Exec Coaching A Comprehensive Review Of The Literature


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Executive Coaching
A Comprehensive Review of the Literature

Sheila Kampa-Kokesch RHR International
Mary Z. Anderson Western Michigan University

This article critically examines the literature on executive

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Exec Coaching A Comprehensive Review Of The Literature

  1. 1. Executive Coaching A Comprehensive Review of the Literature Sheila Kampa-Kokesch RHR International Mary Z. Anderson Western Michigan University Executive coaching as a consultation interven- Hutcheson, 1996; Kiser, 1999; Koonce, tion has received increased attention in the lit- 1994; Larry, 1997a, 1997b; Ludeman, 1995; erature within the past decade. Executive coach- Lukaszewski, 1988; O’Brien, 1997; Olesen, ing has been proposed as an intervention aimed 1996; Thach & Heinselman, 1999; Wither- toward helping executives improve their perfor- spoon & White, 1996b, 1997); and manage- mance and consequently the performance of the ment (e.g., Banning, 1997; Bertagnoli, 2000; overall organization (R. R. Kilburg, 1996c). Whether or not it does what it proposes, however, Brotherton, 1998, Darling, 1994; Dutton, remains largely unknown because of the lack of 1997; Grover, 2000; Hardingham, 1998; empirical studies. Some also question whether ex- Huggler, 1997; Hyatt, 1997; Judge & Cowell, ecutive coaching is just another fad in the long 1997; Machan, 1998; Masciarelli, 1999; list of fads that have occurred in consultation and McCafferty, 1996; Morris, 2000; Nakache, business. To explore these issues and the place of 1997; Olivero, Bane, & Kopelman, 1997; executive coaching in consulting practice, this Peterson & Hicks, 1999; Smith, 1993; article critically examines the literature on execu- Snyder, 1995; Tristram, 1996). Additional tive coaching. articles on executives or managers as coaches can also be found (e.g., Allenbaugh, 1983; Executive coaching as a distinct interven- tion has received increased attention in the lit- Sheila Kampa-Kokesch is a consultant with erature within the past few years (Garman, RHR International in their New York City office. Whiston, & Zlatoper, 2000). Consulting Psy- She recently completed her education in counsel- chology Journal: Practice and Research ing psychology with an emphasis in consultation and industrial organizational psychology at West- (Kilburg, 1996a) devoted an entire issue to the ern Michigan University and a dissertation on topic of executive coaching. All but one ar- executive coaching and leadership. She is a mem- ticle in this special issue were practice-based ber of the American Psychological Association articles (Diedrich, 1996; Katz & Miller, 1996; (APA), Divisions 13, 14, and 17. Kiel, Rimmer, Williams, & Doyle, 1996; Mary Z. Anderson is an assistant professor in Levinson, 1996; Peterson, 1996; Saporito, the Department of Counselor Education and 1996; Tobias, 1996; Witherspoon & White, Counseling Psychology at Western Michigan 1996a), with the last article being a concep- University. She is a member of the APA, Division tual piece providing a framework and defini- 17, and the Society for Vocational Psychology, tion of executive coaching (Kilburg, 1996c). and she regularly conducts vocational psychol- Additional writings on executive coach- ogy research. We would like to extend a special thank you to ing cluster in three bodies of literature: the Randy White for his edits on an earlier version of psychological (e.g., Brotman, Liberi, & this article and to Otto Laske for his edits on an Wasylyshyn, 1998; Diedrich, 1996; Foster & earlier summary of his thesis. Lendl, 1996; Garman et al., 2000; Harris, Correspondence concerning this article should 1999; Laske, 1999a; Richard, 1999; Sperry, be addressed to Sheila Kampa-Kokesch, RHR In- 1993; Waclawski & Church, 1999), training ternational, 780 Third Avenue, Suite 1902, New and development (e.g., Filipczak, 1998; York, New York 10017-7057. Copyright 2001 by the Educational Publishing Foundation and the Society of Consulting Psychology, 1061-4087/01/$5.00 205 DOI 10.1037//1061-4087.53.4.205 Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol. 53, No. 4, 205–228
  2. 2. Aurelio & Kennedy, 1991; Bell, 1987; 1998; Koonce, 1994; Waclawski & Church, Deblieux, 1998; Good, 1993; Graham, 1999). With this increased demand, however, Wedman, & Garver-Kester, 1993; Orth, has come increased concern regarding the Wilkinson, & Benfari, 1987; Shore & Bloom, definition and standardization of executive 1986; Waldroop & Butler, 1996). coaching as well as who is most qualified to Three book chapters (Hayes, 1997; deliver such services (Brotman et al., 1998; Strickland, 1997; Sperry, 1996) and four Filipczak, 1998; Harris, 1999; Kilburg books have also been devoted to the topic of 1996b, 1996c, 1997; Saporito, 1996; Tobias, executive coaching (Douglas & Morley, 1996). Some remark about the current sus- 2000; Kilburg, 2000; O’Neill, 2000; Wither- picion as to whether executive coaching is a spoon & White, 1997). Other books that ad- viable intervention (see Filipczak, 1998) or dress coaching executives or managers (e.g., simply a passing fad (see Kilburg, 1996c; Deeprose, 1995; Ericsson, 1996; Gilley & Tobias, 1996). There is also some concern Boughton, 1996; Hargrove, 1995; Martin, and debate as to whether executive coaching 1996; Maxwell, 1995; Miller & Brown, practices resemble too closely the practices 1993; Minor, 1995; Robinson, 1996; Shula of psychotherapy (Filipczak, 1998; Tobias, & Blanchard, 1995; Voss, 1997; Whitmore, 1996). 1994) from a general business coaching para- As a way of addressing the above-men- digm rather than a consultative one (Kilburg, tioned concerns and organizing what has 2000) can also be found. been written about executive coaching, this Although there has been increased atten- article provides a comprehensive and criti- tion in the literature, there is surprisingly little cal review of the existing executive coach- empirical research on the efficacy of execu- ing literature. Although Kilburg (1996c, tive coaching. Only seven empirical studies 2000) has provided two reviews of the lit- have been reported: one investigating the erature relevant to executive coaching, his outcomes of executive coaching in a public reviews provide a brief review and summary sector agency (Olivero et al., 1997); the sec- of the development of business coaching as ond surveying current executive coaching it leads up to executive coaching. Douglas practices (Judge & Cowell, 1997); the third and Morley (2000) provided an annotated investigating the effectiveness of executive bibliography of the executive coaching lit- coaching through quantitative and qualita- erature and a brief interpretation of the key tive methods (Gegner, 1997); the fourth inter- issues coming from the literature. Although viewing both executives and coaches regard- a comprehensive resource, the present review ing executive coaching practice, effectiveness, serves as a critique, has a different focus, and and future directions (Hall, Otazo, & Hol- adds additional elements to the literature. lenbeck, 1999); the fifth investigating the ef- The main purpose of this article is to criti- fects of eye movement desensitization repro- cally examine the existing literature in psy- cessing (EMDR) as a technique used in chology, training and development, and man- executive coaching; the sixth exploring the agement in order to determine the viability transformative effects of executive coaching of executive coaching as a distinct interven- on an executive’s professional agenda (Laske, tion. References were gathered using three 1999b); and the seventh examining public databases: PsycLit, ERIC, and Wilson Busi- perceptions of executive coaching (Garman ness Abstracts. We also consulted the refer- et al., 2000). ences of reviewed articles and books. Refer- The recent increase of attention in the lit- ences were excluded if they addressed more erature on executive coaching may be ex- general business coaching versus executive plained in part by the increased demand for coaching specifically (the focus of this work). executive coaching in the field (Filipczak, This article is organized into four parts. The 206 Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research Fall 2001
  3. 3. first provides a brief summary about the by psychologists to replenish their income known history of executive coaching. The after the damaging effects of managed care second summarizes the main themes dis- by bringing “therapy” into the workplace (see cussed in the practice-based literature and Filipczak, 1998; Tobias, 1996). provides a brief overview of three recent Judge and Cowell (1997) stated that the books on executive coaching and one gen- widespread adoption of executive coaching eral coaching book that has influenced the by consulting firms began around 1990, field of executive coaching. The third part though they acknowledged that there was a reviews the existing empirical research. The sprinkling of offerings prior to 1990. As an final part addresses the questions of whether intervention, they believe executive coach- executive coaching increases individual and ing is currently moving from the introduc- organizational performance and whether it tory to the growth phase. One industrial–or- is a fad. This final section also further dis- ganizational psychologist practicing in the cusses the implications executive coaching field of executive coaching and interviewed has for consultation practice. by Harris (1999) briefly mentioned three phases in the history of executive coaching. History According to this psychologist, the first phase occurred between the years of 1950 The history of executive coaching is dif- and 1979, when a few professionals used a ficult to track because it has only recently blend of organizational development and received attention in the literature. In review- psychological techniques in working with ing the literature, it is unclear when exactly executives. During the middle period (1980– executive coaching first began. Only brief 1994), an increase in professionalism oc- statements or speculations regarding the pos- curred as well as the beginning of standard- sible origins of executive