined in Nolan and Garavan (2016) which builds on the processes advocated by Denyer and Tranfield (2009) and by Macpherson and Jones (2010). A sys- tematic review aims to address the research objective by
identifying, critically evaluating, synthesizing and integrating the findings of relevant research (Cooper, 2003). Briner and Denyer (2012) propose that a systematic review should be conducted according to a method that is designed to specifi- cally address the research questions, explicitly state the review method used, be sufficiently detailed so that the review could be replicated, and provide a structured synthesis of the results related to the research question. Figure 1 provides an over- view of the SLR process applied in this study.
In order to identify relevant studies to be included in our review, we searched the following electronic databases: ProQuest, EBSCO, Emerald Full Text, JSTOR Business, SAGE Journals Online, Science Direct, Taylor and Francis, Emerald Journals, SpringerLink, Wiley Online Library, and Oxford Journals. We also conducted a search of the first five pages of Google Scholar for each search term, consistent with the pro- cedure suggested by Bowen, Newenham-Kahindi, and Herremans (2010) and Arvai, Campbell-Arvai, and Steel (2012). The following search terms were used: (coaching) and (effective- ness or outcome or impact or influence or evaluation). Searching the broad term “coaching” resulted in an automatic return of terms such as “business coaching”, “executive coaching”, and “coaching research”; thus, ensuring that our search was fully inclusive. In addition to this electronic databases search, fre- quent contributors to coaching research were contacted directly by e-mail to ensure that any unpublished data or work in progress were included in the review. For each of these frequent contributors, we also reviewed their ResearchGate and Institutional profile pages in order to identify any missing studies. We posted an announcement on the Academy of Management OB and Leadership listServs request- ing any unpublished data or work in progress. Finally, we manually reviewed the reference lists of all the other reviews and meta-analyses cited in this paper. The literature search was conducted between September 2015 and October 2017.
To be included in our review, studies had to meet three criteria. First, the study had to examine coaching effectiveness within an organizational setting (i.e., studies in which coaching was provided with the objective of generating workplace out- comes such as performance or skills enhancement). Consequently, studies that measured the impact of coaching on non-work outcomes (such as sport or health) were excluded. Second, studies were included if they adequately described the coaching activity (i.e., one-to-one development intervention based on a coach–coachee relationship). Therefore, studies that measured the impact of team coaching were excluded. Studies that measured the impact of coaching provided by a supervisor (i.e., managerial/supervisory coach- ing) were also excluded. As detailed above, it has previously been argued (e.g., Dahling et al., 2016; Feldman & Lankau, 2005; Jones et al., 2016) that the coaching relationship is distinct from formalized organizational performance manage- ment relationships (e.g., supervisor-subordinate). Therefore, it
EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF WORK AND ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 343
would be inappropriate to group studies that examine the impact of supervisory coaching with non-supervisory coaching in a review such as ours. Moreover, supervisory coaching is usually informal and often difficult to distinguish from men- toring (Doorewaard & Meihuizen, 2000). Finally, studies had to have been published in English. We approached the authors of studies that were missing critical information that was essential to: (a) determine the study fit within our inclusion criteria (i.e., description of the coaching intervention), and (b) identify the determinants or outcomes of the coaching inter- vention. In cases where these data could not be retrieved, the study was excluded from our review.
Following Adams, Smart, and Sigismund Huff’s (2017) recommendations, we also include 1st tier “grey literature” (e.g., conference proceedings, dissertations and theses) that are characterized with significant retrievability and credibility. Incorporating articles published in non-ranked peer-reviewed coaching journals coupled with 1st tier “grey literature” is in line with the fitness for purpose inclusion principle (e.g., Briner, Denyer, & Rousseau, 2009; Gough, 2007; Nutley, Powell, & Davies, 2013). This reflects our desire to increase the relevance and impact of our review to scholars and practi- tioners alike by providing a sufficiently rich detailed literature review that enhances our understanding of coaching as a complex intervention. In order to achieve a balance between
fitness for purpose inclusion and replicability of our search (Adams et al., 2017), we restricted our search of the grey literature to those sources retrievable from the well-estab- lished academic databases.
As this systematic review was designed to be as inclusive as possible, studies were not excluded based on research design or restricted based on publication date as was the case in recent coaching meta-analyses (e.g., Jones et al., 2016; Sonesh et al., 2015; Theeboom et al., 2014). Therefore, both qualitative and quantitative data were included cover- ing a range of between and within designs, such as case studies, cross-sectional studies, and quasi-experimental stu- dies. As the primary objective of our study was to compre- hensively review the theoretical constructs operationalized in past coaching research, we adopted the approach of other authors in recent SLRs whereby the results from quantitative and qualitative studies were combined and considered together (e.g., Janssen, van Vuuren, & de Jong, 2015; Nolan & Garavan, 2016). Denyer and Tranfield (2009) state that through the synthesis of findings, a systematic review should develop knowledge that is not apparent from reading the individual studies in isolation. We believe that by combining the quantitative and qualitative coaching research with the wider theoretical literatures, we are able to successfully achieve this aim.
Figure 1. Summary of the systematic literature review process (adapted from Nolan & Garavan, 2016).
344 G. BOZER AND R. J. JONES
Our search identified 339,558 studies, of which 117 were considered to be relevant following the application of our inclusion criteria. A PRISMA diagram introduced by Moher, Liberati, Tetzlaff, and Altman (2009) to illustrate the flow of information through the four phases of the systematic review is displayed in Figure 2. All studies included in the literature review are summarized in the appendix (available online) and listed in the references marked with asterisks (*).
Description of variables
The coding of studies was as detailed as possible to provide a comprehensive review of the existing coaching literature. All eligible studies were coded on the antecedents, mediators, and moderators examined, plus a number of specific variables in order to obtain an overview of the research methodology including: source of study, publication year, research design (i.e., within or between subjects), sample size, sampling strat- egy (e.g., random, convenience) and measurement strategy (e.g., pre- & post-test, cross-sectional). We also adopted the theoretical framework of coaching outcomes developed by Jones et al. (2016) as a mechanism by which to code the outcomes measured in the studies identified in our review. Therefore, consistent with this framework we coded outcomes as affective (e.g., self-awareness; Bozer, Sarros, & Santora, 2014), cognitive (e.g., solution-focused thinking; Grant, 2014), skill-based (e.g., safety-oriented communication; Kines et al., 2010) or results (e.g., sickness absence; Duijts, Kant, van den Brandt, & Swaen, 2008). Of the studies in our review, 93 explored affective outcomes, 13 explored cognitive outcomes, 57 explored skill-based outcomes, and 17 explored results outcomes (a number of studies explored outcomes across multiple categories). In Table 1, we provide a summary of
the types of outcomes explored when split by the seven theoretical constructs explored in our review.
Coding accuracy and interrater agreement
The coding protocol was developed jointly by both authors and both authors independently coded data from each study that met the inclusion criteria. In order to confirm interrater agreement, our approach mirrored that of Wang and Chugh (2014). Accordingly, all studies were cross-checked indepen- dently by both authors and any discrepancies discussed until an agreement was reached.
Assessment of study quality
An essential component of the systematic review methodology is an assessment of the study quality for each of the studies included in the review, and an overall assessment of the impli- cations of this assessment (Briner & Denyer, 2012). In the field of medicine, from which the method of systematic review derives, the GRADE approach is accepted as the appropriate method of conducting such assessments (Guyatt et al., 2008). However, the GRADE approach assumes that all primary studies within the review are conducted from a quantitative perspective and,
36 additional records identified through other sources (i.e. mailing lists, email requests, reference lists)
290,552 records excluded (e.g., not in English, sport,
medical publications, books or book chapters)
117 studies included in the review
48,889 of full-text articles excluded, with reasons (e.g., supervisory, team, and life coaching, not
empirical (i.e. conceptual or discussion papers), non-
339,558 records screened
49,006 full-text articles assessed for eligibility
339,558 records identified through database searching
Figure 2. Flow of information through the different phases of the review (adapted from Moher et al., 2009).
Table 1. Summary of coaching outcomes measured split by theoretical construct.
Construct Affective Cognitive Skill-based Results
Self-efficacy 23 4 9 3 Coaching motivation 15 2 6 2 Goal orientation 4 1 Trust 13 2 Interpersonal attraction 3 3 Feedback intervention 9 8 Supervisory support 8
Note: Some studies measured multiple outcomes across different categories
EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF WORK AND ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 345
furthermore, they prioritize randomized controlled trials over other research methodologies. Briner and Denyer (2012) high- light that an essential component of conducting an assessment of the quality of empirical articles within a review is to consider the relative quality based on the research questions in-hand. Therefore, when cause and effect is the research question to be addressed, a research design where the assumptions of caus- ality are met (such as the RCT) would naturally be assessed as higher quality than a research design where causality cannot be inferred (such as a cross-sectional study). As the review in-hand is focused on the theoretical constructs operationalized in workplace coaching research, and workplace coaching can be classified as a relatively nascent field of study, only a small minority of studies utilized the RCT design. Our review is com- prehensive in nature and, therefore, seeks to include both exploratory and cause-and-effect empirical studies. As such, the studies in our review adopt both qualitative and quantita- tive research design. Having a theoretical framework under- pinning each constructs at the outset is essential for applying appropriate data collection methods, choosing analytic approaches, and ultimately, drawing conclusions (Walsh & Downe, 2006). In our review, a reliance on theory is fundamen- tal to address the pressing question why coaching is effective, and thus enhance the credibility of the coaching field. Consequently, in order to assess the relative quality of the individual studies within our review, rather than simply ranking studies of a higher quality when an RCT design was adopted, we provide an assessment of whether the primary study describes an underlying theoretical construct. We award a score of either 1 for yes a theoretical construct is present or 0 for no a theoretical construct is not present.
In order to provide a further assessment of study quality, we adopt the directness and consistency ratings which origi- nate from the GRADE approach (Guyatt et al., Guyatt et al., 2011a, 2011b). In the context of medical research, directness refers to “research that directly compares the interventions in which we are interested delivered to the populations in which we are interested and measures the outcomes important to patients” (Guyatt et al., 2011a, p. 1304). In the context of our review, the population is already consistent as this criterion is covered in our inclusion criteria (i.e. population must be work- ing adults). However, there is some degree of variation in terms of directness of intervention and outcomes.
Regarding directness of coaching intervention, criteria for inclusion in our review specifies that studies must utilize one- to-one coaching within the workplace provided by an internal or external coach who does not have a formal authority over the coachee (e.g., not the supervisor). However, a number of the studies in our review reported the outcomes of coaching applied in conjunction with additional interventions, such as leadership development (e.g., Bowles, Cunningham, De La Rosa, & Picano, 2007; Grant, Curtayne, & Burton, 2009; Nieminen, Smerek, Kotrba, & Denison, 2013), managerial learn- ing and training workshop (e.g., Baron & Morin, 2010; Olivero, Bane, & Kopelman, 1997; Taie, 2011), multi-source feedback (e.g., Kochanowski, Seifert, & Yukl, 2010; Luthans & Peterson, 2003; Thach, 2002), and team activities (e.g., McGuffin & Obonyo, 2010; Ratiu, David, & Baban, 2015; Spurk, Kauffield, Barthauer & Heinemann, 2015). In the majority of these
studies, the accompanying activities were embedded in the coaching as part of an organizational development initiative and, therefore, the coaching effects could not be isolated from the other interventions. In the context of our review, indirect- ness in terms of the intervention means that we are unable to isolate the unique coaching effects from the overall develop- ment. Consequently, there is a possibility of confounding variables and threats to internal validity of workplace coaching effectiveness (Clarke, 2003). As such, we also rate the studies in our review for directness of intervention in that studies were awarded a rating of 1 if the intervention effects could be attributed to a sole intervention, and a 0 if the effects could not be isolated to a single intervention (possibly because the intervention was part of a multi-modal intervention).
Regarding directness of coaching outcomes, our review has identified that the primary studies in our review utilize a vast range of quantitative and qualitative outcomes from a wide variety of sources. In the context of medical research, the GRADE criteria refer to the use of substitute or surrogate end points in place of the outcome of interest as one com- ponent of indirectness. Translating this to the current review, we argue that we are interested in obtaining an unbiased understanding of the influence of theoretical factors on coaching outcomes. Accordingly, when these outcomes are assessed by either objective means, such as sales perfor- mance, or by ratings from external sources of coachee’s performance, such as supervisor or peers, we can be more confident that a demonstrable change following coaching has been observed and, as such, measurements of this type would be classified as having high directness and conse- quently awarded a score of 1.0.
Outcome data collected from the coachee (i.e. self-report data), we propose, could be ranked as moderate and assigned a score of 0.5 as whilst the coachee themselves may be best placed to identify change in outcomes at certain levels, such as affective outcomes, it could also be argued that it is difficult to disassociate the coachee’s per- ception of the impact of coaching from factors such as the placebo effect. Another possible risk of bias may occur when coachees perceive that it is in their personal interest to report positively on the coaching outcomes after they have devoted time and effort engaging in coaching, and their organizations have sponsored and coordinated the coaching (De Meuse et al., 2009).
Finally, primary studies that utilize outcomes from the coa- ches’ perspective can be classified as a surrogate end point (Guyatt et al., 2011a, 2011b) and, therefore, these studies should be classified as low directness and assigned a score of 0.0 for this element. This is because we would suggest that data collected from the coach has a low level of directness regarding demonstrable change following coaching as the coach is potentially less likely or able to offer a fully objective assessment of outcomes following coaching that they have provided. Further, our review included only coaches who did not have a formal supervisory authority over their coachees, therefore, there might be job-related measures, such as skill- based and performance outcomes, that are not suitable to be assessed by the coaches. Another potential bias in the coa- ches’ effectiveness ratings might derive from their self-interest
346 G. BOZER AND R. J. JONES
to demonstrate their professional success as reflected by posi- tive coaching outcomes.
The final criterion which we used to assess study quality was applied at the theme level rather than for individual studies and this was consistency. Consistency in the context of the GRADE approach refers to “inconsistency in the magni- tude of effect” (Guyatt et al., 2011b, p. 1294). The GRADE guidelines recommend that consistency is marked down when the inconsistency across findings is large and unex- plained. Whilst the GRADE approach focuses on a statistical assessment of consistency, we adopt a similar approach to Rees et al. (2016) and assess consistency across the seven themes identified in our review. Accordingly, for a theme which demonstrates relatively high heterogeneity of findings, we rate consistency as low and assign a grade of 0 whereas for themes that demonstrate relatively high homogeneity of find- ings, we rate consistency as high and assign a grade of 1.
Table 2 provides an overview of the seven theoretical constructs identified in our review, the mean quality rating was the average taken from the scores awarded on theo- retical framework, consistency of evidence, directness of intervention, and directness of outcome. The individual study assessment ratings for quality (inclusion of a
theoretical framework), directness of outcome and inter- vention can be found in the table in the appendix avail- able online.
Identification of theoretical constructs
The next stage in an SLR is the synthesis of the primary papers and the identification of themes around which the presentation of the review will be provided. In contrast to quantitative meta-analysis, Wolf (1986) argues that qualita- tive synthesis is not about averaging or reducing findings to a common metric, instead the focus is on enlarging the interpretive possibilities of findings and constructing larger narratives or general theories. Additionally, Thomas and Harden (2008) state that this stage of a qualitative synthesis is the most difficult to describe and is, potentially, the most controversial, since it is dependent on the reviewers’ judge- ment and insights. In order to identify the themes around which our discussion is structured, we focused on the the- oretical constructs examined in the extant literature and we inductively identify the theoretical constructs that have been most frequently operationalized in the studies in our review. To identify these theoretical constructs, both
Table 2. Overview of assessment of quality for each of the seven theoretical constructs.
Theme Design quality (explicit theoretical
underpinning) Consistency of
evidence Directness of outcome
Directness of intervention
Overall assessment of quality
Self-efficacy 0.92 1 0.56 0.71 0.80
The evidence to indicate the presence of self-efficacy as both a predictor and outcome of coaching is relatively robust with consistent evidence across the studies in our review. However, there is only a moderate level of confidence in relation to directness of outcome as the majority of outcomes are self-reported at the coachee level rather than from third-party or objective sources.
Coaching motivation 0.76 1 0.59 0.82 0.79
The evidence suggests that coaching motivation is an important antecedent of coaching outcomes with studies in our review yielding consistent results. However, as with self-efficacy, there is only a moderate level of confidence in relation to directness of outcome as the majority of outcomes are self-reported at the coachee level rather than from third-party or objective sources.
Goal orientation 1 1 0.75 0.75 .88
There is strong evidence to indicate that coachee goal orientation is relevant to understanding coaching outcomes. This variable has been investigated using primarily quantitative research designs with a greater number of studies utilizing outcomes measured by third-party or objective sources.
Trust 0.54 1 0.46 0.92 0.73
Whilst the evidence consistently indicates that trust in the coaching relationship is important across studies exploring this construct, the overall quality of studies is moderate due to the reliance on surrogate outcomes (i.e., coaches’ ratings) and a paucity of theoretical underpinning in these studies.
Interpersonal attraction 1 0 .75 0.75 0.63
The findings regarding the importance of interpersonal attraction are relatively inconsistent, however the quality of theoretical underpinning of studies exploring this variable is high and there are also a greater number of studies utilizing outcomes measured by third-party or objective sources.
Feedback intervention 0.71 0 0.79 0.43 0.48
The overall quality of studies exploring the importance of feedback intervention in coaching is relatively low. This is partially attributable to the low directness of intervention, as frequently when feedback intervention is investigated with coaching, the two interventions are combined, without a comparison group. On the other hand, this theme does include a relatively high number of studies utilizing outcomes measured by third-party or objective sources.
Supervisory support 0.75 0 0.44 0.63 0.46
The overall quality of studies exploring the importance of supervisory support in coaching is relatively low. This is primarily due to the inconsistency in findings across studies, the reliance on self-report measures of outcomes and the high number of studies in this group with a low level of directness of intervention.
