Psychology in executive coaching: an integrated literature review

Yi-Ling Lai, Stephen Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to identify essential psychological-informed executive coaching approaches that enhance the organisational learning and development process and outcomes through integrating existing research evidence. Since coaching has been widely used in leadership development related areas and previous studies confirmed that this generates positive effects on individual-level learning in the organisational setting. The identified frameworks and influential factors outlined in this paper can serve as explicit guidelines for the organisation and management team when setting selection and evaluation benchmarks for employing executive coaches.

Design/methodology/approach - An integrated review approach was applied to narratively synthesise 234 (k=234) identified peer-review articles between 1995 and 2018. This review followed a rigorous protocol that the authors consulted ten (n=10) experts in the field. Both qualitative and quantitative psychological-focused research evidence was included in this study.

Findings - First, certain psychological approaches, such as cognitive behavioural, solution-focused, GROW and strength-based approaches, were highlighted in current research evidence. Second, the essential factors and skills, for instance, building trust, transparency and rapport, and facilitating learning were identified. Third, the main organisational learning and development outcome evaluation methods were outlined in this review, such as the self-efficacy scale, organisational commitment, workplace psychological well-being, 360-degree feedback and the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire.

Research limitations/implications
- It is always challenging to integrate research evidence on coaching because of the diversity of theoretical disciplines upon which coaching interventions draw. Therefore, it is difficult to generate a meta-analytic review which can generate statistical results. This review also reveals room for improvement in the quality of existing coaching evidence in accordance with the criteria for evidence-based management or practice (Briner et al., 2009), such as research methodology and evaluation design. Moreover, there is a lack of evidence on this reflective process which helps professional coaches to ensure the quality of their practice and organisational support.

Practical implications - This review offers a new perspective on the role psychology plays in the organisational learning and development practices. The identified coaching approaches, influential interpersonal skills and outcome evaluation methods can serve as practical guidelines when applying external coaching to facilitate a better organisational learning and development process and outcome.

Originality/value - This is the first literature review to focus on contemporary psychological-informed coaching evidence (between 1995 and 2018) in the workplace setting. Despite the rapid growth in demand for professional coaching practitioners (International Coach Federation, 2016), there is a lack of research-informed evidence to overcome the challenges faced by organisations when employing external coaches, such as what selection criteria or evaluation benchmarks to use. This review takes a practical perspective to identify essential body of knowledge and behavioural indicators required for an executive coach to facilitate an effective learning and development outcome.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Work - Applied Management
Early online date2 Aug 2019
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 2 Aug 2019

Keywords

  • Executive coaching
  • literature review
  • Organisational learning and development
  • coaching psychology
  • integrated review

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