The (Mis)Perception of Coaching (Part 3 of 5)

Part 1 on the (mis)perception of coaching outlined the nature of the survey and the demographics of the participants.  This post seeks to answer one of the questions explored in the survey.

Is there any synergy between participants in their understanding of which behaviours are important for a coach to display?

Whilst the model or theory deployed by the coach is important within a coaching session, the behaviours demonstrated are also a key element.    “Helpful behaviours” orPersonal Qualities” or “skills” are frequently discussed within academic literature.

 What works best in coaching?*

From executives From coaches
Honest, realistic, challenging feedbackGood listeningGood action points ideasClear objectives

No personal agenda

Accessibility , availability

Straight feedback

Competence, sophistication

Seeing a good model of effectiveness

Coach has seen other career paths

Connecting personally, recognising where the coachee isGood listeningReflectingCaring


Checking back

Commitment to coachee success

Demonstrating integrity

Openness & honesty

Knowing the ‘unwritten rules’.

Pushing the coachee where necessary

In addition to the above, academic literature also highlights the following qualities: “empathy, perspective, clear focus, intuition, objectivity and strength to challenge the coachee.   The Co-active Coaching Model also tries to integrate these elements and are defined as:  listening, curiosity, self-management, forward / deepen, intuition.

The only model that I came across in my research that consciously details the personal qualities was Passmore’s “Integrative Coaching Model”* which combines the personal qualities, use of psychological theory and self-awareness.

The personal qualities required by a coach is discussed at length in coaching literature, often based on research undertaken with groups of coaches and coaches.  This previous research has highlighted a vast array of different personal qualities that one single coach could not possibly possess.

In the survey, self-declared “coach – participants” were not asked about which coaching models or theories they used within a coaching session, they were asked to indicate whether a list of personal qualities were important in a coaching environment.   The participants were provided with a list of 16 behaviours and asked to rate them.

The results highlight that there were 25 strong positive correlations between pairing of behaviours.  Two behaviours (commitment and sense of perspective) had the largest number of strong positive correlations.

There was a strong correlation between commitment and the following:

  • pushing the coachees where necessary
  • maturity
  • organisational savvy
  • seeking clarity
  • personal connection
  • openness

With regards to sense of perspective, the correlations were as follows:

  • objectivity
  • listening
  • openness
  • seeking clarification
  • personal connection

This research suggests that whilst it is accepted from previous research a coach needs a range of personal qualities that underpin excellent communication skills, there are two core personal qualities that are considered more important than others.

*Table taken from Passmore, J., (November 2007) “Addressing deficit performance through coaching – using motivational interviewing for performance improvement at work” International Coaching Psychology Review, Vol. 2 No. 3

You can read about Passmore’s Integrative Model in Excellence in Coaching, Association for Coaching, Ed.  Passmore, J.  Kogan Page 2 edition (2010)


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.

Guest Blog – coaching

Today I have a guest post on Coaching Confidence’s blog about the “Public Misperception of Coaching”.

You can read the post here.

I am currently researching this topic as part of my Masters Degree in Coaching Psychology.  This post launches my on-line survey.  If you would like to participate in my research, please click here .  The survey will take you no longer than 5 minutes to complete.

You can follow Coaching Confidence on Twitter  @theCoachingblog.