Research: Let's take a minute to reflect upon what that word means for us as coaches. Do we think of it as remote from practice, constrained by a set of rules and 'paradigms' that leave us cold, or is it a wonderful opportunity to explore, update and deepen our practice?
As a professional researcher and coach, I have supervised many coaching practitioners during their Masters degrees. Most have started their research with some trepidation and a sense that they were entering into another world, with a new vocabulary and a set of rules about which they knew little. It seems that we, as researchers, have done a good job of mystifying our trade!
Yet, as the coaching profession develops, we are becoming increasingly aware that we need to delineate coaching from other offers in the market; identify the real value we can bring to our clients; and be able to advise the buyers of coaching on which coaching interventions are fit for their purpose. To do this we need to have evidence of what works and how. In effect, we need a thorough grounding in both the theory and practice of what we do and the research which underpins it.
We should be happy therefore that the number of studies and research papers on coaching is steadily increasing. The first research article, which looked at 'coaching' as a discrete activity, was written in the 1930s and focused on coaching in a sales force. Publications then averaged one or two per decade until the 1980s when interest picked up. Since then, there has been a near exponential increase in publications. We now have specific journals for general interest coaching articles and research papers. There has also been a corresponding increase in Doctorate theses on coaching-related subjects. This does not, of course, include the vast range of books on coaching that draw heavily from the research. Although they are of great use to their readers, they generally do not report new research, but draw upon the established research literature. As a consequence, I have not included them in the figures. Within this wealth of text, the most popular type of article is descriptive reporting of a coaching intervention and single case studies, although there is a move to more empirical evaluations of case and group studies.
But are they of equal value and how do we know what is good research and what is not so good? How do we know what should influence our practice and our advice to clients?
One place to start when considering these issues is to identify the research question being asked and whether the evidence presented would convince you enough to change what you do, i.e., what is the purpose of the enquiry/research and the perspective from which it is being asked?
This is not a trivial question so it is worth working with an example. If I was to ask: Does coaching improve the performance of executives?
Then, assuming we are all agreed on what constitutes coaching (which may be a big assumption!), there are still two words in the question that have a variety of meanings depending upon your perspective—these are 'improve' and 'performance.'
From the perspective of an HR professional managing the coaching intervention 'improved performance' may mean:
a) An increase in the scores of the executives on 360 degree feedback
For the manager of the coachee, it may mean:
b) A 10 percent increase in sales
And from the viewpoint of the coach it may be:
c) The perceived satisfaction of the executives that they have addressed the issues identified in the coaching contract
Just from consideration of these three perspectives, I can identify three different ways of conducting this enquiry. For (a) I may consider 360 degree feedback before and after a coaching intervention; for (b) I may look at sales figure before and after; whereas for (c) a series of interviews with coaches after coaching would be one way of hearing their views. For the sales manager, the interviews with the coachees will be of limited value whereas the coach will find them highly informative.
Obviously these are simplifications, but they illustrate just how the particular perspective of the researcher and the end user will define the value of the answer and whether the research has fulfilled its purpose.
In a similar manner, a single case study can provide a rich picture of a particular intervention allowing a deep exploration of the context, attitudes and outcomes for the individuals concerned. But the purpose and perspective of the intervention may be highly specific to the case under investigation and have little to offer another organization in another context.
A reflection on the purpose and perspective of the research we access will often sort the wheat from the chaff and identify what has real value for us in our individual practice. It will nearly always also reveal a wealth of further questions. The old adage in this case is true—our answers only provide for further questions. It is at this point that many of us consider entering the field of enquiry ourselves and undertaking practitioner research. In my next column, I will talk about the real benefits both to practice and the profession of practitioner research.
If you would like to add your comments on this piece or would like to share your favorite research study (we do all have them) then please send them in, and I will be happy to add them to the 'Worth Reading List' below, which will be a consistent feature of this column.
To get a general overview of the research into coaching and how it has evolved over the years, reading the following article is an excellent start. It is a free download from the web address included here.
Grant, Anthony M., and Michael J. Cavanagh. 2004. "Toward a Profession of Coaching: Sixty-five Years of Progress and Challenges for the Future." International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring): 1.
This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (February 2008, Volume 4, Issue 1). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.
Imagine two extremes. On the one hand there is fun, creativity, adventure, ambition, scope and hope—on the other there is lawlessness, every person for him/herself, money stolen and some individuals aiming to impose standards. The Wild West? Well yes. The business coaching market and frontier? Well yes. Let's explore this coaching frontier a little more.
Unlike accountancy, law and medicine, coaching and certainly business coaching do not have a recognized professional body. Worldwide there is the WABC, the International Coach Federation (ICF), the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and doubtless many more. Within the United Kingdom I can vouch for at least seven different representative bodies all operating in the same coaching market—Association for Coaching, EMCC, ICF, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Association of Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision, British Psychological Society's Special Group in Coaching Psychology, British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy. There may be more for all I know, and I am sure the same is true in other countries.