coaching have been ized services (though a full standardization provided (see Harris, 1999; Judge & Cowell, has not yet occurred). In the current period 1997; Kilburg, 1996b, 1996c; Tobias, 1996). (1995–present), there has been an increase Tobias (1996) stated that the term execu- in publications and the establishment of a tive coaching came into the business world professional organization for coaching: the in the late 1980s and was used because Professional and Personal Coaches Associa- coaching sounded less threatening than other tion, more recently known as the Interna- types of interventions. He argued that coach- tional Coach Federation (ICF). It is also in ing by psychologists is a mere repackaging the current period that the demand for ex- of practices once done under the umbrella ecutive coaching has reached an all-time of consultation and counseling. The “devel- high. opmental counseling” conducted by RHR Even though executive coaching has been International since the 1940s would seem to dated by some as far back as the 1940s, many support this observation (Flory, 1965). agree that it has only more recently come to Kilburg (1996b, 1996c, 2000) contended that fruition (Kilburg 1996b, 1996c; Olesen, for the past decade, consultation geared to- 1996). Even though earlier periods existed, ward managers and senior leaders in busi- little is known about what was then practiced. ness organizations has increasingly been re- It has only been during the most recent pe- ferred to as executive coaching. He stated riod that the practice of executive coaching that consultants began practicing executive has begun to be addressed in the literature. coaching when they gained access to the Within the most recent period, there has also leaders of organizations. This gaining access been a push for a more complete standard- to leaders of organizations by psychologists ization of services and research on the effec- has been perceived by some as an attempt tiveness of executive coaching. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 207 Fall 2001
  4. 4. Literature Review 1996; Peterson, 1996; Richard, 1999; Saporito, 1996; Sperry, 1993, 1996; Tobias, Practice Literature 1996; Witherspoon & White, 1996a, 1996c, 1997). Additional components mentioned by In reviewing the executive coaching prac- various authors include executive coaching tice-based literature, six themes emerged: (a) as a highly confidential personal learning definition and standards, (b) purpose, (c) process that focuses not only on interpersonal techniques and methodologies used, (d) com- issues, but also on intrapersonal ones parison with counseling and therapy, (e) cre- (O’Brien, 1997; Witherspoon & White, dentials of coaches and the best way of find- 1996a). It has been defined as an ongoing ing them, and (f) recipients of services. This relationship, usually lasting anywhere from section summarizes these themes and pro- a few months to a year or more (Diedrich, vides an overview of three recent practice- 1996; Levinson, 1996), in which the coach based books on executive coaching and one does not have any direct authority over the general coaching book. Within each theme, executive (Witherspoon & White, 1996a). As the psychological, training and development, an intervention, it can be used for both de- and business and management literatures velopmental and remedial purposes, and it have been integrated. A single body of the seems to occur in six stages: relationship literature is mentioned separately only if it building, assessment, feedback, planning, makes a unique contribution within a par- implementation, and evaluation and follow- ticular theme. up (Diedrich, 1996; Harris, 1999; Judge & Definition and standards. A number of Cowell, 1997; Kiel et al., 1996; Kilburg, authors have stated that executive coaching as 1996b, 1996c; Koonce, 1994; Levinson, a distinct intervention remains poorly defined 1996; Lukaszewski, 1988; O’Brien, 1997; and regulated (Brotman et al., 1998; Kilburg, Olesen, 1996; Peterson, 1996; Richard, 1999; 1996b, 1996c, 2000; Tobias, 1996), with little Saporito, 1996; Sperry, 1993, 1996; Tobias, training and research being conducted 1996; Witherspoon & White, 1996a, 1996b, (Kilburg, 1996b, 2000; Sperry, 1996). On the 1997). These stages are consistent with other basis of his reviews of the existing literature, consultation models (see Caplan, 1970). Kilburg (1996c, 2000) proposed the follow- Guidelines for successful coaching have ing definition of executive coaching: been proposed by various individuals (e.g., a helping relationship formed between a cli- Kiel et al., 1996), but to date, no standards or ent who has managerial authority and respon- guidelines have been widely adopted. The ICF sibility in an organization and a consultant who recently held a summit to better define execu- uses a wide variety of behavioral techniques tive coaching and develop more complete stan- and methods to help the client achieve a mu- dards and practice guidelines. Although these tually identified set of goals to improve his or results have not been formally published, they her professional performance and personal sat- can be found on the federation’s Web site isfaction and, consequently, to improve the (www.coachfederation.org/exec-coaching- effectiveness of the client’s organization within summit.htm). The ICF’s definition of execu- a formally def ined coaching agreement. tive coaching is as follows: (Kilburg, 2000, p. 67) Executive coaching is a facilitative one-to-one, On the basis of our current review of the mutually designed relationship between a pro- literature, this definition appears to represent fessional coach and a key contributor who has a fairly comprehensive view of what has been a powerful position in the organization. This discussed and how executive coaching has relationship occurs in areas of business, gov- been defined (see Judge & Cowell, 1997; ernment, not-for-profit, and educational orga- Kiel et al., 1996; Levinson, 1996; Olesen, nizations where there are multiple stakehold- 208 Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research Fall 2001
  5. 5. ers and organizational sponsorship for the however, that not all executives can advance coach or coaching group. The coaching is con- because the higher one is in an organization, tracted for the benefit of a client who is ac- the fewer positions there are to which one countable for highly complex decisions with can advance. Regardless, the so-called fail- [a] wide scope of impact on the organization ure rate is noteworthy and may be at least and industry as a whole. The focus of the one more reason why organizations and ex- coaching is usually focused on organizational performance or development, but may also ecutives are turning to outside sources for have a personal component as well. The re- executive coaching. sults produced from this relationship are ob- By turning outward to an executive servable and measurable. (International Coach- coach, executives may receive something ing Federation Conference, 2000) valuable that they are missing. Lukaszewski (1988) identified the inability to gain access Regarding guidelines, the ICF is devel- to people who ask questions, provide advice, oping them; however, Brotman et al. (1998) and give counsel as the greatest difficulty made the argument that the American Psy- facing senior executives. He noted that most chological Association (APA) should set people close to executives are afraid, or do standards because psychologists possess not know how, to confront them regarding many of the skills necessary to provide ex- their behavior. The purpose of executive ecutive coaching services. What psycholo- coaching is to provide these functions. An gists do not necessarily possess, however, is executive coach’s role is to provide feedback business knowledge (see Harris, 1999; to the executive about his or her behavior Saporito, 1996). and the impact it has on others both within Purpose. There are a number of reasons and outside the organization (O’Neill, 2000; provided in the practice literature for the in- Witherspoon & White, 1996b). Given this creased use of executive coaching, includ- type of feedback, executives gain increased ing the fact that other high-performance in- self-awareness, self-esteem, and better com- dividuals—athletes, performers, and public munication with peers and subordinates speakers—have used coaching as a means (Kilburg, 1996c), which in turn may lead to of improving their performance (Wither- increased morale, productivity, and profits spoon & White, 1996a, 1997). Other reasons (Smith, 1993). for the increased use of coaching include the Techniques and methodologies. Unlike rapidly changing global economy necessitat- the previously discussed themes, in which ing continued development (Sperry, 1993), each body of literature contributed to the the lack of opportunities provided executives summaries, the psychological literature for growth (Kiel et al., 1996; Saporito, 1996), makes a unique contribution to the tech- the realization by business that poor execu- niques and methodologies theme. The spe- tive leadership can lead to financial ruin cial issue of the Consulting Psychology Jour- (Kilburg, 1996c), and the recognition that in- nal: Practice and Research (Kilburg, 1996a) terpersonal skills are key in effectively man- reviewed a number of executive coaching aging oneself and those in a company models, often including case studies to il- (Levinson, 1996). lustrate key points. For example, Diedrich In an article on leadership, Hogan, (1996) described a “comprehensive planning Curphy, and Hogan (1994), stated that up to process that assesses critical competencies 50% of executives will fail to advance in their and guides the development of the executive” careers. This is a high percentage according (p. 61). Katz and Miller (1996) explained an to Kilburg (1997), who suggests that organi- approach based on diversity and inclusion. zations today do not have the tools to help Kiel et al. (1996) and Tobias (1996) both took their executives succeed. It should be noted, a systems-oriented approach, whereas Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 209 Fall 2001
