Featured Research

2018

Grant Recipient: Tatiana Bachkirova and Peter Jackson

Research in progress: Understanding coaching engagement content: an empirical taxonomy of themes

As the coaching process is confidential, little is known about the dynamics of how coaching themes evolve from the initial coaching objectives in actual coaching relationships. This study aims to explore the content of coaching engagements in organisational settings. By ‘content’ we mean what is demonstrably discussed in coaching: goals as agreed with the organisation from the initiation of coaching, the themes of the coaching conversations and how these themes evolve over the coaching engagement. By organisational coaching we mean the coaching practice that involves a third-party sponsor. This study is designed as large-scale mixed method research which aims to classify and quantify coaching themes on the basis of primary data about what organisational coaches report as having addressed in their coaching engagements. The key proposition of this study is that content themes shift during the coaching engagements in organisational coaching. A qualitative pilot study has already been completed by Bachkirova & Lawton-Smith in 2016 as part of an internal research project at Oxford Brookes University. It provides an initial confirmation of this proposition and will serve to inform the design of data collection methods and a framework of initial content categories. Knowledge about the content of real coaching engagements will allow the development of a grounded classification of coaching themes and therefore would contribute to the debates about what is an essential aspect of coaching (i.e. content). An opportunity for specialisations in education and CPD of coaches would be an important contribution to practice.

Read more about Tatiana Bachkirova and Peter Jackson

Grant Recipient: Ariel Finch Bernstein

Research in progress: How coaches develop strategies when preparing for client interactions.

The purpose of the research study is to identify and understand the strategies coaches use when preparing for client interactions; to explore how coaches prepare, as well as what decisions they make, in anticipation of client interactions; and examine how coaches provide strategies for sessions and assist clients in interpreting developmental multi-rater feedback results.

Read more about Ariel Finch Bernstein.

Grant Recipients: Charles Chima and Jason Salemi

Research in progress: Coaching and Education for Diabetes Distreess (CEDD) A Randomized Controlled Trial

Diabetes distress, a type of psychological distress specific to people with diabetes, is strongly associated with poor self-care and diabetes control. The American Diabetes Association recommends that providers routinely monitor people with diabetes for diabetes distress, especially when treatment targets are not met.

Despite increasing recognition of the need to manage diabetes distress, effective and pragmatic interventions for reducing it are not yet known. However, psychological interventions that have shown the most effectiveness in addressing diabetes distress are those that target both cognition and emotion. Health coaching, a type of emotion-cognition psychological intervention, helps individuals achieve sustainable behavioral change through a growth-promoting relationship that elicits autonomous motivation, and improves knowledge, self-efficacy, and self-regulation. Health coaching is relevant to diabetes care because it has the potential to reduce diabetes distress and improve self-management, both of which serve to positively impact patient-centered outcomes. Few studies have implemented a pragmatic research design capable of assessing the real-world effectiveness of a health coaching intervention in reducing diabetes distress by comparing it to patients who are receiving the current standard for diabetes care. To improve upon the methodological limitations of previous studies (e.g., homogeneous populations, insufficient statistical power, unrealistic comparison groups), and to fill the void in the available evidence, we propose a study to answer two fundamental questions: (1) does health coaching effectively reduce diabetes distress in a general population of primary care patients with diabetes, and (2) is health coaching more effective than an educational program targeting diabetes distress as part of usual diabetes care?

The study will be a 12-month, two-arm, randomized controlled trial at a general primary care (family medicine) clinic in Houston, Texas. Both arms will receive usual care for patients with poorly-controlled diabetes, including education about diabetes distress. In addition, the intervention arm will receive eight coaching sessions over a five-month period. Outcomes will include short-term changes in diabetes distress – measured using a previously-validated scale, HbA1c, and self-care practices. Also, satisfaction and willingness-to-pay for health coaching will be assessed to determine the extent to which health coaching, if effective, can be operationalized in similar healthcare settings. The findings of this study are expected to advance the field of coaching as well behavioral diabetes.

Read more about Charles Chima and Jason Salemi

Grant Recipient: Sandra Schiemann

Research in progress: Influencing Empathy: How Difficult Clients Can Make a Difference in the Coach’s Empathy

The coach's empathy is an essential factor for coaching success. However, empathy can be influenced by situational or motivational factors. One of these influential factors is affiliation: You are more motivated to show empathy towards people you affiliate with, indicating that you are less empathy-motivated towards a person you less affiliate with. Another influential factor is interference with the competition: Towards a competitor, you will likely avoid being empathetic. As coaches are expected to show the same empathy towards every client, we wanted to examine whether coaches show the same quantity of empathy towards clients they affiliate with, less affiliate with, are interfering with, or are having neutral feelings for. Thus, we planned four studies with participants of different educational backgrounds (Study 1: N1 = 88; Study 2: N1 = 110), with psychology students (Study 3: N3 = 105), and with trained coaches (Study 4: planned). In all studies, participants were asked to coach a client with a career goal. In the first and second study, the client was either befriended with the coach (affiliation group = AG), unremarkable (control group = CG), or very talented but also interested in the same goals than the coach has (interference group = IG); in the third study, instead of AG, the client was described as less affiliating in terms of bad behavior and being rude (low affiliation group = LG) instead of AG. The results of the first three studies show that IG leads to more competition and low affiliation feelings, LG leads to even lesser affiliation feelings than the other two groups, and AG leads to more affiliation feelings. Furthermore, the less the participants affiliated, the less imagine-other (empathetic thoughts) they showed, the less empathetic intention they had, and the less empathetic (and altruistic) behavior they displayed. Additionally, IG led to more anxiety feelings (high BIS) and less relaxing feelings (low BAS), signaling that the client is perceived as a threat. In sum, our previous findings indicate that low affiliation and high interference can negatively influence the empathy of the interaction partner. To investigate whether real-life coaches (and not only participants imagining to be a coach) are likewise affected by low affiliation and high interference in their empathy, we planned a fourth study, in which trained coaches will be asked to interact with a client (actress) in a coaching interaction. This client will be either depicted as neutral (CG) or as difficult (DG) in terms of both being less affiliating and more interfering. This study’s results could either underline our previous findings or could show that trained coaches can stay professionally in their empathy.

