Is executive coaching still fit for purpose?
Having recently experienced coaching first hand, I can safely say that a great session is not necessarily a comfortable place to be. Squirming slightly under the pressure of challenging questions, re-evaluating current situations and thinking seriously about the future, are all the hallmarks for me that the session has been well spent. But as a performance psychology researcher, this got me thinking; what if we put the topic of executive coaching itself under the same scrutiny?
The sands are shifting under the coaching industry and it’s time we challenged commonly held beliefs people around executive coaching, asking questions such as:
- What’s the current reality of coaching?
- What are the big issues the industry is facing?
- How might we solve these issues?
- What might the future look like for coaching?
To help tackle these big questions, my colleagues and I in the Lane4 research team are undertaking a study into the future of coaching. This research aims to provide practitioners with a clearer glimpse of what’s on the horizon for coaching and how coaching needs to change in the future if it’s to provide the benefits we believe it can.
A quick dive into recent reports highlights these as some of the big issues in need of attention:
Evaluation: Does the effectiveness of coaching need to be evaluated? If so, how?
In the past decade the executive coaching industry has increased dramatically, with now around three-quarters of organisations using coaching.1 But while the industry has taken off evaluation practices are still very much parked on the run way. But what’s the impact of this stagnation? How should organisations measure the impact of coaching on their business?
Delivery: Who is delivering coaching to your organisation? Who is being coached? Is it better to use external or internal coaches?
Research suggests that there has been a shift in recent years towards using external coaches rather than internal line managers to deliver coaching. Use of external coaches increased from 14% to 20% between 2009 and 2011, while the use of line managers dropped 5% in the same time.2 Studies also reveal big differences between organisations in terms of the level of seniority employees have to be in order to coach others. What is the effect of these shifts and discrepancies in reality?
Training: Is accreditation critical? Who is coaching the coaches?
According to research two-fifths of organisations insist on their coaches being accredited by a nationally recognised body.2 But are the coaching institutions themselves driving the importance of accreditation or is it something organisations perceive to make a difference?
Purpose: Could coaching be overserving the individual and underserving the organisation?
Coaching may well boost an employee’s personal well-being and focus but does it pay off performance-wise for the organisation? This is an issue which ties closely into the first problem of evaluation. So far, 30% of organisations are using stories and testimony to evaluate the benefits derived from coaching but do these methods sufficiently explore whether coaching in organisations is striking the right reward balance. Is coaching an equal win-win for the individual and organisation, or are the scales tipped in favour of coached employees? Does it matter?
1. De Meuse, K. P., Dai, G., & Lee, R. J. (2009). Evaluating the effectiveness of executive coaching: beyond ROI? Coaching: An international journal of theory, research and practice, 2, 117-134.
2. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2011). Survey Report: The Coaching Climate. London: UK