Note: For study design and consistency, a score of 1 indicates on average most studies within this theme included an explicit underpinning theoretical framework and demonstrate high levels of homogeneity in findings. A score of 0 indicates on average most studies within this theme do not include an explicit underpinning theoretical framework and demonstrate high levels of heterogeneity in findings. For directness of outcomes, a rating of 1.0 indicates high directness evidenced by outcomes gathered from objective measures or third-parties, a rating of 0.5 indicates moderate directness evidenced by self-reported (coachee) outcomes, and a rating of 0.0 indicates low directness evidenced by outcomes gathered from ‘surrogate’ (coach) outcomes. For directness of intervention, a rating of 1 indicates high directness evidenced by an isolated one-to-one coaching intervention whereas a rating of 0 indicates low directness evidenced by one-to-one coaching combined with another intervention. Study design and directness are mean scores calculated from the ratings provided for individual studies shown in the supplementary info table in the appendix available online. The overall assessment of quality is the mean of the other scores provided here and is provided on a scale from 0.0 to 1.0.
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authors independently reviewed each of the studies identi- fied in our review and coded the studies based on the theoretical constructs each study operationalized. Following this independent coding, each author indepen- dently identified the most frequently operationalized con- structs. Both authors then discussed their independently created list of constructs until an agreement was achieved in relation to which constructs to discuss in the paper. In agreeing on constructs, the authors sought to achieve a balance between including the most frequently operationa- lized theoretical constructs and the ability to discuss each construct in sufficient detail within the paper. Consequently, it was not possible to explore in detail all of the constructs identified in the primary studies, a point which we will return to in the discussion of limitations in our conclusion. This process resulted in identifying seven theoretical con- structs: self-efficacy, coaching motivation, goal orientation, trust, interpersonal attraction, feedback intervention, and supervisory support. We discuss these theoretical constructs in the subsequent sections of our paper. We structure the results and discussion as follows: first, we introduce and discuss the relevant theoretical construct. Second, we sum- marize the findings from the studies in our review in rela- tion to this construct. Next, we extend these findings by integrating the general discussion of theory with the coach- ing research in order to explain how the theoretical con- struct adds to our understanding of workplace coaching. Finally, we conclude each section with recommendations for future research including suggested methodologies and our view on the priority of each research category.
Results and discussion
Social cognitive theory highlights self-efficacy as a central mechanism with a wide explanatory power on diverse phenom- ena (Bandura, 1982). Research on self-efficacy has focused on how individuals’ self-judgments of efficacy affect either their acquisition of knowledge and skills or execution of action (Gist & Mitchell, 1992). Research indicates that individuals higher in self-efficacy have strong beliefs in their task-related capabilities and set more challenging goals than those with lower self- efficacy (Bandura, 1986). Occupational self-efficacy has been shown to directly relate to job satisfaction, greater attention and efforts to overcome failure and obstacles and, ultimately, to work-related performance (Judge & Bono, 2001; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998). Self-efficacy has emerged as a powerful predic- tor of motivation, engagement behaviour and performance in the realm of learning and development (e.g., Choi, Price, & Vinokur, 2003; Tannenbaum, Mathieu, Salas, & Cannon-Bowers, 1991). High perceived self-efficacy as a learner is associated with investment of cognitive efforts and superior learning. In the wider context of training, self-efficacy as a psychological trainee characteristic can be regarded as an independent variable, a process variable, or a desirable outcome (e.g., Colquitt, LePine, & Noe, 2000; Quiñones, 1995).
Studies in our review investigated coachee self-efficacy as both an independent variable and an outcome of coaching
with the quality of evidence rated as relatively high (see Table 2). Coachee self-efficacy has been found to be an impor- tant antecedent of affective coaching outcomes as reflected in perceived coaching effectiveness (de Haan, Duckworth, Birch, & Jones, 2013; de Haan, Grant, Burger & Erikkson, 2016), and improved coachee self-awareness and responsibility (Gegner, 1997). Additionally, coachee self-efficacy has been found to be an antecedent of skill-based outcomes as reflected in improved self-reported job performance (Bozer, Sarros, & Santora, 2013), and transformational leadership (MacKie, 2015a). Coachee self-efficacy has also been conceptualized as an affective coaching outcome (e.g., Baron & Morin, 2009, 2010; Baron, Morin, & Morin, 2011; Dingman, 2004; Finn, Mason, & Bradley, 2007; Grant, 2014; Grant et al., 2017; Ladegard & Gjerde, 2014; Libri & Kemp, 2006; Moen & Allgood, 2009; Moen & Federici, 2012a; Moen & Skaalvik, 2009; Tooth, Nielsen, & Armstrong, 2013).
These findings in the coaching literature, supported by the general self-efficacy research, position coachee self-efficacy as a key psychological variable in coaching. Given the centrality of behavioural and cognitive processes in coaching, such as feed- back information, planning and goal-setting, the links demon- strated by Bandura (1986) between self-efficacy, challenging goals, greater application of attention and efforts in the face of challenges to goals (Judge & Bono, 2001; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998) explain why high pre-coaching self-efficacy is an ante- cedent to coaching outcomes. Higher self-efficacy indicates that the coachee is more likely to set more challenging goals, has a greater belief in his or her ability to achieve the goals, and will experience sustained internal motivation, focus, and persis- tence in the face of obstacles in the pursuit of these goals. According to Bandura (1982), self-efficacy is malleable and can be increased via four processes including enactive mastery, successful model replication after overcoming difficulty, verbal persuasion, and emotional arousal. The coaching literature reviewed suggests that these four processes are integral com- ponents of coaching. For example, an aim of coaching is to build coachees’ self-awareness and sense of responsibility for change in order to encourage learning, goal achievement and, ultimately, performance improvement (Whitmore, 2002). An underlying assumption of this premise is that all individuals have the ability to achieve their goals (Gallwey, 2002). By ques- tioning faulty assumptions, re-examining the reality based on the evidence, and promoting insight into personal strengths, coachees’ self-efficacy in relation to their goals is indirectly targeted, with the research findings that position post-coach- ing self-efficacy as an outcome of coaching, supporting this premise (e.g., Baron & Morin, 2010; Ladegard & Gjerde, 2014; Moen & Allgood, 2009).
Future research in relation to self-efficacy and coaching should further understand the importance of task versus gen- eralized self-efficacy on coaching outcomes. The studies in our review conceptualized self-efficacy as a generalized global personality construct (Schwarzer, 1994; Shelton, 1990). However, self-efficacy can also be considered as a domain- specific variable (e.g., Schwarzer & Fuchs, 1995) and as a task- specific variable to predict circumscribed behaviour (Bandura, 1977; Pajares, 1996). In the coaching context, when coachees are unfamiliar with the specific tasks and challenges that they
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will face during their engagement in coaching, coachees’ domain-specific self-efficacy may provide greater explanation and predictive value of behaviours and outcomes than their general self-efficacy. Accordingly, future research should understand the influence of global self-efficacy beliefs (i.e., general belief in ability to generally develop knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve outcomes) compared to domain-spe- cific self-efficacy (i.e. belief in ability to develop the knowl- edge, skills and abilities necessary from coaching to achieve outcomes) and task-specific self-efficacy (i.e. specific belief in ability to develop the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary from coaching to achieve task level outcomes).
A limitation of the existing research into self-efficacy and coaching effectiveness is that self-efficacy has generally been measured at one time point only. If future research is to explore domain or task-specific self-efficacy, then alternative research methodologies will need to be utilized. One such appropriate method in this context would be the use of diary studies. Previous diary studies have demonstrated that employees’ day-level self-efficacy had a positive effect on performance as reflected in job crafting behaviours (Tims, Bakker, & Derks, 2014), work engagement (Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2009), and job performance (Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Heuven, Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2008), at the intra- individual level of analyses. Coaching effectiveness research could benefit from tracking the impact of changes in domain or task-specific self-efficacy beliefs and subsequent outcomes from coaching. Particularly, this domain would benefit from research utilizing outcomes as assessed by third-party or objec- tive sources and with particular focus on outcomes other than those at the affective level given the heavy reliance in the existing literature in this respect (see Tables 2 and 3 for an overview). Given the very clear links in the literature between self-efficacy, performance and training outcomes, we would mark the future research in this category as an urgent priority.
Salas and Cannon-Bowers (2001) suggest that training motivation is an important antecedent to successful training. They describe training motivation as the “direction, effort, intensity, and persis- tence that trainees apply to learning-oriented activities before, during, and after training” (p. 479). Research has found that trai- nees’motivation to learn and attend training has an effect on the subsequent skills acquisition, retention and willingness to apply the newly acquired knowledge, skills and abilities on the job (e.g., Martocchio & Webster, 1992; Quiñones, 1995). Colquitt et al. (2000) suggest that training motivation is multifaceted and influ- enced by a set of individual (e.g., cognitive ability, self-efficacy, anxiety, age, conscientiousness), and situational characteristics (e.g., climate, support).
Studies in our review conceptualize coaching motivation in a variety of ways. For example, Audet and Couteret (2012) refer to coachees’ motivation as a receptivity to coaching and commitment to the coaching relationship; Bozer et al. (2013) adopt Colquitt et al’s (2000) definition of pre-training motivation in the context of coaching and refer to the direc- tion, intensity and persistence of learning directed behaviour in training contexts and MacKie (2015a) refers to the
developmental readiness of the coachee. Whilst the coaching studies in our review that explored these concepts utilize a range of terminology, in our view, all of these coaching moti- vation concepts can be adequately classified according to the definition of training motivation provided by Salas and Cannon-Bowers (2001). The majority of studies in our review explored coaching motivation qualitatively, with findings indi- cating that coaching motivation was an antecedent to coach- ing outcomes when assessed from the perspective of the coachee (Bush, 2004; Hill, 2010; Rekalde, Landeta, & Albizu, 2015; Salomaa, 2015); the coach (Audet & Couteret, 2012; Hill, 2010; Kappenberg, 2008; Rekalde et al., 2015; Salomaa, 2015); and HR professionals (Rekalde et al., 2015; Salomaa, 2015). Fewer studies utilized quantitative analysis to examine the impact of coaching motivation on coaching outcomes. For example, MacKie (2015a) found that coaching readiness was a significant predictor of skill-based outcomes as reflected in improved transformational leadership behaviour (as rated by self and others such as line manager, peers and subordinates) after coaching for sample one, although the findings for sam- ple two were not significant. In a sample of 89 coach-coachee dyads, Sonesh et al. (2015) found that there was no significant relationship between coachee motivation, goal attainment and coachee insight. Whereas Bozer et al. (2013) found that coaching motivation was a significant moderator between coachee learning goal orientation and coaching effectiveness. Our overall rating of the quality of evidence in relation to coaching motivation and coaching effectiveness is relatively high (see Table 2).
The implication of the findings that position coaching motivation as an important antecedent of coaching outcomes is consistent with the extant training motivation literature (e.g., Martocchio & Webster, 1992; Quiñones, 1995). As with training, if coachees are not motivated to invest effort and persistence towards change in attitude, skills and performance following coaching, then the coaching is unlikely to have the desired impact. However, positioning coaching motivation purely as an antecedent is perhaps too simplistic. Salas and Cannon-Bowers (2001) suggest that training motivation applies before, during, and after training. The extant literature examining coaching motivation has focused on pre-coaching motivation. It may also be important to consider coaching motivation as an affective outcome of coaching. For example, popular definitions of coaching suggest that coaching enhances coachee’s personal growth by providing the tools, skills and opportunities he or she needs to develop themselves and become more effective (Bono, Purvanova, Towler, & Peterson, 2009; Kilburg, 1996; McCauley & Hezlett, 2002; Peterson & Hicks, 1996; Smither, 2011; Witherspoon & White, 1996). The focus on continued self-development, even after the coaching intervention has concluded, highlights the emphasis in coaching on encouraging the coachee to take responsibility for their own professional development and have the sustained ability to apply the tools, skills, and oppor- tunities addressed in coaching to new situations that arise post-coaching. This would only be possible if the coachee was to continue with a high level of coaching motivation after the coaching has completed; that is, a high level of “direction, effort, intensity, and persistence that trainees
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apply to learning-oriented activities” (Salas & Cannon-Bowers, 2001, p. 479). In order to explore this, future coaching research should more consistently adopt longitudinal methodologies.
Only a few studies in our review explored the impact of coaching over an extended period of time at multiple time points. Furthermore, as coaching motivation is generally trea- ted as an independent variable, even when multiple post- coaching measures are collected, coaching motivation is not measured after coaching has completed. Collecting longitudi- nal data in relation to coaching motivation would increase our understanding of the impact and sustainability of this variable across various stages of the coaching intervention. The con- cept of coaching motivation is also important to consider in the context of a range of other theoretical constructs explored here, for example, the related topics of goal orientation (see next section) and self-efficacy. The coaching literature has yet to adequately examine how coaching motivation is related to, or the interaction between, the coachees’ goal orientation or self-efficacy and the impact of these relationships on coaching outcomes. For example, only one study identified in our review (Bozer et al., 2013) tested the moderating effect of coaching motivation on the impact of coachees’ learning goal orientation and coaching outcomes. Bozer et al.’s findings lend support to the idea that the theoretical constructs explored in our paper have a complex and interlinking effect on coaching outcomes. Thus, more research is needed to fully understand both, the explanatory and predictive power of the interaction effects of coaching motivation, self-efficacy, and learning goal orientation that might either promote or hinder coaching effectiveness. Given the proximal nature of coaching motivation to the coachee and the assumed importance of this variable on outcomes based on the training literatures, we suggest that future research within this category is of a high priority.
Using social cognitive theory as a framework, researchers (e.g., Brett & VandeWalle, 1999; Dweck, 1986) have pre- sented a mental model of motivational processes that influ- ence individuals’ interpretation and response to achievement situations. Dweck’s (1986) theory of goal orien- tation suggests two different goal orientations that indivi- duals pursue in achievement settings, namely, performance goal orientation and learning goal orientation. Individuals who are learning goal orientation believe that their abilities are malleable, and therefore generally focus on ways to increase their learning and/or task competence, acquire and develop new knowledge and skills, seek challenges, and persist to attain desired results in the case of failure. In contrast, individuals who are performance goal oriented hold the belief that ability is fixed, therefore, they focus on the outcomes of their performance and do not strive to learn but rather to demonstrate their current ability (e.g., Button, Mathieu, & Zajac, 1996; Dweck & Leggett, 1988). Although some researchers perceive goal orientation as a single two-ended construct, with learning orientation at one extreme and performance orientation at the other (Dweck & Leggett, 1988), more recent research (e.g., Elliot & McGregor,
2001; VandeWalle, 1997) suggests that the same individual might have high levels of both learning orientation and performance orientation.
In a training and learning context, learning goal orientation is considered to be a major individual motivational factor that influences the allocation of effort to learn, perform, and facil- itates training transfer (Fisher & Ford, 1998; Kanfer, Ackerman, Murtha, Dugdale, & Nelson, 1994). That is trainees with a learn- ing goal orientation are more likely to make sustained efforts (Hertenstein, 2001), seek feedback (VandeWalle & Cummings, 1997), possess high self-efficacy (Kozlowski et al., 2001), and have greater performance in training interventions (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002). Studies in our review investigated coachee goal orientation as antecedent of coaching effectiveness and, overall, the studies within this domain can be rated as high quality (see Table 2). Specifically, coachee learning goal orienta- tion was positively related to skill-based outcomes as reflected in improved self-reported job performance (Bozer et al., 2013; Jones, 2015) and in self-reported professional development focus (Scriffignano, 2011). The positive link between learning goal orientation and coaching outcomes is consistent with the underlying assumption in coaching that individuals have the ability to change and achieve their goals (Ennis, Otto, Goodman, & Stern, 2012). A learning goal orientation indicates that a coachee is more likely to hold the belief that they are able to change, this belief will then influence the individual’s focus on their goal, likelihood to seek challenging goals and persis- tence towards desired results, even in the face of failure.
Future research should explore whether conceptualizing goal orientation in alternative frameworks such as the four- factor framework proposed by Elliot and McGregor (2001) offer additional insights into understanding the importance of goal orientation and coaching outcomes. Also, given the importance in coaching in encouraging the coachee to take responsibility for their own professional development and to have the sustained ability to apply the learning gained via coaching to new situations after the coaching intervention has concluded, future research could also position goal orientation as an affective outcome of coaching. The studies in our review conceptualized goal orientation as a stable, trait like, indivi- dual-difference characteristic. However, given the debate in the literature regarding the conceptualization of goal orienta- tion as a trait or state (Colquitt & Simmering, 1998; Payne, Youngcourt, & Beaubien, 2007), it follows that if it is assumed that goal orientation is a state, then coaching would be an ideal intervention through which to foster a learning goal orientation. Accordingly, longitudinal methodologies measur- ing goal orientation at multiple time points would be appro- priate for future coaching motivation research. As with self- efficacy theory, given the extensive evidence to indicate the importance of goal orientation in relation to performance and training outcomes, we suggest that research in this category is an urgent priority.
The significance of trust in relation to the leader–follower relationship has received extensive research attention (e.g., Dirks, 2000; Dirks & Ferrin, 2000), and has also been explored
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in the context of mentoring relationships (e.g., Erdem & Aytemur, 2008; Wang, Tomlinson, & Noe, 2010). Rousseau, Sitkin, Burt, and Camerer (1998) define trust as “a psychologi- cal state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or beha- viour of another” (p. 395). Dirks and Ferrin (2000) sought to provide a theoretical framework which could be utilized to make sense of the alternative explanations available in relation to leadership and trust. Dirks and Ferrin suggest that there are two opposing theoretical perspectives to viewing trust in leadership. The first perspective focuses on the nature of the leader–follower relationship, with trust in leadership described as operating according to a social exchange process (e.g., Konovsky & Pugh, 1994; Whitener, Brodt, Korsgaard, & Werner, 1998). Followers see the relationship with their leader as more than the standard economic contract, such that the parties operate on the basis of trust, goodwill, and the percep- tion of mutual obligations (Blau, 1964). Researchers have used this perspective in describing how trust in leader–follower relationships elicits citizenship behaviours (e.g., Konovsky & Pugh, 1994). The second perspective focuses on the leader’s character and how it influences a follower’s sense of vulner- ability in a hierarchical relationship (e.g., Mayer, Davis & Shoorman, 1995). Consequently, trust-related concerns about a leader’s character are important because the leader may have authority to make decisions that have a significant impact on a follower and the follower’s ability to achieve his or her goals. Examples of research using this perspective include models of trust based on characteristics of the trustee (Mayer et al., 1995), research on perceptions of supervisor characteristics (e.g., Cunningham & MacGregor, 2000), and research on some forms of leader behaviour (Jones, James, & Bruni, 1975).
