Home Research Literature Review Survey of Current Themes in Coaching Research with a Methological Critique

Survey of Current Themes in Coaching Research with a Methological Critique

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In a 1996 Newsweek article, Thomas Leonard, one of the fathers of coaching, estimated there were 1000 coaches nationwide. [4] By the end of 1999, authors Hall, Otazo, and Hollenbeck cited the number of executive coaches to have grown to tens of thousands. [5] In 2002, the Wall Street Journal estimated the number to exceed 25,000 worldwide. [6] According to a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 88 per cent of employers in the United Kingdom use internal coaching. [7] According to a Harvard Business School study in 2004, IBM had more than 60 certified coaches on their staff. [8] With this explosion of coaches, it seems not only timely, but imperative, to explore the need for more research on coaching with the purpose of contributing to setting appropriate industry standards on qualifications and process guidelines.

Survey of Current Themes in Coaching Research

Several themes were identified in the coaching research surveyed. One theme was whether internal or external coaching is preferable. Some research looked at what works well and what does not in coaching engagements. There was a small amount of research on peer coaching. Other research looked at diversity in coaching. Another important theme that arose was how effective was coaching, as perceived by the client. Lastly, the topic of return on investment sparked a lot of interest.

Internal Versus External Coaching

A research study sponsored by Boston University’s Executive Development Roundtable [9] provided data that indicated executive coaching, both internal and external, was a highly cost effective way to deliver executive career development geared toward the specific strategic objectives of an organization. This study consisted of interviews with over 75 executives in Fortune 100 companies, as well as interviews with 15 leading executive coaches. The study looked at the advantages and disadvantages of internal versus external coaches in the organizational setting.

The findings showed that external coaches were preferable when extreme confidentiality and anonymity were required, where a coach with experience in a wide range of businesses was needed, or when someone was needed to say what no one else would. Internal coaches were preferable when knowing the company culture and politics was critical, when availability was desired, and when personal trust and comfort were important. The study found the value of coaching to be greatest for the most difficult issues – those involving the executive’s relationship with the boss and in implementing downsizing. The study found one of the major reasons for the rise in popularity of the coaching practice was that it allows busy executives to address the types of issues that often go unattended. During coaching, these issues take center stage and become important work.

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