Interest in executive coaching is strong and growing. It is a component of more than 70 percent of formal leadership development programs and a well-accepted means of developing managers and executives (Zenger & Stinnett, 2006). As coaching is adopted by organizations and cultures worldwide including those in Europe (Carter, 2008) and Asia (Wright, Leong, Webb, & Chia, 2010), it has also expanded in terms of how it is defined, practiced and delivered. In spite of such expansion, many of the ingredients for a successful coaching engagement still remain unknown or not widely shared.

The success of a coaching engagement is undoubtedly tied to many variables. We wondered what characteristics of the coach and the coachee (i.e., the manager, executive, or leader being coached) add up to a successful coaching engagement from the perspective of the coach.

To better understand the coach’s view of the characteristics that may promote a positive coaching relationship, a team of researchers at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) interviewed 42 experienced coaches: 12 coaches residing in Asia, 19 residing in Europe, and 11 who primarily work with C-level executives. Through our interviews, we were able to tap into the real-world experiences of coaches and gain their views of coach and coachee characteristics.

What we found was that effective coaches come into a coaching engagement both aware and prepared. During the time with the coachee, effective coaches draw on that foundation to establish credibility and create a valuable coaching experience.

On the coachee side of the equation, readiness, personality and motivation are characteristics that have an impact on the effectiveness of the coaching experience.

From the interviews, an unexpected, but important finding also emerged beyond characteristics solely of the coach or coachee. From Asia, support from the coachee’s own organization was also an important characteristic that emerged.

Identifying and understanding these characteristics is valuable, as they influence how well the relationship forms and is maintained between the coach and the coachee (Hernez-Broome & Boyce, 2011). We hope that the broad insights and details in this paper will prove useful to the growing coaching community.

Additional Contributing Authors:

Leigh Whittier Allen, Psy.D., is the former Coaching Talent Manager for the Center for Creative Leadership®. She is responsible for the selection, training and supervision of the executive feedback coaches in Colorado Springs and Denver who provide interpretations of management and psychological data to participants attending various CCL® training programs. She was affiliated with the Center as an adjunct feedback coach for seven years prior to joining the staff full-time in October 2003.

Lisa Manning is an adjunct researcher with the Center for Creative Leadership, and a Ph.D. candidate in the doctoral program in leadership studies at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Her research interests are in cross-cultural aspects of coaching. Thomas E. Francis, Psy.D., University of the Rockies & Center for Creative Leadership.

Thomas E. Francis, Psy.D., was an intern at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) working directly with the Coaching Talent Manager at the Colorado Springs campus. He recently completed his dissertation project on the best practices of executive coaches working with C-Level clients from the University of the Rockies. His research interests include executive coaching, leading organizational change, coaching and building teams, and organizational issues in human diversity.

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