We propose that the character perspective to understand- ing leader-follower trust is most relevant to understanding coach-coachee trust. For example, in a coaching relationship, the coachee needs to believe that they can trust their coach, so that they can allow themselves to be vulnerable and trans- parent (to explore their weakness and limitations) as, via the coaching intervention, the coach will have an impact on the coachees’ ability to achieve his or her goals. In the leadership literature, this character perspective to trust focuses on how the perceptions of the leader’s character affect a follower’s vulnerability in a hierarchical relationship. Mayer et al. (1995) propose a model suggesting that when followers believe their leaders have integrity, capability, or benevolence, they will be more comfortable engaging in behaviours that put them at risk (e.g., sharing sensitive information). In the context of mentoring, Mayer, Davis and Schoorman (1999, 1995) suggest that this psychological safety experienced by the protégé can be described as a willingness to engage in risk taking actions and being vulnerable to the action of the mentor.
The concept of trust is well documented in the coaching studies in our review. Generally, these studies have adopted the character perspective to understand coach-coachee trust, although the majority of these studies have implicitly applied this theoretical perspective, this is reflected in the lower rating of quality of theoretical underpinning as shown in Table 2. For example, Boyce, Jackson, and Neal (2010) explored the
coachees’ level of trust in the coach and the coaches’ percep- tions of the coachees’ honesty and candidness in the coaching conversations. Boyce et al. found that coachees’ ratings of trust were a significant predictor of affective outcomes in the format of coachees’ ratings of satisfaction/utility and success of their coaching programme. However, coachee perceptions of trust were not a significant predictor at the skill-based outcome level for self-reported improvements in leadership performance following coaching. From the coaches’ perspec- tive, perceptions of the coachees’ honesty and candidness were significant predictors of affective outcomes in the format of the coaches’ perceptions of the success of the coaching intervention. However, in a sample of 172 coachees, Gan and Chong (2015) found that trust was not a significant predictor of perceived coaching effectiveness. Qualitative studies in our review highlight the importance of the coachees’ perceptions of trust (Alvey & Barclay, 2007; Bush, 2004; Gyllensten & Palmer, 2006, 2007; Hill, 2010; Jowett, Kanakoglou, & Passmore, 2012; Kappenberg, 2008; Rekalde et al., 2015; Salomaa, 2015). Particularly, these studies highlighted the importance the coachees placed on trusting that the coach would maintain their confidentiality, therefore supporting the proposition that when trust is present, the coachee is more likely to engage in vulnerability behaviours such as sharing sensitive information.
Future research should address the issue of understanding the theoretical character perspective of trust more explicitly in the context of coaching. For example, what characteristics in particular are more likely to lead to the coachee developing strong perceptions of trust in their coach? When a high level of trust has been established, what is the impact on beha- viours within the coaching conversations; for example, is an increase in vulnerable behaviours (such as sharing sensitive information) observed and if so, what impact does this have on the content of discussion in the coaching conversation? What is the nature of the interaction between trust in the coaching relationship and the other constructs discussed in this review? For example, it seems likely that high levels of trust would also foster high levels of engagement with the coaching intervention as the coachee perceives that the coach will have the ability to help them through coaching to achieve their goals. Therefore, high perceptions of trust may indicate higher levels of coaching motivation. Higher levels of inter- personal attraction (see next section) at the outset of the coaching relationship may accelerate the development of the coachees’ trust in the coach, therefore accelerating the rate at which positive outcomes from coaching are observed. Further, consistent with the role of trust in mentoring relationship (Eby et al., 2013), it is proposed that coachees with high levels of trust in the coach will be more open and receptive to feed- back provided by the coach during coaching and this is likely to increase affective outcomes of coaching (e.g., self-aware- ness, self-efficacy). To examine these questions, the methodol- ogy by which coaching is examined will also need to develop to enable coach-coachee interaction analysis. For example, to understand the impact of trust on behaviours during the coaching conversation fully, observational studies of actual coaching conversations (e.g., videotaped coaching dyads) will need to be completed, rather than the heavy reliance of self-
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reported questionnaire data of coaching impact that is char- acteristic of the existing coaching studies. This recommenda- tion would also address the lower rating of directness of outcome in this domain shown in Table 2 by complimenting coach ratings of outcomes with external source ratings. The concept of trust has been operationalized frequently in a range of studies identified in our review; however, we suggest that future research with an increased theoretical focus as suggested here is a high priority.
Interpersonal attraction as a social integration concept is well documented in the psychology, management and sociology literature and has been investigated at both the dyad and group levels of analysis (e.g., Hogg & Turner, 1985; Tsui & O’Reilly, 1989). Within this concept, similarity paradigm or homophily has been highlighted as a mechanism to explain why human beings have a natural tendency to identify and attract with individuals perceived similar to themselves. Similarity paradigm or homophily refers to the preference for interaction with similar others based on actual or perceived similarity on given personal attributes (e.g., demographic, ascribed and attitudinal) (e.g., Byrne, 1997; Harrison, Price, & Bell, 1998). Similarity of personal characteristics implies com- mon values, perspectives and interests and therefore fosters relationships of mutual trust and effective interpersonal com- munication. Research on similarity paradigm in related devel- opmental fields (e.g., learning, mentoring) indicates benefits in interpersonal comfort, process engagement and, ultimately, successful outcomes (e.g., Armstrong, Allinson, & Hayes, 2002; Lyons & Perrewé, 2014; Mitchell, Eby, & Ragins, 2015; Varela, Cater, & Michel, 2011).
It is commonly believed that a high level of interpersonal attraction, otherwise described as a good coach-coachee match or coach-coachee compatibility, is essential for an effec- tive coaching relationship, which is fundamental for successful coaching outcomes (e.g., de Haan et al., 2013). In the coaching literature, matching is described as the attempt to identify and pair a coach who is aligned with his or her coachee needs (Wycherley & Cox, 2008). However, few empirical studies have directly examined the possible predictors of a good coach- coachee match (e.g., Boyce et al., 2010; Bozer, Joo, & Santora, 2015; de Haan et al., 2016; Toegel & Nicholson, 2005). The studies in our review examine coach-coachee actual and per- ceived similarity (also referred as commonality) as an antece- dent to coaching outcomes. Specifically, same gender coaching dyads were positively related to affective coaching outcomes as reflected in coachee increased self-awareness (Bozer et al., 2015), and skill-based outcomes as reflected in greater improvement in coachees’ multisource ratings (Toegel & Nicholson, 2005). Additionally, coach-coachee perceived similarity based on attitudes, values, and beliefs as rated by the coach was positively related to skill-based outcomes as reflected in greater improvement in coachees’ supervisory rated task performance (Bozer et al., 2015). In contrast, Boyce et al. found no significant differences between dyads when matched on commonality in personal characteristics or experi- ences, compatibility in behavioural preferences, and coach
credibility scores compared to randomly assigned dyads in affective and skill-based outcomes as measured by satisfaction with the coaching programme and leadership performance. de Haan et al. (2016) found no significant relationship between perceived coaching effectiveness and personality matching of coach-coachee. The inconsistency of evidence in relation to this domain is reflected in the lower ratings of quality shown in Table 2.
Given the non-definitive and limited findings on the impact of matching based on coach-coachee similarity on coaching outcomes, coupled with the lack of agreement in the literature on the matching criteria to be used (Peterson, 2010), future research is needed to clarify whether and how actual or perceived differences or similarities in coach-coachee dyads account for coaching relationship and impact on coaching outcomes. Further, the case can be made for a curvilinear relationship between coach-coachee similarity and coaching effectiveness. That is, that dyad similarity has a positive addi- tive effect on coaching in the initial stages of the coaching relationship (e.g., in the contracting and data collection/ana- lysis steps) as coachees may experience increased levels of interpersonal comfort and engagement. However, as the coaching intervention progresses to subsequent stages (e.g., development and implementation of action plans and pro- gress monitoring), similarity between coach and coachee may have decreased importance or actually lead to a reduc- tion in the quality of coaching relationship, potentially hinder- ing or even decreasing coaching outcomes. In the subsequent stages of coaching, where coachees are required to question their assumptions and experiment with new behaviours, coa- chees may benefit from having dissimilar coaches who are perhaps in a better position to challenge their coachees, engage and support them in getting out of their comfort zone and offer them an alternative perspective. Therefore, studies with a more nuanced approach that separates per- ceived coach-coachee similarity into discrete, operationally definable criteria are warranted. We suggest that the need for a more nuanced approach to future research in this domain is further warranted given the inconsistency of find- ings despite the high level of theoretical underpinning to research studies in this area and the relatively high directness of outcome (see Table 2), suggesting that other important factors are yet to be identified.
Future research should also examine how coach-coachee similarity in other characteristics, such as cultural background and goal orientation, are related to coaching outcomes and the importance of these factors through the various stages of the coaching intervention. As with our recommendations for research methodologies in exploring trust, we suggest that an appropriate methodology for understanding the influence of interpersonal attraction on behaviours during the coaching conversation is observational studies. Particularly, to monitor the potential curvilinear relationship between interpersonal attraction and coaching outcomes, multiple observations should be conducted across different stages of the coaching intervention. Whilst further research is required in this cate- gory, we suggest that interpersonal attraction research is a medium priority when considered in the context of the other categories explored in our review.
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Utilizing behavioural feedback to aid professional develop- ment and improve employee performance has become a popular organizational practice (DeNisi & Kluger, 2000). The opportunity for gaining an understanding of how one is per- ceived by others in the organizational context is seen as important to leadership and managerial effectiveness (e.g., Atwater, Ostroff, Yammarino, & Fleenor, 1998; Goleman, 1998). Research has supported feedback receptivity, accep- tance, and response to feedback as essential facets of feed- back effectiveness that are dependent upon the feedback recipient’s characteristics, the nature of the message delivered, and feedback source characteristics (e.g., Ilgen, Fisher, & Taylor, 1979). Despite the popularity of feedback intervention as a development practice, evidence on feedback effects are relatively weak and inconsistent (e.g., Kluger & DeNisi, 1996; Smither, London, & Reilly, 2005).
There is general agreement regarding the central role that feedback processes play in coaching (e.g., Joo, 2005; Kochanowski et al., 2010; Sonesh et al., 2015). A coach most often uses multi-source feedback data to gain insight and a comprehensive understanding into the coachee and his or her organization. The coach’s feedback information is aimed at enhancing the coachees’ awareness of how his or her beha- viour affects others, and assisting the coachee in setting spe- cific behavioural objectives and developing a personal development plan (Feldman & Lankau, 2005). Consequently, several studies in our review conceptualized and examined feedback as a mechanism of effective coaching. Specifically, coach credibility as a feedback source characteristic was found as an antecedent of coaching effectiveness (Bozer et al., 2014). The prevailing literature tends to emphasize the role of the coach as a feedback source and communicator however underestimates the role of the coachee as a feedback recipi- ent. For example, a coachees’ receptivity to feedback was found to be a moderator of coaching outcomes (Bozer et al., 2013). We recommend further investigation into the coachees’ process skills (e.g., active listening, reflection) that are essential for feedback effectiveness, in order to recognize the contribu- tion that both coach and coachee bring to the feedback process. Observational studies may be suitable for this pur- pose, enabling researchers to explore the coaching rhetoric and identify both coach and coachees’ skills that facilitate or hinder effective feedback in the context of coaching.
Research also indicates that other follow-up activities that support and compliment the feedback process can enhance the benefits of the feedback intervention (e.g., Walker & Smither, 1999; Yukl & Lepsinger, 1995). This premise forms the theoretical underpinning for several studies in our review that examined feedback data as an outcome of effective coaching. These studies posited coaching as a follow-up facilitation inter- vention to multisource feedback for learning and development (Gegner, 1997; Goff, Guthrie, Goldring, & Bickman, 2014; Kochnowski et al., 2010; Luthans & Peterson, 2003; Nieminen et al., 2013; Smither, London, Flautt, Vargas, & Kucine, 2003; Thach, 2002; Toegel & Nicholson, 2005). In these cases, it was suggested that a coach plays a pivotal role as a feedback facil- itator who performs proactive influence tactics (Yukl, Seifert, &
Chavez, 2008), offering the coachee (the recipient of feedback) assessment, challenge, reflection, and support (e.g., Toegel & Nicholson, 2005). Specifically, the coach assists the coachee in processing and interpreting feedback, raising awareness, taking responsibility for change, challenging assumptions and gaining a new perspective, setting inspiring personal development goals, and staying accountable for actions to achieve goals despite discomfort and setbacks (e.g., Nieminen et al., 2013).
Future research should test at which stage incorporating feedback into coaching is most impactful. We suggest that feedback is often utilized at the start of a coaching intervention; however, are there benefits in incorporating feedback through all of the coaching stages? Also, is the feedback direction (either positive or negative feedback) important, for example, does incorporating positive feedback from others have a positive impact on coaching outcomes whilst incorporating negative feedback has a negative impact? What is the interaction between feedback in coaching and coachee goal orientation, for example, is feedback only beneficial for those coachees with a learning goal orientation rather than a performance goal orientation? Finally, given the relatively low quality rating for research in this domain (see Table 2) primarily due to the indirectness of intervention, further research should seek to provide direct data on the incremental benefit of feedback in coaching by comparing coaching only with coaching plus feed- back intervention conditions. These questions are particularly urgent given that the recent meta-analysis by Jones et al. (2016) found a significantly smaller effect size of coaching on general- ized outcomes when coaching was provided in conjunction with multi-source feedback compared to coaching alone. Therefore, we suggest that a focused, theory-informed explora- tion of the conditions under which feedback plus coaching has a beneficial impact on coaching outcomes is an urgent priority.
Research findings have consistently confirmed the positive impact of supervisor support on variables such as pre-training motivation and skills transfer (Awoniyi, Griego, & Morgan, 2002; Facteau, Dobbins, Russell, Ladd, & Kudisch, 1995; Gumuseli & Ergin, 2002; van der Klink, Gielen, & Nauta, 2001). For example, trainees who reported high levels of perceived workplace support experienced better training transfer com- pared to trainees with low levels of workplace support (e.g., Burke & Hutchins, 2008; Kontoghiorghes, 2004). As several researchers have argued (Baldwin & Ford, 1988; House, 1968; Lim, 2001), supervisory variables impose a critical influence on personal outcomes and on the likelihood of successful skills transfer. Lim (2001) noted that among the many people- related organizational climate factors for transfer, three factors appeared to influence transfer more than others: discussion with a supervisor about implementing new learning, positive feedback from the supervisor, and the supervisor’s involve- ment in or familiarization with the training process.
Within the coaching literature, Baron and Morin (2009, 2010) found positive associations between supervisory sup- port as perceived by the coachee and coach-coachee working alliance. Further, they found working alliance as a mediator of
EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF WORK AND ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 353
work-environment support (as measured by organizational openness to change, supervisor and peer support) and affec- tive coaching outcomes as reflected by increased coachees’ self-efficacy. Baron and Morin (2009, 2010)) suggested that the support of the supervisor might reinforce the perceived value of the coaching process and therefore encourage the coa- chees’ efforts to develop. In support of this, Smither et al. (2003) found that employees that participated in coaching were more likely to solicit ideas on how to improve their multisource feedback ratings and achieved improved perfor- mance as rated by their direct reports and supervisors. Similarly, Ladegard (2011) found that coachee insight was related to increased social support, which was associated with reduced stress. Ladegard (2011) proposed that increased insight into own strengths and weaknesses may make indivi- duals better able to utilize social resources in their daily work, which contributes to better stress management. Qualitative studies in our review also highlight the importance of super- visory support from the coachees’ (Bush, 2004; Hill, 2010), coaches’ (Kappenberg, 2008), and HR professionals’ perspec- tive (Salomaa, 2015).
Future research should understand exactly what types of supervisory support behaviours are important to encourage learn- ing and performance outcomes from coaching. For example, is the frequency and timing of these behaviours in relation to the coach- ing process important and how important are supervisory support behaviours in relation to other environmental factors? Our review also identified that the coaching literature is theory-light in respect of supervisory support, which is reflected in the relatively low overall quality in this domain (see Table 2). In the training litera- ture, leader-member exchange (LMX) is one theory that has been proposed as an explanation for understanding the influence of leader interactions on training transfer. LMX posits that through different types of exchanges, leaders differentiate the way they treat their followers (Dansereau, Graen, & Haga, 1975) leading to different quality relationships between the leader and each fol- lower (Martin, Guillaume, Thomas, Lee, & Epitropaki, 2016). In the context of training effectiveness and transfer of training, Scaduto, Lindsay, and Chiaburu (2008) propose that a broad focus on exchanges with the leader is important for creatingmore inclusive models off training effectiveness. We argue that this detailed understanding of the LMX is equally as important to understand factors determining coaching effectiveness. Our review found that, to-date, no researchers have directly explored LMX in the context of coaching effectiveness.
We suggest that LMX is an important direction for future research to further understand the influence of supervisory sup- port on coaching effectiveness. Following the recommendations provided by Martin et al. (2016) for future investigation of LMX, we suggest that cross-lagged panel designs would be a suitable research methodology in order to help detect changes in both LMX quality across the duration of the coaching intervention and beyond. We classify future research into supervisory support on coaching effectiveness, and in particular, LMX, as a high priority given then scarcity of current research in this area. Adopting a theoretical underpinning such as LMX in this domain would enhance the quality of theory for studies here. Further, by utiliz- ing outcomes from third party or objective sources and ensuring the directness of the coaching intervention would provide
greater confidence in relation to the important of supervisory support in ensuring coaching effectiveness.
