At this year's Wales Coaching conference, Eric de Haan spoke about what we know about what makes an impact in coaching. He was presenting headlines from the quantitative research that finds patterns in data - usually after the coaching sessions. It’s the sort of research that sees the coaching work as a lab experiment, ideally comparing clients with control groups of non-clients.
Most of what we can say about coaching research is derived from the more extensive research on therapy.
‘Each school of therapy is equally effective, according to the best research,’ reported de Haan. That means you can choose your coach or coaching school by taste. It does matter that the coach adheres to an ideology or approach, without them having to be too dogmatic.
Coaching research shows high client-satisfaction, with the first studies showing what looks like 500% return on investment within 6 months – for example, making more money thanks to executive coaching. More objective measures in field studies also show large effects - though these have no control groups
and don’t discount The Hawthorne Effect, which shows that simply measuring things will lead to perceptions of improvement.
There are also a few randomised control trials, although the ‘gold standard of ‘double blind’ is impossible, because the client knows they are being coached. These trials, in which some get coaching and some must wait, do show small effects over a period of 4 years. Coaching wins, but not by much.
Of course, if you’re a better coach than the one next door, you’ll get better results with your clients. Better clients help too - the more conscientious, emotionally stable, engaged in the coaching relationship and open your client is, the better they’ll do with coaching. It’s also possible to help less stable leaders with coaching, but statistically so far it shows less effect.
Meanwhile, ‘Matching is an exercise in power, but makes little difference to the coaching outcomes. Better to let client see full spectrum and start working with someone,’ That’s what the best research is telling us.
And finally, you need big numbers to show any statistically significant differences. Thus ‘there is no evidence yet for team coaching.'
Good reminders, I felt, that research is not telling us a great deal. And that this may not be so important. Much of the value is in the experience of the participants, expressed in qualitative stories and a clear sense of progress made with a coach they can trust.
Paul also presented a Masterclass session at the conference on ’10 things worth knowing about solution-focused coaching’. More on these soon…