Friday, 22 May 2009

Choosing a business coach – the influence of gender on the coach-coachee matching process

Coaching has enjoyed substantial commercial growth, but empirical support for its effectiveness is thin. Nowhere is this more so than in the matching process between coach and coachee. A study that we have just completed describes the results from a coaching programme in which coachees were asked to reflect on and justify their choice of coach. Initial, qualitative results, suggested that female coachees favoured the choice of female coaches, partly as a role model of business success. Male coachees tended to justify the selection of a female coach as more approachable for the discussion of sensitive, personal issues. A minority of male respondents also displayed sexist attitudes in their comments on the selection process. Subsequent quantitative analysis of the data, however, revealed no bias towards the choice of either female or male coaches. While the results show no statistical significance in gender choices, for a minority of coachees, gender is a compelling factor in the selection process. For people such as HR professional who commission coaching, it would seem appropriate, then, that coachees are offered a gender mix of coaches from which to choose.

Please contact me at the following address if you would like a full copy of the article:

Monday, 11 May 2009

The 'Manager as Coach' - a credible solution?

According to a recent CIPD report (1), of the UK businesses that use coaching, 70 per cent of them have it delivered by line managers. That's a large percentage isn't it? But does this really offer organisations a 'coaching solution'? In my experience, most of the organisations that train their managers in coaching, do so through a short course - typically two-days or even shorter. Does this make the manager into a coach? I suggest not. At best, it gives the manager an introduction to some coaching skills and can probably improve his or her ways of interacting with their direct reports. For example, engaging in shared problem-solving rather than giving direct instructions and 'orders'. It might also encourage the manager to subsequently undertake some deeper coach training and even accredited coaching qualifications with an awarding body.

What is clear to me is that coaching is a highly skilled, multi-faceted service which requires a very broad range of competencies and experience. These include business experience (in a variety of organisations) and knowledge of how organisations function (organisational behaviour), as well as at least a working knowledge of human psychology. Then there are a host of other compentencies such as empathy, listening skills, honesty, integrity etc etc. Finally, most good coaches understand, and are able to apply, one or more coaching methodology - indeed, good coaches are usually able to work with a flexible range of methodologies, depending on the needs of the coachee. Can all of this be learnt on a two-day training programme? I think not.

So, to conclude. We should welcome the fact that organisations are waking up to the power of coaching and that some of them are putting managers through 'The manager as coach' programmes. But we should be clear about the strengths and limitations of such programmes. It is not surprising that many organisations find that they have to use a blend of both internal and external coaches.

(1) Coaching at the sharp end: developing and supporting the line manager as coach, available at:

Friday, 8 May 2009


Welcome to my blog, the purpose of which is to present my own research into the theory and practice of coaching and to encourage discussion and debate on the impact of this growing profession.

Coaching services (executive coaching, leadership coaching, life coaching, to name but three) have been growing exponentially over the last 10 years. Many (especially large) public and private organisations have been spending considerable amounts of money hiring external coaches or training their own internal coaches. The question is: does coaching work?

This blog hopes to encourage debate on this important issue.

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