Read more about Sandra Schiemann.

2017

Grant Recipients: Jennifer Irwin

Research in progress: Coaching and/or Education for Parents with Obesity and their Preschoolers

Globally, 42 million young children (under age 5) and 2 billion adults are overweight or obese [1]. Overweight and obesity are risk factors for many chronic diseases in both adults and children, and result in lower quality and quantity of life [1]. Children whose parents are overweight or obese are more likely to become overweight themselves [2]. Parent-child interventions are important for reducing obesity and promoting long-term healthy weights among members of the family unit [2, 3]. Our research, using an RCT design, aims to identify the impact of coaching plus education (intervention) compared to education only (control) on overweight or obese parent-preschooler dyads. Our primary outcome measures are physical activity (PA), dietary intake, and parental motivation to engage in healthy behaviors. Secondary outcome measures are parent Body Mass Index (BMI) and psychosocial impacts. A total of 80 dyads will be recruited and randomly assigned using a 1:1 ratio into the control or intervention group. The control group will receive 6 webinar-based education sessions focused on PA and nutrition. The intervention group will receive the same education sessions and nine, 20-minute telephone-based sessions with a certified coach. Coaching and health education sessions will be conducted with the parent/guardian of the dyad.  Data will be collected at baseline, immediately post-intervention, and at 6-months post-intervention. In addition to demographic variables, data collection tools will include pedometers, dietary intake records, stadiometer/scale (BMI), and standardized and previously validated questionnaires to measure psychosocial indicators including motivation, social support, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. We hypothesize more favorable outcomes for the coaching plus education group. 

Read more about Jennifer Irwin.

Grant Recipients: Joanna Molyn, Erik de Haan and David Gray

Summary of Findings: The Contribution of Common Factors to Coaching Effectiveness: Lessons from Psychotherapy Outcome Research

Coaching needs robust quantitative outcome studies and meaningful coaching effectiveness measures (De Haan & Duckworth, 2012). Coaching effectiveness research needs to develop rigor and status similar to other helping professions (Passmore & Theeboom, 2015) to sustain coaching credibility (Gray, 2011). Currently, most coaching effectiveness studies present design limitations that impact upon conclusions, for example: self-reported measures; lack of random allocation; data being collected in a pre- and post-coaching design (or at three data points). The pre/post designs, which are currently a predominant approach to assessing change over time in the coaching research, can only be used to model linear change, and tend to show relatively small changes over time, as most of the before and after intervention studies.

The aim of our RCT study was to address the above issues in order to contribute to the development of a comprehensive coaching outcome effectiveness model. In our experiment participants were randomly allocated to coached (experimental) and not-coached (control) groups (over 100 participants in each group). A coached group received coaching over a period of 6 months from experienced coaches accredited by a UK-based Business School. We collected data over eight data points for all participants, enabling us to model the dose-curve type change expected over the course of, and following the coaching sessions. Responses were collected from both students and coaches, in order to overcome issues of purely self reported measures.

We examined the shape of change, and variation in the shape of change for coaching outcomes, specifically goal attainment, perceived stress, psychological wellbeing and resilience. Controlling for common factors - quality of coaching relationship, self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, hope and perceived social support — we tested a hypothesised model in which the positive effects of coaching upon change in goal attainment, perceived stress, psychological wellbeing were mediated by the increased resilience that coaching promotes. For the group who received coaching we also examined the effect of working alliance on our outcomes.

Our study confirms that coaching increases resilience, psychological well-being, goal attainment and decreases perceived stress. This increase was found to be linear whilst coaching was being undertaken, but was not extended beyond the coaching period — however there was also little loss in the benefits accrued from coaching after it ceased. The positive effects of coaching on changes in psychological well-being, goal attainment and perceived stress, were found to operate indirectly via changes in resilience.

We found perceived social support to be the only common factor that was positively related to changes in well-being. Despite the consensus in the literature about the working alliance to be the best predictor of outcomes, our results only partially support the initial level of working alliance as being a predictor of changes in outcomes.

Our findings may be of importance when demonstrating value of coaching to stakeholders. As coaching outcomes are mediated via resilience we suggest that coaches focus on developing resilience in their coaching sessions. We have also found changes in outcomes — due to coaching — to be still mostly in place three months after completing coaching. The shape of change for well-being, goal attainment and resilience suggests that there are still therapeutic benefits when the number of sessions is higher than six. Our working alliance findings indicate the focus on coachee’s goals to be of particular importance. Finally, we suggest that future coaching research pays more attention to the role of external factors in contributing to successful coaching outcomes.

Read more about Joanna Molyn, Erik de Haan and David Gray

Grant Recipients: Erek Ostrowski

Summary of Findings Coming in from the Cold: The Experience of Group Coaching as a Setting for Entrepreneurial Learning and Change

The turbulence and uncertainty inherent in entrepreneurship make learning from experience critically important to entrepreneurs. However, many entrepreneurs work in relative isolation and lack opportunities to engage with peers in ways that promote meaningful reflection and learning. Since learning in small firms hinges on social interaction, these pressures contribute to the need for entrepreneurs to seek out and find social contexts that can support their learning and development. Given the importance of learning to an entrepreneur’s success, coaching—and group coaching in particular—is a natural setting for research. Coaching is a multidisciplinary approach to facilitating learning and change that supports personal reflection and meaning making, as well as the achievement of specific personal and/or professional goals. Group coaching involves the application of coaching principles to a small group setting.

