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Use Coaching Research to Get Clients by Tracy O’Neill

Dec 21st, 2009 | By | Category: Coaching Research, Featured Content

staffconversationDo you want more clients in your coaching practice? Then present your target audience with evidence that coaching is a sound investment. Research can show clients how coaching was used in situations similar to their own and what results were obtained. The studies also help coaches determine which techniques and tools are most effective in specific settings.

Where Can I Find Coaching Research?
The best resources for coaching research are university library databases. In addition to finding information through coaching oriented publications, pay particular attention to journals in the fields of Psychology, Management, Human Resources, Organizational Development, and Training. Coaching research is also available on the internet. While some websites require a subscription, many offer free or trial access to coaching material. Here are a few coaching research sources accessible online:

What Type of Research is Appropriate to Share?

The answer will depend on your target audience, their background, and what they are familiar with. In general, there are two approaches to any research project – quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative studies are highly structured, technical and scientific. They answer questions about relationships among measured variables. The purpose of quantitative research is to explain and predict, confirm and validate, and test theory. A relatively large body of literature is usually available on the subject matter. Quantitative research focuses on the breadth of discovery, using a representative sample and standardized instruments for data collection. Studies can be completed in a relatively short period of time and don’t require a lot of personal interaction. Quantitative findings are communicated through numbers, statistics, aggregated data, and a formal voice. Common quantitative research designs include:

  • Observation studies – focus on a particular aspect of behavior
  • Survey research – draws long-term conclusions from a collection of data at a particular point in time.
  • Experimental research – examines cause and effect relationships

Qualitative studies are communicated in a narrative or literary style that is similar to how articles may be written in popular publications. They answer questions about the complex nature of phenomena, with the possibility of multiple points of view. The purpose of qualitative research is to describe, explain, evaluate, explore, interpret, verify and/or build theory. Literature on the subject matter is limited. Qualitative research involves in-depth study for relatively long periods of time in a loosely structured environment. Studies require personal interaction within a small sample of the population and include observations and interviews. Qualitative findings are communicated through words, individual quotes, and personal voice. Common qualitative research designs include:

  • Case studies – to understand a particular person, program, or event
  • Ethnographies – to understand how behaviors reflect the culture of a group
  • Phenomenological studies – to understand an experience from the participants’ viewpoint
  • Content analysis – to identify specific characteristics of a body of material

When choosing research for your client, it is best to share studies that match their concerns, personality, and environment. Use research to show how coaching was successful in situations similar to what they may be experiencing. For example, business leaders wanting to improve their performance at work would relate to research on executive coaching. The same applies to clients with personal goals. There is plenty of research out there but if you cannot find information in a particular coaching area, conduct your own research. First, purchase a good book on research planning and design to help structure your study and adhere to ethical guidelines (For more information on the research process, review the book Practical Research: Planning and Design, by Paul D. Leedy and Jeanne Ellis Ormrod.) Then locate specialty coaches on the internet and ask them for case studies of their own experiences, interviews, or to fill out a survey. Analyze and interpret the data to draw conclusions. Finally, share your findings with the participants and your own target market. Don’t forget to review books written on coaching topics. Many contain case studies that may be useful in your own practice.

A Final Word about Research

The quality of research you find may vary considerably, so look at each study with a critical eye. Consider these questions when evaluating research:

  • Who sponsored the study? Do they have a vested interest in the outcome?
  • Was the research reviewed by experts before being published?
  • How was data collected and analyzed?
  • How many participants were in the sample population?
  • How was the sample population drawn?
  • Does the outcome coincide with other literary knowledge?
  • Can the findings be generalized to other contexts?
  • Do the conclusions correspond with the data collected?
  • Is there hidden information between the lines? If 25% of coachees found their coaching sessions helpful, does that mean that 75% of coachees felt it was a waste of time? Numbers can be skewed to support a particular viewpoint.

Think of coaching research for your market as a ConsumerReports Buying Guide. When people make large purchases, they want to be sure the items they are buying have a strong history and are reliable. Research provides a historical background and evidence of reliable methods. By reading and sharing coaching studies, coaches create a win-win situation. They gain expertise, best practices, and proof that coaching will work for their target market, while their clients get confirmation that coaching is a viable option for goal achievement and confidence to invest in a coaching program. It’s time to take action. Find research, share it, and grow your practice.

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One Response to “Use Coaching Research to Get Clients by Tracy O’Neill”

  1. kwebb says:

    Tracy, thanks for the help list of resources! Keith Webb

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