  6. 6. Levinson (1996) based his approach on psy- nent of executive coaching (Diedrich, 1996; chological skills and insight. Peterson (1996) Waclawski & Church, 1999; Witherspoon & adopted an approach based on five coaching White, 1996a). Kiel et al. (1996) stated that strategies supported by research and experi- executives trust data and therefore come to ence at Personnel Decisions International, the trust the executive coaching process when first management consulting firm to offer a data are provided. Waclawski and Church coaching program that was both structured (1999) regard feedback as so critical to the and individually based (Hellervik, Hazucha, executive coaching process that they devel- & Schneider, 1992). Saporito (1996) de- oped a four-stage model for feedback utili- scribed a business-linked executive develop- zation by means of the executive coaching ment approach, and Witherspoon and White process. They argued that it is through proper (1996a, 1997) proposed a model based on feedback that executives can come to under- four different coaching roles: coaching for stand patterns in the data gathered, work skills, performance, development, and the through their resistance to hearing the data, executive’s agenda. Considering existing and identify and generate a developmental executive coaching models, Kilburg (1996c, plan for behavioral change. 1997, 2000) proposed a 17-dimension model Though overlap exists between models, based on systems and psychodynamic theory. specific models are worth reading for their Additional models have since been offered, unique contributions to the coaching pro- including the unpublished model of Wa- cess—particularly Laske’s (1999a) develop- clawski and Church (1999) focusing on feed- mental model and Kilburg’s (1996c) 17-di- back utilization by means of the executive mensional model, which both provide greater coaching process, Richard’s (1999) mul- contexts for understanding executive coach- timodal model, and Laske’s (1999a) develop- ing and executive development. Witherspoon mental approach, which integrates “agentic” and White’s (1996a) model, which is based and “ontic” development. on four different approaches to executive Although a myriad of approaches to ex- coaching, is also helpful for understanding ecutive coaching have been proposed, there the various foci that coaching can have. is considerable overlap among them. For ex- Distinguishing from counseling and ample, there appears to be agreement regard- psychotherapy. Because of the concern that ing the stages of executive coaching: rela- executive coaching practices mirror too tionship building, assessment, intervention, closely the practices of counseling or psy- follow-up, and evaluation. These stages are chotherapy, a number of individuals have typically consistent with most consultation discussed the differences between the two interventions. There is also agreement re- interventions (Kilburg, 2000; Levinson, garding the desirable assessment techniques 1996; Richard, 1999; Saporito, 1996; Sperry, and instrumentation, including 360-degree 1993, 1996; Tobias, 1996). In reviewing this feedback questionnaires, qualitative inter- literature, a number of ideas seem to repeat. views, and psychological instruments, such For example, executive coaching occurs in as personality and leadership style invento- the workplace with the intention of improv- ries (Brotman et al., 1998; Diedrich, 1996; ing the executive’s interpersonal skills and Harris, 1999; Kiel et al., 1996; Kilburg, 1996c; ultimately his or her workplace performance. Peterson, 1996; Richard, 1999; Saporito, 1996; It is more issue-focused than therapy is and Tobias, 1996; Witherspoon & White, 1996a). occurs in a broader array of contexts—in- The purpose of these instruments is to gather cluding face-to-face sessions, meetings with data to present to the client. other people, observation sessions, over the There is further agreement that present- telephone, and by e-mail—and in a variety ing data, or feedback, is a critical compo- of locations away from work (Richard, 1999; 210 Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research Fall 2001
  7. 7. Sperry, 1993, 1996). Coaching sessions can ways in which executive coaching and last anywhere from a few minutes to a few therapy differ. The examples provided above hours (Sperry, 1996), whereas therapy typi- seem somewhat logistical in nature. Even cally occurs in a 45–50 min interval. Also, Kilburg (2000) stated that “the boundaries unlike counseling or psychotherapy, data are are not crisply drawn lines” (p. 227). collected from many sources, including the Credentials of executive coaches. The individual executive, his or her superiors, fourth point often discussed in the literature peers, subordinates, and family members on executive coaching deals more generally (Brotman et al., 1998; Diedrich, 1996; Har- with qualifications for service delivery (e.g., ris, 1999; Kiel et al., 1996; Kilburg, 1996c; Brotman et al., 1998; Harris, 1999; Kilburg, Peterson, 1996; Richard, 1999; Witherspoon 1996b, 1997; Sperry, 1993, 1996). Again, the & White, 1996a). Other differences include psychological literature seems to address this being able to be more directive in executive concern more fully than the other bodies of coaching (Levinson, 1996; Richard, 1999) literature. The main issue discussed involves and viewing the relationship between the ex- the myriad backgrounds of executive ecutive and coach as more collegial (Levin- coaches. Currently, professionals from busi- son, 1996; Tobias, 1996) because the need ness, teaching, law, and sports are claiming for executive self-disclosure may not be as to be executive coaches (Brotman et al., great as it is for counseling clients (Saporito, 1998; Kilburg, 1996b). In part, this is a re- 1996). Kilburg (2000) stated that although sult of the increased demand for executive the principles of counseling–therapy can en- coaching, and, as such, there is concern over hance executive coaching, the main differ- unqualified professionals making claims and ence is the depth to which issues are pur- threatening the legitimacy of executive sued and processed. coaching as a viable intervention (Harris, Not only are differences in the processes 1999; Kilburg, 2000). between executive coaching and therapy be- Regarding qualifications, there seem to ing debated, but differences between the be two separate but related attitudes repre- qualifications of executive coaches and psy- sented in the psychological literature. The chotherapists are also being discussed. Dif- first is the belief that psychologists already ferences include the need for the executive possess a large number of the skills needed coach to understand not only psychological to provide executive coaching and therefore dynamics and adult development, but also are the most qualified service providers business, management, and political issues (Brotman et al., 1998; Kilburg, 1996c; (see Harris, 1999; Kiel et al., 1996; Laske, Sperry, 1993, 1996). These skills include the 1999a, 1999b; O’Neill, 2000, Saporito, 1996; ability to respect confidentiality and main- Sperry, 1996; Tobias, 1996). We would ar- tain highly intense relationships with objec- gue that possessing knowledge of leadership tivity. Brotman et al. (1998) argued that psy- is also important. It has also been stated that chologists are the most uniquely qualified executive coaching is measured in numeri- to define what is required to be an executive cal terms, or in terms of the bottom-line per- coach when behavior change is the desired formance for the executive and for the busi- outcome, which inevitably is the case. The ness, whereas counseling–psychotherapy is reasons behind his argument include the abil- measured mainly by client self-report (Ri- ity of the psychologist to do the following: chard, 1999; Saporito, 1996). Data on these establish safety in relationships, confront the end results, or financial gains for business, executive on the reality of his or her behav- however, are largely missing in the existing ior, and use the executive’s developmental literature on executive coaching. What also history and test data to identify themes in seems to be missing is the more substantive the executive’s life. Furthermore, psycholo- Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 211 Fall 2001
  8. 8. gists possess an understanding of psychologi- ing and 360-degree assessment experience, cal tests, cognitive style, managerial style, knowledge of corporate environments and motivation, aptitude, and so forth. Kilburg developmental processes, and the ability to (1997) also listed a number of skills psy- be confrontational yet supportive while also chologists possess that make them qualified maintaining confidentiality. to provide executive coaching services. These Recipients of services. Koonce (1994) skills include the ability to listen, empathize, stated that the consumers of executive coach- provide feedback, create scenarios, chal- ing are executives who have been solid per- lenge, and explore the executive’s world. formers but whose current behaviors are in- Kilburg (2000) stated that although one does terfering and putting the company at risk. A not necessarily have to be a psychologist to recent survey of leading companies con- provide executive coaching services, having ducted by Fortune presents a somewhat dif- psychoanalytic knowledge (possessed by ferent view. According to this survey, the some but not all psychologists) greatly en- main consumers of executive coaching range hances the possible results from coaching. from middle managers to CEOs or CEO con- The second attitude regarding qualifica- tenders (Witherspoon & White, 1996b). tions is related to the first. Many argue that Witherspoon and White further stated that even though a psychological background coaching clients are usually valued by the provides many of the necessary skills to pro- company because of certain skills they pos- vide executive coaching services, it alone is sess and because they are highly motivated not enough. Having an awareness of busi- individuals. These clients are typically look- ness, management, and political issues is also ing for ways to refine and enhance their skills necessary to be effective (Harris, 1999; Kiel in order to continue in their current positions et al., 1996; Levinson, 1996; Saporito, 1996; or