Psychological Mindedness in Executive Coaching
: An Interdisciplinary, Mixed-method, Exploratory Study of Coaching Effectiveness, Predictors, and Coaching Outcomes

  • Judit Orban

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The type of person who is most likely to benefit from executive coaching is an important issue, yet unanswered questions remain, both for academic research and practitioners. Psychological mindedness in clinical settings has long been accepted as a key ingredient of therapy and moderator of successful therapeutic outcomes (Conte et al., 1990). As originally defined by Appelbaum, psychological mindedness is “a person’s ability to see relationships amongst thoughts, feelings, and actions, with the goal of learning the meanings and causes of his experiences and behaviour” (Appelbaum, 1973). This thesis proposed that, based on shared commonalities identified by this research between coaching and therapy, the construct could make a similar contribution in predicting coaching effectiveness and therefore indicating individual suitability for coaching. The main objective of this thesis is to test the concept of psychological mindedness and its links to coaching effectiveness. More specifically, the research seeks to explore the role of psychological mindedness in executive coaching and its impact on coaching effectiveness, contributing to evidence-based coaching research and practice. Following a literature review to explore executive coaching and psychological mindedness, two studies were conducted to investigate the research aims of this thesis. Study One followed a multi-method, qualitative, multi-stage, sequential exploratory research, designed to answer the following research question: ‘What is coaching effectiveness and how can it be measured?’
    The study focused on exploring predictors and outcomes of coaching and developing a Coaching Effectiveness Scale, designed to measure the perceived effectiveness of executive coaching. The first stage of the scale development process drew on the works of recent meta-analytic and systematic reviews that focused on coaching effectiveness (Sonesh et al., 2015; Jones et al., 2016; Athanasopoulou et al., 2018) and explored the challenge of the measurement and outcome criteria with which to evaluate coaching effectiveness (MacKie, 2007). The study utilised an abductive approach and the framework of coaching outcomes identified during the literature review as a starting point for the exploration of coaching outcomes. Five key areas of coaching outcomes were identified during this review: individual outcomes for the coach and separately for the coachee; relationship outcomes, referring to the relationship between coach and coachee, including coaching alliance; goal-oriented outcomes; and finally, organisational outcomes (see Theeboom et al., 2014). The review highlighted the absence of robust and rigorous tools that could be used in research or in coaching practice to effectively measure coaching effectiveness or track the impact of coaching with any level of certainty (see Jones et al., 2014). The scale development was split between Study One and Study Two. Study One revolved around theme identification and item generation. It also acted as a starting point to examine the face and content validity of the coaching effectiveness scale, utilising focus group methodology, involving 33 participants who were coachees, coaches and organisational stakeholders, followed by thematic analysis. Part of Study Two served as a pilot to further examine the validity and reliability of the scale by administering the scale in a pilot situation (n=65). Exploratory factor analysis of the coaching effectiveness scale resulted in a one-factor, seven-theme model consisting of 20 items. Using this scale, Study Two acted as a pilot to explore the potential relationship between psychological mindedness and coachees’ perception of coaching effectiveness. The analysis explored the correlations between the independent variable (psychological mindedness) and dependent variable (coaching effectiveness) and provided an answer for the research question of: ‘Does coachees’ psychological mindedness make a contribution to coaching effectiveness?’ The results of the pilot study indicated that coachees’ psychological mindedness significantly predicted coaching effectiveness, accounting for 57.9% of the variation in their coaching effectiveness score. For every one-point increment in the score on the psychological mindedness scale, coachees’ perceived coaching effectiveness increased by 0.46 with 95% confidence interval. Based on these results, it could be concluded that there is, in fact, a statistically significant relationship between psychological mindedness and coaching effectiveness. However, in view of the limitations of the sample size of 65 in Study 2, the results should be treated with caution. As the regression analysis only included one independent variable, i.e., the psychological mindedness score, the pilot was able to achieve the 5:1 ratio recommended by the literature (Bryant & Yarnold, 1995; MacCallum et al., 1999) and the sample sufficiently meets the statistical tests to draw inferences; however, further research is required to fully explore the validity and reliability of the proposed Coaching Effectiveness Scale. Therefore, this scale cannot be reliably used until it is further tested and refined with more data collected (e.g., as part of future research). To compensate for the limitations posed by the small sample size of the proposed Coaching Effectiveness Scale at this stage of its development, an in-depth, qualitative examination of the focus group data sessions was conducted as part of the scale development process. This was followed by an in-depth, thematic exploration of the proposed themes. The qualitative analysis showed similar findings in coaching effectiveness themes. Although the findings provided useful insights, future research is required.
    Overall, the findings of this thesis make an evidence-based contribution to both coaching research and practice, and to the application of psychological mindedness outside of the clinical domain. The research offers an exploration of the theoretical model of the impact of psychological mindedness on coaching effectiveness in an organisational context and furthers our understanding of the type of outcomes that can be expected from coaching. The thesis also provides an indication of a possible measure of coaching effectiveness which needs to be further tested in a larger sample. In addition, by creating an argument for the suitability of the psychological mindedness construct to executive coaching, this thesis makes both a theoretical contribution to the applicability of the construct outside of the clinical domain and provides further validity and reliability data for the PMS scale as a measurement tool (Conte et al., 1990).
    Date of Award7 Apr 2024
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Portsmouth
    SupervisorKaren Johnston (Supervisor) & Yi-Ling Lai (Supervisor)

    Cite this