In this paper, we set out to achieve two goals. First, to examine critically the theoretical constructs operationalized in past coach- ing research to provide a deeper understanding of why these factors are important in understanding what determines coaching effectiveness and second, to identify and discuss fundamental questions to be answered and appropriate research methodolo- gies that can advance workplace coaching research and practice. Our SLR identified a total of 117 studies thatmatched our inclusion criteria and focused exclusively on formal one-to-one coaching by coach practitioners in an organizational setting. Our review focused around a critical discussion of seven of the most fre- quently operationalized constructs that are proposed as determin- ing the effectiveness of workplace coaching: self-efficacy, coaching motivation, goal orientation, trust, interpersonal attrac- tion, feedback intervention, and supervisory support. Whilst a number of the theoretical constructs explored in our paper are sharedwith the training literature, we argue that the key for future research, is to progress towards an understanding of the interac- tion between these constructs in the coaching context. Gaining a greater understanding of the unique contribution of coaching to learning and performance compared to other interventions such as training or mentoring will advance theory and practice in work- place coaching. For example, the majority of the theoretical con- structs discussed in our paper have been explored in isolation, therefore, we know very little in relation to the unique exploratory power in explaining coaching effectiveness or whether there is some redundancy in the coverage of each of these theoretical constructs. Furthermore, whilst some of the constructs discussed (such as self-efficacy and goal orientation) benefit from volumi- nous literature in the wider training context, other constructs explored in our review such as trust and interpersonal attraction are generally absent within a normal training context. As these constructs have only been explored in isolation, we are yet to determine how these constructs interact and develop over the course of a coaching intervention. We propose that in order to understand the unique contribution of coaching to learning and performance outcomes, the most promising avenues for future research will be to examine these interactions in detail.
To guide this future research, we formulated a series of research directions for scholars, and highlighted the priority of the area as a whole for future research. Based on the knowledge gaps highlighted in our synthesis, we also made a number of suggestions in relation to necessary advances in terms of the research methodology currently utilized in coaching research. We summarize the suggestions for future research, including suggested methodologies made throughout our paper in Table 3.
Additionally, we have two generalized suggestions in relation to future research that we propose are an urgent priority. First, our review has identified that the impact of the theoretical constructs on coaching outcomes varies dependent on the cri- terion measured. This is supported by the meta-analytic finding of Jones et al. (2016) that showed different effect sizes for the various outcomes in their framework of workplace coaching outcomes. Future research should examine the unique impact
354 G. BOZER AND R. J. JONES
of the theoretical constructs explored here at the different out- come levels. Further theorizing is also needed in order to under- stand why the different theoretical constructs interact at the different outcome levels in this way. Second, the definition of coaching utilized here specifies that coaching is a reflective, goal- focused relationship (Smither, 2011). Given the fundamental importance of reflection and goal-setting in coaching, it is note- worthy that we were unable to include a discussion of these theoretical concepts in our paper. This is because no studies identified in our review directly examined the influence of either reflection or goal-setting in relation to coaching outcomes. We suggest that this is a significant gap in the literature that urgently needs addressing.
We also acknowledge that our strict boundary conditions (i.e., inclusion/exclusion criteria) may be a double-edged sword, as there may have been studies that were excluded from our review due to incomplete reporting of the coaching intervention and context (e.g., goals, approach taken or pro- cedure). Our recommendation is therefore that a more thor- ough reporting of the coaching intervention in coaching research can increase the scope of future SLRs and, ultimately, achieve a more effective integration of coaching literature. A further potential limitation of our study relates to the seven theoretical constructs explored. During the coding stage of our SLR, we adopted an inductive approach and both authors independently identified the most frequently operationalized theoretical constructs and reached agreement upon which to include in our review. As can be seen in the appendix (avail- able online), there are other theoretical constructs operationa- lized in the primary studies identified in our review that we
have not been able to explore in detail here, for example, working alliance. Through our inductive analysis of the pri- mary studies in our review, we believe that we have been able to focus on the seven key theoretical constructs; however, as further primary studies are conducted that explore some of the other theoretical constructs, future SLRs may turn to focus on these additional constructs.
We are confident that our paper can make a meaningful contribution to workplace coaching theory and research. We have mapped out the theoretical constructs operationalized in the coaching literature and summarized the findings from these studies. We have further extended this contribution by explicitly linking the evidence from the coaching literature to the wider psychological theory and research in a way that the current body of coaching research fails to do. This is particularly impor- tant as our review takes a significant step towards understand- ing the important theoretical constructs that explain the factors that determine workplace coaching effectiveness. Furthermore, our paper has provided specific, theory and research informed recommendations for future research that could significantly progress the field of workplace coaching theory and practice.
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Gil Bozer http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6337-2165 Rebecca J. Jones http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7329-0502
Table 3. Summary of recommended future research directions and suggested research methodology.
Research question Research methodology
Self-efficacy What is the relative influence of global self-efficacy beliefs compared to domain-specific self-efficacy and task-specific self-efficacy on coaching effectiveness?
Coaching motivation Is coaching motivation an affective outcome of workplace coaching? Longitudinal design
Goal orientation Is learning goal orientation an affective outcome of workplace coaching? Longitudinal design
Trust What characteristics are more likely to lead to the coachee developing strong perception of trust in their coach? Experimental design Once trust is established, what is the impact on participant behaviours during coaching conversations? Observational studies
Interpersonal attraction What is the relative importance of actual and perceived coach-coachee similarity/differences on coaching outcomes throughout different stages of the coaching intervention?
Is there a curvilinear relationship between coach-coachee similarity and coaching outcomes? Observational studies
Feedback intervention theory At which stage is incorporating feedback into coaching most impactful? Experimental design What is the comparative impact of utilizing positive versus negative feedback in coaching? Experimental design
Supervisory support What types of supervisory support behaviours are important to encourage learning and performance outcomes from coaching (i.e., frequency, timing)?
What is the impact of leader-member exchange on coaching effectiveness and does leader-member exchange quality improve over the duration of the coaching intervention?
Cross-lagged panel designs
Interaction of theoretical constructs What is the unique contribution of coachee self-efficacy, coaching motivation and goal orientation on coaching effectiveness? Longitudinal design What is the nature of the interaction between trust in the coaching relationship, coaching motivation and interpersonal attraction? Experimental design Does a high level of trust in the coaching relationship lead to increased coachee self-efficacy through a mediating role of feedback receptivity?
What is the interaction between feedback in coaching and coachee goal orientation? Experimental design
EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF WORK AND ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 355
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International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring 2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000475
© The Authors Published by Oxford Brookes University
Reflections from the field
Organisational Coaching Outcomes: A comparison of a practitioner survey and key findings from the literature Sheila Boysen1, Michael Cherry1, Wende Amerie2 and Mike Takagawa2 1Lewis University, 2Corporate Edge, Inc., USA. Contact email: [email protected]
Abstract This paper compares the measurements of organisational outcomes from executive and leadership coaching based on existing studies and research that has been conducted throughout the literature. An overview of executive and leadership coaching is provided and a case study measuring executive and leadership coaching effectiveness is reported. The survey methodology used in this case study was not originally intended for an academic research design, rather it was a customer satisfaction survey. However, the results can provide insights into the value, ROI and impact of executive and leadership coaching.
Keywords: coaching outcomes, executive coaching, survey methodology, ROI
Introduction The purpose of this paper is to review measurements of organisational outcomes from executive and leadership coaching. The paper provides an overview of executive and leadership coaching outcome research as well as a case study measuring executive and leadership coaching effectiveness. The survey methodology used in this case study was not originally intended for an academic research design: it was a customer satisfaction survey. However, the results can provide insights into the value, ROI and impact of executive and leadership coaching.
Overview of outcome research Bennett and Bush (2009) confirmed a number of benefits of executive and leadership coaching found in other research (Dexter, Dexter & Irving, 2011; Jackson & McKergow, 2012; Walker- Fraser, 2011) including, improving the ability of leaders to inspire and impact followers, freeing time for strategic thinking and discussion, and more effective delegation. Earlier, Baek-Kyoo (2005) had suggested that coaching can also enhance self-awareness, behavioral change, and executive performance, while Jules (2009) believed that market forces were a key driver for the need for executive coaching which could lead to a number of benefits concluding that:
The market has changed and in order to maintain a competitive advantage, businesses need a cadre of leaders who can set clear direction, mobilize the energies of people throughout the enterprise, foster a performance culture, and most importantly, lead others through times of great uncertainty (p. 8).
Walker-Fraser (2011) confirmed the benefits listed above and added that executive coaching was viewed by human resource professionals as being, “time-bound and focusing on leadership behaviors, specific performance issues, and people development skills” (p. 72). Since then,
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring 2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000475
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Stokes and Jolly (2016) addressed several distinctive elements of executive and leadership coaching. These include goals of improving leadership, assessment of current effectiveness, a strong coaching relationship of challenge and support, and objectives of behavior change and increase in wisdom.
Ultimately, executive coaching is driven by the business needs and preferences of both the executive and the organisation (Stern, 2004). Natale and Diamante (2005) identify numerous positive benefits of coaching for organisations: achievement of personal and professional goals, increased sales, enhanced employee satisfaction, better organisational communication, greater self-knowledge, ability to lead more effectively change, and capacity to make quicker and better decisions. However, many companies “lack a disciplined approach to managing the coaching process and measuring outcomes” (McDermott, 2007, p. 35).
Another complication is the vast variety of reasons that a person hires a coach, making it difficult to report on the outcomes and success of coaching in general. As Greif (2007) points out, “A fundamental difficulty of coaching outcome research is the extreme heterogeneity of issues, problems and goals, which can be picked out as themes in different coaching interventions. Therefore, it is difficult to identify outcome measures which are applicable to the whole range of coaching interventions” (p. 224). Research from the Corporate Leadership Council (2016) indicates that, “coaching can provide a high return-on-investment (ROI) and satisfaction rate” (CLC, 2016). For example, the Council cites a study conducted by Metrix Global, LLC on a Fortune 500 telecommunications firm that reported an ROI of 529%. Other research conducted by Wasylyshyn (2003) indicates the following outcomes of successful coaching: 63% sustained behavior change, 48% increased self-awareness and understanding, and 45% more effective leadership.
In an earier study aimed at identifying ROI, Phillips (1996) reports that Nations Hotel Corporation (NHC) instituted a formal, structured executive coaching program and then evaluated it among 25 randomly selected participants. The cost of coaching all 25 executives was $579,800. Based on the total monetary benefits and the cost of the coaching program, NHC developed two ROI calculations. The first is the benefit-cost ratio (BCR), which is the ratio of monetary benefits divided by costs. For every dollar invested, $3.21 was returned. The ROI for this coaching program was calculated by using earnings divided by investments. For each dollar invested in coaching, the dollar was returned plus $2.21 was produced.
A study by McGovern (2001) on the impact of executive coaching shows both the intangible and tangible results of coaching. The researchers studied 100 executives from 56 organisations of various sizes. The results showed that 43% of the companies were able to identify the return on investment of coaching. “The majority of the 43 participants . . . reported between $100,000 and $1 million as the return on investment in executive coaching,” state McGovern (p. 7). Additionally, 75% of the sample rated the value of the coaching as “considerably greater” or “far greater” (p. 7) than the money and time spent. Furthermore, 73% of the study participants indicated they had reached their goals, “very effectively” or “extremely effectively” (p. 8). The rate of results was shown to be higher for intangible impacts (i.e., improved relationships with direct reports at 77%, improved teamwork at 67%, improved job satisfaction at 63%) than for tangible ones (i.e., productivity at 53%, quality at 48%, customer service at 39%). As impressive as these numbers may sound, however, one should keep in mind that this study surveyed the coachees of the consulting firm to which the authors belong, and the outcomes are based on estimates by the coachee. On the other hand, certain factors were put into place to enhance reliability in particular, the data were collected by trained independent contractors, and limits were put on outlier ROI estimates of $1 million (McGovern, 2001).
Beyond tangible measurements such as cost savings, reduced turnover, and increased productivity, the results of coaching are often based on the intangible. Fillery-Travis and Lane (2006) pointedly asked, “Is it sufficient that the coachee perceives coaching to have enabled
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him/her to achieve an identified goal? Or does the output have to percolate down to the bottom-line in terms of a quantifiable performance measure for the organisation?” (p. 29). As previously discussed, Phillips’ (1996) report of NHC’s coaching program revealed several intangible benefits that were identified through a questionnaire and action plans. Measures that were identified by at least four of the 25 executives as intangible outputs included increased commitment, improved teamwork, increased job satisfaction, improved customer service, and improved communication.
Starting in December 2004, Cambria Consulting began an ongoing study of the effects of executive coaching in large organisations from the perspective of multiple stakeholders (coach, coachee, managers-sponsors, and others). The results indicate that coaches and coachees perceived the coaching engagement to have higher value estimations than did the managers. In fact, over 85% of the 56 responding coaches and 91% of the 51 responding coachees estimated an overall value of $50,000 during the 18-month coaching process. In contrast, 30% of the 12 responding managers did not observe value from the coaching, 42% estimated less than $50,000 in value, and 25% estimated more than $1 million in value.
A study on a smaller scale was conducted by Stevens (2005), who interviewed seven top management executives representing a range of industries (industrial manufacturing, financial services, health care, and academia). The executives also had received coaching. Of the seven participants, three had previously been engaged in a coaching relationship with Stevens. Of those three executives, two had experiences with other executive coaches, and the balance of the seven had had a coach at some time. All the executives had had a coach during their time as a CEO or president of their respective companies. Stevens’ study found that the executives view coaching as a, “helping process wherein something is done with them in a way that also enables them to better meet their role obligations and responsibilities” (2005, p. 283).
Schlosser (2006) concurs that the value generated from coaching is not always a tangible measurement when he says, “Value is in the eyes of the beholder” (p. 3). Schlosser indicated that the decision makers within an organisation look for value creation when determining how to proceed with executive coaching. Schlosser pointed out that this value creation is both implicit and explicit, suggesting that costs are not the only factor when evaluating whether executive coaching is the appropriate intervention. Schlosser also stated that ROI is an organisation-specific metric, at least in part. Thus, any metrics should relate to what is important or valued within a given organisation: “This perspective . . . is aligned with the trend toward viewing executive coaching as serving a strategic rather than remedial role” (2006, p. 10). According to Schlosser, organisations that look beyond the financial impact and returns of coaching into value creation will generally take into account the following company issues and needs: (1) competencies (i.e., behaviors and abilities) necessary of leaders and coachees for the execution of business strategy, especially the competencies needed for considerable impact on short- and long-term results; (2) individual leaders who largely need these competencies; and (3) ways in which expert coaching can facilitate building these important competencies with these leaders and coachees, as they are likely to have noteworthy impact on business results.
According to a study conducted by de Hann et. al (2016), coaching effectiveness was measured based on the perceived outcomes as reported by the coach and separately by the coachee, using the averaged score to these four questions: (a) “successful in creating reflective space”; (b) “successful in creating new insights”; (c) “successfully engaged in new action or behavior”; and (d) “overall coaching outcome”. The results of this study showed that the longer the coaching relationship, the greater the coaching effectiveness, the stronger the working alliance, and the stronger the self-efficacy of the coachee.
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring 2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000475
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Case Study The numerous studies highlighted above have explored the benefits and outcomes of executive and leadership coaching. We continued to see a need to expand this investigation. Given that the International Coach Federation’s (ICF) projects an increased need for coaches and continued growth in the industry (Axmith, 2004) the importance of accurately assessing the impact of coaching and justifying coaching investments will continue to be important. The data outlined and analysed in this section comes from a customer satisfaction survey that has been administered since 2009 at an organisation that receives coaching from a California based coaching organisation. Several of the survey results are offered, in summary, as a case study example of ‘real-world’ coaching outcomes and effectiveness.
Survey Methodology Coaching clients (coachees) were questioned via a Survey Monkey inquiry as well as selected, structured phone interviews in an effort to determine their satisfaction with coaching, coaching best practices, gaps in the coaching process and methodology, and to determine the coaching return on investment (ROI). Response rates have ranged from a high of 78% to a low of 66%. On average, the survey garnered a 73% response rate. The number of participants of the survey has ranged from 23 to over 100 depending on the level of coaching activity i.e., coaching contracts. While the same population is surveyed each year, the individual participants vary given the cyclical nature of coaching relationships.
Reasons for Coaching Coachees articulated a variety of reasons for seeking executive and leadership coaching. Many of these echo the results of the previously outlined studies. Some of the reasons included assistance with change management, organisational and team development, managing career transitions and on-boarding. In addition, survey respondents highlighted that they sought coaching assistance to explore stakeholder and relationship management as well as strategic thinking and planning.
Coaching Methodology Determining the executive and leadership coaching approach that was used by the various coaches was difficult in this survey because of the range of client needs and the strengths of the individual coaches. What was similar throughout the coaching process were the following ‘phases.’ Coaching began with a client/coach matching process conducted by the coaching organisation. Once the client had selected a coach the work was defined in three phases. The first phase was for assessment. In this phase, self-assessments as well as qualitative, multi-rater, 360 degree, feedback were implemented. The intent of this coaching phase was to enhance the client’s awareness of how their leadership and personal preferences were experienced by those working around them. The results from these assessments were reviewed with the client and leveraged to begin the second phase which was development planning. In this phase, developmental goals were identified and agreed upon by the coach and client. Finally, the formal coaching phase began which included regular coaching sessions either in person or via phone conference.
Overall, all coaches for the firm lean toward on a Solutions Focused Coach Approach. The Solutions Focus process is a powerful, practical, and proven approach to positive change with people, teams, and organisations (Cavenagh & Grant, 2016). With this approach, the search for the causes of problems is sidestepped. The focus is on solutions, strengths and on what is going well. This approach has been shown to lead to a positive and pragmatic way of making progress (Axmith, 2004).
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring 2018, 16 (1), DOI: 10.24384/000475
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Coaching Success Metrics In the conducted surveys, a variety of ROI metrics for coaching success are evaluated. Table 1 represents a sample of some of the intangible metrics:
Table 1 Coaching Success Metrics
Retention of key executives
Enhance cross-functional collaboration and cooperation
Executive Coach serves as trusted advisor/counsel
Enhanced team performance and productivity
Faster decision making and effective conflict resolution
Alignment and influence with key stakeholders (peers, upper management)
Development of a strategic/systemic perspective
Strategies for developing high performers/succession plan
Increased decisiveness for addressing poor performers
Foster a culture of learning and engagement
Encourage a ‘shared vision’ across teams
Improved executive presence (confidence, poise under pressure, presentation skills, engaging others).
In addition to the success indicators above, ‘harder’ metrics that explored ROI have also been explored. A question that was revealing regarding the economic impact of coaching was:
Using the categories below, what is your estimation of the total economic impact of the individual and organisational benefits from your coaching?