In the UK we have tried recently to pull all these together under a common banner by issuing a Statement of Shared Values. Even so, there are fundamental disparities on approaches to supervision of coaches, to name but one area where the range is from "no supervision is demanded at all" to "supervision is a fundamental requirement." Supervision means here the supervision of quality and thus more than having merely a mentor for you in your business of coaching.
Standards and Accreditations
What is the calibration between the demands WABC makes for you to be a member, what the ICF requires or what any other body requires? How does an organization decide who the best coaches are in the market? Who does the accreditation and are there benchmark standards?
At present there is a situation where global companies from Dell to PepsiCo to Unilever to Zurich Insurance to Citigroup are all setting up their own processes to weed out or select coaches to suit their needs. Assessment Centers for coaches comprising presentations, psychologist interviews and "real live" coaching sessions are occupying the best part of a day. We need benchmarking and standards desperately to prevent this duplication of effort and to unravel the confusion in the minds of the buyers of coaching. The buyer's plea at present is "How can I be sure, and quickly, that I am buying a professional coach?"
Can We Push the Frontier and Turn It into a Border?
Some companies are forcing the issue more than others and leading the field in integrating coaching into their businesses. Diageo is a globally integrated organization famous for Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Guinness, Tanqueray and other well-known drink brands. It has gone public with a year-long scheme for 900 senior managers, which involves two residential events supported by many hours of one-to-one coaching, 360-degree colleague feedback and other interventions. This scheme is central to Diageo's leadership in its business and fundamental to it.
Business coaching is now a global requirement for many, and this push, which is wider (global) and deeper (with keenly articulated standards being developed), will draw the rest of business along in its wake.
Executives find themselves at what we in Praesta call a "faster-faster" world with unrelenting pressure, global travel and high performance expectations—where coaching is uniquely placed as a development intervention.
In our book, Business Coaching—Achieving Practical Results through Effective Engagement, Peter Shaw and I have outlined key developments in coaching good practice for the future:
- Increased focus on real-time coaching of individuals
- Coaching more integrated into business development programs and business school courses
- Greater use of structured internal mentoring relationships for a client alongside an external coach relationship
- Coaching becoming part of an individual's contractual employment relationship
- Professional underpinning through the insistence on coaches to undergo effective, quality supervision
- The oversight of the profession through a professional body covering standards, competence, quality, supervision and continuing professional development.
The Wild West frontier needs to and must become more professional and these developments would certainly help lead us there!
This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide ( 2008, Volume 4, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.
Robin Linnecar is a Master Coach working in Praesta International. A chartered accountant with experience in Arthur Andersen, Shell, KPMG and PWC, his co-authored book is Business Coaching published by Capstone (2007). For more about Robin and Praesta International, please go to www.praesta.com. Learn more about Robin in the WABC Member Directory.
Take the highest per-capita ratio of gurus and soothsayers; add a liberal dose of retired corporate honchos who love to give free advice; spice it up with availability of cutting-edge gizmos for professionals; stir it up with families that determine financial priorities and you are very brave to call yourself a coach in a society where "coaching" is normally prescribed for drop-outs!
As in ancient Greece, Rome and China, India had its share of historical "royal coaches" like Krishna and Chanakya, whose wisdom is enshrined in the Gita and Arthashastra. These ancient "case studies" are still analyzed by MBAs and corporate leaders at business schools and research institutes.1
The ancient system of higher education across all trades was a form of apprenticeship known as the "Guru-Sishya" model. The philosophy behind this concept was that "nuances and finesse" were learned by patience, listening, observation and practice. There has been a systematic exchange of ideas between East and West on psychology, sociology and related topics at least from the 19th century. My grandfather, who graduated from Oxford in the 1920s, left behind a library of Western literature on such topics.
I'm not sure whether there is widespread awareness in the West that India has made such rapid strides over the last two decades in adopting and propagating Western management practices. Developed over the course of its quest to cater to global clients, India now boasts some of the world's highest concentrations of International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Capability Maturity Model (CMM), People Capability Maturity Model (PCMM), Six Sigma, Certified Quality Auditor (CQA) and Project Management Professional (PMP) certified trainers and professionals. Global organizations such as Franklin Covey, the Goldratt Institute, and the de Bono Group have a significant presence, offering certifications and training at local prices.
Executive Coaching in India
Let's now move on to the current status of executive coaching across different groups in India.
For decades, multinationals have leveraged their global learning programs, delivering from regional hubs such as Australia and the UK to develop local leaders. Development programs for teams were led by line- and human-resource managers who had attended a train-the-trainer program. In the recent past, the trend was to send high-performing executives to open-enrollment executive education programs at business schools in the US or to custom programs at business schools in India. In-house programs by Covey, de Bono and Bullet Proof Manager were organized for mid-level executives. Interestingly, multinational corporations (MNCs) currently rely on their global coaching partners to roll out executive coaching in India, who in turn engage Indian coaches! I would therefore encourage international coaches to leverage their contacts in India to explore local cost-effective solutions.