move up into more advanced positions. Sperry, 1996; Tobias, 1996). Again, we would Kiel et al. (1996), in the psychological lit- argue that knowledge of leadership is also erature, stated that one fourth of the execu- essential. tives who seek executive coaching are mov- Although the business and management ing up within an organization or their career, literature does not directly address the issue one half are increasing their leadership re- of coach credentials, this body of literature sponsibilities, and one fourth are having dif- does discuss the process of finding an ex- ficulties in their current job. Therefore, three ecutive coach. According to Banning (1997) fourths are using executive coaching for de- and Smith (1993), a company’s human re- velopmental purposes and only one fourth sources department, a superior, or a friend for remedial purposes. are some of the most common ways of find- Recent books on executive coach- ing a coach. Banning (1997) listed three im- ing. The rapid expansion of the literature portant criteria in selecting a coach: trust- on executive coaching has included the pub- worthiness, compatible chemistry, and solid lication of several books. Two recent execu- reputation. Smith (1993) called attention to tive coaching books (Kilburg, 2000; O’Neill, the focus of the executive coach, noting that 2000) are summarized here because they pro- some adopt a more behavioral focus, whereas vide comprehensive discussions of current others use a more psychoanalytic focus. practice and offer practical advice for per- However, he stated that most exist some- sons interested in developing an executive where in between. The training and develop- coaching practice. The classic, more general ment literature also provide some helpful coaching text by Hargrove (1995) is also hints in selecting a coach. Thach and summarized as many of his general coach- Heinselman (1999) suggested selecting ing principles apply to executive coaching, coaches who have previous executive coach- and he is often cited in the executive coach- 212 Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research Fall 2001
  9. 9. ing literature (see Kilburg, 2000; O’Neill, [hidden] components. (Kilburg, 2000, pp. 2000). 18–19) In Executive Coaching With Backbone He fulfilled this purpose by providing a and Heart, O’Neill (2000) proposed a sys- conceptual framework using systems and tems approach to working with leaders and psychodynamic principles to understand ex- their challenges. She stated that the book is ecutive character, organizational structure, written for those coaching organizational and executive coaching work. He then used leaders and focuses on the presence of consultation cases to illustrate this frame- coaches versus coaching techniques. She work and the methods and techniques used defined presence as being able to join lead- to effectively intervene as a coach or con- ers in a partnership, meeting them where they sultant. In addition, he addressed how to are in their struggles, and being assertive in manage particular problems that can be elic- one’s position as coach while staying in a re- ited when working with executives’ thoughts, lationship with leaders. O’Neill identified feelings, defenses, and conflicts. presence as the most important principle and Hargrove’s (1995) Masterful Coaching: tool of executive coaching. She further iden- Extraordinary Results by Impacting People tified the importance of focusing on the sys- and the Way They Think and Work Together tem of interaction between leaders and those is a book on transformational coaching. with whom they work most closely as an Hargrove defined transformational coaching additional principle that guides her approach. as a process that “shows people how to trans- Applying these two principles, according to form or stretch their visions, values, and O’Neill, allows for the effective implemen- abilities” (p. 1). Transformational coaching tation of a coaching method. O’Neill’s coach- helps people tap their inner drive and ambi- ing method involves four phases: contract- tion, stretch their minds and abilities, and ing, action planning, live-action planning, move toward action. The author stated that and debriefing. One chapter within the book this book synthesizes years of research and is devoted to each phase. Additional chap- the practices of many coaches with the goal ters are devoted to developing a presence of helping the reader become a “masterful with clients, using a systems perspective, and coach.” The book is divided into three parts. how to transition into being an executive Part 1 addresses the process and journey of coach. Case illustrations are used through- “becoming” and “being” a masterful coach, out the book to illustrate ideas. which he sees as the key to effective coach- Kilburg’s (2000) Executive Coaching: ing. Part 2 deals with group coaching and Developing Managerial Wisdom in a World team learning, and Part 3 details Hargrove’s of Chaos is probably the most comprehen- techniques and methods for providing trans- sive book on conducting executive coaching formational coaching. Throughout all three from a psychological and psychodynamic sections, Hargrove interweaves theory and perspective. It is also the most complex. The examples to illustrate his ideas. author identified the purpose of this book as narrowing the gap between Empirical Research the growing understanding of the importance The above section focused on the prac- of complexity theory, human behavior, and tice-based literature. This section reviews the the psychodynamic aspects of organizational and managerial life and the lack of practical empirical research. The following paragraphs guidance for how consultants and coaches can review the seven existing studies of execu- and should work with executives and manag- tive coaching (Foster & Lendl, 1996; Garman ers on issues, performance problems, and di- et al., 2000; Gegner 1997; Hall et al., 1999; mensions of human behavior that have shadow Judge & Cowell, 1997; Laske, 1999b; Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 213 Fall 2001
  10. 10. Olivero et al., 1997) and discuss the link be- pants develop more positive beliefs about tween these studies and the practice-based themselves regarding upsetting workplace literature incidents to replace negative beliefs. This The first study, conducted by Foster and study also suggests that EMDR may help Lendl (1996), was not a study on executive improve workplace performance within an coaching per se but was a study investigat- executive coaching process. ing the effects of a specific technique less The second study was conducted by commonly used in executive coaching prac- Olivero et al. (1997). They implemented an tice. Because it examined the effects of a action research study investigating the effects specific, albeit less common, technique used of a behavioral approach (vs. a psychody- in executive coaching, it is included in this namic approach) to executive coaching in a article. However, it provides less information public sector municipal agency. The interven- regarding the overall efficacy of executive tion was conducted in two phases and em- coaching. phasized (a) goal setting, (b) collaborative The purpose of Foster and Lendl’s (1996) problem solving, (c) practice, (d) feedback, study was to determine whether EMDR used (e) supervisory involvement, (f) evaluation within an executive coaching process with of end results, and (g) presentation. Phase 1 four individuals could enhance workplace consisted of classroom training emphasizing performance. Participants were a pilot, managerial competencies. Thirty-one train- former CEO, office manager, and tenured ees participated in Phase 1. Phase 2 consisted professor. Three of the four participants had of an executive coaching process with the experienced perceived performance setbacks, purpose of providing managers the opportu- and one was seeking a career change and nity to practice and obtain constructive feed- wanted assistance reducing her anxiety re- back regarding the managerial competencies garding interviewing. Adhering to the EMDR they learned in Phase 1. Of the 31 partici- protocol, participants were asked to (a) de- pants in Phase 1, 8 coaching–participants scribe their setbacks or concerns, (b) specify received training on how to provide execu- the upsetting emotions tied to these incidents, tive coaching services to the other 23 trainee– (c) describe the current negative beliefs they participants in Phase 2. Part of the coaching held about themselves as a result of the set- experience required the 23 trainee–partici- backs or concerns, (d) identify the preferred pants to develop a project plan to be used in belief about themselves in regard to the set- coaching. back or concern, (e) follow the coach’s fin- Results within each phase were measured gers for a series of rapid eye movements, (f) along four dimensions: reactions, knowledge, consider again the distressing experience, behaviors, and outcomes. In Phase 1, partici- and (g) repeat the eye movements until the pants reacted favorably to the training, giv- incidents were no longer distressing and the ing it a mean rating of 4.87 on a 5-point Likert positive belief replaced the negative belief. scale across five dimensions: usefulness of Results were measured by assessing physi- materials, instructor’s knowledge, instructor’s cal symptoms and negative emotions pre- and facilitation, overall instructor rating, and post-EMDR and behavior outcomes pre- and overall workshop rating. Knowledge of post-EMDR. Complete pre and post scores managerial competencies scores had a sta- on EMDR and behavior outcomes for each tistically significant increase from 71% at participant, however, were not given. pretest to 88% at posttest (p < .001). Partici- Results from Foster and Lendl’s (1996) pants also reported that the training they re- study suggest that EMDR can be an effec- ceived would improve their skills, but be- tive method for desensitizing distressing cause these reports were future oriented they workplace experiences and helping partici- were not analyzed. As far as outcomes, the 214 Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research Fall 2001