1. $1 Million annually (15 + times investment) 2. $500K-$1M annually (8-15 times investment) 3. $200K-$500K annually (4-8 times investment) 4. $100K-$200K annually (2-4 times investment) 5. Less than $100K annually (1-2 times investment) 6. No Response (i.e., I don’t know how much the coaching engagement costs to make an
Key findings Since 2009, 100% of respondents indicated complete satisfaction with the coaching. In addition, 100% of respondents were confident of a positive return on investment from the coaching engagement. A majority of respondents estimated total ROI/Economic Benefits of rough $200,000 to $500,000. The respondents determined this metric in a wide variety of ways including calculating what it would cost to replace an executive, costs related to loss of productivity, and gains realized through higher employee engagement. Respondents identified a variety of intangible metrics of success which have, consistently, included the following:
• Executive coach serves as a trusted advisor/counsel • Improved executive presence (i.e., confidence, poise under pressure, presentation skills,
engaging others) • Alignment and influence with key stakeholders
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• Enhanced cross-functional collaboration and cooperation • Development of a strategic/systemic perspective
One of the benefits of this survey design was the ability to read, and hear, how clients experience executive and leadership coaching. This narrative provided a ‘story’ of the impact coaching has had on their development and growth as leaders. How clients’ experience coaching, and its benefits, have been described by the clients in the following quotations:
• “The coaching experience has empowered me to contribute even more. My coach has been a trusted advisor who has been my confidant and sounding board when tough decisions need to be made.”
• “The Organization has coaches that are highly engaged which is unique. They take the time to understand you, what is going on in your life and how that impacts your ability to perform on the job. They are fully plugged into the entire person. They are not just leadership coaches but look at all parts of the person’s life and help you make balanced decisions. If we did not have this sort of support, we would feel inadequate in various areas of our lives.”
• “It has accelerated both the cultivation of healthy and effective management techniques and my ability to self-assess my management and leadership qualities and behaviors. Furthermore, I have a better set of tools by which I can assess and influence the performance of my team.”
• “Part of what I get in my engagement with my coach is confidence in myself and what I do. This reinforcement is helpful for me and my confidence continues to grow. I look to do more in the organisation because of this and want, and have, a greater leadership presence. I am more engaged with the organisation because of coaching.”
Limitations This exploration sought to highlight coaching outcomes and measures of coaching success as reported by coachees. This approach was a potential limitation because self-report survey designs could be subject to respondent bias. Respondents, “may intentionally misrepresent the facts in order to present a more favorable impression” (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005, p. 184). Essentially, the respondents may provide answers that the researcher wants to hear (Joseph, Berry, & Deshpande, 2009; Robson, 2002). This bias can impact the validity of the results.
Another challenge was that this investigation was conducted as a customer satisfaction inquiry at a single organisation. With any research that focuses on a specific population, the ability to generalize the research findings to other populations may be challenging (Gay, et al., 2006). In essence, this specific population may not be representative of the coaching experienced by coaches in other organisations.
Conclusion The purpose of this paper was to review executive and leadership coaching literature about the measurement and attainment of organisational coaching outcomes. This paper provided an overview of executive and leadership coaching and insight on measuring organisational coaching effectiveness. Finally, a summary and analysis of actual research conducted in part by one of the authors was addressed. In conclusion, coaching outcomes are indicators of coaching success when they are well aligned with the reason for the coaching intervention as well as the goals and values of the organisation.
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Author information Dr Sheila Boysen has a varied professional background that includes supply chain and logistics, talent management, recruitment and selection and professional coaching. These roles spanned a number of industries as well as both public and private organizations. She is an Assistant Professor at Lewis University. Her doctoral studies at Benedictine University in Organization Development include extensive research on Coaching and Talent Management. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Marketing from the University of Illinois, an MBA in Organization Behavior from Northern Illinois University and a Professional Human Resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and is an ICF certified coach.
Dr. Michael Cherry is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Leadership for the College of Arts & Sciences at Lewis University. Mike teaches leadership theory, organizational design, team development and applied research courses. His doctoral studies at Olivet Nazarene University in Ethical Leadership included extensive research on Emotional Intelligence and Leadership. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Commerce from Santa Clara University, an MBA in Leadership & Organizational Change from San José State University and an MSA in Not-for-Profit Management, University of Notre Dame. He completed his coach education at Lewis University in their Professional and Executive Coaching program and has his PCC credential from the International Coach Federation.
Wende Amerie earned her MBA from Golden Gate University and holds a bachelor’s in business management and a Paralegal Certificate from Saint Mary’s College of California. She completed training with Integrative Enneagram Solutions and has completed Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation and Leadership. Wende also serves on the Board of Directors for the Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation.
Michael Takagawa is the Founder & CEO of Corporate Edge, and visionary of an advanced and original organizational model that distinguishes itself from traditional leadership consulting firms and individual coaching professionals. Prior to launching Corporate Edge, Michael was president and COO of Discovery Toys, where he helped lead a successful business turnaround and company sale. In addition, he had a successful career in consumer marketing and brand management, including a variety of vice president roles for Procter & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, Del Monte, and Kikkoman International. Michael earned his MBA from Stanford University and his Bachelor of Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
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EXECUTIVE COACHING: NEW FRAMEWORK FOR EVALUATION
Katerine Osatuke, Boris Yanovsky, and Dee Ramsel Veterans Health Administration National Center for Organization Development,
Evaluation research has struggled to keep up with the popularity of coaching, as measures of its effectiveness are challenging to standardize, particularly when coaching executives. Similar to interpersonally based interventions in other fields such as coun- seling and psychotherapy, coaching takes the form of a fluid, humanistic process, whereas coaching-evaluation standards strive to be consistent with a standardized, scientifically based method. This study describes our experience in facing these program- evaluation challenges while conducting a randomized, quasi-experimental investigation to explore effects of a developmental coaching intervention provided to senior leaders from different organizations within 1 large integrated health-care system. In the context of these challenges, we propose a conceptually new framework to the field of coaching research based on the assimilation model, an empirically grounded theory that originates within psychotherapy research and describes how people overcome issues they find problematic or challenging, whether in clinical or in broader development and growth contexts. We discuss how this framework—with its associated tool: the Assimilation of Problematic Experiences Scale (APES)—offers working solutions to the common and vexing problems faced by research into executive-coaching outcomes, and how it can specifically inform evaluation-planning strategy within studies of coaching effectiveness.
Keywords: executive coaching, leadership development, public sector, health care
Organizations invest substantial amounts of time and money in executive coaching, which reflects its substantial perceived value. According to a 2009 survey by the Harvard Business School, the duration of a coaching engagement can last anywhere between 7 and 12 months, with median costs to the organization estimated at $500 per hour (Coutu & Kauffman, 2009). Coaching requires major commitments from multiple stakeholders—for example, time invested by coached executives, time and costs required to compensate for their scheduled absences, and costs paid for coaching. As the frequency of executive coaching, in general, is increasing, it is incumbent upon researchers to more fully develop an improved evaluation model for its impact.
At this time, however, systematic evidence to objectively support the benefits of executive coaching is lacking or inconclusive. Little empirical research exists to evaluate the impact of
This article was published Online First December 29, 2016. Katerine Osatuke, Boris Yanovsky, and Dee Ramsel, Veterans Health Administration National Center for
Organization Development, Cincinnati, Ohio. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Katerine Osatuke, VHA National Center for
Organization Development, 11500 Northlake Drive, Suite 230, Cincinnati, OH 45249. E-mail: Katerine [email protected]
Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research In the public domain 2017, Vol. 69, No. 3, 172–186 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cpb0000073
executive coaching, whether on individual outcomes (e.g., personal confidence; on-the-job behavior; perceptions by peers, bosses, and subordinates; leadership skills; career development) or short- and long-term organizational outcomes (e.g., workplace climate in supervised units, turnover and retention, organizational performance and operational costs).
The challenges of studying executive coaching reflect many specific features of this population (executives) and this process (coaching), which work together to create considerable complexity, both for scientific study and for practical application of insights gained from studying coaching. Several disciplines relevant or adjacent to the field of executive coaching each specialize in studying these features, individually as well as in their interaction. Examples of these disciplines include psychotherapy and counseling research, leadership development, adult learning, and others. Meth- odologies within these disciplines offer models, tools, and techniques already designed and previ- ously validated as successful in addressing complex and interacting features of the coaching process as well as of the leadership and development processes and of executives as a population.
Because the process of executive coaching is fluid and tailored to clients’ needs rather than standardized and entirely objective in its delivery and consumption, this type of engagement (i.e., leadership development) is humanistic in nature, versus rigorously scientific. This makes it likely for classic measurement evaluation approaches, often rooted in the scientific method, as described, for instance in Cronbach et al. (1985) and Shadish, Cook, and Leviton (1991), to miss the mark due to misalignment between the humanistic process of intervention and scientific method of evaluation.
Executive coaching is not the only field to experience such a challenge. Practitioners of counseling and psychotherapy as well as organization development (OD) all face similar tensions; see Messer (2004) and Wampold (2007), in addition to Rodgers and Hunter (1996) and Osatuke, Moore, and Dyrenforth (2013), for accounts of this challenge in these respective fields. These tensions are a consequence of using behavior-explanatory models and investigative tools created within lab-based science, yet relying upon intervention strategies and change-facilitation paths that reflect how people grapple with meanings. These latter involve inherently subjective processes basically similar to those engaged by spiritual rites, culturally indigenous interventions, and societally based persuasion mechanisms (cf., Frank & Frank, 1993). Accurately capturing meaning- making processes that take place in a coaching context therefore requires tools of study that afford for a substantial fluidity and subjectivity of the evaluated interpersonally based development. These tools should account for scenarios where priorities may change throughout coaching, similar goals may be supported in different ways across coaches and coachees, and other manifestations of fluid process characteristics. In contrast, traditional measurement approaches assume invariance of experiences, problems, and contexts across subjects and interventions. Therefore, they do not capture the unique changes occurring within coached individuals that are key to evaluating the coaching impact.
We propose that a solution to this challenge lies in a new way of thinking about coaching- outcome evaluation that draws upon methods used in adjacent disciplines and thus leverages the interdisciplinary knowledge (e.g., models and tools) proven to work for addressing similar issues in other fields. Specifically, we suggest an innovative approach—using the assimilation model from psychotherapy research (Stiles, 1999, 2002)—that is focused on tracking developmental level of coping used by clients as they experience, define, and tackle their presenting problems and needs brought to coaching. The assimilation model has conceptual similarity to other well-researched models of individual change (e.g., Prochaska, Wright, & Velicer, 2008; Velicer, Brick, Fava, & Prochaska, 2013), in that personal change is understood as a sequence of developmental stages progressing from less to more adaptive coping, and knowing the current stage helps define how to assist clients’ progress to the next stage. However, other individual-change models (e.g., Prochas- ka’s) focus on problems such as smoking, which are cognitively clear to clients and posit narrowly defined behaviors as change targets. In contrast, the assimilation concepts are rooted in the classic theory of psychosocial learning and cognitive development (e.g., Piaget, 1953; see Stiles, 1997, 2015, for an in-depth discussion); therefore the assimilation model has been formulated to apply to any—broad or narrow—problem definitions. In other words, the model was designed to describe the many various kinds of changes that all people go through as they develop and grow; this model has
173EXECUTIVE COACHING FRAMEWORK
no prerequisite requirement that the individual should define the problem clearly and operationalize it behaviorally. Instead, the way itself that individuals experience their presenting challenges serves to identify the assimilation stage of their problem. For this reason, we suggest this model is particularly well-suited to complex dilemmas brought to coaching, as it places fewer constricting assumptions on the nature of challenges that executive clients may face. We come back to these points later in the paper.
Researchers in the fields of personality, clinical psychology, and, more recently, OD (e.g., Moore, Osatuke, & Howe, 2014) have used the assimilation model to examine change process in a way that captured its key impacts on individuals and groups. Of note, these key impacts identified within the assimilation framework had been missed by more traditional evaluation models that defined the impact and progress in more narrow and standardized ways (see Moore et al., 2014, for an illustration of the framework and method as applied to evaluating an OD intervention and for additional references). In the assimilation model, change is viewed in the context of an individual’s experience and identification of his or her own problems; these are seen as specific to this person’s developmental stage with respect to addressing this particular issue. Progress or change (in the model’s term, assimilation) of presenting problems is thus defined as evolution in the client’s perception of a problem, which passes through predictable, empirically derived, developmental stages. For example, the problem moves from being initially experienced as external or imposed from the outside, to the coachee more clearly defining the core conflict and seeing his or her own contribution to maintaining it, to ultimately taking a proactive, improvement-focused stance that allows the client first to achieve partial and then full success in resolving the presenting issue. At the top stages of assimilation, the initial presenting issue is no longer seen as a problem but is instead experienced as an opportunity—hence, assimilated.
For executive coaching, any relevant assessment results notwithstanding (e.g., see http:// www.hoganassessments.com/content/assessments for frequently used instruments), initial problems are typically defined mainly based upon clients’ personal experience as leaders and upon the organizational context, which the coached executives typically understand in greater depth than their coaches. Progress with respect to problems discussed in coaching also reflects changes in personal experience and context; further, the experiences and contexts both vary widely from person to person. Thus, coaching participants are typically capable of assessing their progress (i.e., interme- diate and ultimate coaching outcomes) with more reliability and validity than their coaches. Evaluating effectiveness of executive-coaching interventions, therefore, presents challenges because of the subjective nature of the outcome construct, or, in other words, difficulties of objectively evaluating progress in subjectively experienced problems.
We believe the assimilation model, as borrowed from psychotherapy and counseling research, offers a solution to these challenges currently faced by executive coaching researchers. The model approaches the dilemma (of objectively evaluating the change in clients’ subjective experience) through focusing on the clients’ coping stance vis-à-vis specific experiences that are difficult or problematic for them. This coping stance is called an assimilation stage of the problem. The model has an associated tool—the Assimilation of Problematic Experiences Scale (APES; Stiles et al., 1991)—used for evaluating clients’ assimilation stages of problems (higher is better) and for tracking progress (from lower to higher stages) through psychosocially based interventions such as therapy, counseling, integration of individuals into a different culture, organizational-development programs, and, we suggest, also executive coaching. We propose this approach as useful for studying executive coaching because it provides a new, empirically grounded and validated strategy for defining and tracking those developments in coaching that, based upon extensive research in adjacent fields, underlie successful outcomes.
Within this paper we will focus on three main goals: (a) introducing some of the challenges faced by researchers in evaluating the effectiveness of executive-coaching interventions, while drawing parallels to similar challenges in interdisciplinary research where applicable; (b) sharing our experience in conducting a coaching-evaluation study in the context of these challenges; and (c) proposing a new model for conducting a study of executive-coaching
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evaluation, based on the tenets of the assimilation model, in order to address the current gaps in the field and literature.
Evaluating the effectiveness of coaching interventions has proven to be an elusive task because of the presence of some critical features within the coaching interventions themselves. That is, the same features that define a coaching intervention also preclude us from measuring the intervention’s effectiveness.
Challenge 1: Defining the Focus of Coaching Intervention
One valuable feature of executive coaching is that coaches work with executives collaboratively to choose a focus for the engagements. This approach maintains respect for the variation in executive clients’ needs and preferences and results in coaching targets being customized for specific coachees, as well as making it possible for targets to be redefined as needed throughout the coaching engagement (Kilburg, 1996; MacKie, 2007). This approach is not unique to executive coaching and is frequently found in such adjacent disciplines as growth-oriented psychotherapy and supportive counseling (e.g., Rogers, 1959), as well as in action research (e.g., Bartunek, Rousseau, Rudolph, & DePalma, 2006), where interventions are flexibly tailored to the clients’ needs. However, while in these other fields treatment approaches that express a deficit-conflict view of clients’ needs still outnumber collaborative, growth-oriented approaches, the deficit-conflict view and its associated prescriptive stance toward an intervention focus has been recognized as clearly inappropriate for coaching executive leaders (see Kauffman & Scoular, 2004, for a discussion). In essence, acknowl- edging the need in an unequivocally and comprehensively collaborative approach toward defining the content of coaching for executive clients creates a challenge with “the what” of executive coaching. The outcomes for coaching targets must be defined in ways that allow substantial customization to clients’ needs. The developmental areas, skills, or competencies on which the intervention should focus are thus identified in ways that are flexible and open to change, rather than in standard and permanent ways.
Challenge 2: Defining How to Deliver Intervention
In addition to “the what” challenge, where the focus of an intervention may vary across clients and across time, the process by which a coach conducts the intervention also depends on context. Presented with different contextual cues, a coach will approach coaching sessions uniquely across clients (and even within clients across sessions) even if the goals of the sessions are similar. In contrast to “the what” challenge, this challenge is more akin to “the how,” or the means of achieving results in a coaching intervention. Contextual features such as the client’s level of experience, setting, baseline levels of a skill or competency, coach’s own areas of best expertise, organizational (or social, personal, political) climate, and other factors influence how a coach approaches a similar developmental goal across different clients. These same considerations, and the resulting challenges for process-outcome research, also apply to interpersonally based intervention fields adjacent to coaching—for example, to traditional psychotherapy (Stiles, Honos-Webb, & Surko, 1998) and OD (Golembiewski, Billingsley, & Yeager, 1976; Coughlan, Suri, & Canales, 2007)—where contextual influences are important determinants of the process.
Challenge 3: Choosing the Measures
Yet another challenge in the study of executive-coaching evaluation reflects (mis)alignment of measures with the constructs being measured. Unlike the first two challenges, this one reflects considerations of valid measurement and evaluation more so than the demands of the coaching process itself. Evaluation studies tend to follow a format where measures are constructed to match the intervention. Since an intervention is expected to have some predictable sort of impact on clients,
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measures are typically chosen to tap into this type of impact—for examples, see Bluckert (2005); Thach (2002); Theeboom, Beersma, and van Vianen (2014). However, while in traditional program evaluations it is logical, even necessary, to choose the measures and create an evaluation plan before your study begins (Cronbach et al., 1985; Fink & Kosecoff, 1978; Rossi, Lipsey, & Freeman, 2003), this is often unrealistic in executive-coaching evaluations because the goals (and processes) of coaching sessions are context-dependent and subject to shifting (cf., Kilburg, 2000). It should not, however, be assumed that coaching has no tangible impact or that the benefits of coaching do not extend further into the organization, beyond the immediate coachee. Two recent meta-analyses have demonstrated that coaching has a positive impact on individual outcomes, such as performance, job attitudes, and increased self-efficacy (Jones, Woods, & Guillaume, 2016; Theeboom, Beersma, & van Vianen, 2014). The challenge here instead lies in identifying the specific areas that should be expected to change, given the individual, organizational, and other contextual considerations of the coaching intervention.
