Executive Coaching is now a billion dollar industry. One can hope that is because it is found to be the most effective learning strategy for developing leaders. One might also worry that it is instead because of effective marketing techniques.
As the field of coaching develops, we are seeing a surge in research. Much of this research has serious limitations because it is conducted by those trying to sell their services. But there is a trend toward "Evidence-based Coaching" and here coaching is being put to the litmus test. This weekend I had the opportunity to hear Anthony Grant from the University of Sydney speak on his research on coaching and it was refreshing. Why? for the following reasons:
- He is actually conducting randomized, controlled experimental studies on coaching effectiveness.
- His studies are aimed at examining whether coaching is indeed effective, and if so, in what context.
- He overtly challenges the coaching profession to develop more critical thinking and rigorous empirical evidence.
- He acknowledges that much of the public (and academic) perception of coaching is (to paraphrase) conducted by happy-faced people led by gurus and is lacking any kind of scientific base.....( Seen Penn and Teller's parody of Life Coaching?)
- His research finds that INSIGHT is necessary for change, and;
- He proposes that Coaching is essentially Applied Positive Psychology.
I applaud this effort to apply scientific rigor to the coaching field. I am also confident the research will confirm the benefits of this learning approach and provide us a better roadmap for conducting effective leadership development programs.