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Executive Coaching Works – by Anita Stadler, PhD

Mar 11th, 2012 | By | Category: Business Coaching

An article in the New York Times (January 27, 2012) questioned the value of life coaches, particularly those with little formal education, minimal coach training, and who have accrued less life experience than those they coach.  The article has brought to the forefront the need for professional coaches to be prepared to present evidence for the effectiveness of coaching.  As an executive coach, you may be asked where the evidence is that coaching actually works.  Fortunately, the evidence is stacking up.  You can tell them with confidence that the efficacy of coaching has been, and continues to be, rigorously researched and documented.  Tracy O’Neill’s posts on this site will be helpful (see  In addition, here are a few resources you may wish to consult so that you can be comfortable conveying the value of coaching to clients and business leaders.

Books and Journals: Dianne Stober, PhD and Anthony Grant, PhD have been long-time advocates for rigorous, scholarly research on coaching.  In 2006, they published “The Evidence Based Coaching Handbook”, the first compilation of perspectives on rigorous approaches to evaluating the effectiveness of coaching.  Scholarly journals usually require a paid subscription, but many of them are increasingly available online.  They can also be accessed through digital databases at libraries.  A few journals that address coaching are:

  • Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice
  • The International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring
  • Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research
  • International Coaching Review
  • The Coaching Psychologist

Organizations: Organizations that support coaching research are making this research more available to coaches.  For a number of years, I have been involved in the International Coach Federation’s special interest group on coaching research.  It is a forum for coaching researchers to continuously improve research methodologies and to report out on the results of studies.  The ICF maintains a web page with a few samples of research studies and doctoral dissertations on coaching that you can access at

Another organization supporting research on coaching is the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate.  See Their mission is to build the scientific foundation and best practices for coaching.  You might be interested in Dr. Anthony Grant’s presentation on Evidence for Coaching (through 2009) that is posted on the research page.  If you are looking for scholarly references, see his annotated bibliography of published papers from 1937 – 2008.

The Best Evidence.  In my experience, the best evidence for coaching is the increased performance of a coaching client who is already well respected in an organization.  Many years ago, I was responsible for managing succession planning in a large organization where I had launched an executive coaching program.  The top organizational leader questioned the effectiveness of coaching during a succession planning meeting.  He was discussing developmental opportunities for the highest-potential individuals on the succession plan with his next-level leaders.  The senior leader in the room asked, “How do we know that coaching works?”  I was prepared to answer, but I didn’t have to.  Immediately, three other leaders at the table simultaneously blurted out the name of one executive who had been coached.  The senior leader smiled, nodded, and acknowledged that he had received the evidence he needed.  “Enough said” was his quiet response.


Anita Stadler, PhD is the owner of Horizon Executive Coaching.  She coaches Christian leaders and business executives who want to connect their career and their calling more intentionally.  She is also a full-time executive coach and leadership development advisor for a Fortune 100 corporation.  She can be reached at (714) 952-0995 or  For more information, see

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