Findings: The study revealed three different types of phenomena that participants either directly associated with their meaningful group coaching experiences, or that they illustrated through their storied accounts.

Read more about Erek Ostrowski.

Grant Recipient: Richard Suminski

Research in progress: The Impact of Health Coaching on Bariatric Patient Outcomes

Obesity is a major public health problem in the U.S. where 38.5% of adults are obese and 6.6% are extremely obese [BMI > 40]. The latter group is of particular concern due to, for example, the existence of severe co-morbid conditions. Lifestyle interventions do not produce necessary improvements in this population leading to a reliance on solutions such as bariatric surgery. Despite bariatric surgery being safe and effective, it is utilized by only 1% of eligible adults. Many of the factors affecting utilization also have been shown to respond favorably to Health Coaching (HC) in non-bariatric patients. Therefore, we are proposing a timely, randomized control trial of the impact of HC on factors associated with patients successfully completing a bariatric surgery, pre-operative program and having bariatric surgery. This study will show that HC is a viable option for improving bariatric surgery utilization. The design will incorporate the use of a control group (n=20) that receives standard care and a HC group (n=20) that will participate in 6- 8 weeks of in-person HC and telephonic/online coaching thereafter until 2-3 days prior to surgery. The HC intervention and assessments will be guided by the Social Ecological Model (SEM). Specifically, we will examine individual (e.g., self-efficacy, biometrics), interpersonal (e.g., social support), and organizational (e.g., patient support by health care team) factors at baseline and following the HC intervention. Process evaluations will be performed throughout and other relevant patient data (e.g., patient attendance at other services) will be obtained from the bariatric surgery program. We will use these findings to support an NIH proposal to conduct a large-scale RCT further evaluating the effects of HC on bariatric surgery patients and extending inquiry to include post-operative outcomes and additional constructs of the SEM (e.g., policy-level factors). 

Read more about Richard Suminski.

2016

Grant Recipients: Karine Mangion

Research in progress: How is coaching perceived by leaders engaged in a global talent and leadership development programme?

This study focuses on the role of coaching in a talent and leadership development programme in a multinational financial services organisation. Global talent management (GTM) and leadership development (LD) are the main priorities and amongst the most challenging issues on the agenda of CEOs (Strack et al., 2014). Coaching is often regarded as a core element of these programmes (CIPD, 2014) and yet there have been few attempts to explore its impact. To address this neglect, this study examines coaching in a global corporate environment, analysing perceptions of leaders who receive coaching as part of the organisation’s talent management strategy.

This research is a single case study seeking an in-depth understanding of coaching in the context of GTM and LD. The research will be conducted in a multinational enterprise in the banking and financial services sector which delivers LD programmes as part of a GTM strategy. This PhD study focuses on the LD and talent management activities delivered by the company in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region which accounts for 55 countries. The EMEA head offices are based in London. The researcher has received full approval to conduct the research from the Head of Organizational Development EMEA and from the Oxford Brookes University Ethics Research Committee. The data collection has started in October 2015 and is under progress. 22 semi-structured interviews have already been audio-recorded. The primary data will entail about 30 interviews in total.

The findings generated from the study will aim to provide specific insights on, if and how coaching interventions can contribute to developing global leaders and support their career progression in the organization, to assist HR practitioners to integrate coaching in GTM and LD programmes.

Read more about Karine Mangion.

Grant Recipients: Leslie Sheu

Research in progress: Developing Coaching Communities Of Practice To Enhance Coaching in Academic Organizations: A Qualitative Study

The UCSF School of Medicine implemented a new coaching program for medical students in August 2016. Faculty physicians serve as coaches; their primary role is to help students with professional growth and improvement throughout medical school. To support physician coaches, the school implemented a faculty development program and regular meetings among coaches. The opportunities that coaches have to interact with one another may allow for the development of coaching communities of practice (CoPs). CoPs have been demonstrated to strengthen members’ professional identity and enrich their work within their organization. Our research questions are: 1) How do faculty define their role and coaching practice? 2) How do faculty coaches interact with one another, and does a CoP form? What value does a coaching community bring to the coaches’ development? and 3) What organizational elements help coaches fulfill their role and form a coaching CoP? Methods: We will use a 2-phase exploratory qualitative approach. Phase 1: we will interview a purposive sample of coaches and coaching program leadership at the end of the first year of the program with questions related to the three aims above. Phase 2: we will deepen our understanding by conducting observations and additional interviews of coaches and coaching program leadership in the second year of the program. We will use template analysis and constant comparative techniques to identify themes related to our three aims. Anticipated findings: We will identify themes characterizing how physician coaches define their coaching practice, key elements for the formation of coaching identity and coaching CoPs, and the value that such communities bring. Our findings can strengthen our coaching program, particularly around faculty development efforts to improve coaching competency and opportunities to build CoPs. Findings can also guide development of coaching CoPs within the broader coaching and medical education communities.

Read more about Leslie Sheu.

2015

Grant Recipients: Brenden Hursh

Research in progress: Coaching for Parents of Children with Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) diagnosed in childhood is a lifelong condition that requires constant self-management, family support and supervision, ongoing learning, and medical support. It is critical to promote positive health outcomes in this population. The best approach to deliver care to patients and families affected by T1D remains largely unknown, and difficulty changing health related behaviours is a key stumbling block. Coaching offers a novel approach for the support and care of children with diabetes and their families. Current international practice guidelines for pediatric diabetes care do not include a coach in the multidisciplinary team. This study will highlight the potential impact of including coaching in the multidisciplinary team approach to childhood diabetes care, and this ultimately will have significant implications for the model of childhood diabetes care.

