5) What is the academic research about executive coaching?

    Bridges was pleased to support the thesis research on strategy coaching by a member of the firm, Magdalena Duskova. The research is described at "Strategy Tools and Techniques, An Executive´s Guide" the last title at Papers. Of the myriad coaching organizations, (drawing on coaches in 162 countries) those that actively support research include: BSO, DBVC, DGSv, DAS, EMCC, ÖVS, SCA, and ICF.  The last is a major player, with a membership of 16,500 in 90 countries.

    There is a Swiss site in German with a reseach orientation, www.coaching-meets-research.ch. (The site also has a version in English, which is not, however, a complete replication of the German language information.) It includes a list of coaching resources and journals related to research.

    The section below was made possible by the generous contribution of Suzi Pomerantz, who is exceptionally knowledgeable about the coaching industry. She graciously shared some of the material she has gathered over the years. 

     Beyond her ample corporate work as an executive coach, she also has special expertise for legal firms. She has written an excellent book about how to market a professional services firm, Seal the Deal. It is available at amazon.com and also at her "innovative leader" website. The book´s  leitmotiv is a "living case - learning by doing" with a group of executive coaches. Her websites include: www.suzipomerantz.com and www.innovativeleader.com.

    The annotated bibliography, number (1) below, and twelve sample research articles make for a baker´s dozen of citations. After the bibliography, the remaining articles are in rough chronological order. Comment indicates remarks from Bridges. The Abstracts are direct quotes, in whole or in part, from what appears at the head of each article, with some minor editing, including adding paragraphing. They are in support or in lieu of the review comments.


(1) Grant, Anthony M., PhD (2009) Workplace, Executive and Life Coaching: Scholarly Coaching Publications from 1937 to 1st May 2009 (N = 518)An Annotated Bibliography from the Behavioural Science and Business Literature (May 2009), Coaching Psychology Unit, University of Sydney, NSW 2006 Australia. anthonyg@psych.usyd.edu.au and www.psych.usyd.edu.au/coach

    PsycINFO, Business Source Premier and Dissertation Abstracts International (Excluding books, educational coaching and therapeutic work with clinical populations)

    Comment:  Annotated bibliographies are all too rare. This one is an outstanding resource for scientific articles on psychology-based coaching. Unfortunately it excludes books. Regardless, to cite other articles written by the hard working and prolific Anthony Grant seems only fair. Therefore another four where he was an author follow in the citations below.


    Coaching is used to enhance both professional performance and personal development. The demand for it is growing. The abstract continues: "This annotated bibliography draws only on scholarly papers from the behavioural science literature as presented in PsycINFO, Business Source Premier and Dissertation Abstracts International (DAI). It covers the peer-reviewed behavioural science literature on executive, workplace and life coaching."

    . . ."The first published peer-reviewed paper on coaching was published in 1937. Between 1937 and 1st May 2009 there were a total of 518 published papers. In the 62 years between 1937 and 1999 there were only a total of 93 articles, PhDs and empirical studies published."

    Then the literature exploded. . . ."Between 2000 and May 2009 there were a total of 425 articles, PhDs and empirical studies published. There have been 156 outcome studies published since 1980; 104 case studies, 36 within-subject studies and 16 between-subject studies. Of the 16 between-subject studies, only 12 were randomized studies."



(2) Joy McGovern, Ph.D., Michael Lindemann, Ph.D., Monica Vergara, M.A., Stacey Murphy, Linda Barker, M.A., & Rodney Warrenfeltz, Ph.D. "Maximizing the Impact of Executive Coaching: Behavioral Change, Organizational Outcomes, and Return on Investment" The Manchester Review, Volume 6 • Number 1, 2001  

    Comment: The article presents an interesting return on investment formula for coaching. To simplify the given example:

    1) One measures an event directly associated with the coaching. Examples could be greater retention of high potentials or a specific better business outcome.

    2) One then estimates the benefit to the corporation, say 250,000 €.

    3) One attributes a percentage of this outcome to the effect of coaching, say 20% = 50,000 €.

    4) One attaches a confidence limit to one´s estimate, say 90% = 45,000 €. This last number is used as an adjusted ROI in the formula below:

    5) ROI (%) = Adjusted ROI - Program Costs X 100 / Program Costs


    6) Example: Let us say the program costs were 20,000 €.