  11. 11. training phase alone increased overall pro- typical recipients of executive coaching, the ductivity 22.4% as measured by the number issues most often presented by executives, of completed patient evaluation forms (sta- and what one should look for and expect in tistical significance and p value not reported an executive coach. Although this study pro- by Olivero et al. 1997). vided valuable data, there was a lack of in- Phase 2 included analyses of both quali- formation regarding the methodology, which tative and quantitative data. Qualitative data limits the applicability and generalizability indicated that both coaches and coachees had of the findings. Therefore findings should favorable reactions to the coaching process. be viewed as tentative. Two themes emerged from these data: coach- Judge and Cowell (1997) reported that ing was beneficial to them personally and executive coaches come from a wide range was beneficial to the overall agency. It is un- of educational backgrounds, with under- clear, however, whether these themes graduate degrees ranging from drama to psy- emerged from both the coach and coachee chology. Of their participants, roughly 90% responses or if they emerged from just the had master’s degrees concentrated in busi- coachee responses. Reactions were not ness and the social sciences, and approxi- quantitatively measured. Quantitative data mately 45% had doctoral degrees. Many be- indicated a 20% increase in knowledge as longed to professional associations, such as measured by a small sample (n = 4) of the American Society for Training and De- coaches on pre- and posttest scores. The velopment, and some were licensed to prac- sample was too small to permit any statisti- tice psychology in the state where they con- cal inferences, and it is unclear whose knowl- ducted business. Sixty percent of the coaches edge was being measured, the coaches or the surveyed were male, 80% were between the coachees. Quantitative data also demon- ages of 35 and 55, and they averaged 24 years strated a 65.6% increase (p <.05) in produc- of work experience. Some worked for large tivity during the implementation phase companies employing more than 10 coaches, (Phase 2) as compared with the training whereas most worked for smaller companies phase (Phase 1) alone. These results sug- or worked independently. Most charged by gest that executive coaching does increase the hour for their services, with fees ranging productivity. from $75 to $400 per contact hour, and most Regarding the limitations of this study, worked on a contractual basis. Approaches Olivero et al. (1997) offered several, includ- to coaching ranged from more behavioral to ing the fact that it was a field experiment more psychoanalytic in nature, but regard- and random assignment of participants was less of orientation, the majority of coaches not permitted. They also recommended that conducted 360-degree assessments by inter- a training-only condition and a coaching-only viewing people close to the executive (su- condition be compared with one another to pervisors, peers, subordinates, and, at times, distinguish more clearly between these two family). forms of learning. Recipients of executive coaching services The third study of executive coaching was in Judge and Cowell’s (1997) study were typi- a survey conducted by Judge and Cowell cally mid-level to senior managers; half were (1997) to better understand the practice of CEOs or reported to CEOs. Recipients executive coaching. They surveyed 60 sought coaching voluntarily approximately coaches regarding their qualifications and one half of the time and were required to seek backgrounds; characteristics of the coaching it the other one half. All recipients tended to industry, including fees and contractual fall within one of the following three catego- agreements; and the process and assessments ries: (a) individuals who were valuable but used in coaching. They also looked at the demonstrating difficulty in one or more area, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 215 Fall 2001
  12. 12. (b) individuals who desired improved lead- tives would shift to a coaching style of man- ership skills, or (c) professionals other than agement because they become more aware executives, including lawyers, doctors, archi- and take more responsibility for the actions tects, and so forth. This last category was in their organizations. The research questions unexpected by the researchers. Regardless of were as follows: (a) Do the components which category recipients were in, the most (goals, feedback, self-efficacy, rewards, com- common requests were to help them (a) munication style, interpersonal style, respon- modify their interaction style, (b) deal more sibility, and awareness) of executive coach- effectively with change, and (c) build trust- ing work collectively to enhance executive ing relationships. performance, or are isolated components The fourth study was a master’s thesis most effective?; (b) does executive coaching conducted by Gegner (1997). It was a cross- contribute to sustained behavioral change?; sectional field study investigating the effec- (c) do age, gender, and ethnicity affect the tiveness of executive coaching through quan- coaching process?: (d) do time, frequency, titative and qualitative methods. It represents and modality affect the executive coaching the first field study of executive coaching process?; and (e) does a gender difference outcomes. Coaches (n = 47) acted as distribu- between the executive and coach affect the tors of survey materials to executive partici- coaching process? pants (n = 48), who anonymously completed A total of 146 executives received surveys, surveys. Gegner then conducted follow-up and 48 (33%) returned them. Of the 48 who interviews with 25 of the 48 executives to returned surveys, 25 were interviewed. De- gain additional information regarding (a) mographically, 14 executives (29%) were how executives became involved in coach- women and 34 (71%) were men. Ages ranged ing, (b) how a performance baseline was es- from 21 to 66 years (M = 44.5). Forty-four tablished prior to coaching and the resultant executives (95%) were Caucasian, one gains from coaching, (c) greatest obstacles (2.2%) was African American, one (2.2%) to coaching, (d) most valuable learning ex- was Asian, and two (4.2%) did not report perience, (e) whether coaching affected other their ethnic background. life areas, and (f) any additional information To determine whether the components of executives wanted to share. executive coaching work collectively to en- For the study, Gegner (1997) designed the hance executive performance or whether iso- Coaching Experience Survey, a 52-item mea- lated components are most effective, Gegner sure using Likert scales. It consisted of two (1997) used the components of awareness parts. The first asked executives to rate the and responsibility as the dependent variables effectiveness of the coaching process across measuring effectiveness. The results showed eight components that were determined that awareness had the strongest correlations through the literature to be inherent in the with self-efficacy (r = .55) and communica- executive coaching process: (a) goals, (b) tion style (r = .45); had low correlations with feedback, (c) self-efficacy, (d) rewards, (e) interpersonal style (r =.24), rewards (r = .35), communication style, (f) interpersonal style, and feedback (r = .31); and had no correla- (g) responsibility, and (h) awareness. The tion with goals (–.02). Responsibility had second portion of the survey gathered demo- moderate to strong correlations with self-ef- graphic information on the executive and ficacy (r = .74), rewards (r = .64), feedback coach as well as duration, frequency, and (r = .52), and communication style (r = .51) modality information regarding the coach- and low correlations with interpersonal style ing process. (r = .43) and goals (r = .32). Self-efficacy The premise of Gegner’s (1997) study was had the strongest correlations with both de- that as a result of executive coaching, execu- pendent variables: awareness (r = .55) and 216 Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research Fall 2001
  13. 13. responsibility (r = .74). Responsibility had from .007 to .219 for modality. To determine stronger associations than awareness with whether gender affects the coaching process, more components. Communication style had the coach’s gender was cross-tabulated moderate associations with both awareness against the executive’s gender. The gender and responsibility, and feedback had moder- of the executive could not be predicted by ate correlations with responsibility. the gender of the coach and vice versa (mea- To determine whether coaching contrib- sured by a phi coefficient .008). utes to sustained behavior change, Gegner Gegner (1997) also conducted interviews (1997) combined the percentages of “highly with 25 of the original 48 executives. Seven effective” and “somewhat effective” state- (28%) reported seeking executive coaching ments for awareness and responsibility (de- services because of transitioning to new ca- pendent variables) as these statements were reers and wanting to excel in their busi- considered coaching outcomes. Percentages nesses, whereas 18 (72%) became involved ranged from 70.9% to 93.8% and therefore in executive coaching through corporate pro- suggested that coaching contributes to sus- grams. Twenty-one executives (84%) re- tained behavior change as defined by Gegner. ported positive feelings about their involve- Gegner’s definition, however, may not be the ment in coaching. Ten executives (40%) best measure of sustained behavior change, stated that no baseline was established prior particularly because it is a self-rated mea- to coaching, and seven (28%) said that 360- sure and not considered over time. Whether degree feedback data, interviews, or upward executive gender, age, and ethnicity affect feedback data were used to establish a the coaching process was analyzed using baseline. Eight executives (32%) reported a Pearson’s r coefficients to measure the percentage of performance improvement strength of the associations between the de- ranging from 10% to 100%. Eleven execu- mographic characteristics and the coaching tives (44%) identified time as the greatest components. Neither age nor