Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How Did We Get Here? A report on the Development of Coaches Study

Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 by International Coach Federation


As we continue to learn more about the world of coaches through studies such as the 2012 ICF Global Coaching Study, we still understand little about the processes by which individuals become effective coaches. We all come to this field of practice with decades of professional and personal experiences. How do these experiences influence how we coach?   The answers to this question have implications for the education, training and on-going professional development of practitioners.

The Development of Coaches Study is a long-term, global study that was designed to investigate this question and gather data to help inform coaches, coach educators and policy-makers in the field. The survey instrument was developed by a collaborative group of coaching researchers *, who adapted an instrument that was used in a long-term global study of the development of psychotherapists.

After the 2009 ICF Research Committee reviewed the merits of the study, they decided that it was so important that the organization should continuing offering promotional support in the future. The quantitative items on the survey investigate a number of dimensions of coach preparation, coaching practices, practice conditions, coach attitudes and perspectives, and coach characteristics. The survey also includes one qualitative item, asking coaches to identify life events which have had a significant impact on them as coaches.

While data collection on the global survey is still in the early stages, a pilot study of the survey generated 80 responses to the life events question, allowing an analysis of this qualitative item. A collaborative colleague, Deepa Awal, and I conducted a content analysis of these responses. The resulting article, entitled: Life’s Thumbprint:  The impact of significant life events on coaches and their coaching, has been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice

Since the submission and acceptance of our article, we have also been combing through the first set of real quantitative data from the study. While the response numbers are still too small to support any statistical analyses, the descriptive data from the 184 responses to date offers a glimpse of many dimensions and characteristics of coaching practitioners and opens doors to further inquiry. An Executive Summary of this research will eventually be posted in the ICF Research Portal. In the meantime, the following is brief overview of our findings in the life events analysis that was recently completed:

Overview of the Life Events Responses

From the initial 80 responses to the life events question, we identified and categorized  174 discrete life events. These fell into three groups: Coaching field specific events (formal coach training, practice coaching, receiving coaching/mentoring and professional affiliation);  Individual non-work experiences (a wide variety of personal experiences such as illness, death of parent or partner, divorce and similar events); and other professional experiences  (professional activities, education and training not specific to the provision of coaching). 

Each category of events was shown to impact a coach’s development in a different way.  Coaching field specific events, for example, had the greatest impact on coaching specific skills and knowledge. The individual non-work experiences, most of which might be considered of a challenging nature, appear to promote self-insight, empathy and a search for deeper meaning in life. The impact of prior professional experiences varied, offering some transferable skills and an understanding of the organizational context. Given the diverse impacts that different categories of life experiences, we suggest that the preparation and on-going development of coaches should address three domains: technical (skills), affective (self-development) and cognitive (theoretical knowledge). 

What’s Next?

We will continue to collect data on the quantitative and qualitative items of the survey. The resulting data set promises to be a very rich resource for a number of additional studies. The Development of Coaches Study is a collaborative research project and any qualified researcher is invited to participate and to mine the data to add multiple dimensions to our understanding of the initial research questions: 
  1. What are the personal and professional experiences that influence coaches in their practice as a coach?
  2. What are the dimensions of coaching practice that are impacted by personal and professional experiences?
  3. What is the impact of specific life experiences on the coach’s values, mental models and coaching behaviors?
We are seeking a large and diverse respondent population.  So, if you have not already completed the survey, please do so now and also forward the survey link to any of your coaching colleagues. Please click on this link below to take the survey.
If you have any questions or comments about the Development of Coaches Study or you are interested in becoming part of the collaborative research project, please contact me at Francine@reinventinglife.net.


  1. Great article! This really brings light to the essential components of a great coach. It truly is all about the skills, values, beliefs and identity of the person. Thanks for simplifying the complicated.

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  3. Great article. Thanks for sharing this great information in the Coaches study. I provide executive coaching training services in New England, and I'm always looking to learn more about the topic. Keep the excellent content coming!


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