The Executive Coaching Relationship – Research Study

December 16, 2011  |   Executive Coaching Blog   |     |   0 Comment

The executive coaching relationship is perceived by many writers and researchers as the foundation for successful coaching. However most of these authors and researchers are coaching practitioners or academics. There is very little research on the clients’ perspective of the executive coaching relationship.

This is surprising given there is evidence that the Executive Coach and the Client assess the strength of the relationship differently. Yet there is a strong correlation between the clients’ assessment of the strength of the relationship and successful coaching outcomes.


This led me to focus on this topic for the research required for my Masters Degree in Coaching & Mentoring. This turned out to be a fascinating study that significantly enhanced my understanding of the way in which executive coaching clients experience the coaching relationship. As a result we have built many of the learnings into the approach we take to Executive Coaching in our Company, Tony Goddard Consulting.


The following Abstract provides a summary of the research. Below that is a link to the full Masters Degree Dissertation.



The Clients’ Experience of the Executive Coaching Relationship

Tony Goddard

The executive coaching relationship is often cited as being of central importance in successful coaching.  However empirical research on the topic is very limited.  In particular there is a need to understand better the clients’ perspective of the executive coaching relationship.  This qualitative phenomenological study explored how clients experienced the executive coaching relationship.  Six executives from four large commercial organisations were interviewed using semi-structured interviews.  All had received at least eight hours executive coaching and were still working with a coach.  The transcripts were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA).


A number of themes emerged from the analysis which the participants experienced as important in their executive coaching relationships.  These included aspects related to; the coach as a person, the participants themselves and the ways that the participants and their coach worked together.  Certain aspects of the participants’ experience appeared to be underemphasised in the descriptions of the coaching relationship in the coaching literature.  These included the skills of the Executive Coach, the psychological benefit of the location for coaching and parts of the coaching process.


There are proposals in the coaching literature that the findings from therapy research on relationship may be transferred for coaching.  Although this may be possible, the findings in this study, suggest that this may need to be done with care in the context of executive coaching.


Link to Dissertation on The Clients’ Experience of the Executive Coaching Relationship


Key Words; Executive Coaching, Executive Coaching Company, Executive Coaching Services, Executive Coaching Relationship, Executive Coaching Clients, Executive Coaching Research, Executive Coaching Provider

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