Tag Archives: coaching

Line manager role identity as facilitators of learning


UFHRD Conference : 4 June 2014, opening key note

The conference welcome is from Dave McGuire of Edinburgh Napier University including a short welcome video prepared by one of his students with a good number of talking heads.

The opening key note address is by Prof Jonathon Passmore [JP] with the title: “Coaching Research: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.

The session looks at coaching research especially on coaching in organisations and a critical review of the literature but is these on the good, the bad and the ugly and

1. why research coaching
2. what makes for good quality coaching research
3. key themes in coaching research and
4. suggested direction of research for the coming decade.

Why research is a question he asks in organisations with the response of there’s no need as “we know it works”. But coaching involves risks and there is a need to demonstrate effectiveness and ROI with positive outcomes for individuals and organisations. But this is difficult in terms of agreeing participation, problems of measurement of intangible benefits which can be difficult to publish.

The quality of research depends on the research question that is clearly defined and bounded; that the research method is appropriate, clearly described for purposes of replication and correctly executed; that results are compared with and positioned within earlier research and that conclusions are appropriate and not over-claiming as well as identifying new questions.

Critical questions to ask f the results from research is to query whether a placebo effect is occurring or that other factors contaminated the research, i.e., other training going on or selection of high performers leading to positive outcomes. Also, can the research be replicated. But few studies meet these criteria.
Can look at phases of coaching studies: phase 1 involving case studies and surveys; phase 2 involves theory development through qualitative research which is valuable in immature research areas like coaching – putting up a straw man to be challenged; phase 3 has seen initial randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and a small-scale (25 – 40 people) but provides important evidence on individual and psychological impacts; phase 4 sees larger RCTs (Passmore & Rehman 2012) and phase 5 sees an increased use of meta-analysis and includes the increase ease of access to data sources as well as the impacts of the ‘computational turn’.

These studies have identified a number of popular themes of coach behaviour attracting lots of papers as did the coach-client relationship. But only limited research on client decision-making on coaching and an increase in research on the impact of coaching.

Coach behaviour research, e.g., Hall et al (1999) involving interviews of coaches and clients identified some tentative behaviours but has been validated by future studies especially around the discursive and collaborative approaches and the power relations and dynamics to work collaboratively. Probing and challenge is an emerging area as a distinction from the empathy focus of counselling. JP cites client work and that senior leaders relish challenge. Aspects of confidentiality are critical to effective coaching including risky behaviour as well as commercial confidentiality and maintaining professional distance is also important in the evidence of effective coaching.

Literature on the coach and coach relationship focus on the develop of an alliance between coach and coach but little evidence of what factors make a successful relationship although these can be inferred from other studies, e.g., empathy

Outcome studies (McGivern et al 2001) as a ROI study based on Jack Philips method of ROI leading to an estimate based approach and then decided to cut the number in half – although this was not really justified. JP assessed this as twaddle and rubbish and we need different methods for HRD (the bad research).

Identified 156 outcome studies between 1998 & 2010. Of these, most are small-scale with 30 or so participants and some RCTs. Miller used quasi-experimental study and found no statistical significance on a beneficial impact of coaching but this may be that the coaching intervention was limited and didn’t lead to behavioural change or that managers tended to revert to a more directive styles. Also. a lot of RCT studies involve students not in organisations but these did show psychological benefits of coaching around resilience and mental health. Passmore & Rehman (2012) RCT of military drivers found that a coaching approach reduced time for training and success rates increased.

Some outcome studies have involved longitudinal research evidencing a longer-term effect of coaching that may indicate that coaching is more effective, deeper learning and greater behavioural change than training interventions.

But coaching still only has a small number of studies and these have a small sample sizes compared to studies in health settings. e.g., conducting RCTs in organisations is difficult. Also, the isolation of variables and factors of interest can be difficult (Hawthorne effect), outcome study methods are often not fully described and that research is often undertaken by champions of coaching with inevitable biases.

Meta-analysis research, e.g., De Meuse, Dai and Lee (2009) but this was only based on four papers only so interesting in terms of being a meta-analysis but based on very little data (the ugly). Teeboon, et al (2013) and Jones (in press) more robust papers. Teeboon found positive benefits  around factors such as coping, goal directed and self-regulation, performance, attitudes and well-being at about the same level as other L&D interventions. So coaching is one of a number of effective interventions available for L&D practice. Jones study is of 24 RCT studies and looked at effect size on style of coaching and found a larger effect size of internal coaches compared to external coaches. Jones found that coaching had a medium to strong positive impact but the findings should be treated with caution given the small number of papers used.

The future of coaching research may be dominated by either (a) a business school use of case studies; (b) an organisational psychology approach model that disconnects scholarship from practice; (c) a medical based approach with an emphasis on evidence based practice that informs experts including scholar-practitioners.

Research needs to aim for larger RCTs involving random allocations involving two or more interventions, a control group and placebo group. Research needs to identify factors for effective coaching. Need larger scale meta-analysis to identify impact effect sizes.

This will improve understanding of efficacy and appropriateness of coaching or other interventions  and then which approaches to coaching are appropriate for different needs and which coaching behaviours are most effective. Also, identifying when is a client ready for coaching in terms of the individual and the organisation (i.e., as managerial support and a supportive culture). Lastly coach behaviour research underpins PG programmes and by professional body competence.

learning, learning learning …

…seems to be flavour of the month. I’m in the process of closing off two fairly large projects (neither of which I was the main project manager for) with lots of lessons to be learned – I’m not sure those lessons are going to be transfered with identified lessons being dismissed by senior managers with “well that should never have happened in the first place” and “its obvious we’ll never do that again”.

I’ve also been asked to prepare and deliver a couple of practical workshops on budgeting and return on investment measures as part of a CIPD accredited postgrad course. I’ve run a couple of sessions on this course before, it always interesting as the mix of students (nationalities, work experience, academic experience) can be a challenge and it seems to end up with about three people dominating – at least one because they know what they’re talking about and another one who doesn’t get it and dominates the Q&A – and the rest are nodding and writing but only after the session will ask (usually very good) questions. Its a challenge I never feel I’ve got right (so far. he says hopefully). However, I’ve now been asked to design and develop the content for a blended learning verison of the course with a direct remit to improve the transfer of learning – following my post here that should involve reflective exercises.

I’m also facing a similar challenge with coaching a team through a project start-up process and in particular engaging a couple of members who just want to say the ‘right’ thing and then dump any decision no matter how trivial on to the project manager. As a result, project momentum gets dragged down, people get frustrated and the potential of the project (especially as a learning mechanism) dies out. I’m under pressure now to isolate these two into their technical areas and almost construct a core project team with these two technical areas ‘outsourced’ with the two ‘difficult’ individuals treated as external advisers. Not the best solution form my point of view as they’re more important to the project in my view than is realised. However, the team needs to deliver and at some point that has to override other considerations – my issue is judging where that point is.