In other words, the first two challenges have a consequence of limiting the ability to find appropriate measures for capturing the right outcomes through time. In order to be useful for coaching-outcome research (and not just for assessing progress of particular isolated clients), the collaboratively defined, contextually customized outcomes that are a must for success of executive coaching also need to be tracked in ways that allow comparing progress across various areas of focus, which differ across coachees and across organizational contexts.
Further adding to the measurement challenge, individuals have different expected trajectories of progress, reflecting the variation both in the range of demands they face (e.g., Cavanagh & Grant, 2006; Laske, 2007) and in the range of personal and behavioral issues they experience (e.g., Berman & Bradt, 2006; Grant, 2007). It is therefore unrealistic to expect to see progress on the same measure at the same point in time, even for coaching clients working on similar goals appropriately reflected by the measure. The measurement challenge thus follows from the previous two challenges (“the what” and “the how”) described earlier, as they establish the conditions for the existence of these measurement difficulties. The measurement challenge, however, creates concerns that particularly affect coaching research, more so than practice. Also, unlike the first two challenges that stem from inherent and unalterable aspects of executive coaching, the measurement challenge has solutions that, we suggest, can be found within the field of research and measurement—and specifically, solutions that may be offered by the assimilation model and measure that we describe later in this paper.
Current Challenges as Experienced in a Field Study
We now turn to describing our experience with conducting a study of coaching evaluation, presenting the barriers we faced and the lessons we learned. Specifically, we will provide examples of the challenges described above as they appeared in our own field study.
The field study described here examined effectiveness of leadership coaching by comparing several types of outcomes across three groups of executive leaders in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA is the second-largest federal employer in the United States of America and one of the world’s largest providers of integrated health-care services. This system includes a wide variety in organizational complexity and geography and also substantial diversity in demographic and professional characteristics of executive participants. VA routinely uses executive-coaching services provided by doctoral-level clinical or counseling psychologists with postdoctoral training in organizational development who are employees of an internal National Center for OD (NCOD) within VA. The coaching services provided by NCOD are based on a process-consultation model where clients choose their priorities and direction while coaches collaboratively support a self- reflective process in clients and provide ongoing feedback grounded in data, observation, and general knowledge of interpersonal aspects and dynamics within an organizational context (Reddy, 1994; Schein, 1992, 1999). The coaching contract signed in the first session mentions that the focus will be on organizationally relevant challenges, albeit understood in the context of the coachee’s personal experience. This expectation protects the value of coaching from the standpoint of management (the paying party) and sets a clear boundary between the coaching and therapy. The
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contract also spells out the expectation of confidentiality, unless the coach perceives imminent potential of grave personal or organizational harm about to be done by the coachee. Consistent with the client-centered recognition of a possible shift in the core issue targeted for coaching, the contract allows for more specific goals to be articulated after a more thorough assessment, as opposed to in the first session.
The purpose of the coaching evaluation was to establish objective, systematic evidence of impact, using newly collected measures as well as relevant data that was already available, and share the conclusions with prospective coaching participants and their organizations as a business case for documenting the value of this type of support to VA leaders. The study was conducted using a quasi-experimental design where we randomly assigned our participants to coaching conditions but, when some of them insisted on being transferred (i.e., to the active coaching condition), we accommodated their request. To maintain scientific integrity of the study, these transferred partic- ipants were excluded from further investigation. Participants were randomly selected into one of three conditions; coaching, treatment as usual (TAU), or comparison conditions. Participants in both the coaching and TAU conditions took part in a Health Care Leadership Development Program (HCLDP) that is offered by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The purpose of the HCLDP is to prepare high-potential VHA leaders for careers in the executive ranks of the department. This leadership program lasts approximately one year and includes diverse modes of training, ranging from self-guided activities, to teleconference trainings, to three separate 1-week onsite sessions. This program is designed to be comprehensive and intensive as it provides the participants with approximately a hundred accredited hours of formal face-to-face training in addition to an equal amount of preparation and participation outside of the sessions. Accreditation from the program is approved by the American College of Healthcare Executives, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, and the American Nurses Credentialing Center. In addition to their standard leadership-development curriculum, those in the coaching condition received ten 1-hour coaching sessions. Participants in the TAU condition only received two 360-degree feedback sessions in addition to the HCLDP program curriculum. Individuals in the comparison condition (i.e., those who had applied to the HCLDP program but were not accepted) did not receive any training but were provided with two coaching sessions around their 360-degree feedback results and were sent e-mails with links to web-based surveys during the study. The final sample included 56 coaching, 46 TAU, and 14 comparison condition participants, yielding a total number of 116 subjects. This sample was smaller than we hoped for, as 184 participants were initially selected (81 coaching, 77 TAU, and 26 comparison), yet the final sample was sufficient to yield some usable data. The following sections describe the common challenges in coaching evaluation, how they presented themselves in our study, and the barriers they created for our evaluation efforts.
Challenge 1: Defining the Focus of Coaching Intervention
Coaching interventions, from goals to the processes, are dynamic and this was no exception in our study. The process-consultation nature of our approach to coaching enables the client to collabora- tively choose areas of development with their coach. This feature of coaching carries with it the benefit of empowering the client to take charge of his or her own development. But this type of approach undermines an evaluation design by compromising study control. Furthermore, when the focus of the coaching intervention changes from client to client, the method of coaching (i.e., the treatment itself) may also change to realign with the goals. This results in suboptimal program- evaluation conditions. Whereas in an ideal setting the treatment is uniformly applied to all subjects (i.e., the gold standard in randomized clinical trials and a classic recommendation for scientifically based evaluation research—Cronbach et al., 1985; Rossi, Lipsey, & Freeman, 2003; Sechrest & Figueredo 1993), this does not truly work with psychosocially based interventions, to the extent that they are collaborative rather than prescriptive. For a detailed discussion of these issues for psychotherapy, see Wampold (2007); Osatuke, Moore, and Dyrenforth (2013) examined these issues in the context of an OD program.
This lack of consistency in the purpose of coaching was evident in the qualitative comments obtained within our study where we asked the clients to list the goals of the coaching engagement.
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The comments revealed a variety of goals, including such things as time management and public speaking. As an example, one client stated a goal to “increase Psychological Safety when dealing with people and avoid being too ‘assertive,’” whereas another client wanted to “develop expertise in Healthcare Management.” The disparity in the nature of these goals had implications for our coaches in choosing how to conduct the coaching intervention, and on us as researchers in choosing the outcome(s) of the intervention.
Challenge 2: Defining How to Deliver Intervention
To continue the previous example, the disparity in the nature of clients’ goals influences how coaches conduct the interventions. Even if the focus of the coaching engagement is held constant, coaches may—and should—choose different approaches to facilitate progress on the client’s priorities, reflecting the different context of the engagement (e.g., different organizational roles and job positions, which characterized our sample of executive coachees). Furthermore, different coaches may have nonidentical approaches to coaching (e.g., tools, methods, and processes), or even a different balance between the methods and processes used (e.g., relative proportions of probing and questioning vs. supportive listening, which may uniquely characterize different coaches). Also, with two clients both focused on interpersonal skills as their main priority in coaching, one client might be ready to move past the self-reflecting phase, while the other is not yet ready, even with the same coach using similar coaching methods. With the two clients reaching coaching milestones at different times, the coach must then adjust his or her process to the needs of the client—a manifestation of responsiveness that is required for successful coaching interventions but creates noise for process-outcome evaluation purposes. Having two separate coaches in this same scenario will add more noise or process inconsistency.
Our study was susceptible to all these pitfalls, as we had variety in types of goals identified by coaching clients (including a focus on interpersonal effectiveness [IE], technical skills, health-care- system expertise, etc.), and we utilized 14 coaches. The coaches within our study were all highly skilled doctoral-level psychologists (PhDs or PsyDs in clinical or counseling psychology, with postdoctoral OD training), all trained in the same intervention model (Reddy, 1994; Schein, 1969) in an attempt to increase consistency in their coaching-delivery methods. We also used the best design possible for a coaching study occurring in a real organizational context (a quasi-experimental design, with random participant selection). Still, the variety in clients’ and coaches’ characteristics and in the resulting aspects of coaching-session process certainly limited our ability to compare process and outcomes across the study conditions.
Challenge 3: Choosing the Measures
Coaching evaluation is a special case of program evaluation, thus special considerations must be taken when addressing the fundamental components of selecting the outcomes to track, measures to capture these outcomes, and analytic methods to summarize the measures.
First, the impact (or outcome) of a coaching intervention may work less directly than one might hope. For example, coaching changes mindsets, which eventually impact outcomes, rather than coaching directly impacting outcomes immediately. Indirect outcome measures such as multisource feedback, workplace climate perceptions, workgroup performance, and produc- tivity may be attractive—and we were attracted to them in our design— but are likely inappropriate, as they might be too far removed from the most relevant changes that happen through coaching. In other words, it may not be fair to expect a coaching intervention to have an impact on these types of outcomes immediately, and it may be more reasonable to look for an effect on more proximal outcomes—such as personal skill building, self-efficacy, motiva- tion, and self-perceptions of coaching effectiveness. Although these are not bottom-line outcomes that organizational leaders may traditionally seek to establish the business case for coaching, there is evidence to believe that developing leaders on these areas can, in turn, impact the bottom line through improved individual performance and organizational outcomes (Locke & Latham, 2002; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998).
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In selecting measures for our study, we balanced the need for capturing the impact of the intervention, organizational relevance, and the dynamic, tailored nature of coaching engagements. With these considerations in mind, we included measures of goal attainment, perceived organizational support, multisource developmental feedback ratings, and readiness for coaching. Our data show that differences between coaching and TAU clients on indirect measures, such as a 360 multisource feedback, were small and not significant. The measure used in this study was a 360 multisource-assessment instrument, routinely available to any interested executives within VA and offered for developmental (as opposed to performance-evaluative) purposes. The effects of coaching condition on multisource ratings of IE—the part of the 360 assessment relevant to our research focus—were examined. The differences between coaching and noncoaching TAU and comparison conditions were all small and nonsignificant. Although all mean differences were in the expected direction for the coaching to the TAU comparisons, with coaching clients receiving better multisource feedback ratings, the estimates of effect sizes were small and the differences were not significant, suggesting that these differences may possibly be due to chance. Results between the coaching and comparison conditions were mixed, with staff providing more favorable ratings and peers providing more critical ratings of the coaching clients. Effect sizes for the differences were small to medium (Cohen, 1988), ranging from d � .03 to d � .30.
Our study also included more proximal measures in the form of coaching-client self-perceptions of goal attainment and organizational support. Coaching and noncoaching participants were com- pared on their goal attainment self-perception ratings at Time 3 of the study, 1 year after the onset of coaching. Additionally, coaching and noncoaching participants were compared on their perceived organizational support at Time 3 of the study. Descriptive statistics indicated higher means for coaching participants on some items of goal attainment and on all but one item on perceived organizational support, compared with TAU or comparison condition participants. Although de- scriptive in nature and not necessarily representative of the population, coaching subjects reported greatest mean differences on “I have strengthened my leadership capability” and “I have a significantly better understanding of my strengths and challenges” with respect to goal attainment. These differences were not statistically significant but yielded modest effect sizes, ranging from d � .19 to d � .66, according to Cohen’s (1988) guidelines. Similar to ratings of self-assigned goals, coaching subjects also reported higher means on perceived organizational support on all items when compared with comparison condition and on all but one item (“This organization provides frequent feedback to people about their performance”) when compared with TAU condition. The difference between coaching and TAU subjects on the item “This organization believes a person’s develop- ment is a joint responsibility of the individual and the organization” was statistically significant at the � � .05 level, t(62) � 2.32, p � .05. Effect sizes for the group differences ranged between d � .12 and d � .48, indicating small to medium effects (Cohen, 1988). To summarize, in our study, the clearest findings resulted from the proximal outcome measures used, while findings from more distal outcome measures were mixed and inconclusive.
Second, besides being realistic in projecting the expected impact and selecting its optimal measures, our experience with conducting this study taught us that the process of change itself must be taken into account when administering measures, so that expectations of change can be aligned with the actual, empirically grounded change trajectory in individuals. The process of change takes on many forms depending on the individual experiencing the change. For example, what specifically is involved in reaching the aspired level of interpersonal skill (a frequent self-identified goal within our sample) varies widely across coachees. With the different scope of the targeted accomplishment, it may be unrealistic to expect change from individuals within a standard (uniform) time period. Further, to continue the example, “improved interpersonal skill” might be a category that lacks sensitivity to particular participants’ targeted goals (e.g., one coachee might work on better listening skills while another works on developing more assertiveness). Different changes likely require different time for completion, both within the same category (e.g., interpersonal skills) and across categories (i.e., it may take less time to improve technical skills than interpersonal skills). In sum, much like one would not expect to measure a return on investment after the first session, care must be taken in tailoring measurements throughout the coaching engagement to realistically reflect the pace of progress for different individuals, contents of focus, and so forth.
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Our Recommendations: Toward a New Model of Coaching Evaluation
Any proposal of a new evaluation model for executive coaching must face the reality of balancing the dynamic nature of coaching with the rigorous demands of objective program evaluation. That is, whereas it is desirable for a program-evaluation plan to remain static throughout the study to reduce bias and maximize validity, the coaching process may shift and change to meet the demands of the clients. Altering the coaching process to make it more static for the purpose of program evaluation would change the fundamental nature of coaching, resulting in a process that differs from how coaching is actually conducted in the field. At the same time, altering a program-evaluation approach to make it more dynamic could prove to be a fatal flaw to the methodology of a study by undermining validity and reliability. The model we propose resolves this dilemma by systematically using a stable, empirically grounded taxonomy for summarizing clients’ stances toward their concerns discussed in coaching—while allowing for the subjective, context-dependent, and highly fluid nature of the concerns themselves.
In the assimilation model (Stiles, 1999, 2002), people are conceptualized as psychologically made of traces of their life experiences—including past and current beliefs, interpersonal encoun- ters, motives, plans for the future, wishes, goals, commitments, and other elements of lived experience. These experiences may be cognitively processed to a different extent, but they are more than just cognitive representations as all of them contain motivational elements. The experiences are active “voices” within a person, “wanting” to be expressed, for instance, by saying or doing something or by taking a stance on current issues that the person deals with. This tenet means that, according to the model, people have no cognitive, motivational, or affective functions separate from the specific experiences these individuals are “made” of; in other words, there is no central processing capacity that acts upon experiences in order to process, evaluate, and manage them (such capacity is itself a “voice”; it may be central or peripheral and underdeveloped).
The implication of this view for understanding change is that changes within intervention participants should be tracked by following data one experience at a time by dissecting participants’ experience horizontally. An example is following how the client’s experience of “difficulty with interpersonal skills” changes through coaching. This contrasts with the typical approaches of tracking changes within participants vertically, where change is tracked separately across subjects by areas of functioning, such as motivation, attitudes, skills, or behaviors. The benefit of horizontal dissection is that it preserves the uniqueness of individual experiences and contexts, and the content tracked through process-outcome studies closely and specifically matches what is of key relevance to address in coaching interventions. As a consequence of this strategy, change processes (e.g., what was done in coaching to facilitate progress on interpersonal skills) can be concretely and specifically connected to outcomes (e.g., what changed in this participant’s interpersonal skills from before to after coaching). Furthermore, the outcome evaluation then matches the initial presenting problems, which makes evaluation results useful and easy to consume not only for researchers and evaluators but also for intervention participants and coaches.
Perhaps the most innovative and useful answer that the assimilation model provides to current dilemmas in the research on coaching evaluation concerns a strategy of comparing different tracked content across participants. According to the model, individuals’ various experiences, or voices, are integrated (assimilated) to different extents. The already-assimilated voices become interlinked and form a congruent, dominant core of the person’s self. Voices inconsistent with the already-assimilated ones are, precisely for this reason, experienced by the person as problematic or challenging. These voices bring distress because they are not (yet) integrated into the rest of the self. This tenet has three important implications. First, the model explains why certain experiences are subjectively challenging for people: It is because they are inconsistent with a person’s core experiences. The distinction between the conscious and unconscious, which is important in psychodynamic approaches, is not relevant in this model (e.g., both conscious and unconscious goals represent particular experiences and are part of the dialogue between voices within the person). Second, the model clarifies the common denominator of helpful processes: It is those processes (whether within psychosocial interventions or generally within personal growth and development) that facilitate assimilation of problematic experiences. Third, and
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most relevant for our focus here, the model suggests that all experiences, including those discussed in coaching, can be characterized in terms of their level of assimilation. This is the commonality that allows describing levels of coping across various issues that coachees bring to sessions; it creates a useful shared metric for process and progress in coaching, while not losing sight of the individually unique aspects of intervention targets.
