I´ve been working as coach for almost six years now. Now obviously, I should be convinced that I´m good at what I do. I should be convinced that what I do matters. And I should be convinced that coaching does work in general. And I am. And so are (most of) my clients. It is immensely exhilarating when a client gives you a call after some months to tell you that you played a small part in changing his/her career, relationship, or life per se for the better. It feels so good that sometimes it also feels kind of weird that, on top, I´m being paid for what I do. However, all of that is what scientists call anecdotal evidence. It´s nice to have, but does not really prove anything in the terms of psychological science.
Luckily, there are scientists out there who really want to get to the bottom of things (and are willing to be engaged in some high-class bean counting…). The most sophisticated way to get to the bottom of a psychological phenomenon is to conduct a meta-analysis. It´s a technique to aggregate the results of already existing empirical studies, thereby increasing the underlying sample size, which in turn leads to more reliable results.
Now this is exactly what Tim Theeboom, Bianca Beersma, and Annelies E.M. van Vianen from the University of Amsterdam have done – pertaining to the effectiveness of coaching in an organizational context. After screening +100 existing studies on the effectiveness of coaching, they included 18 studies in their meta-analysis (typically, a lot of the extant studies can not be included because of a lack of scientific rigor).
What they´ve found is good news – for me as well as the ‘coaching profession’: Coaching does work! Specifically, it is associated with the following positive outcomes:
- Higher job-related performance of the coachee.
- Increase of self-regulation skills (a.k.a. ‘self-management’).
- Increase of coping skills (e.g., handling work-related pressure).
- Increase of positive job attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction).
- Increase of overall well-being.
Now does this prove the effectiveness of coaching once and for all? Obviously, it does not. But it´s a very good starting point.*
* And it should also help to convince skeptical HR people – who typically have a say on the implementation of coaching in their corporation.