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

Life

37.7

Career

36.3

Business

36.3

Executive

28.4

Performance

26.5

Skills

23.0

Sports

18.6

Education

8.3

Health

3.4

Maternity

2.5

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.

Blogger’s Block

Once in a while I find out someone I know “outside” my Social Media world has picked up and read my blog:  a colleague will mention it in an email exchange, a supplier will mention it in a telephone conversation.

For some reason, when this happens, I find it hard to write the next post.   The reason is that I have “the fear” – fear that I’m going to write something too risky or that will breach confidentiality.  Knowing someone has read my blog makes me question myself and seeds of doubt grow in my mind.

I take great care whenever I write a post.  I might get my inspiration from an event or a conversation, but all my stories are transformed in such  a way that it no longer resembles the reality which inspired me.  My characters (“friends”) are fictional, and over the last six months their names have all started with the letter “D”  (had you noticed?).    The whole point of each post is to make a point:   it isn’t to expose, humiliate or demonise any particular person or any particular organisation.

There are lots of subjects that I want to write about.  But I can’t.  It would breach confidentiality, or I would end up in muddy legal waters.   I have a rule of never writing about anything that I’m currently working on.  And there’s some topics that are still too close to projects that I have completed, but I still feel uncomfortable discussing them in a post.  It’s times like these that I really wish I was anonymous, as then I think I would have more freedom to write.

Having said that, I enjoy writing this blog and it has benefits.  One client took me on because they had read my blog and liked it.  I find that  my relationships with new colleagues or other contacts develop more quickly if they have read my blog as they understand how I think and they know my views.  (The down-side is that our relationship isn’t on an equal basis, as I don’t have the same background information on them, but this is easily overcome).

One time a coachee quoted my blog in the middle of a coaching session.  (It took me a while to realise!)  We went on to use the subject matter of that particular post as part of the coaching session. I honestly believe it helped the coachee develop a greater level of insight into the issue.

I know the fear is ridiculous.  It often takes two to three weeks to over-come the fear.  In that time I struggle to write posts, but continue to do so to meet my self-determined target of at least one post per week.    I won’t let the fear beat me.