Although there has been considerable growth in coaching as a field of practice, there is
much concern about a lack of research and theory on which coaches base their practice.
The key question of what coaching is remains an area of much debate. In the absence of
any in-depth understanding of the coaching process, sponsors and clients of coaching have
little clarity about what services they are contracting. Coaches themselves, are compelled
to choose an approach that is advocated by a particular coaching school in which they are
trained, or to base their practice on their own assumptions. In order to address this need to
understand the coaching process, the research described in this thesis sets out to provide
an in-depth exploration of the moment-by-moment interactions, between coach and client.
This research design involved the multifaceted analysis of six coaching sessions with six
professional coaches and clients. The sessions were video-recorded. The focus of the
coaching sessions was on work-related topics. At the end of the sessions, coaches and
clients were interviewed and asked to recall what stood out for them in the sessions. Later,
each video-recording was shown to one of six groups of typically, six professional coaches,
who were asked to comment on their observations. The spoken accounts of all participants
were analysed thematically and discursively. The Inquiry also involved the use of Qmethodology,
which required all participants to rank-order a series of written items,
describing a coaching session.
The findings suggest that for the client, the coaching process is primarily an experience in
which the client’s interpersonal needs are met and which gives space and structure for the
client to change perspectives. For the coach, the coaching process is a form of expert
intervention in which she draws on a varied range of habitual ways of processing her
experience of the client and makes in-the-moment decisions. At the level of the dyad, coach
and client create a sense of meaning together that is difficult for observers to appreciate. In
general, participants tended to notice the same events but evaluated them differently.
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