Read more about Brenden Hursh.

Grant Recipients: Venkata Nanduri

Summary of Findings: How Behavioral Changes are Sustained over time after the Coaching Intervention Has Ended: “How do participants perceive the effects of coaching one year later?”

This qualitative study using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) explored the perceptions of seven participants on the effects of coaching a year after the coaching ended. The research questions were, (1) How do participants perceive the effects of coaching and sustain changes one year later, (2) what challenges were experienced, and (3) what factors enabled them in sustaining their changes.  The participants in this study were the seven middle managers whom the practitioner-researcher coached earlier a year ago. The data was collected through semi-structured interviews of the participants. Five themes identified related to the first research question are: (1) Goal setting, focus and achievement of goals, (2) Ability to think differently, (3) Changes in behaviour, (4) Increased self-awareness, and (5) Personal growth and development through increased self-confidence. The challenges participants faced (research question 2) were: lack of time and difficulties in making individual changes.  The factors that enabled sustained changes (research question 3) were: self-discipline and focus, and self-motivation to change and develop. This study is expected to fill the knowledge gap existing on this topic.

Read more about Venkata Nanduri.

Grant Recipients: Les Schwab, PhD

Summary of Findings: Coaching for Primary Care Physicians: A Positive Psychology Approach for Improving Well-being and Reducing Burnout and Intentions to Leave Medical Practice

Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) are increasingly recognized as vulnerable to burnout and wanting to leave medical practice. We conducted a randomized, controlled trial of a positive psychology-based coaching intervention to improve PCP well-being and intentions to remain in medical practice and decrease levels of stress and burnout. Fifty-nine PCPs were randomized into a primary coaching group (n = 29) or a control group (n = 30), which was waitlisted for six months. The intervention included six coaching sessions, delivered by one of five study coaches, over three months. For the primary coaching group, outcome measures were assessed pre-intervention, post-intervention, 3 months post-intervention and 6 months post-intervention. The waitlisted control group completed two additional measurement surveys: one at 6 months pre-intervention another at 3 months pre-intervention. Results indicated significant alleviation of burnout and improvement in work engagement, psychological capital, and job satisfaction for the primary group from baseline to post-coaching when compared to the comparable time points for the waitlisted control group. These positive changes were sustained during the six-month follow-up period. When examining pre-post changes for participants who completed coaching and follow-up assessments in both groups combined (n= 39), improvements were also observed in turnover intentions, job stress and job self-efficacy. These improvements were sustained at follow-up for job stress and job self-efficacy but not for turnover intentions. Interestingly, no improvements in compassion levels were observed during the pre-post assessment, but significant improvements were observed later during the follow-up period. Results indicate that coaching is a viable and effective intervention for PCPs in terms of alleviating burnout and improving well-being.

Read more about Les Schwab.

Grant Recipients: Steven Wendell, PhD and Janice Sabatine

Research in progress: The Impact of Developmental Coaching on Career Adaptability Capacity and Moderators of Sustained Career Development among Graduate Students

Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in higher education are facing ever increasing challenges regarding career planning. The current research funding climate is bleak and numerous national reports have revealed that the vast majority of current PhD trainees will not obtain tenure track research faculty positions. As a result, graduate students have both a high degree of uncertainty regarding career choice and low confidence in obtaining a job in their preferred career. The specific aims of the proposed research are to determine whether a coaching-based career planning course supplemented with individual developmental coaching grounded in the Intentional Change Theory (ICT) will 1) increase career adaptability capacity, 2) increase self-authoring adult development, and 3) reduce stress and increase self-efficacy. Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows enrolled in the career course at the University of Pittsburgh will be randomly assigned to a control group (career course only) or coaching group (career course supplemented with coaching). Students in the coaching group will receive 4 individual coaching sessions from ICF credentialed coaches who will follow a coaching protocol based on the Intentional Change Theory. Both groups will have outcomes measures assessed at baseline (pre-course) post-course (immediate), and post-course (6 months). Outcome variables include Career Adapt-abilities Scale (CAAS), Career Decision Making Survey (a measure of self-authorship), and stress and self-efficacy. We hypothesize that changes in these measures will provide evidence of the value and importance of incorporating an ICT approach in academic career development and planning. The experiences may also shed light on the challenges that may accompany these changes that may inform further refinement of the theory or nuances related to its use with specific populations, particularly those at different stages of adult development.

Read more about Steven Wendell, PhD and Janice Sabatine

2014

Grant Recipients: Gordon Spence, PhD

Coaching for employee engagement: Using self-determination theory to predict engagement, turnover intention, and well-being among employees

The research project built on recent developments in coaching outcome research by assessing the impact of need supportive coaching on employee engagement using a sample of middle and senior managers. The hypotheses tested in this study, informed by Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) and a controlled, quasi-experimental design, assessed the degree to which employee engagement can be influenced by theoretically-informed workplace coaching that is focused on the support of basic psychological needs. The coaching intervention involved 50 managers (2 cohorts) and consisted of 5 x 75 minute coaching sessions over a period of 10 weeks. The study contributed to coaching knowledge in two ways. First, it examined a widely claimed outcome of coaching (i.e. employee engagement) that has rarely been tested. Second, the study explored possible "common factors" (i.e. basic psychological need support/need satisfaction) that could prove to be highly influential active ingredients in coaching.

Read more about Gordon Spence.

2013

Grant Recipients: Julie Hicks Patrick, PhD

Age and Behavoiral Coaching Across Domains

We performed a behavior change study to examine 1) the effectiveness of coaching for supporting physical activity goals, 2)whether or not the effects of coaching in a target domain generalize to behavior changes in non- coached domains, and 3)whether there are age differences in the effectiveness and generalizability of coaching benefits. To accomplish these goals, 96 adults with physical activity goals completed a12-week coaching program. Participants met with their health coach four times, completed a daily diary and wore a multi-sensor accelerometer for three weeks, and completed follow-up surveys at Weeks 4, 8, and 12.

