In my leadership role as a people manager, I often find myself wearing many different hats throughout the day. One of the hats is the coaching hat, where I navigate uncovering strengths and skills to bring out the best in people and build effective teams. Other times, I assign the coaching hat to someone else and pair up coaches and coachees for development. In doing so, I often wonder if there is a pairing formula or factors that contribute towards coaching effectiveness and heightening the chances of success.
The Good Coach
Coaching is seen today as a human resources management approach and tool with the ability to improve an organization’s overall capability. It is a “continuous process that requires skill, depth of understanding of human nature and plenty of practice to deliver its potential.” (Warah, 1999). Coaching is not about trying to enforce a program or “fixing” someone; nor is it a form of therapy or consulting. Rather, it is about building the capacity of others by facilitating learning. (Aguilar, 2013).
A good coach facilitates rather than dictate and empowers growth in the coachee by encouraging an increase in self-awareness and self-directed behavior. A good coach possesses mastery in the balance between pushing and supporting, as well as between receiving and integrating (Warah, 1999).
7 Key Components of Coaching
Warah (1999) presented seven key components of coaching:
- Mutuality and partnership – The coaching relationship should be built based on a mutual feeling and commitment for action.
- Recognizing opportunities for coaching – Seeing breakdowns and problems as opportunities for guiding and learning rather than blaming and punishing.
- Contracting – Elicit the employees’ agreement to be coached in order to form a partnership venture with mutual responsibilities
- Goal setting – Establish goals and outcomes collaboratively with set timelines.
- Feedback mechanism – Give timely and honest feedback with the purpose of growth and improvement.
- Progress monitoring – Recognize positive movements towards goals and discuss regression outcomes.
- Managing breakdowns – Readiness to deal with possible breakdowns in the form of resistance or ego struggles.
Factors Affecting Coaching Effectiveness
Having looked at what coaching entails and evaluating the characteristics of a good coach, next let’s look at factors that impact coaching effectiveness.
Since the early 90s, researchers have been studying and conducting research on coaching effectiveness (Peterson 1993, as cited in de Haan et al., 2020). Some of the possible factors contributing towards coaching effectiveness were identified and studied by different researchers. However, the studies revealed different and inconclusive results. The possible factors studied include:
- coach-coachee working alliance – a good coaching relationship (de Haan et al., 2016)
- coachee self-efficacy – goal-setting, having hope and belief in own competence to cope with challenges (de Haan et al., 2016)
- personality – openness and resilience (Scoular & Linley, 2006; Stewart et al., 2008; de Haan et al., 2016)
- personality match between coach and coachee (Scoular & Linley, 2006; Stewart et al., 2008; de Haan et al., 2016)
Scoular & Linley (2006) conducted a study to examine how best to match coaches with clients and provided evidence to support matching clients and coaches with differing MBTI preferences. The study found that there was no significant difference between goal-setting and non-goal-setting conditions. It also found that coaching was more effective when the coach and coachee’s MBTI preferences were different. The authors suggested that the more complex interactions between different personality types through the coach challenging the coachee more may contribute towards higher effectiveness.
A study by de Haan et al. (2016) surveyed 1,895 client-coach pairs involving 366 different coaches from 34 countries, and 92 sponsors to determine perceived coaching effectiveness from the perspectives of coach, coachee, and sponsor. Results from this study revealed that perceived coaching effectiveness had a positive correlation with the first 2 factors, i.e. the coach-coachee working alliance and coachee self-efficacy. Meanwhile, the last 2 factors of personality and personality matching (using MBTI preference) between coach and coachee were found to be unrelated to perceived coaching effectiveness. The study further found that setting tasks and goals played an even bigger role in predicting coaching success than the bonds aspect of the coaching relationship.
A later article by de Haan et al., 2020 which critically reviewed two recent, large-scale, randomized controlled trials in executive coaching, however, contradicted the previous research. The more recent studies revealed that the relationship between client-coach working alliance is not as strongly correlated to coaching effectiveness as previously thought.
In terms of coachee-related factors, the coachee’s personality aspects like “conscientiousness, openness to experience, and emotional stability” have a positive impact on coaching effectiveness (Judge & Ilies, 2002, as cited in Stewart, Palmer, Wilkin, & Kerrin, 2008). Other coachee-related factors contributing to coaching success include “resilience, self-efficacy, perceived social support, and mental well-being, and also for the working alliance between coach and coachee” (de Haan, Gray, & Bonneywell, 2019).
From the many differing research findings on factors contributing to coaching effectiveness, it appears that more work is needed in this area of research. It also appears that the research thus far have mainly focused on the coach and coachee but less on the content of the actual coaching sessions. There might be more factors contributing to coaching success that calls for different ways of thinking and further longitudinal studies that capture the whole coaching journey in a more integrated way (de Haan et al., 2020).
- Aguilar, E. (2013) The art of coaching : Effective strategies for school transformation. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
- de Haan, E., Grant, A. M., Burger, Y., & Eriksson, P.-O. (2016). A large-scale study of executive and workplace coaching: The relative contributions of relationship, personality match, and self-efficacy. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 68(3), 189–207. https://doi.org/10.1037/cpb0000058
- de Haan, E., Gray, D. E., & Bonneywell, S. (2019). Executive coaching outcome research in a field setting: A near-randomized controlled trial study in a global healthcare corporation. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 18, 581–605. http://dx.doi.org/10.5465/amle.2018.0158
- de Haan, E., Molyn, J., & Nilsson, V. O. (2020). New findings on the effectiveness of the coaching relationship: Time to think differently about active ingredients? Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 72(3), 155–167. https://doi.org/10.1037/cpb0000175
- Scoular, A., & Linley, P.A. (2006). Coaching, goal-setting and personality type: What matters? The Coaching Psychologist, 2, 9-11.
- Stewart, L. J., Palmer, S., Wilkin, H., & Kerrin, M. (2008). The Influence Of Character: Does Personality Impact Coaching Success? International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 6(1), 32–42.
- Warah, A. (1999). The manager as coach. Optimum, The Journal of Public Sector Management, 29(2/3), 56–59. Retrieved September 26, 2021, from http://www.optimumonline.ca/pdf/29-2/manager.pdf.