The calculation would then be: ROI (%) = 45,000 - 20,000 X 100 / 20,000

Simplifying:                                         =  250 / 2

for a Return on Investment of 125%, which would comfortably meet most investment hurdle rates.*


* Granted the hurdle rates for venture capital are higher. When one is making investments which are, by definition, high risk, one is looking for extraordinary returns. When two or three to six or seven out of twenty fail outright, and a dozen limp along, one needs the one-in-twenty big winner to be HUGE to make it all worthwhile. Therefore venure capitalists are not looking to double their money (an ROI of 100%), but rather for a tenfold, better, thirtyfold return on the investment.



(3) Authored by Triad, 2040 Rabrook SE, Suite 207, Grand Rapids, MI 49546, tel. (616) 956-6850 "Impact Evaluation on the Coaching.com Intervention For [Client Company] October 2001" (The actual client name is not used in this report to ensure confidentiality.)


Executive Summary - Introduction

    Coaching.com provided coaching sessions for sixty-seven staff members. All the executives from most senior down to the level of District Sales Managers were coached. The coaching began the first quarter of 2001 and was essentially complete by May of that year.  The study is unusual in that it sets out to determine the coaching results. What was achieved, measured against specific business goals?  "The purpose of this impact evaluation was to determine if those results were produced, why and by whom, and, if not, why not. The report captures these data."


(4) Dr. Merrill C. Anderson, "Case Study on the Return on Investment of Executive Coaching, ASTD online Newsletter, 2002. 

    Comment: Dr. Merrill C. Anderson is CEO of Metrix Global LLC, a professional services firm that provides clients with performance measurement solutions, and clinical professor in education at Drake University. He has held senior executive positions with four Fortune 500 firms, and his third book, "Bottom-Line Organization Development" is due in October 2002.

    The study focuses on two key questions:

    1) How did coaching add value to the business in general and, specifically, what was the return on investment?

    2) How could coaching be best leveraged in the future, especially if coaching was to be expanded to other business segments?


(5) "The ICF Global Coaching Study," 2006.

    Comment: The survey was launched on September 22, 2006, with close to 30,000 coaches invited to participate. When the survey closed on December 5, 2006, 5,415 respondents from 73 countries had participated, thus providing the ICF with a global perspective on the coaching profession. Importantly, more than 1,500 non-ICF members had taken part.


    The survey was conducted to:

     - determine the gender, age, level of education, training of coaches, i.e. to profile them

     - look at how coaches were specializing. 

     - estimate revenues according to the type of coaching and where (country, region) it was done.

     - estimate global coaching revenues.

     - determine what the business drivers were for hiring coaches in general, and for specific kinds of coaches.

     - find out the key reasons for hiring coaches.

     - spot coming industry trends

     - assess challenges facing the industry. 


(6) Gordon B. Spence, Anthony M. Grant, "Professional and peer life coaching and the enhancement of goal striving and well-being: An exploratory study" The Journal of Positive Psychology, July 2007; 2(3): 185–194


    The paper presents a randomized controlled study that compares peer with professional life coaching over a 10-week period with 63 participants. In contrast to previous studies this one also addressed (a) professional coaches (rather than just peer) and (b) how life coaching changes behavior.

    The study showed that professional coaches achieved better results than peer coaches in the areas of goals and dealing with one´s environment. The study indicates that a support person is a "necessary but insufficient condition" for reaching goals. The study emphasizes the importance of expertise in coaching, makes recommendations for further research and also for the use of life coaching in "applied positive psychology." 


(7) Peyton Daniel, Ann Doster “Trends in Executive Coaching, New Research Reveals Emerging Best Practices" Dec. 12, 2007 Presentation by the Human Capital Institute  www.humancapitalinstitute.org  or www.hci.org. One can access the presentation by going to the website and becoming an HCI member, which is free. 


    From humble beginnings when executive coaching was aimed at failing executives, coaching has grown in acceptance. It no longer has a pejorative connotation. It is now seen as a way to make good performers even better. The abstract continues:

    "In a December 12, 2007 webcast with the Human Capital Institute, DBM Managing Directors Peyton Daniel and Anne Doster presented best practices and trends in executive coaching based on their recent study.  (They then)  participated in a discussion with a panel of practitioners and HR executives regarding the survey results. The DBM survey results were comprised of 472 company representatives from a wide cross-section of industries (in varying roles, with an emphasis on HR and Training)."