Read more about Julie Hicks Patrick.

Grant Recipients: Heidi Schwellnus, PhD

Summary of Findings: Solution-focused coaching in pediatric rehabilitation: Investigating transformative experiences for families

Coaching is gaining interest in health care. While the use of coaching within the field of pediatric rehabilitation is also gaining interest, there is very little research literature on the utility and impacts of coaching for pediatric rehabilitation. Service providers, clients, and families want effective approaches used in rehabilitation. This study investigated the outcomes and experiences of families receiving Solution-focused Coaching in pediatric rehabilitation (SFC-peds). The methodolgy utilized was a retrospective qualitative descriptive study. This design was chosen to discover whether there were transformative experiences of clients and families who received solution-focused coaching interventions. Each of 9 families participated in two interviews separated by 5 months. The families had received services within the past 6 months from either occupational therapists or physical therapists who had 3-10 years of experience using the SFC-peds approach. Each interview was transcribed verbatim and analyzed using thematic analysis and a phenomenological approach.

The SFC-peds services recieived by the families were viewed as collaborative and solution-focused in comparison to problem based and service provider driven. With the SFC-peds approach, the families were involved in setting the goals and action plans. Key themes that emerged were: i) goal oriented collaborative process; ii) client engagement in therapy; iii) enhanced capicity and community participation; iv) empowered mindsets. The solution-focused coaching approach was experienced as supportive by families and paced to suit the individual participant.

The findings from the study provide evidence supporting the use of SFC-peds in pediatric rehabilitation. Engagement and collaboration in goal setting and creation of action plans was clearly important to the participating families.

Read more about Heidi Schwellnus.

Grant Recipients: Dima Louis, DBA

Summary of Findings: Executive Coaching Beyond the Obvious: Toward a Theoretical Framework to Analyze the Nature and Management of Multiple Stakeholders and Agendas

While executive coaching has been mostly portrayed as a straightforward practice, relying on a relatively non-problematic set of relationships, our research highlights the multi-faceted nature of this intervention in organizations. To do so, we conducted 20 semi-structured interviews, using a critical incident technique to explore situations where coaches faced different or conflicting agendas and interests between the coachee and the organization, within a triangular coaching contract. We adopted a qualitative research method, and a grounded theory research design, using an abductive reasoning. This study highlights the multiple stakeholders involved in a three party coaching relationship, as well as the different roles they play and interactions that exist among them. It also offers a careful analysis of some of the agendas in executive coaching, and their different characteristics. Additionally, by studying the challenges faced by the coach, our research offers an in-depth look at the identity issues and contractual complexities related to power dynamics and office politics in coaching.

Read more about Dima Louis.

Grant Recipient: Chad Murphy, PhD

Graduate Student Fellowship Research — Summary of Findings: Identity And Legitimacy In The Emerging Profession Of Health Coaching

This two-essay research report develops theory around two key questions: 1) given the challenges associated with being part of an emerging profession, how can individual health coaches construct clear and confident occupational identities? And 2) how can individual health coaches legitimate both themselves and their profession? The first essay develops a conceptual model of identity work in the context of such an identity resource “void.” The model suggests relationships between three individual-level stages of identity development, identity challenges, identity work tactics, and a key identity-related outcome (i.e., identity clarity). The second essay develops a theoretical model that speaks to how individuals can gain internal and external legitimacy when they lack demonstrable evidence of their effectiveness and other markers of legitimacy. In each essay there is a discussion of implications for both research and practice.

Read more about Chad Murphy, PhD. 

2012

Grant Recipient: Angela Passarelli, PhD

Summary of Findings: The Heart of Helping: Psychological and Physiological Effects of Contrasting Coaching Interaction

This study tested distinctions in the physiological, cognitive, emotional and relational mechanisms at play during different types of coaching interactions. An experimental, within subject design was used to compare individuals' responses to coaching conversations characterized by (1) the Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA), in which the coach assisted the client in formulating a future vision, and (2) the Negative Emotional Attract (NEA), in which the coach assisted the client in addressing current problems and challenges. Forty-eight graduate students participated as coaching clients in the research, which entailed completing two coaching sessions with professional coaches and a series of surveys over the course of one month. Results revealed that compared to NEA-based coaching, individuals reported greater positive affect and a higher quality perception of the coaching relationship in the PEA-based sessions. Additionally, PEA- and NEA-based coaching fostered different motivational orientations to subsequent goal setting, with PEA goals being more promotion-focused and NEA goals more prevention-focused. Participants reported greater willingness to strive toward goals set following the PEA-based coaching session, a pattern that held over time. Despite these psychological differences, physiological differences were not detected between the two sessions. Taken together, the results support the proposition stemming from Intentional Change Theory that coaching relationships characterized by an overall positive emotional tone foster psychological states that optimally support behavior change.

Read more about Angela Passarelli, PhD. 

2011

Grant Recipient: Marta Shinn, PhD and Patricia Riba, M.D.

Summary of Findings: Coaching to Decrease Childhood Obesity

Family Mealtime Coaching is a live parent coaching intervention grounded in empirically-based positive psychology techniques. The coaching intervention emphasizes the decrease of maladaptive parental strategies centered on children's food consumption and on increasing beneficial child eating behaviors, family interactions, and mealtime communication. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the efficacy of parental coaching in reducing unhealthy feeding practices and pediatric obesity. Findings revealed that parents who received coaching displayed significant improvements in meal presentation and communication and a decline in maladaptive feeding. The children of coached parents experienced a slowing of their weight-gain trajectory - suggesting that coaching can serve as a catalyst for change in reducing pediatric obesity.