gender had obstacle to coaching. All 25 executives strong correlations (rs ranging from .023 to (100%) reported learning more about them- .225 for age and .001 to .139 for gender). selves or gaining new skills as the most valu- Ethnicity could not be analyzed because able outcome. All 25 executives (100%) also 95.8% of the executives and 100% of the said that coaching had positively affected coaches were Caucasian. Whether duration, their personal lives by affecting their inter- time, frequency, or modality influence the actions with people, helping them establish coaching process was also analyzed using balance in their lives, and helping them pri- Pearson’s r coefficients to determine the oritize and make decisions about how they strength of the association between these use their time. Regarding any additional in- variables and the coaching components. formation clients wanted to provide, 17 ex- Duration had a negative relationship with ecutives (68%) mentioned something about awareness (r = –.362), weak associations the coaching process itself, 10 (40%) iden- with interpersonal style and rewards (rs = tified personality traits or skills possessed .204 and .270, respectively), and relatively by the coach, and six (24%) made comments no association with responsibility, commu- about the growth they attained—being more nication, feedback, goals, and self-efficacy open to change and possessing more self- (rs = .036, .080, .113, .158, and .069, respec- confidence. tively). The negative correlation with aware- Gegner (1997) identified several limita- ness may suggest that after a certain point in tions of her study. Additional limitations not the coaching process, awareness decreases mentioned by Gegner include not knowing or ceases to increase. Correlations ranged how many coaches were contacted to par- from .068 to .285 for length of coaching and ticipate and distribute survey materials to Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 217 Fall 2001
  14. 14. executives—therefore potentially limiting [ing] the unspeakable” is necessary (Hall et the generalizability of her findings—and the al., 1999, p. 40). Internal coaches were dis- fact that multivariate analyses were not con- cussed as the most appropriate when possess- ducted to determine whether a combination ing inside knowledge of company procedures of variables was more effective for enhanc- and politics is helpful or necessary. Whether ing executive performance. external or internal, however, coaches were The fifth study, conducted by Hall et described as providing feedback to execu- al. (1999), consisted of interviews with 75 tives that they had not received before. Feed- executives in six different Fortune 100 back was tied to anything ranging from writ- companies, 15 executive coaches referred ing to interpersonal skills. by human resource (HR) personnel as Regarding effectiveness, executives leaders in the executive coaching field, and tended to stress that “good coaching is re- an unspecified number of HR personnel. sults oriented” (Hall et al., 1999, p. 43). Ex- The HR personnel were not mentioned as ecutives mentioned honesty, challenging being interviewed in the method summary. feedback, and helpful suggestions as ex- However, they were mentioned in one part amples of good coaching. What they in- of the text. cluded as unhelpful were coaches who Hall et al. (1999) were interested in the pushed their own agenda, tried to sell more application of executive coaching, its effec- consulting time, and provided only negative tiveness, and the lessons to be learned from feedback or feedback based largely on other providing services. The authors stated that people’s feelings rather than on data and re- understanding of interview data was also in- sults. Executives rated the overall effective- formed by the practical experience of the ness of executive coaching as “very satisfying,” authors as executive coaches. No further in- or a 4 on a 5-point Likert scale. Coaches agreed formation concerning the methodology or with the executives on what constituted good analysis was provided in the article. Details coaching but tended to focus more on the rela- concerning the nature of the sample were also tionship and the coaching process. Coaches usu- quite limited. Thus, the results of this study ally viewed the process of addressing coaching should be regarded as tentative. objectives as being just as important as actually The results of Hall et al. (1999) were pre- meeting them (Hall et al., 1999). sented in three areas: practice, effectiveness, The study also examined potential differ- and future directions. It was not always clear ences attributable to gender and race. The whether the information provided within authors reported that gender interacted with each section was based on the results of the age such that some female coaches reported study or on the authors’ theory–concep- experiencing difficulty coaching older high- tualizations of executive coaching. Regard- level men, especially when providing nega- ing practice, the authors reported that coaches tive feedback. They also identified multiple could be either internal or external to the cultural issues that affected coaching, such organizations and that the number of execu- as differences in eye contact, assertive com- tive coaches was estimated to be in the ten munication, problem solving, and energy thousands. Most of the seasoned coaches, level. It was further reported that working however, came from psychology and the be- with international executives sometimes re- havioral sciences and were either internal or quired multicultural skill development. Lack external to the organization. External coaches of consideration of diversity issues such as were described as the most appropriate un- age and race was identified as a limitation der conditions requiring extreme confiden- of current executive coaching practices. tiality, when the varied business experience Concerns about the future of executive of the coach is beneficial, or when “speak- coaching were categorized into three areas: 218 Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research Fall 2001
  15. 15. managing the growth and demand for execu- ing the presentation of their findings. Coach tive coaching, addressing ethical issues aris- participation was also confidential. Coaches ing from the practice of executive coaching, provided information regarding their execu- and defining the scope and controlling costs. tive participants’ life history, themes, corpo- Hall et al. (1999) reported that most execu- rate culture, and how the corporate culture tive coaches have more requests for coach- informed the coaching agenda. ing than they can fulfill, and many are ques- The first interview, called the professional tioning whether this will continue or whether agenda interview, was based on Basseches’s businesses will become more selective re- dialectical schemata framework (as cited in garding who is offered coaching, particularly Laske, 1999b) and focused on the way ex- as businesses become more concerned with ecutives envision their work and approach the cost, especially as markets tighten. One their tasks. The professional agenda inter- strategy the authors suggested for control- view also informed the second interview by ling the demand was the use of internal providing Laske insight into the executive’s coaches. This practice, however, raises a po- developmental stage, which was under inves- tential ethical problem because it creates dual tigation in the second interview. The first in- relationships. The authors further reported terview consisted of two global questions and that some executive coaches (though which numerous follow-up questions. The first ones specifically was unclear) were con- question asked executives what had signifi- cerned about the loss of control, confidenti- cantly changed in the way they perform their ality, and cost that may occur as a result of organizational functions as a result of coach- the increased demand by businesses. To help ing. Follow-up questions then dealt with spe- reduce these potential losses, they recom- cific changes in performance. The second mended that businesses establish clear guide- question asked executives what aspects of lines for the use of executive coaching so that their professional self-image had most nota- executive coaching is integrated into the over- bly been transformed as a result of coaching all development process of the organization. and how. Follow-up questions centered Doing so, they argued, would help provide around specific changes in self-image. for a steady demand. The second interview was a subject–ob- The sixth study was a dissertation com- ject interview, recognized by Lahey et al. and pleted by Laske (1999b). It used qualitative Kegan as an appropriate method for assess- methods with the purpose of examining the ing stage-level of adults (as cited in Laske, developmental effects of executive coaching 1999b). This interview focused on how ex- on an executive’s professional agenda, with ecutives make sense of their work experi- the specific focus of separating behavioral ences in relationship to their ontic-develop- learning and ontic development. mental stage-level on the basis of Kegan’s Laske (1999b) interviewed six executives theory of adult development (as cited in identified by their coaches as experiencing Laske, 1999b). The question guiding Laske developmental change because of coaching. in this interview was as follows: How are The range of coaching was 6 months to 3 executives’ constructing their reality (per- years. Each executive was interviewed twice. sonal and organizational) based on subject– The first interview focused on the executives’ object relations? The protocol for the sub- current organizational position and function- ject–object interview included handing the ing. The second interview, occurring 2 weeks executive 10 index cards with one of the fol- later, focused on how executives view their lowing topics written on it: (a) angry, (b) world in terms of self–other object relations. anxious/nervous (c) success/accomplish- Executive participation was confidential, and ment, (d) strong stand/conviction, (e) sad, (f) executive participants had final say regard- torn, (g) moved/touched, (h) control, (i) Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 219 Fall 2001
