First, as I have already noted, the mean score for personal coaches is significantly higher than it is for organizational coaches regarding mastery (at the present time) of coaching techniques and strategies. There is a second significance difference regarding current practices that heads in the opposite direction. Organizational coaches are more likely than personal coaches to indicate that they are effective at stimulating client insights. This difference is significant at the .05 level. At a more marginal (.10) level, organizational coaches are more likely than personal coaches to indicate that they have attained precision, subtlety and finesse in their work with clients.
How do we make sense of these seemingly contradictory (or at least confusing) results? We might speculate that any differences that exist when our respondents are beginning their work as coaches relate at least in part to the amount of experience when enter coaching. Those doing personal coaching might be newer to the field or have less prior experience in related human service fields. Many organizational coaches, for instance, have already done organizational consulting work or have conducted leadership development workshops. Once the two groups reflect on their current experiences (rather than their overall experiences), the differences disappear.
The personal coaches might have “caught up” with the organizational coaches in terms of the amount of experience they have had and their own personal judgement about their competency. Perhaps, personal coaches face fewer challenges in mastering coaching techniques and strategies than organizational coaches—there certainly are many more settings in which organizational coaching can take place than is the case with personal coaching. Organizational coaches might also require (and therefore have mastered) greater precision, subtlety and finesse in their work because they face more diverse settings in which their coaching takes place.
I recognize that these speculations might be missing the mark. We might find that many personal coaches also come to their coaching work with significant experience in an affiliated area (such as counselling or psychotherapy). The challenges faced by personal coaches and their clients might be just as complex as the challenges faced by coaches and clients in an organizational setting. And are some of the differences (as I have often noted) just a matter of candor or self-insight? It is important that we explore these issues and concerns in our future analyses and that dialogue about these issues and concerns be engaged in other venues.
In coming phases of this ongoing research project, we will be looking at potential differences between personal and organizational coaches regarding amount and type of previous experience. We will also be examining potential differences in gender, age, education and training when comparisons are drawn between personal and organizational coaches. Each of these analyses will help us gain greater clarity regarding the source and nature of differences between those who work primarily in the domain of personal coaching and those who work primarily as coaches in organizational settings.