The research supported by the grant has been published in Clinical Practice in Pediatric Psychology.

Read more about Marta Shinn, PhD and Patricia Riba, MD. 

Grant Recipient: Alyssa McGonagle, PhD

Summary of Findings: Coaching to Preserve Work Ability and Prevent Burnout in Workers with Chronic Illness

We tested a 12-week, 6-session, phone-based coaching intervention designed to help individuals working with chronic illness manage challenges related to working with illness. We proposed that coaching would lead to improved work ability perceptions, exhaustion and disengagement burnout, job self-efficacy, core self-evaluations, resilience, mental resources, and job satisfaction, and that these beneficial effects would be stable 12 weeks after coaching ended. Analysis of variance procedures were used to examine group differences in outcomes over time, and paired samples t-tests were used to test for differences in outcomes between post-coaching and 12 weeks later. Fifty-nine full-time workers with chronic illnesses were randomly assigned to either a coaching group or a waitlisted control group. Participants completed online surveys at enrollment, at the start of coaching, after coaching ended, and 12 weeks post-coaching. Compared with the control group, the coaching group showed significantly improved work ability perceptions, exhaustion burnout, core self-evaluations, and resilience - yet no significant improvements were found for job self-efficacy, disengagement burnout, or job satisfaction. No significant differences were found between post-coaching outcomes and those 12 weeks later, which provided evidence for the stability of effects. Results suggest that coaching was helpful in improving the personal well-being of individuals navigating challenges associated with working and managing chronic illness.

Read more about Alyssa McGonagle. 

Grant Recipients: Gary A. Sforzo, PhD and Miranda Kaye, PhD

Summary of Findings: The Effects of Health and Wellness Coaching on Health Status When Added to an Employee Wellness Program

Lifestyle-related disorders are the number one cause of mortality and morbidity in modern society. Most people recognize that making healthy choices is a priority because culturally available means (e.g., television, websites, magazines, newspapers) as well as scientific publications, deliver the message daily. Yet, many are not willing or able to manage a meaningful behavior change to positively impact their health and wellness. The emergence of health and wellness coaching (HWC), as a discipline and profession, offers a new strategic prospect for promoting healthy behavior change. The primary purpose of this research was to conduct a randomized and controlled study of the potential for HWC to positively impact the effects of a comprehensive employer-sponsored wellness initiative. The study was conducted with over 300 participants followed for six months with HWC telephonically delivered using 30-35 min calls in three doses: 1) weekly sessions; 2) weekly sessions for three months followed by a session every other week; 3) weekly sessions for only three months. Participants (25%) were also assigned to a control and all four groups had outcome measures completed at baseline, 3 and 6 mo. Some key outcome variables included health-risk appraisal with fitness and nutrition subscales, blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight. A positive impact of HWC was evident for reducing blood pressure though no other variables demonstrated a statistically significant HWC effect. The excellent wellness program offered to the employees and/or the fact that it was largely a healthy cohort may have otherwise limited the impact of HWC. The favorable HWC effect on blood pressure is highly valuable given that, in their lifetime, most people develop hypertension which contributes to circulatory disease.

Read more about Gary A. Sforzo, PhD and Miranda Kaye, PhD. 

2010

Grant Recipient: Florence Anne "Kori" Diehl, PhD

Summary of Findings: Eutopiagraphies: Narratives of Preferred-Future Selves with Implications for Developmental Coaching 2010  

This research provides evidence that coaches, with training in adult development theory, can extend the value of a common practice - talking with clients about their preferred selves - to uncover clues regarding clients' constructive-developmental stages (Kegan 1892, 1994). Practitioners attracted to Kegan's theory may find the researcher's presentation of stage-related structure to be a succinct and ready reference regarding the key aspect of constructive development.

Read more about Florence Diehl, PhD. 

Grant Recipient: Suzy Green, PhD;  J.M. Norrish, D.A. Vella-Brodrick and A.M. Grant, PhD

Summary of Findings: Enhancing Well-being and Goal Striving in Senior High School Students: Comparing Evidence Based Coaching and Positive Psychology Interventions

This study compared a cognitive-behavioural, solution focused (CB-SF) coaching intervention and a positive psychology intervention (PPI) utilising a randomised control trial design. PPIs are described as volitional activities focused on enhancing well-being and promoting flourishing through helping people to change their feelings, behaviours, and/or cognitions drawn from the science of positive psychology, whereas CB-SF coaching is construed as the application of specified psychological knowledge within a goal-focused coaching process. To date, there has been no research that compares the impact of coaching and positive psychology programs in the same study. The purpose of this research was to compare the relative effectiveness of CB-SF coaching and PPIs with adolescents in a school context. Seventy-three (73) Senior High School (Year 11) students (male and female) were recruited from two selective high schools in Sydney, NSW, Australia. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions for ten weeks. The first group received CB-SF coaching, the second group received a PPI, while the third group was a “Well-being as Usual” control group. Compared with CB-SF coaching, participation in the PPI led to increases in mental well-being, although these findings were less pronounced at a nine-month follow-up time point. The CB-SF coaching was associated with increased academic goal striving compared to the PPI and Controls post intervention however gains were not maintained at the nine-month follow-up time point. Trends for the variables of depression, stress, and cognitive hardiness were in the expected directions, although effects were not statistically significant. Overall findings suggest that both types of proactive mental health interventions have great potential to contribute to the well-being and academic goal-striving of an adolescent population, although more research is warranted.

Read more about Suzy Green, PhD and D.A. Vella-Brodrick. 