  16. 16. change, and (j) important to me. The inter- ecutive regressing to a lower developmental viewer, in this case Laske, provided a brief level as a result of being in an unhealthy or- explanation of the meaning of each of the 10 ganization or under duress. The result of the topics, gave the executive 5 min to think analysis and interview scoring was a com- about the topics, and then asked the execu- bined ontic-developmental score, including tive to write down memories of work experi- a level of self-awareness (stage score) and ences based on the topics of each card. Af- capacity for systems thinking (process score) terward, the executive and Laske conversed for each executive participant. extensively about the cards most salient to Laske (1999b) presented the results first the executive. Three to five cards were dis- by vignette, where he provided a compre- cussed. Laske stated that not all cards needed hensive profile of each executive’s present to be discussed because there is an underly- professional performance and functioning ing assumption that engaging in this process and change story, both based on the infor- thoroughly for three to five cards will reveal mation coaches shared and the interview the developmental stage of the executive. material. He also provided a combined ontic- Regarding data analysis, Laske (1999b) developmental score. The findings of all six stated that his purpose was to identify and executives were then presented as a collec- link two sets of ontic-developmental scores. tive whole, and the methodology that pro- The first is a stage score, based on Kegan’s duced these findings was discussed. Laske developmental framework (as cited in Laske, referred to this methodology as the Devel- 1999b). The second is a non-stage score, opmental Structure/Process Tool, developed based on Basseches’ (1984) dialectical–sche- as a result of his study. He provided further mata framework (as cited in Laske, 1999b). elaboration on the instrument, the ways in Laske did this by analyzing the two sets of which it can be used, and the implications it interview data, each according to its corre- has for aiding adult and executive develop- sponding methodology. Data from the first ment. interview were evaluated in terms of execu- Regarding the results of his study and tives’ endorsement of Basseches’s four cat- how well they answered the research ques- egories: (a) motion, (b) form, (c) relation- tion of whether changes that occur because ship, and (d) metaformal schemata. Laske of executive coaching are ontic-developmen- gave each of the four categories a weighting tal (transformational) in nature or solely be- based on the strength of endorsements pro- haviorally adaptive, Laske (1999b) stated vided each category by executives. that they do not completely answer the ques- The subject–object interview material was tion. Therefore, he proposed two alternative analyzed using Lahey et al.’s method (as cited hypotheses: (a) in order to experience trans- in Laske, 1999b), which provides an overall formative (ontic-developmental) effects of stage score based on the number of times a coaching, one must be developmentally particular stage (or manner of making mean- ready to experience them and (b) coaching ing) is endorsed by the executive. Laske ex- may have transformative (ontic-develop- tended this procedure by calculating two ad- mental) effect, but the developmental level ditional scores: a clarity score and a potential of the coach must also be such that it allows score index associated with the stage score. the coach to co-generate these effects in the The clarity score represents the clarity with coaching relationship. which the stage score is expressed by the Laske (1999b) summarized what he executive, and the potential score represents thought were the nine critical empirical find- the potential of the executive for transcend- ings of his work (pp. 242–244). In doing so, ing to a higher stage. These two scores could he focused on: (a) the extent to which stage be compared to determine the risk of an ex- scores and process scores matched and (b) 220 Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research Fall 2001
  17. 17. the gaps between executives’ cognitive fo- structive mental tools (form, metaform), as cus in their present professional performance found in the sample of executives, is not so and functioning (motion) and in their change much a deficit, but the very motor of devel- story (metaform). opment toward a higher ontic stage” (O. E. Laske found that the capacity for systems Laske, personal communication, June 18, thinking tended to rise with stage score and 2001). Conversely, higher stages of devel- its associated clarity–potential index such opment cannot be forced by coaching be- that the higher the stage score, the higher cause the developmental level of the indi- the executive’s metaformal (transforma- vidual determines the effect coaching will tional) understanding of organizational re- have. Eighth, the current study provided a ality. Second, Laske found a discrepancy hypothesis about transformative effects of between executives’ focus in their present coaching; however, a longitudinal study us- professional performance and functioning ing the same methods is necessary to pro- (motion) and their change story (metaform). vide sufficient evidence for the long-term Second, changes reported by executives did transformative effects of coaching. Finally, in fact seem to be of a metaformal–trans- because executives’ change stories depend on formational nature versus a merely adaptive their ontic-developmental status, the as- (behavioral) one. Third, executive reports of sumed truths of the theory and practice of developmental transformation reflect their executive development, specifically those ontic-developmental stage more than the conceptualized in terms of behavioral opin- impact of coaching. Therefore, executive ions of executive coaching, are placed in coaching will not be beneficial unless the doubt (O. E. Laske, personal communica- executive is developmentally ready (mea- tion, June 18, 2000). sured by the clarity–potential index) for The seventh study, conducted by Garman change. Fourth, there is a corresponding re- et al. (2000), was a content analysis of pub- lationship between stage scores and process lications concerning executive coaching. scores, making it reasonable to assume “that The purpose of this study was to describe the mental processes categorized in terms professional opinions concerning the prac- of dialectical-schemata analysis constitute tice of executive coaching and the perceived the very processes that make attaining, main- relevance of psychological training for such taining, regressing from, and transcending, practice. The authors identified 72 articles a particular ontic-developmental level pos- on executive coaching published in main- sible (Laske, 1999b, p. 243). Fifth, the pro- stream and trade management publications cess assessment is the best way to identify between 1991 and 1998. These articles were and map the ontic-developmental score of a coded according to (a) whether they were person into a particular empirical domain concerned with externally provided coach- because the processes (schemata) individu- ing; (b) whether they were generally favor- als use for making meaning of the empiri- able, unfavorable, or mixed in their evalua- cal world are more straightforward in their tion of executive coaching; (c) whether behavioral implications than ontic-develop- psychologists were specifically mentioned mental stage scores. Sixth, process and struc- as executive coaching service providers; (d) ture assessments alone are merely diagnos- whether psychologists were regarded as a tic; however, when combined they become distinct service provider group; and (e) prognostic. This is the case because stage whether psychologists, if regarded as a dis- scores reflect a current developmental bal- tinct group, were distinguished favorably, ance ready to transform to a following one. unfavorably, or neutrally. This coding Seventh, “a cognitive disequilibrium be- scheme provides quantitative information tween critical (motion, relationship) and con- concerning these dimensions but does not Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 221 Fall 2001
  18. 18. provide qualitative understanding of the dif- ture. The last study (Foster & Lendl, 1996) ferences between, for example, favorable provides support for EMDR as an adjunct and unfavorable articles. In addition, results to executive coaching. Looking at these six must be regarded with some caution because studies, the results of Olivero et al. (1997) of relatively moderate interrater reliabilities support the idea that executive coaching ben- for some codes, as well as a lack of atten- efits both the executive and the company. tion to the role of chance agreement in cal- Executives experienced coaching as a posi- culating these reliabilities. tive endeavor, and they gained increased sat- Results from Garman et al.’s (2000) study isfaction and productivity in their work. In suggest that, although executive coaching is Hall et al.’s study (1999), executives reported generally viewed favorably, psychologists being “very satisfied” with their coaching are not universally viewed as uniquely valu- experiences as did the executives in Gegner’s able service providers. Eighty-eight percent (1997) study. Garman et al. (2000) further of the articles reviewed were coded as evalu- reported that professional publications con- ating executive coaching favorably. In con- cerning executive coaching practice were trast, less than one third of the articles re- generally positive; however, psychologists viewed mentioned psychological training were not universally viewed as unique con- specifically, and only two thirds of those that tributors to the executive coaching process. did address it described psychologists as And the executives in Laske (1999b) were having unique executive coaching skills. In chosen because they had been identified as addition, only 45% of the articles distin- experiencing meaningful change as a result guishing between psychologists and other of coaching. executive coaching