(8) Anthony M. Grant, Michael J. Cavanagh, "Evidence-based coaching: Flourishing or languishing?" Australian Psychologist, December 2007; 42(4): 239 – 254


    "Coaching and coaching psychology offer a potential platform for an applied positive psychology and for facilitating individual, organizational and social change. Experts from around the world were invited to comment on the emerging discipline of coaching psychology and the commercial coaching industry. . ."

    The need for an evidence-based approach to coaching was emphasized. "A review of the psychological coaching outcome literature found there have been a total of 69 outcome studies between 1980 and July 2007. These included 23 case studies, 34 within-subject studies and 12 between-subject studies."

    "However only eight randomized controlled studies had been conducted. This indicates that coaching psychology is still in the early stages of development . . .  To flourish, coaching psychology needs to remain clearly differentiated from the frequently sensationalistic and pseudoscientific facets of the personal development industry. . ."


(9) Anthony M. Grant, "Personal life coaching for coaches-in-training enhances goal attainment, insight and learning," Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, Vol. 1, No. 1, March, 2008. 


    "Twenty-nine coaches-in-training set personal goals and completed a 10 to 12week, five-session, solution-focused cognitive-behavioural personal coaching program. Three sessions were face-to-face, two by telephone." This kind of evidence-based approach is vital for the coaching industry to mature further. The study reflected previous research on required personal therapy as part of the training to become a therapist.

    Each coaching session was followed up with a feedback exercise. The people who took part showed "reduced anxiety, increased goal attainment, enhanced cognitive hardiness and higher levels of personal insight." (Then follows the startlingly contradictory statement that) "There was no change in participants’ levels of psychological well-being." Also, the students who took part received better grades at the end of the semester than the one (?) who did not.


(10) ICF (International Coach Federation) Global Client Coaching Survey, April 2009

    Comment: The research entailed two qualitative phases and one quantitative. The key component of the quantitative research was a 20 minute online survey of coaching clients. A total of 2,165 coaching clients from 64 countries participated in the survey from September to November 2008.


    The key questions were:

    What is the demographic profile of coaching clients?

    What is the coaching experience?

    What are the reasons for hiring coaches?

    What are the decision criteria for choosing a specific coach?

    How do clients perceive the industry and the service it provides?

    How do clients evaluate their experience?

    What are the clients benefits from coaching?

    What is the return on investment (ROI) from coaching?


(11)  Anthony M. Grant, Linley Curtayne and Geraldine Burton, "Executive coaching enhances goal attainment, resilience and workplace well-being: a randomized controlled study" The Journal of Positive Psychology Vol. 4, No. 5, September 2009, 396–407 Coaching Psychology Unit, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia 


    "In a randomised controlled study, 41 executives in a public health agency received 360-degree feedback, a half-day leadership workshop, and four individual coaching sessions over 10 weeks. The coaching used a cognitive-behavioural solution-focused approach. Quantitative and qualitative measures were taken. This is the first published randomised controlled study in which coaching was conducted by professional executive coaches external to the organisation. Compared to controls, coaching enhanced goal attainment, increased resilience and workplace well-being and reduced depression and stress."

    Qualitative research indicated that coaching helped self-confidence, leadership, and dealing with the organization. Short-term coaching could be effective. ". . . evidence- based executive coaching can be valuable as an applied positive psychology in helping people deal with the uncertainly and challenges inherent in organisational change."  The studies implications for the practice of coaching and how best to measure coaching outcomes were considered. 


(12) Helen Slingsby, "Coaches Weather Recession", Coaching at Work, Volume 4, Issue 6, 4 Nov. 2009

    Comment: Coaching is proving highly resilient to the current recession, with more than a third of coaches saying their business has grown during the downturn.


(13) Sherpa Coaching, Executive Coaching Survey, 2010  http://www.sherpacoaching.com/survey.html 


    Comment: The annual survey provides research on "soft" coaching with an emphasis on coaching certificates (a business  Sherpa is in).


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