Grant Recipient: Hyung Jung Kim

Graduate Student Fellowship Research — Summary of Findings: Executive Coaching: Study of the Evolution of the Program at a Top European Business School 2011

The integration of psychology and organizational studies is thought to be a great success among study participants, and, after a decade, the structured business school recently approved their executive master's degree in clinical organizational psychology, a new discipline incorporating clinical psychology and organizational studies, for the program. Tensions are found only in the past and outside of the program in: 1) a past failure with psychologists and a continuing success with business people; 2) personal careers of multidisciplinary faculty members; 3) practical and disciplinary conflicts with other parts of the school. The tensions are mostly overcome, and the tribal conflict was not found since faculty members and most coaches possess both identities. The successful management of tension is attributed to leadership and the organizational culture of the program.

Grant Recipient: Sinead Ruane, PhD

Graduate Student Fellowship Research — Summary of Findings: Coaching the Self: Identity Working and the Self Employed Professional

This project explores the micro-processes of identity construction within the emerging profession of coaching, whose members are predominately self-employed. While efforts have been made to survey the coaching industry in order to paint the “big picture” (see AMA, 2008; ICF 2008, 2012a, 2012b; Sherpa Coaching, 2008), the intent of this research is to examine the diverse experiences of the individuals who perform this work, using qualitative/ethnographic methods and analyzing data from fieldwork carried out between 2007-2011. This study speaks directly to practical issues expressed by the ICF (2008), particularly regarding the preparation of and resources available to new coaches, and the long-term sustainability of the profession. The findings suggest that the institutional support for individual coaches is uneven, depending on a number of factors—one being the chosen coaching specialization. As well, several of the profession's resources, tools, and practices for identity construction can actually be the source of new conflicts, contradictions, and challenges, which in turn produce anxiety and demand more intense identity working efforts from the individual coach. Consequently, some coaches are struggling more than others and would benefit from added assistance from the professional community to develop their coaching practices. This project's ultimate aim is for its findings to be instrumental in creating new and shaping existing policy and regulation, and to alert key players within the coaching community to possible opportunities, concerns, and areas for future investigation.

Read more about Sinead Ruane, PhD. 

Grant Recipient: Suzette Skinner, MS

Summary of Findings: Coaching Women in Leadership or Coaching Women Leaders?

This study considers the factors involved in executive coaching that helped senior women to thrive. In analysis that applied the principles of constructivist grounded theory, the study explored the unique experiences of individual senior women in their executive coaching engagements and supports recent discourse and evidence suggesting a need for a gender perspective in coaching senior women (Leimon, Moscovici and Goodier 2011, Peltier 2010, Vinnecombe and Singh 2003). Participant experiences of executive coaching highlighted the construction of a professional identity as a leader as a central theme. As a result, the study builds on the recent discourse and research linking professional identity construction to leader development (DeRue, Ashford, Cotton 2009, Ibarra, Snook and Ramo 2008, Gardner and Avolio 2005, Lord and Brown 2005). The findings suggest the opportunity to explicitly tailor aspects of executive coaching of senior women to the construction of their professional leadership identity. Based on these observations the study suggests a conceptual framework that positions professional identity construction as a developmental continuum and outlines the contributing factors and derailers for female managers in this process. This developmental framework applies a gender perspective to professional identity formation (Sealy and Singh 2010) and captures the core themes identified by participants. The suggested framework may serve as a potential guide for executive coach practitioners and organisations to assist them in addressing and optimising the development needs of their senior women.

Read more about Suzette Skinner, MS. 

2009

Grant Recipients: Tatiana Bachkirova, PhD; Jonathan Sibley, MBA, MSW;  Adrian Meyers

Summary of Findings: Development of an Instrument for Microanalysis of Coaching Sessions  

The aim of this study was to develop an instrument that could be used to describe the most generic and diverse elements of a coaching session including actual coaching sessions and ideal, prototype sessions. The second part of the report describes a separate study that was designed to test the instrument by asking a broad cross-section of coaches to use this instrument to describe one of their mid-engagement sessions.

Read more about Tatiana Bachkirova, PhD and Jonathan Sibley. 

Grant Recipient: Ana Sara Carneiro Aires Ferreira

Graduate Student Fellowship Research — Summary of Findings: Peer Tutoring and Coaching Program with College Students: Implications for a Positive and Healthy Integration in University

As all transition, initiate college is challenging and demanding (Seco, Casimiro, Dias & Custódio, 2005).Studies demonstrated that these changes and demands can cause considerable distress, which have a significant impact in adjustment to college as well as in physical and psychological health (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1992 cit in Baker, 2003). This indicates the importance of intervening in this context. Considering this, the program “Peer Tutoring and Coaching” (Freire, 2009) was developed aiming to assist in freshmen integration and the promotion of several interpersonal and academic competences. The project considers that first year students can be assisted by older students since the latter have more knowledge about the college's functioning.

Grant Recipient: Sean O'Connor,  PhD; Michael Cavanagh, PhD

Summary of Findings: The Coaching Ripple Effect: The Individual and Systemic Level Influence of Leadership Development

How the quality of the complex web of daily interactions effect the wellbeing of individuals and the broader wellbeing of an organisation is largely unknown. Often organisations embark on leadership development programs in an attempt to influence systemic level change of organisational culture or wellbeing. Most approaches assume a linear model that does not take the complexity of organisations seriously. Leadership development through Coaching has shown positive results for individual level measures of wellbeing and relationships exist between leadership style, employee stress and wellbeing (Skakon, Nielsen, Borg and Guzman, 2010). What is largely unknown is how change in leaders can impact these variables through influencing the experience of others in an organisation. Can this influence ripple through the broader complex dynamics of an organisation? Complex Adaptive Systems theory (CAS; Eidleson, 1997) provides a useful approach to thinking about organisational change and the wellbeing of individuals embedded in these systems (Cavanagh, 2006). The relatively new methodology of Social Network Analysis (SNA; Scott, 2000) provides researchers with processes that better account for relational components of systems, highlighted in CAS.

