Executive coaching has received considerable attention in the academic world in recent years. But, in comparison to opinion articles, empirical studies have been rare, with few conducted in organizational settings. New research (Grant, 2013) evaluates the effects of a coaching program in an international engineering consulting company that had recently gone through multiple disruptive organizational changes.
EXECUTIVE COACHING IN TIMES OF ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE
Grant suggests that organizational changes call for leaders who can engage in strategic thinking and solution-focused thinking while also having good personal insight and high self-efficacy. Executive coaching has been shown to facilitate strategic thinking and increase personal insight by providing a supportive space for reflection. Self-efficacy can be enhanced through the process of setting goals and working to achieve them. So, in general, executive coaching is considered to be effective in enhancing leaders’ capacity to cope with changes and their attainment of organizational goals.
COACHING PROGRAM DESIGN
The coaching program examined in the study involved 14 experienced executive coaches with backgrounds in business psychology. The participants were 38 executives and senior and middle level managers in 14 different locations in the world (seven of which did not complete the program). The coaching program consisted of a pre-coaching assessment, followed by four one-on-one coaching sessions over four months. The participants set their own individual goals for the program and for each session. Common goals include enhancing impact, communication and professional development opportunities. The coaching sessions used “a cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused framework.” During each session, the coaching team reviewed progress, discussed current situations, explored potential action steps, and determined which steps should be taken next.
THE BENEFITS OF EXECUTIVE COACHING PROGRAMS
After participating in the coaching program, the participants largely reported significant progress towards achieving their goals, better engagement in solution-focused thinking, increased capacity to cope with change, enhanced leadership self-efficacy and resilience, and less depression. In general, the participants perceived that the coaching program helped them most in areas of self-awareness, leadership skills, and work-family balance.
TAKEAWAYS ON EXECUTIVE COACHING
The study found that the involvement of qualified executive coaches is essential to program success. A solid background in psychology and years of experience in the relevant field can all be good indicators of qualification. It also determined that the use of individual assessment tools helps increase self-awareness, and clearly defined goals ensure that the coaching is focused. Giving participants the freedom to set individual goals also increases their personal investment in the program. Lastly, the action planning and progress review components enhanced the accountability.
In conclusion, research shows executive coaching is a worthy investment, particularly in times of organizational change. A well-designed coaching program can bring about multifaceted benefits to both leaders and the organization as a whole.
Grant, A. M. (2013). The Efficacy of Executive Coaching in Times of Organisational Change. Journal of Change Management, 14(2), 258-280.