service providers de- A second idea discussed in the practice scribed psychological training as an asset. literature and supported by the results of An additional 36% of these articles de- Olivero et al. (1997) is the increased learn- scribed the unique skills of psychologists ing that occurs with executive coaching. as potentially favorable or unfavorable, Many have identified the individually tai- whereas the remaining 18% of articles di- lored nature of executive coaching as one of rectly addressing psychologists described the main reasons for its success (O’Brien, them as potentially harmful. Although they 1997; Harris, 1999; Witherspoon & White, did not directly assess it in their coding 1996a). In Olivero et al., knowledge in- scheme, Garman et al. (2000) suggested two creased at a higher rate after training and possible sources for unfavorable perceptions coaching than after training alone. One point of psychologists as executive coaches: some to be considered is the fact that the coaches clinical psychologists are entering the field in this study were not professional coaches. without appropriate retraining, and some Professional executive coaches tend to have consumers perceive that psychologists use more experience than that possessed by the extensive assessment in executive coaching participants providing coaching in this study. simply to increase billable hours. In light of this, it seems likely that the re- sults of executive coaching when practiced Link of Empirical Studies to by professional and experienced coaches Practice Articles might be even greater. A third idea discussed in the practice- Six of the seven empirical studies (Gar- based literature and supported by the results man et al., 2000; Gegner 1997; Hall et al., of Gegner (1997) and Laske (1999b) is the 1999; Judge & Cowell, 1997; Laske, 1999b; behavioral changes that occur as a result of Olivero et al., 1997) provide some support executive coaching. All of the executives in for points discussed in the practice litera- both studies reported behavioral changes, 222 Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research Fall 2001
  19. 19. and Laske (1999b) provided support for the Richard (1999) suggested that they be in- hypothesis that the developmental level of cluded as clientele for executive coaching the client and coach is necessary for effect- services. If this inclusion occurs, however, ing developmental change. what would distinguish executive coaching The results from Judge and Cowell (1997) from general business or other types of and from Hall et al. (1999) support a fourth coaching? Maybe nothing would, which sug- idea discussed in the practice literature re- gests that executive coaching is a new name garding the educational background of for a previously and long-existing consulta- coaches. Judge and Cowell found a wide tion intervention. range of educational backgrounds. Coaches interviewed had undergraduate degrees Conclusion ranging from drama to psychology; however, 90% also had master’s degrees in either busi- The purpose of this article was to criti- ness or social science. This, in part, supports cally review the existing practice-based and the concern expressed in the practice litera- empirically based literature on executive ture regarding the variety of professionals coaching to determine (a) what has been identifying themselves as coaches. Although written and therefore what is known about Garman et al. (2000) focused specifically executive coaching, (b) whether executive on examining whether or not psychological coaching is an effective tool for improving training was regarded as an asset in execu- individual and organizational performance, tive coaching, their findings provide further and (c) whether executive coaching is just support for the need to standardize qualifi- another business fad. cations and practice. The fact that Garman Regarding what has been written and what et al. (2000) did not find that psychologists is known about executive coaching, the lit- were universally recognized as uniquely erature seems to provide some basis for un- valuable challenges the idea proposed by derstanding the definition, purpose, process, Brotman et al. (1998) and others that psy- methodologies, clients, and service provid- chologists are best qualified. At minimum, ers of executive coaching. The literature also it challenges psychologists to articulate more provides some limited evidence that execu- clearly their significant contributions to the tive coaching is effective for increasing per- practice of executive coaching. formance (Olivero et al., 1997), is viewed A fifth idea supported by the empirical favorably by executives (Gegner, 1997), and research concerns the methods used by the has the potential to facilitate developmental coaches surveyed. Similar to what was re- change (Laske, 1999b). What needs further ported in the practice articles, coaches in explanation are the more substantive ways Judge and Cowell (1997) used a variety of that executive coaching differs from psycho- approaches, ranging from behavioral to psy- therapy and counseling. Furthermore, the type chodynamic, yet regardless of approach in- of outcomes executive coaching has in the field cluded 360-degree assessments in their pro- needs further empirical investigation. cess. Finally, executive coaching was Even though the literature provides some provided for both developmental and reme- basis for understanding executive coaching, dial purposes as suggested in the practice it also identifies concerns regarding the ab- literature. One unexpected result from Judge sence of a clear and widely accepted (a) defi- and Cowell (1997) was the finding that many nition, (b) standard of practice, and (c) agree- professionals other than executives (e.g., ment as to the appropriate service providers lawyers, doctors, and other professionals) (Brotman et al., 1998; Kilburg, 2000). Re- seek executive coaching services. Little is garding the definition of executive coaching, known about this group of recipients, though an integration of Kilburg’s (2000) definition Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 223 Fall 2001
  20. 20. with components of Caplan’s (1970) CCAC ever, they do not necessarily represent the and Kinlaw’s (1997) general coaching may field of psychology. Brotman et al. (1998) provide a comprehensive understanding of argued that the APA should become involved current practices. It is interesting to note, in regulating executive coaching practices however, that Kilburg made the statement because psychologists possess many of the that consultants use “behavioral techniques” skills necessary to provide executive coach- when much of his conceptualization of ex- ing services. If the APA were to become in- ecutive coaching is from a psychodynamic volved, would they do so in conjunction with perspective. The difficulty of defining execu- the ICF or would they do so alone? What tive coaching may also be a result of the many implication would the APA becoming in- different individuals and disciplines involved volved have on the practice of executive in providing executive coaching services. Re- coaching, particularly because the ICF rep- gardless, however, some consensus regard- resents coaches from more than one disci- ing a basic definition seems important. Vari- pline? For psychologists, at minimum, it ants on approaches can later be addressed, seems that the APA could provide ethical as is the case in counseling and psycho- guidelines for those who are involved in pro- therapy. Or, similar to counseling and psy- viding executive coaching services. chotherapy, one definition may be difficult Before one can develop guidelines, one to develop and agree on. has to address the skills and qualifications A final note regarding definition has to needed to provide such services. From re- do with the inclusion or exclusion of law- viewing the literature, it seems that provid- yers, doctors, and other professionals as re- ers need to be able to take on a feedback role cipients of executive coaching. Richard (Wacklawski & Church, 1999), use the rela- (1999) argued that other professionals should tionship as a tool (Kilburg, 2000; O’Neill, be included as recipients, and Judge and 2000), and be knowledgeable about the ex- Cowell (1997) found these individuals to ecutive coaching context and its impact on exist as recipients of executive coaching ser- the leader and the coaching process (Died- vices. Do these individuals necessarily have rich, 1996; Whitherspoon & White, 1997). managerial authority in an organization as Knowledge about the context probably in- Kilburg defines? Does making the recipients cludes awareness of business, management, more inclusive change the executive coach- and political principles, which have been ing process? Is it the clientele that makes identified as important (e.g., Saporito, 1996; executive coaching unique, or is it the ex- Sperry, 1996). ecutive coaching process? Is it a combina- A caveat, however, and one that was pre- tion of the two? If executive coaching is more viously mentioned, deals with the executive inclusive, then how does it differ from gen- coaching process. In order to know who is eral business coaching? To better address best qualified to deliver executive coaching these questions and determine the best defi- services, we need to know more about the nition of executive coaching, the process of executive coaching process and how it re- executive coaching may need to be better lates to outcomes. For example, do process understood and researched. and outcome look different when coaching Related to the definition are the standards is remedial versus developmental? What spe- of practice and who should be delivering cifically about the coaching process is re- executive coaching services. Although some sponsible for the desired outcomes? The re- discussion and development of standards has lationship has been identif ied by many taken place, no set of standards has been fully (Hargrove, 1995; Kilburg, 2000; O’Neill, developed or widely accepted. To date, the 2000) as one of the most important tools in ICF has begun to develop standards; how- effecting change. What about the relation- 224 Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research Fall 2001