We worked with Professor Jonathan Passmore to investigate coaches’ understanding of what makes successful coaching.

Coaching has grown hugely from the ‘90s and in our previous research, Creating a coaching culture, we saw that 80% of the organisations surveyed had or were using coaching.

We interviewed 49 coaches, coachees and observers. These ranged from those with no formal qualifications or accreditation to those accredited by a coaching body and holding up to level 7 qualifications in coaching.

What we found

Coaching is on the rise but remains unregulated

Our sense is that coaching is emerging as a professional field. Research shows that coaching can have significant and positive effects on coachees’ performance and goal attainment, as well as skills, attitudes and well-being. But, as coaching remains unregulated it is still a case of ‘buyer beware’.

Interpretation of what a coach is still varies

We found broad agreement, we also found worrying variation in understanding. Although there is no standard definition, nearly a quarter of the people we interviewed struggled to define coaching. There was broad agreement on which techniques work well and there was some but not complete agreement with what has been identified by the academic literature. Collectively our interviewees identified 27 different indicators of success, progression and performance being the most commonly cited.

Selecting coaches, taking a robust approach

We can help to improve collective understanding, and the quality of coaching, in how we select our coaches. We propose a ten question approach to selecting a coach. We also propose a Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale, to compare competence between coaches when selecting. This can be used in an assessment centre and by individual coaches considering their development towards coaching mastery.