Assimilation levels are captured in the APES (Stiles et al., 1991; Table 1). They extend from denial and avoidance (low end), through experiencing strong negative affect (e.g., discomfort) to the problematic content (middle ground), to labeling the issue and developing a detailed understanding into how it is maintained, which serves as the basis for potential solutions (higher end), and eventually reaching mastery over the problematic content so that it no longer is experienced as difficult but instead is used as a resource available for handling new situations (highest assimilation levels). For example, at this level, a coachee may not only effortlessly use the interpersonal skills acquired in coaching but also generalize them to new areas of life. The description and sequence of APES levels have been derived from extensive case studies, mainly using psychotherapy and counseling data but also data from nonclinical settings, and they have been also supported through
Table 1 Assimilation of Problematic Experiences Scale (APES)
0 Warded off/dissociated. Client seems unaware of the problem; the problematic voice is silent or dissociated. Affect may be minimal, reflecting successful avoidance. Alternatively, the problem appears as somatic symptoms, acting out, or state switches
1 Unwanted thoughts/active avoidance. Client prefers not to think about the experience. Problematic voices emerge or seemingly important concerns are acknowledged only in response to therapist interventions or external circumstances, and are suppressed or actively avoided, e.g., by changing the topic or failing to follow up on a prior commitment without explaining or acknowledging the change. Affect involves unfocused negative feelings; their connection with the content may be unclear
2 Vague awareness/emergence. Client is aware of the problem but cannot formulate it clearly—can express it but cannot reflect on it. Problematic voice emerges into sustained awareness. Affect includes intense psychological pain—fear, sadness, anger, disgust, or intense discomfort associated with the problematic experience
3 Problem statement/clarification. Content includes a clear statement of a problem—something that can be worked on. Opposing voices are differentiated and can talk about each other; the opposite sides or perspectives upon the key conflict are clearly articulated. Affect is negative but manageable, not panicky
4 Understanding/insight. The problematic experience is formulated and understood in some way. Voices reach an understanding with each other (a meaning bridge). There is insight into a bigger picture, or what connects the opposite sides of the conflict. In other words, clarity is gained upon what causes or maintains the problem. Affect may be mixed, with some unpleasant recognition, e.g., from understanding one’s own contribution to the problem, but also some pleasant surprise, e.g., from seeing a new perspective
5 Application/working through. The understanding is used to work on a problem. This is the implementation stage; insights are used to generate solutions. Voices work together to address problems of living. Affective tone is positive, optimistic
6 Resourcefulness/problem solution. The formerly problematic experience has become a resource, used for solving problems. Voices can be used flexibly. Affect is positive, satisfied
7 Integration/mastery. Client automatically generalizes solutions; voices are fully integrated, serving as resources in new situations. Affect is positive or neutral (i.e., this is no longer something to get excited about)
Note. Assimilation is a continuum, with intermediate levels allowed; for example, 2.5 assimilation level is half way between vague awareness/emergence (2.0) and problem statement/clarification (3.0). This table, authored by Stiles, appears in several of his papers. The first version was printed in “Longitudinal Study of Assimilation in Exploratory Psychotherapy,” by W. B. Stiles, L. A. Morrison, S. K. Haw, H. Harper, D. A. Shapiro, and J. Firth-Cozens, 1991, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 28, pp. 198, 199. Copyright 1991 by American Psychological Association. Adapted with permission. The descriptions in bold italics were added by the current authors (i.e., not part of the original scale). We also added the bold to the APES levels descriptors in the original scale that apply well to the business context (as opposed to the clinical context).
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several quantitatively based studies (see Stiles, 2002, for an overview and references). This available evidence supports that progress in interventions is indeed associated with clients’ movement from lower to higher assimilation, consistent with the theoretical tenet of the model that assimilative process is what underlies success in psychosocially based treatments. Importantly, the model and APES levels are formulated to track change in clients’ experience of presenting problems, in their broadest sense—as opposed to tracking progress on particular challenges, symptoms, contents, or intervention techniques. This makes the model and its associated measure suitable for a variety of contents, client populations, intervention foci, interventionists’ approaches, and so forth.
Although the language of the scale (see Table 1) may suggest its clinical origin, the concepts defining each APES level come from a broader context. They are grounded in the general psychology of development (Piaget, 1953) and reflect a client-centered focus (Rogers, 1959)—an approach that has importantly shaped the roots of OD (e.g., Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959; Maslow, 1973) and its current practice (for examples, see the description of OD at http:// www.odnetwork.org/?page�WhatIsOD). Of note, client-centered approaches are the least clinically narrow of all psychological theories (see Rogers, 1959, for a detailed argument), as they are strength-based; the focus is on clients’ growth potentials and development processes, not on psychological handicaps or clinical symptoms.
Given the client-centered nature of the assimilation model and the broad relevance of the assimilation concepts beyond the clinical applications, the clinically slanted language of the APES can be adjusted for a business context while still maintaining conceptual integrity of the model. For example, while “somatic symptoms, acting out, or state switches” (APES Level 0, Table 1) will unlikely ever characterize executive clients, we believe the other Level 0 descriptors (see Table 1) accurately portray what is occasionally seen in coaching. Such applicable Level 0 descriptors include: being unaware of the problem; problematic issues silenced; and a visible lack of emotional concern, reflecting successful avoidance. This is because the key concepts of APES Level 0—un- awareness or successful avoidance—do show up in executive coaching. For example, clients occasionally dismiss or minimize the relevance of grave organizational issues, or they give these concerns lip service when asked by the coach and then quickly change the topic. Adding to our own observations, Moore et al. (2014) also offered many examples of how early APES level concepts are manifested in the business context, in the experience of executives running a medical center.
The study by Moore et al. (2014) thus far constitutes the only available source of systematic quantitative evidence for applicability of the model to OD intervention settings. Taken together with evidence derived from psychotherapy and counseling research, we believe this shows excellent promise for applicability of the model and tool to the field of coaching evaluation. Below we summarize the main take-aways that we believe an assimilation-based framework suggests to process-outcome research in coaching effectiveness.
One of the biggest barriers that prevented us from optimally measuring the impact of executive coaching in our own study may have been our overreliance on traditional, indirect outcome measures such as multisource feedback, workplace climate measures, job-performance metrics, and even returns on investment. The impact of executive coaching may not reach beyond the client during the time that measures are administered. Moreover, it could be argued that the direct impact of coaching is not intended to reach beyond the client. Executive coaching is intended for personal and professional development of the individual being coached, and gains in this development can be expressed as shifts in mindsets, ultimately expected to make an impact on the company’s bottom line. Measuring the direct impact on the bottom line itself may be unrealistic, because this impact is mediated by changes in mindsets and in stances toward organizational issues; therefore these latter need to be described and evaluated first. To be certain, the impact of coaching on the organizational bottom line is of high relevance and capturing it is important. Our point is that this impact is indirect rather than direct; therefore it should be conceptualized as such in order to be effectively measured.
The assimilation framework provides a working strategy for accomplishing this goal. For example, following Moore et al. (2014), who summarized their evaluation results in terms of increases in APES levels from pre- to postintervention separately for various types of intervention participants (i.e., employees, managers, union representatives), it should be possible to summarize
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coaching participants’ progress as change in their stance toward the initial issues they brought to coaching. To illustrate how this summary may look, a coaching participant who brought to coaching her difficulty of struggling with delegation may, with the coach’s assistance, move from the initial active avoidance of the presenting problem (where she felt that her controlling stance, while negatively perceived by others, is necessary to ensure quality organizational performance) to labeling and clarifying the main conflict (difficulty transitioning from her previous top-performer role to her current executive role where she must ensure performance by supporting the work of others rather than by completing tasks herself). This way of expressing the outcome at the individual participant level also allows quantifying progress for purposes of summarizing it at a group level, such as for a coaching program or for all individuals who worked with a particular coach. Specifically, in the example just given, the outcome can be expressed numerically as movement from APES 1 (active avoidance) to APES 3 (problem statement).
This quantification allows comparing outcomes of individual participants across a range of content areas, different points in time, and organizational contexts. This is possible because, in the assimilation framework, any movement up the APES is considered progress, but more movement is more progress. To illustrate, while a change from APES 1 to APES 3 is an accomplishment, change from APES 1 (active avoidance) to APES 5 (the understanding gained is used to work on a problem) is a bigger accomplishment. Importantly, this measurement strategy does not impose standardization where not appropriate. Different and unique issues that participants bring to coaching are not forced into rigid yet nonspecific categories such as “technical issues,” “interpersonal issues,” and so forth. Yet the commonality between different participants and their experiences is articulated as a clear theoretical construct; assimilation reflects the extent to which participants are able to actively and adaptively cope with specific problems of relevance to them. Also importantly, the relationship of this construct to participant-level positive outcome is validated in previous research—although, as a limitation, this evidence mainly comes from settings that differ from executive coaching. Specifically, except one quantitative study (Moore et al., 2014) and one qualitative study (Osatuke, Moore, Wernke, Stiles, & Dyrenforth 2007), the bulk of the assimilation research involves psycho- therapy and counseling data, plus two studies of adjustment of normal individuals to a different culture; see Stiles (2002) for a review of assimilation research.
Finally, the assimilation framework has roots in the broader developmental context that reflects a nonpathological, growth-focused perspective upon problems and challenges—a perspective that, together with Kauffman and Scoular (2004), we believe to be the only appropriate way of approaching executive coaching. Precisely because of this grounding in the context of individual psychological development in general, the assimilation model has been proven to be sensitive to capturing a broader range of progress than traditional outcome measures with a more narrow focus on problems, symptoms, or behaviors targeted for change. For example, in Moore et al.’s (2014) study, applying the model to qualitative interview data from an OD intervention and expressing pre- to postcomparisons in terms of APES ratings showed progress from low to medium stages of APES, for several specific problems experienced by several different types of stakeholders. When the pre- and postdata from this same intervention were previously assessed on two more narrowly focused measures (Maslach Burnout Inventory [MBI] and Moos Work Environment Scale [WES], both described and referenced in Moore et al., 2014), these measures failed to reflect the quantitative progress, which contradicted the stakeholders’ strong endorsement of the intervention as helpful and left a puzzling inconsistency between conclusions derived from quantitative and qualitative portions of the assessment. In Moore et al.’s (2014) analysis, this inconsistency reflected the fact that MBI and WES, while both matched the relevant content of the intervention, operationalized progress as movement from identifying to solving the problems, whereas the impact of the intervention consisted of change from avoiding to facing the problems. Thus, the assimilation framework provided a better tool for capturing the organizational change in that intervention, because the change was under the floor of the two more common measures yet within the range of progress reflected on APES. We suggest that this consideration—an ability of measures to capture a broad range of progress and not just the subsegment falling between identifying and resolving problems—is also an asset for
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coaching research, as we suspect that in our own study a lack of consistent and conclusive results was at least partly due to this limitation.
With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps the main limitation of our study and the best piece of advice that we wish we could have given ourselves would concern using a framework such as one offered by the assimilation model in planning our strategy for tracking progress throughout this coaching intervention. This also constitutes our main recommendation for future research in executive-coaching effectiveness. In line with this recommendation are our suggestions to consider more proximal rather than distal measures for evaluating coaching effectiveness as well as to customize based on clients’ initial presenting needs and their subsequent progress how the measures are administered through time. One possible approach to evaluating executive-coaching research that incorporates our recommendations is represented in Figure 1, where measures are administered at staggered time intervals. In this model, Client B is experiencing a different trajectory than Client A and may not be ready to complete the first assessment until prior to session three. In this scenario, the first two coaching sessions have different goals for both of the clients; therefore the change trajectory should be expected to vary and the measures should remain sensitive to this possibility.
In addition, it may be useful to track process measures for specific sessions throughout the coaching engagements. For example, one appropriate tool extensively validated and used in different psychosocial intervention contexts but not in coaching is the Session Evaluation Ques- tionnaire (Stiles, Gordon, & Lani, 2002).
With respect to the outcome content, any measure chosen by a researcher for evaluating the coaching impact should consider the client’s own perception of progress with respect to the initial presenting difficulties. Following the tenets of the assimilation model, where changes in individuals occur as a function of evolution in the individual’s mindset about and experience of the initial challenge, outcome measures should be chosen to account for this process.
Objectively measuring change in the inherently subjective client experience that is located in the context of human systems and facilitated by an interpersonally based coaching process is not an easy task. One solution suggested here offers the benefits of an already-existing model (the assimilation model), with substantial empirical evidence accumulated for its theoretical tenets and with an associated measure (APES) that is applicable to a variety of intervention foci and client character- istics. Drawing upon this framework offers an opportunity to bring in interdisciplinary knowledge— theoretical, empirical, and psychometric—in order to meet the challenges of coaching-outcome research that we experienced in our own study and that we reviewed in this paper.
Figure 1. Timeline of coaching model with outcome measures administered at staggered, individually tailored time intervals.
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Received June 25, 2015 Latest revision received October 18, 2016
Accepted November 10, 2016 �
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International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring 2018, Special Issue 12, DOI: 10.24384/000536
© The Authors 41 Published by Oxford Brookes University
Does managerial involvement in workplace coaching impact the outcome? A mixed-methods study into the current methods managers employ and the impacts on coaching effectiveness Tamsin Webster Kent, UK, [email protected]
Abstract Research into workplace-training suggests actions taken by managers, such as discussing applying the training, can significantly impact the effectiveness of training. However, little is known as to whether these findings translate to workplace-coaching. This mixed-methods study gathered information on current practices involving managers and the perceived effectiveness on the outcomes of coaching from coachees, managers and practitioners within the field. Those approaches that required discretionary effort as opposed to prescribed involvement were perceived to have a greater impact on coaching outcomes. There appeared to be no cumulative effect; more involvement did not translate to a perception of greater impact on outcomes.
Key words: workplace-coaching, manager, effectiveness, mixed-methods, outcomes
Introduction With workplace coaching on the rise (ICF, 2014, CIPD, 2015), understanding whether coaching within the workplace is effective and whether this translates into business outcomes has been a topic that has occupied many academic researchers and practicing consultants. Grant (2013) identified 234 studies seeking to understand the outcome of coaching between 2000 and 2011. Researchers in this field tend to agree that the results “lean towards coaching being an effective intervention in terms of their self-efficacy, goal attainment and for organisations in terms of their leadership” (Grover & Furnham 2016, pp.23).
An early study investigating the impact coaching has on business outcomes was conducted by McGovern et al. (2001). The authors sought to quantify business results that resulted as a direct impact of externally provided coaching. These results were compared with the costs of coaching, thereby identifying the return on investment (ROI) of the coaching intervention. Individuals who had received coaching were asked to self-report on business outcomes they believed had improved as a result of the coaching. Key stakeholders including the coaches were also asked to provide feedback on the perceived outcomes. The participants estimated there to be significant financial impacts on the performance: on average the perceived ROI was £100k of incremental benefit to the business. The authors concluded that coaching has a significant impact on business results (McGovern et al. 2001).
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring 2018, Special Issue 12, DOI: 10.24384/000536
© The Authors 42 Published by Oxford Brookes University
As studies in this area increase, meta-analysis has become possible, examining whether common outcomes and inferences can be drawn. The results aggregating the research findings have led researchers to conclude that coaching works, with outcomes including moderate-to-large increases in skill and/or performance and productivity (De Meuse & Dai, 2009, Theeboom, Beersma and van Vianer, 2014, Grover & Furnham, 2016, Jones, Woods & Guillaume, 2015, Sonesh et al. 2015).
More than simply determining whether or not coaching is effective, understanding what impacts the effectiveness of coaching is of significant interest to researchers and practitioners. Understanding what impacts the effectiveness of coaching could support those practitioners managing coaching within organisations, helping to influence how best to design support around a coaching interventions.
Having established that coaching has an impact on performance, researchers have sought to analyse the mechanisms within coaching to understand why and how it works and to identify whether some aspects have a greater impact on the outcomes than others. One notable finding is that trust and an ability to create an effective working relationship is critical to driving effective coaching outcomes (Baron & Morin 2009, de Haan et al. 2016, de Haan, Culpin, Curd, 2008, Rekalde, Landeta & Albizu 2015, Ely et al. 2010). The attributes of the coachee have also been researched, finding that personality matching between the coach and coachee has no impact on the effectiveness of coaching (de Haan et al. 2016). When researchers compare the effectiveness on coaching goals between internal and external coaches, internal coaches are found to fare better (Jones, Woods & Guillaume 2015).
In terms of researching the impacts of different elements within the coaching process itself, the findings vary. In terms of duration, it was found that the number of coaching sessions does make a difference, more than three appeared to have the best results. The researchers of this study hypothesised this may be due to the relationship between the coach and coachee improving over time (Baron & Morin 2010). However, meta-analysis carried out found no difference between different durations and the coaching outcomes (Jones, Woods & Guillaume 2015). The coaching format – e.g., face-to-face v’s phone, or e-coaching was found to have no differing impact on the outcomes (Jones, Woods & Guillaume, 2015).
These studies focus exclusively on the coaching as an event, the people involved in the sessions and how the sessions are constructed. They have not assessed how the coaching and the outcomes apply in situ, i.e. in the workplace. Research in the related field of workplace-training has identified that a supportive environment experienced after training is more important than the quality of the trainer or training materials in terms of applying and maintaining the learning (Rouiller & Goldstein, 1993; Tracey, Tannenbaum & Kavanagh, 1995). Examples of a supportive environment that the manager can impact include: discussing how to apply the training, reshaping the role to enable the practice of new skills, giving feedback, providing positive reinforcement or rewarding the use of new skills, or conversely punishment for not using them.
Some research points to managerial involvement potentially having a positive impact on coaching outcomes. Rekalde, Landeta & Albizu (2015) conducted a series of focus groups with experienced coaches, coachees and purchasers of organisational coaching. The manager’s involvement was rated as a highly important factor in the successful outcomes for coaching. The authors hypothesise that in actively supporting the coaching, the coachee is encouraged to increase their efforts to develop and achieve their goals. Similarly, in a study by Baron & Morin (2009) the coachees who reported the highest performance outcomes were those who rated their supervisors as most involved in the coaching. However, with relatively few studies specifically looking at this type of involvement, further research is evidently needed. Little is currently known about the different ways managers get involved and how these interventions impact the effectiveness of coaching.
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring 2018, Special Issue 12, DOI: 10.24384/000536
© The Authors 43 Published by Oxford Brookes University
With this in mind, the research objectives for this study were;
1. To identify the different methods by which managers are involved in workplace coaching
2. To examine the perceived impact of managerial interventions on the effectiveness of workplace coaching.
Methodology This study used a mixed-methods approach; a synthesis of different techniques used to improve research outcomes (Brewer & Hunter, 1989). In this case, harnessing the benefits of both qualitative (in-depth semi-structured interviews and open survey questions) and quantitative (a survey) research methods. This combination allowed a much larger population to be studied than using only a qualitative approach.
A survey was sent to 750 coachees who had recently experienced coaching in their organisation, asking about the current practices in terms of managerial involvement in coaching and the perceived impacts it has on coaching outcomes. A high response rate of 20% was achieved, providing 150 coachee responses, from a broad range of global and UK based companies. A similar survey was sent to the coachees’ line manager and/or HR manager. This validation of the data through cross-verification, termed ‘triangulation’ provides crucial alternative viewpoints and can highlight if coachees’ answers are impacted by bias positively or negatively towards the topic in question (i.e. if the answers vary drastically between respondents in the ‘triangle’). Eight of these questionnaires were returned from the manager and/or HR manager (a disappointing response rate of 5.3%). Additionally, a number of in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted using the survey questions but allowing for deeper probing with experienced coaches and those who have managed coaching provision in organisations for a number of years.
