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Do the effects of leadership coaching last?

The scientific basis for leadership coaching, and especially for the newer discipline of coaching psychology, has been steadily growing over the last 15 years. We now know that leadership coaching is effective, and what it is effective at achieving. We also know much more about how leadership coaching works, for whom, and when.

In this series of 3 linked blogs, Consultant Coaching Psychologist and Executive Coach, Dr Fiona Day brings us up to date with the latest research evidence relating to the science underpinning leadership coaching and Coaching Psychology.

Last blog we looked at the question of ‘does leadership coaching work?’ and the nine meta-analyses which have now consistently found positive outcomes at both organisational and individual levels, allowing us as commissioners of coaching, users of coaching services, or coaches to have confidence that leadership coaching is an effective intervention.

In this blog, we will look at the question of whether coaching lasts, whether there is a latency effect (a time delay from completion of a coaching programme to effects being seen) and the specific benefits of the new discipline of coaching psychology.

Does it last and is there a ‘latency effect’?

Many of the research studies in coaching have focused on shorter-term outcomes from coaching, and it is important to ask the question about whether the impacts last ‘enduring effects’. In addition, some outcomes may only be seen after a period of time, a ‘latency effect’.

A recent systematic review of the medium and longer term effects of coaching for professionals ranging from managers to executives, did find conclusive evidence of positive longer term effects from executive coaching.

Many of these effects were not seen immediately ie they were not picked up in shorter term studies, but are in keeping with a ‘latency effect’ of coaching. This is thought to be due to the process of internal psychological changes occurring in the leader who was coached, as they make changes to their meaning-making systems and how they perceive themselves and the world around them.

Two main clusters of outcomes have been documented as enduring from leadership coaching.

  1. ‘Leader identity development’

    Leader identity development is the psychological process of resolving ambiguities relating to performing leadership roles, through forming and refining one’s sense of identity as a leader. It involves increased intrinsic motivation, identity creation and the reframing of one’s relationships with subordinates.

  2. Psychological resourcing’

    Psychological resourcing is the process of motivating oneself through psychological self-regulation. This requires both goal setting and alignment with values, coupled with learning feedback cycles, in order to build confidence and internalise the learning obtained through coaching.

What is ‘Coaching Psychology’ and what are the added benefits of psychologically-informed coaching?

Coaching Psychology, originally described in 2001 is a new, distinct discipline within the field of psychology. The British Psychological Society defines Coaching Psychology as ‘the scientific study and application of behaviour, cognition and emotion to deepen our understanding of individuals’ and groups’ performance, achievement and wellbeing, and to enhance practice within coaching’. A doctoral-level qualification, enabling specialists in this field to become ‘Chartered Psychologists in Coaching Psychology’ has been awarded since 2022.

Psychologically-informed leadership coaching, ie leadership coaching by Coaching Psychologists, has been found to have additional benefits for clients above those seen by traditional leadership coaches.

A recent meta-analysis of psychologically-informed coaching provided by external coaches found significant positive effects for individuals’ cognitive outcomes (general perceived efficacy and goal attainment); objective work performance improvement (rated by others); and individual’s psychological well-being. The meta-analysis concluded that psychologically informed coaching provides a more holistic intervention to clients’ wider psychological needs, and that external leadership coaches with a background in psychology generate better coaching outcomes.

In summary

Lasting effects from leadership coaching are seen in two main areas: that of leader identity development and that of psychological resourcing. Coaching Psychology is a new area of psychology which has additional positive outcomes for leadership clients.

In the next blog, Fiona will talk about how coaching works, ie the factors driving coaching outcomes.

Dr Fiona Day is a former Board level medical leader and is now one of the UK’s leading executive coaches. She is independently accredited by the British Psychological Society as a Chartered Psychologist in Coaching Psychology, and by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) as a Master Practitioner.

Further reading in this series:

Part 1 – Does Leadership Coaching work?

Part 3 – How does coaching work?

About Aziz Corporate

Aziz was founded over 30 years ago by Khalid Aziz, a media pioneer of his day who at 21 became the youngest ever appointed BBC producer.

About Fiona Day

Dr Fiona Day is a former Board level medical leader and is now one of the UK’s leading executive coaches. She is independently accredited by the British Psychological Society as a Chartered Psychologist in Coaching Psychology, and by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) as a Master Practitioner.

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