On the other hand, founder CEOs of family-owned corporations have for decades leveraged their alumnus links with global management gurus of Indian origin, such as Ram Charan, C.K. Prahalad and Vijay Govindarajan, while leveraging annual visits to India by gurus such as Marshall Goldsmith. Having gained from such interactions, most of these founders have sent their children to Ivy League business schools in the US to earn MBAs. Such companies will probably largely leverage professors from both US and Indian business schools for cost-effective and just-in-time solutions. Executive coaching assignments for direct reports (or even the next level) to CEO are likely to be won by established local experts with a business track record. Given that there are very few local coaches who are credentialed, this presents a huge opportunity for global English-speaking coaches who are willing to travel to India for short durations for organization-wide rollouts. Needless to say, the compensation for mid-level coaches is likely to be on par with US rates!
Entrepreneurs, supported by private equity and/or venture capital, often realize the need for trusted advisors (to serve as sounding boards) and an executive coach (to help them handle day-to-day challenges in finance, marketing and human resources, and to regain control of their start-ups as they grow rapidly). Although this appears to be a clear case for local experts, there is a significant opportunity for global coaches as these start-ups expand into other geographies. For instance, web/tele-calls and face-to-face meetings in the US and Europe are likely to become the norm in the near future.
As for self-driven high-potential executives, they are likely to seek out specialized coaches to help them fill gaps, and may be most open to web/tele-coaching. Given the time difference between the US, UK, Australia and India, global coaches may be able to supplement their income from the comfort of their own homes. It is not uncommon to find such executives often missing company-sponsored group sessions deliberately.
Executive coaching seems set to boom in India over the next few years. The million dollar question: Are you getting ready for it?
Disclaimer: These are solely the personal views of the author and are not the findings of any scientific study.
This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide ( 2009, Volume 5, Issue 1). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.
1 See the Vedanta Cultural Foundation, page 3, Section Corporate Guru.
At WABC, we are serious about remaining a leading international authority on business coaching. Being a leader means blending excellence and innovation, a mixture we've aimed for in developing our suite of professional degrees and designations exclusively for business coaches.
That same mixture is at the heart of our latest development, the Doctorate in Professional Studies (Business Coaching). This first-ever international doctoral degree for business coaches is now the highest rung on the ladder of lifelong learning and achievement in our emerging profession.
We are honored to offer this fully accredited doctorate through our UK-based partner Middlesex University, an international leader in developing work-based programs. The doctoral program is open to WABC Full Members who hold either the Chartered Business Coach™ (ChBC™) designation or the Master of Arts in Professional Development (Business Coaching) degree.
What Is the DProf in Business Coaching?
The Doctorate in Professional Studies (Business Coaching) is the professional equivalent of a PhD. It involves the same assessment methods and criteria as a PhD, and graduates of both programs can call themselves "Dr.," but there are some key distinctions. Unlike the PhD, the DProf in Business Coaching focuses on practice-related research. It places business coaches and their practice at the center of the research project, enabling candidates to undertake research that's unique to them and their work environment.
The DProf in Business Coaching is for advanced business coaches who bring the highest level of professionalism and critical analysis to their practice. Here are just five benefits of earning this superior degree:
- It tells clients and the marketplace that you've attained the highest professional mastery in our field.
- Because this doctorate is practice-based, what you learn will elevate your client service and your career.
- You'll learn from the world's best minds in business coaching.
- The degree's multidisciplinary approach to research will broaden your horizons and expand your career options.
Your research will influence organizations as well as business coaching overall, making you a recognized thought leader in our field.
Earning the Doctorate in Professional Studies (Business Coaching) typically takes three to four years. In Stage 1 you critically reflect on your practice and design a work-based research project. In Stage 2 you conduct the project, complete a research report and go through an oral examination. If successful, you earn the degree as well as the title "Dr."
There are no residency requirements for the DProf in Business Coaching. You will be registered with Middlesex University as a work-based student and will enjoy the full privileges of student status.
Is It for You?
You can apply for the Doctorate in Professional Studies (Business Coaching) if you meet these requirements:
- You're an advanced practitioner of business coaching (external or internal coaching or a combination of both) who is actively publishing in the field, developing practice for other coaches or working with senior managers and business leaders. Your CV must describe and document your experience and advanced practice.
- You hold either WABC's ChBC™ designation or Master of Arts in Professional Development (Business Coaching) degree.
- You're a Full Member of WABC in good standing and have maintained all the membership standards.
Get more details. Read more about the Doctorate in Professional Studies (Business Coaching), or the ChBC and MA programs that are the first step towards it.
Get in touch. Contact us to discuss enrolling.