The (Mis)perception of Coaching (Part 1 of 5)

In early 2011 I sent out invites via a range of social media networks to participate in a study that sought to explore the understanding the exists in society about coaching.   Specifically, the study aimed to determine whether there was a consistent or shared perception about what coaching seeks to achieve, and the methods used by coaches to enable this and whether this is influenced by past experience.   After  two weeks  273 participants had completed the survey.

Of this group 32.6% were male and 67.4% were female.   The majority of the respondents were between the ages of 31 and 60 (48.7% between the age of 31 and 45; 38.8% aged 46-60).  Only 3.3% of respondents were aged over 61 and 9.2% of respondents were aged 30 or under.    A significant majority (83.9%) lived in theUKand over half had a postgraduate degree or higher (62.6%).  A further 25.3% of respondents had a first degree.

In terms of having experienced coaching, three-quarters of the respondents had accessed coaching previously (75.8%).   9.9% of respondents had both purchased coaching and considered themselves to be a coach;  38.5% indicated that they considered themselves to be a coach;  a further 5.1% purchased coaching services but did not coach themselves.

 Respondents were asked to indicate what type(s) of coaching they had previously accessed.  The breakdown is as follows:

Coaching Niche

Percentage of Respondents





















Other individuals indicated that they had received “redundancy coaching”,  “coaching supervision and co-coaching”, “leadership coaching”, “conflict coaching”, “disability strategies coaching” and “driving instruction coaching”.

Prior to commencing the survey a number of friends had said to me “You’ll have to help me: I don’t know what coaching is”.   This kind of comment was exactly what I seeking to explore in my survey, so I keen to ensure that there was no cross-contamination of understanding between the researcher and the participants.

As a result, the participants were not given any briefing prior to completing the survey regarding the nature of coaching itself. No definitions or frameworks were provided and thereby participants were able to respond to the questionnaire without any influence from the researcher.  In this way, the methodology ensured the integrity of the data.

However, this approach also brought limitations to the study.  For example two friends were completing the survey together.  One ticked the “I am a coach” box; the other didn’t.  They both believe they use coaching skills in their role as a line-manager, but their perception as to whether or not that made them a coach differed.

So whilst this research yielded some interesting results it suffers the usual complaint of academic research:  whilst one question is being answered, two more questions are being asked.

This is the first blog post of 5.  The next 4 blog posts will outline in detail the conclusions drawn from the survey.


One comment on “The (Mis)perception of Coaching (Part 1 of 5)

  1. HRCrowd says:

    What an interesting study – I shall look forward to further analysis. It is of particular interest on perception of “coaching” that exists.
    Well done for such topical research.

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