Read more about Sean O'Connor, PhD. 

Travel Awards

2017

Grant Recipient: Anne Marie Halton

Abstract: Intentional Change Theory Coaching and Leadership Effectiveness Travel grant

Leader development programs have had limited effectiveness in equipping leaders with the resources to achieve high performance in an increasingly complex world. Programs have largely focused on external factors such as tools, techniques and behavioral competencies. Executive coaching is emerging as a developmental approach well positioned to enhance inner resources of leaders. Intentional Change Theory (ICT) (Boyatzis, 2006) is proposed as a framework with underpinnings in complexity theory that is well matched to the demands of the current complex environment. Mixed methods were adopted to answer the research question 'How does coaching informed by Intentional Changed Theory enhance leader effectiveness?' Quantitative and qualitative data were obtained over a 2-month period from 19 senior leaders, comprising a survey to measure the impact of the coaching on the leaders, and in-depth interviews to explore their experiences of the coaching. The survey results were non significant. This may have been explained by the short program duration, or by the measurement items. The semi-structured interviews indicated that the coaching contributed to the development of inner resources such as self-efficacy, self-awareness, and psychological capital, all of which formed part of an emerging leader identity. Furthermore, the data indicated that increasing comfort with ambiguous situations, and with challenging emotions were important for leader effectiveness. This research corroborates existing studies indicating the positive impact of executive coaching, extending this to suggest that coaching informed by ICT can develop additional inner resources contributing to leader effectiveness.

Read more about Anne Marie Halton

Grant Recipient: Venkata Nanduri

Abstract: How Behavioral Changes are Sustained over time after the Coaching Intervention Has Ended: “How do participants perceive the effects of coaching one year later?”

This qualitative study using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) explored the perceptions of seven participants on the effects of coaching experienced and sustained by them a year after coaching ended. This practitioner-researcher conducted a coaching intervention earlier for those seven coachees who expressed their intention to sustain the changes resulting from coaching, recognising that it would be in their own interest. The research questions were: (1) How do participants perceive the effects of coaching and sustain changes one year later, (2)what challenges were experienced, and (3) what factors enabled them in sustaining theirchanges. The data was collected through semi-structured interviews, which were transcribed and analysed using the guidelines for IPA. Five themes were identified related to the firstresearch question: (1) goal setting, focus and achievement of goals, (2) ability to think differently, (3) changes in behaviour, (4) increased self-awareness, and (5) indirect effects such as personal growth and development with increased self-confidence. The challenges participants faced (research question 2) were: lack of time and difficulties in making individual changes. The factors that enabled sustained changes (research question 3) were: self-discipline and focus, and self-motivation to change and develop. This study is expected to fill the knowledge gap existing on this topic.

Read more about Venkata Nanduri

Grant Recipient: Nicky Terblanche

Abstract: A coaching framework to facilitate Transformative Learning during transition

Career transitions into a senior leadership position are complex and challenging. The incumbent has to deal with challenges such as showing immediate results; dealing with higher levels of complexity and uncertainty; exhibiting higher levels of emotional intelligence, working with longer time horizons and stepping out of the comfort-zone of a specialist to take on strategic challenges. By promoting someone who is not well supported before and during the transition, organisations potentially set the individual up for failure with negative consequences for both the individual and the organisation. Many strategies, tools, models and frameworks exist that may assist transitioning leaders to help overcome their challenges including coaching, however limited empirical research has been conducted into transition coaching and none (to my knowledge) on the potential for transformative learning during the transition process. To address this apparent need, I set out to develop a coaching framework specifically aimed to support transitioning leader. The research described in this paper presents the Transformative Transition Coaching (TTC) framework, a novel approach to transition coaching developed as part of PhD research at the University of Stellenbosch Business School in South Africa. This framework defines a specific coaching approach based on Jack Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory (Mezirow, 1994) that uses the transition event as an opportunity to facilitate deep, lasting changes in leaders’ meaning perspectives in order to potentially help them transition successfully. The framework was derived over a four year period that comprised both  Grounded Theory and Action Research phases. The research is in its final stages. Data collection and analysis have been finalised and I am currently in the process of writing up the final dissertation to be completed by June 2017

Read more about Nicky Terblanche

2016

Grant Recipient: Narindir Vangsrivadhanagul

Abstract: Effectiveness of Life Coaching Program on Goal Striving, Hope, Self Efficacy, and Life Satisfaction among Thai Persons of Working Age

This experimental study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of life coaching program as an intervention strategy in promoting the levels of goal striving, self-efficacy, hope, and life satisfaction among a group of Thai persons of working age. Participants were 40 employees with age between27 and 45 years, a mean age of 37 years. Instruments used were Goal Striving Scale (GSS), General Self-Efficacy Scale (GSE), Adult Trait Hope Scale (ATHS), and Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS).Findings revealed significant increments in all four key variables for both the experimental (life coaching group) and the control group. Tests of Within-Subjects Contrasts indicated that only the goal striving variable showed significantly greater increase for the life-coaching group than for the control group.

Read more about Narindir Vangsrivadhanagul

2010

Grant Recipient: Jane Brodie Gregory, PhD

Summary of Findings: Employee Coaching Relationships: Enhancing Construct Clarity and Measurement 2010

While managers' coaching of their subordinates continues to grow in organisations, little empirical research exists to inform the practice. The current paper seeks to further our understanding of this type of coaching - which we refer to as employee coaching - by exploring the coaching relationship formed between the supervisor and subordinate. Past research has noted that the process and effectiveness of coaching are contingent on this relationship. The purpose of the current paper is twofold: to better define the constructs of employee coaching and the employee coaching relationship and to develop a measure of the perceived quality of the employee coaching relationship

Read more about Brodie Gregory, PhD. 

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