The data analysis leveraged statistical packages (quantitative) to understand if the differences in perceived outcomes between groups who had experienced different types of managerial involvement were significantly different. Thematic analysis was used to understand the qualitative data and sort the responses into categories. The approach of combining qualitative and quantitative methods and the respective ways of analysing the data has provided deep insights into not only what activities are underway in organisations, but also the perceptions of their effectiveness and also thoughts and ideas from those most closely engaged in the activity of coaching in organisations. This method was chosen to gain a broad understanding of current practices (large population size possible through quantitative methods) and also insight to direct further research (deeper and more specific details possible through qualitative methods).
Findings The findings are divided below into two sections; firstly what types of managerial involvement in coaching takes place as was evidenced by the research and secondly what was the perceived impact of the different types of managerial involvement by the coachee, manager and/or HR manager.
Managerial Involvement in Coaching The high level analysis of the survey responses indicated that in the main, managers are involved in the coaching in some way. Only 9% of the coachees responded that their
© The Authors 44 Published by Oxford Brookes University
manager was not involved at all. Nearly half of those who responded said that their manager had suggested the coaching.
The most common methods that managers currently get involved in coaching in the population surveyed are:
Recommending the coaching 48%
Participating in an interview to give feedback used in the coaching 38%
Asking what they could do to support the coachee’s coaching goal 37%
Setting the objectives for the coaching 34% The least common methods coachees reported that managers employed were;
Participating in some way in most or all coaching sessions 0%
Followed up with the coachee after most or all the coaching sessions 5%
Rewarded the coachee for demonstrating changes 6%
Created or sought out opportunities for the coachee to practice 9%
Held the coachee to account for demonstrating changes 10%
The correlation between the coachees’ response and that of either their line manager of HR manager only achieved low to moderate correlations. However, with such low numbers in the responses in these pair/triad perspectives, the sample sizes are too small to provide confidence that these results are generalisable (Bonnet, 2000, Cohen & Cohen, 1975). In an effort to overcome such limitations, this study sought to provide additional viewpoints through interviewing experienced coaches & HR coaching co-ordinators.
To further understand the methods of managerial involvement used in coaching in organisations, three experienced coaches and three HR coaching co-ordinators were interviewed, using semi-structured questions. The transcripts were read and codes applied for each method described. Thematic analysis was conducted to provide a rich and detailed account of what coaches and HR coaching co-ordinators were practicing and witnessing within their coaching practices and organisations.
1. Setting expectations of managers about their required involvement. This includes briefing managers, or when coaching was used for a cohort on a programme through a group call, outlining what was expected of them in terms of the coaching engagement. The interviewees did acknowledge this was a desired best practice and wasn’t adhered to all the time. They often spoke of having to intervene as described by one of the coaches:
“I sometimes have to influence the coachee to instigate time with myself and the line manager so that I can brief them as to their required involvement.. it makes such a difference” (Coach)
2. Managerial (and other stakeholders) feedback as input into the coaching. This was often a formalised process, usually before starting the first coaching session. If not formalised within the organisations process, the coaches noted that they felt this was such an important part of the process that they had their own surveys or interview methods that they would turn to in the absence of organisations having their own 360 questionnaire as described by one of the coaches.
© The Authors 45 Published by Oxford Brookes University
“I always try to get stakeholder input into the coaching, however, whereas [in the past] it used to comprise of quite long interviews, now they are much shorter, like 10 to 15 minutes each” (Coach)
3. Encouraging managers to participate in one or more of the coaching sessions: This was frequently described as a formal part of the process that was specified by the organisation or the coach. Often this meant the manager participated in the first coaching session or the last session as described in this quote.
“it’s a time to review progress, agree further development needs and to attempt to create some momentum for their continued support of the coachee’s development” (Coach)
From the field of organisational training research, Tannenbaum and Yukl (1992) refer to the fact that activities prior to and starting the training are significantly important for the transfer of learning. It seems from this research that organisations and coaches have adopted these practices into workplace coaching. However, in terms of post training activities the research study conducted by Saks & Belcourt (2006) reports that organisations rarely incorporate follow-up activities into their training initiatives. In relation to this study it appears that some of these practices are in existence within coaching. For example, one of the most frequent types of involvement (37% of respondents) was that their manager discussed with them what they could do to support the coaching goals. However, this may not translate into actual follow up activities. For example, only 9% said their manager followed up with them after coaching sessions to reinforce learning or hold them to account and only 9% said their manager actively created opportunities for them to practice the newly learned skills. In terms of ‘accountability’, only 10% and 6% respectively, said that their line manager held them to account or rewarded them for demonstrating the goals of the coaching.
The thematic analysis of the interviews with coaches and HR coaching coordinators produced a number of themes; they described how managerial involvement in coaching had increased in their organisation(s) or coaching practice over time. The longer coaching has been in place, the more likely managerial involvement has been formalised into process. This progression, where managerial involvement is seen as part of a maturing coaching culture aligns to the Coaching Culture Framework described by Clutterbuck, Megginson & Bajer (2017) who suggest that there are four stages of developing a coaching culture within organisations; nascent, tactical, strategic and embedded. In this conceptual framework, the strategic stage included activities that educate those in the organisation about coaching and encourage practices to embed and integrate coaching into everyday work activities.
Another theme captured from the feedback from the expert interviewees in this research study, suggested that the extent to which particular methods of involvement are mandated or heavily recommended to the manager also depends on whether the coaching is part of a programme or an ad-hoc intervention instigated by an individual or his/her manager. With regards ad-hoc coaching, the interviewees commented that there was far less process, formality or control put on to the coaching engagement and that what happened in terms of managerial involvement was governed by the experience or willingness of the coachee and/or their manager. Whereas they described the process of the programmatic coaching as much more formalised. In these programmatic coaching initiatives time and effort was taken to ensure that the manager was clear that he/she was expected to be involved in the coaching and specific governance in some cases created to ensure various types of involvement occurred (360 feedback, attendance to coaching sessions for example). This creation of a formal process for managerial involvement is descriptive of being at the strategic stage of the coaching culture development in an organisation, where managers are not using it informally yet because the organisation has not yet reached the embedded stage (Clutterbuck, Megginson & Bajer, 2017).
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Impact of Managerial Involvement Respondents were asked to rate the overall effectiveness of their coaching which was compared to which of the different types of managerial involvement the coachee had recorded as experiencing and how many of the methods they had experienced. The number of methods employed did not have an effect on the perception of the effectiveness of coaching – “more is not more”. However, coachees rated the effectiveness of their coaching more highly for each method when it was employed v’s coachees who did not experience this method. This would suggest that overall, managerial involvement has an impact on improving the effectiveness of coaching. The two largest differences was for the manager rewarding the coachee or for holding the coachee to account for demonstrating changes back in the workplace.
An additional point to note is that the coachees rated the effectiveness of their coaching highly, irrespective of what managerial methods were employed. The average rating from all participants was 6.7 out of a possible 9. For the 20 coachees whose manager was not involved in any of the methods featured in the survey, the average rating for the overall effectiveness of the coaching was 6.15. One could conclude from this that coaching itself is a highly effective intervention in terms of perceived outcomes for those being coached, as is noted by much of the research into coaching effectiveness (Grover & Furnham, 2016) and in the review of 234 studies by Grant (2013). It may be that any additional interventions employed to enhance the outcomes of coaching are only capable of making a small additional impact on what is already a high impact.
Those methods of managerial involvement that were deemed most impactful were; 1. Providing feedback either through 360 or interview to “direct the content of the
coaching” and “support the objective setting” 2. Managers being involved in setting the objectives for coaching 3. Following up with the coachee regards progress and where they [the manager] could
Those methods deemed least impactful were: 1. The manager recommending the coaching 2. Rewarding the coachee for achieving the coaching objectives / displaying them back
in the work place
These findings align with research regarding the impact of managerial input on the outcomes of training initiatives (Rouiller & Goldstein, 1993, Tracey, Tannenbaum & Kavanagh, 1995). In these studies the types of managerial involvement that had a positive impact on the learning outcomes of the training their direct reports attended included; discussing with the trainee how to apply the training in a work context; reshaping the role to enable practice of these new skills; giving feedback, providing positive reinforcement or rewarding the individual when new skills were used appropriately; or conversely punishing them if the individual failed to use their new skill. These methods are a discretionary act by the manager, there is no formality or structure or instruction to these acts, whereas those methods perceived as less effective, are part of the governance put in by others (i.e. attending one or more of the coaching sessions, completing feedback forms etc.). These highest rated methods by the participants of this survey are in line with the findings by Towler, Watson & Surface (2013), who found that the most impactful methods managers could employ in supporting training outcomes were specifically those that were discretionary as opposed to mandated actions.
© The Authors 47 Published by Oxford Brookes University
Discussion The findings suggest that managers are involved in coaching in the workplace today in a number of different ways. Most commonly, the methods in which they are involved are; recommending the coaching; providing feedback/input that is used in the coaching and offering support to the coachee in making the changes agreed in the coaching. Those involved in coaching in organisations made reference to the involvement of managers in coaching becoming more routine. Specifically, it was highlighted that with formally organised coaching programmes or development programmes that involve coaching, managerial involvement is now becoming hard-wired into the programme design. Outside of programmatic coaching, the manager’s involvement was more varied. According to the expert interviewees, organisations that have been using coaching for some time were more likely to encourage managerial involvement. In addition, those managers that had become accustomed to good practice in coaching were observed to self-instigate proactive involvement with the process, even though he process design did not require this from them. In this regard, there was a similar view that managers who had themselves experienced coaching, were more likely to engage with the coaching of their direct reports. This would help to explain the view that managerial involvement in coaching is increasing, given that workplace coaching has been in existence for some while and continues to increase.
The second research question focused on the perceived impact of managerial involvement in coaching. Overall the coachees’ in this study rated the effectiveness of their coaching very highly. This is consistent with the review of research regarding whether coaching is effective, conducted by Grant (2013). Across the board, when the coachee was asked to rate the overall effectiveness of the coaching, the rating was higher for each type of managerial involvement, than when that method was not employed. However, although higher, the difference was not found to be statistically significant in this study.
The coachee’s were also asked to rate each type of managerial involvement with respect to their view on the impact this method (if they had experienced it) had on the effectiveness of their coaching. In this question the highest rated methods of managerial involvement were the proactive methods. This finding aligns with the outcomes of studies on workplace training, which discovered that the most impactful methods managers could employ in supporting training outcomes were those that were discretionary as opposed to mandated (Rouiller & Goldstein, 1993, Tracey, Tannenbaum & Kavanagh, 1995, Towler, Watson & Surface, 2013).
The experienced coaches and organisational experts also felt that discretionary involvement was the most impactful method that managers could employ. This emphasis on discretionary actions from managers having a greater impact on the outcomes of coaching aligns to the concept of Social Exchange Theory (Thibaut & Kelley 1959, Kelly & Thibaut 1978, Homan 1961) whereby individuals in some kind of relationship exchange actions or behaviours, in a form of social reciprocity. In the case of improved coaching effectiveness, the improved outcomes could be driven as a result of additional discretionary effort from the coachee which was stimulated from the visible efforts from the manager. This socially reciprocal behaviour results in positive outcomes for both parties. In organisational research by Purcell and Hutchinson (2007), results suggest that additional discretionary effort from managers towards their employee results in their direct reports being more engaged and in turn displaying more discretionary effort for the organisation and resulting in higher performance outcomes. Greater employee engagement and performance outcomes were found when compared to managers who simply followed the organisational processes set out for them. It therefore seems that the choice of supporting and doing so in your own way is better than following the process. In the case of improved coaching effectiveness, this could be stimulated from the visible efforts from the manager, that results in the coachee putting more effort into achieving the goals of the coaching.
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The theory doesn’t stipulate that the amount of exchange increases discretionary effort, which aligns with there being no correlation between the number of methods being employed and the overall rating of the effectiveness of the coaching. The existence of some kind of exchange facilitates effort from the other party and in the case of discretionary effort, not simply following the processes set out by the organisation or the coach as was found in the case of performance and engagement by Purcell and Hutchinson (2007). This distinction between activities could assist organisations (and coaches) in determining how to prioritise how to involve managers. Given that management time is limited, taking the time to educate and engage managers around the potential benefits of coaching and how their discretionary effort can impact the overall outcomes of coaching, might result in better outcomes.
Limitations of the Study Limitations of this study constrain the extent to which recommendations can be made. The study relied on self-reporting from coachees as opposed to controlling different aspects of the manager’s involvement in coaching and comparing outcomes of those who did and did not experience a method. In an attempt to identify whether the self-reported outcomes were reliable, the questionnaire was also shared with the coachees’ line managers and their HR managers. Unfortunately only a small number (8) of manager/HR manager to coachee pairs responded and for those that did respond, their answers did not strongly correlate with the answers of the coachee. This unreliability of self-reporting methodology is highlighted by Grant et al. (2010) and given as the reason researchers need to conduct more randomised control trials to further our understanding.
Another limitation pertaining to using a self-report questionnaire that is not supported by larger volumes of triangulated perspectives of other viewpoints is that coachees may hold existing beliefs in regards to the effectiveness of coaching and this could influence their responses. Researchers have found that there is not necessarily a very strong relationship between perception and reality, particularly when it comes to objectively assessing performance (Marteau, Johnston, Wynne & Evans, 1989, Dunning, 2005). Critcher and Dunning (2009) for example, found that prior beliefs influenced participant’s self-assessment of their own performance in a task. In relation to this study, if coachees had a belief already that their manager’s involvement was important and would have a material impact on their coaching they may have scored the impact of each managerial method that their manager did involve themselves in, higher than the actual reality of the impact. These findings also lend support to Grant’s position that randomised control design is the gold standard for determining what factors influence the impact of coaching (Grant, 2013).
This study did not ask participants to compare or rank the different types of managerial involvement and therefore, because their perception in general was that they had an effective experience in coaching, they may have rated all methods highly and not discriminated between the different methods employed. In repeating this research it would be beneficial to ask participants to distinguish between the different methods employed in their coaching engagement. Further limitations of this study are that the research focused solely on the role of managerial involvement, one could look at other factors that contribute to a conducive coaching environment. These could include alignment of business goals, peer support and other aspects of the business context or performance for example.
Conclusion There are two recommendations that could be drawn for coaching within the workplace as a result of these findings. Firstly, formal vs. choice of involvement: Creating check-lists or formal processes that involve the manager are likely to be not as effective as educating managers on the importance of their involvement in the process, outlining various ways that
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they can become involved and highlighting that they should choose those that are most meaningful or workable/feasible for them. Secondly, quality over quantity: given managerial time is a scarce resource, encouraging managers to get involved in a few select ways is possibly a better use of time than asking them to engage in numerous different ways and times over the duration of the coaching programme.
More studies are required to further understand what different ways managers get involved in coaching within a workplace setting and how these impact the longer-term behavioural and performance outcomes of coachees. It may be of interest to identify whether the whole range of coaching interventions across the duration of coaching from before, during and after the coaching are necessary and create an additive effect or if some methods are more effective than others, for example comparing ‘tell’ involvement with ‘facilitative engagement’. Given so many different types of managerial involvement were identified in this study as commonplace in organisations today this may help understand if all are required (demonstrating commitment across the coaching period) or if management time can be more efficiently allocated to drive maximum outcomes.
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Author Information Tamsin Webster has had a 20 year career FTSE 100 and Global organisations, she has been in roles in talent management, OD and HR, and has a keen interest in developing leaders
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Assessing Coaching Effectiveness
In an eight-week course, it is simply not possible to cover every aspect of coaching and address
every situation a coach may encounter. This course was designed to provide you with the
foundational knowledge to increase your capacity for coaching and fostering leadership
development in others. A very important part of coaching is assessing coaching effectiveness.
Where and how do you begin to evaluate whether or not the coaching relationship was successful
and achieved what was planned?
As a foundation, reflect upon what it is you are assessing beginning with what brought about the
coaching relationship? In every situation, there are certain undisputable truths for which
everyone can agree. These are commonly called first principles (Schmidt, Rosenberg & Eagle,
2019). In Trillion Dollar Coach, Bill Campbell is quoted as stating, “Define the „first principles‟
for the situation, the immutable truths that are the foundation for the company or product, and
help guide the decision from those principles” (Schmidt, Rosenberg, and Eagle, 2019, p. 60).
Analyze the dynamics of the coaching experience. How does coaching benefit the coachee? How
can a coach respect confidentiality and forge trust? In what ways should a coach judgment and
values of the person you are coaching? Did you understand their limitations? Were you sensitive
to their vulnerabilities? At the same time, did you cultivate insight and inspire commitment? Did
you grow the necessary skills? Did you take advantage of coachable moments, and teach the
learner to think for themselves? Remember the adage of encouraging others to learn how to think,
not what to think. Then reflect upon lessons learned. What was done well? Was there some
opportunity lost or omitted? How do you define success, and were you successful?
Schmidt, E., Rosenberg, J., Eagle, A. (2019). Trillion-dollar coach, New York, NY:
Create a Coaching Evaluation Tool
You have learned about the roles of coach, consultant, and trainer. You have gained insight into
different coaching models and theories, as well as the skills needed for effective coaching.
Further, you have studied the importance of values and ethical conduct and guidance. All of the
information you have gained can now be directed toward assessing coaching effectiveness.
You will rely on all you have learned to create a white paper (an authoritative report or guide) for
a Fortune 500 company, XYZ Corporation, Inc., by exploring frameworks and methods for
determining coaching effectiveness and designing a coaching evaluation rubric. Base your report
on the following scenario.
Scenario: You are the newly hired CEO at XYZ Corporation and a strong advocate of a coaching
culture. While the company utilizes coaching on some level, you are not seeing the positive
results you hoped for through increased employee engagement, productivity, job satisfaction, and
motivation. You decided to review the body of research to determine strategies for assessing
coaching effectiveness. Your white paper will guide team leads to institute coaching principles to
achieve organizational objectives. Be sure to address the following elements in your paper:
Introduction to coaching Discussion of at least two coaching models Identification and discussion of effective coaching skills and practices Importance of ethics Assessment strategies to evaluate coaching effectiveness Recommendations for best practices
As an appendix to the white paper, develop a 1-2 page grading rubric XYZ Corporation leaders
might use to assess coaching effectiveness.
Length: 7-9 page white paper and a 1-2 page coaching evaluation rubric. The document should
be a total of 8-11 pages not including the cover and references pages.
References: Include a minimum of 8 scholarly resources
The completed assignment should address all of the assignment requirements, exhibit evidence
of concept knowledge, and demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the content presented in the
course. The writing should integrate scholarly resources, reflect academic expectations and
current APA standards.