Different coaching for different organizational cultures?
19 décembre 2019

Different coaching for different organizational cultures?par Nicolò Francesco Bernardi, PH.D

An increasing number of organizations are looking to the field of professional coaching as  resource to address a number of organizational concerns, including the development of leadership skills, managing career transitions, fostering innovation, and performance enhancement.

Accordingly, the modern landscape of professional coaching has developed into a variety of different formats in order to meet the different needs of individuals and organizations. A few examples of these formats are leadership coaching, performance coaching, career coaching, and transition coaching.

Whereas some of these coaching types share a common foundation informed by such bodies as the International Coach Federation (ICF), they also represent important differences in their intention, scope and methodology.

On the surface, it may appear that the choice of a certain type of coaching would simply be             determined by the type of goal that the organization or individual presents at a given time. For example, an organization wherein a human resources survey reveals a pervasive lack of purpose in work tasks may decide to intervene by initiating a program of coaching to enhance employee engagement. However, the fit between a particular coaching type and the culture of the sponsoring organization can be problematic. For instance, coaching that focuses clients toward the development of personal visions may violate certain expectations in a top down, command and control hierarchical system.

This research explores the idea of the degree of fit between types of coaching available and the different​cultures of organizations. The term “organizational culture” refers to the layered pattern of visible artefacts and behaviours, espoused values and deeply embedded assumptions that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an  organization (Schein, 2010). Organizational cultures have been classified according to  several different criteria and dimensions (Chatman & O’Reilly, 2016), with the Competing  Values Framework being one of the most widely used systems of categorization (Cameron et al., 2006). This framework describes organizations across two continua, one related to            flexibility versus control, and the other related to internal focus and integration versus external focus and differentiation (Quinn and Rohrbaugh, 1981). The combination of these two continua yields four types or organizational culture, defined by the authors as clan, adhocracy, market, and hierarchy.

In this study we ask professional coaches to estimate the degree to which different types  coaching represent “good fits” for different types of organizational cultures. Four different types of coaching are presented for this purpose; these were selected based on a review of  coaching literature and the experience of the Principal Investigator in the field of coaching over the past two decades. These four types are: 1) Performance coaching, 2) Leadership coaching, 3) Personal development coaching, 4) Third generation coaching. For each type of coaching, the goodness of fit for each type of organizational culture is expressed in relation to benefits or gains on four different dimensions:

  1. organizational return on investment (ROI),
  2. organizational members’ personal growth and evolution,
  3. internal alignment of organizational members with normative (cultural) behavioural expectations, and 4) capacity of the organization to adapt well to its ever-changing internal and external environments.

The study relies on anonymously obtained survey data that participants will voluntarily provide through a remote web-based survey platform (viz., SurveyMonkey). The questionnaire requiring estimates (5-point rating scales) of hypothetical benefits or gains from different forms of coaching in different organizational cultures, taking approximately 25 minutes to complete. Limited classificatory variables of the participating professional coaches is used to sort respondents into meaningful categories, including: years of coaching level of coaching certification, average hours of practice/week, number of years of experience working in organizations, age group and gender.

Over the course of the past two decades, the field of psychotherapy has undertaken a  systematic effort to establish clearly defined criteria to determine which form of psychological treatment should be considered more appropriate in a given situation. The growing field of evidence-based psychology, in particular, has highlighted how this evaluation should take into account factors such as the characteristics of the client, the clinical expertise of the therapist and the research evidence available (APA Task force, 2006). The intention behind our study closely mirrors this effort in the domain of coaching. Bringing coaching into an organization requires not only an understanding of the individual psychological profiles of the beneficiaries of coaching, but also of the set of values, attributions and practices that shape the collective experience. As organizational coaching increasingly structures itself as an evidence-based practice (Grant and Cavanagh, 2007), it becomes essential to develop a greater understanding of what types of coaching interventions are more appropriate for a given type of organizational culture.

To complete the survey: https://survey.concordia.ca/limesurvey/index.php/477744

American Psychological Association. (2006). Evidence-based practice in psychology. American Psychologist, 61(4), 271-285.

Grant, A. M., & Cavanagh, M. J. (2007). Evidence-based coaching: Flourishing or languishing? Australian Psychologist, 42(4), 239-254.

Nicolò Francesco Bernardi, PH.D