Adventures in Coaching Research Conference

The 5th International Relational one-day Coaching Conference hosted at Ashridge will bring together researchers and practitioners in a spirit of curiosity, adventure and dialogue, so as to experiment with ways that we can bring our worlds together.

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(Please Note: Early bird booking discount ends midnight April 1st 2018) 

The arguments for strengthening research and innovation in coaching have been well made over the years. The potential gains are significant: a vibrant research culture enables better and more cost-effective coaching and promotes a spirit of inquiry and curiosity amongst coaches and their clients alike.

Moreover, good research may help coaches understand and discover what the ‘active ingredients’ of their work are, in other words, which behaviours or relationships really make a positive difference for their clients.

Given this, one might be forgiven for imagining that by now coaching research would be embedded in the field. This is far from being the case. In practice, most organisations and indeed coaching relationships remain ‘research-free zones’, with little or no research activity and a slow take-up of innovative methods and processes.

The fact is that research has to be done well if it's to be of value, and doing it well can be demanding. It means engaging with the world of research ethics, methodology, quality assurance and regulations. It means deep and critical inquiry. And in some cases it means that large sample sizes need to be collected. And so progress can be slow. To make matters worse, research and its ‘evidence’ can feel abstract and remote, far removed from the everyday lives of coaches and their clients.

This conference will bring together researchers and practitioners in a spirit of curiosity, adventure and dialogue, so as to experiment with ways that we can bring our worlds together. We want research to be part and parcel of everyone's professional practice rather than an elite discipline. And we want researchers to listen to practitioners, and to what really needs investigating for executive coaching to grow and flourish – ultimately, for organisational leadership to be sane and nurturing.

Confirmed Speakers

- Professor Mick Cooper (Keynote) - Working at relational depth: What the psychotherapy research is telling us and the implications for coaching

Relational depth is a state of profound contact and engagement between two people, in which each person is fully real with the other, and able to understand and value the other’s experiences at a high level. Over the past 15 years, researchers in the counselling and psychotherapy field have worked to understand more about this phenomenon, and how it relates to the therapeutic process and outcomes. In this keynote presentation, Mick Cooper, who has led this research, will present a summary of what has been found--as relevant to coaching practice. The presentation will look at research on the experience of relational depth, its prevalence amongst therapists and clients, the relationship between relational depth and clinical outcomes, and the factors that facilitate--and inhibit--the development of an in-depth encounter. The talk will also discuss new measures that have been developed to assess levels of relational depth. The presentation will be followed by time to explore the findings in more depth, and their relevance to coaching practice.

Professor Patrizia Ianiro

The relationship between a coach and a client develops on the basis of consecutive interpersonal interactions. The way coaches and clients interact constitutes the basis for coaching success. However, there is still a pronounced lack of empirical research on the coaching process, i.e. on what actually happens between coaches and clients within a session. The analysis of interaction behavior in coaching based on behavioral data seems to be a promising path for coaching research – particularly for gaining further insights into the dynamics of interpersonal behavior and the evolving coaching relationship. In this workshop, we will focus on interaction research based on recorded observational data (video-analysis) and behavioral sequences (sequential analysis), referring to empirical coaching studies in which these methods have been applied. We then discuss major challenges, directions and implications of this approach for future coaching research and practice.

Professor Jonathon Passmore: Cake making - The strange case of qualitative, quantitative and mixing methods

In this session Jonathan will explore the application of different research methods to explore different aspects of the nature and our understanding of coaching. Using the metaphor or baking the session will examine qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods studies, critically review some examples of studies using these approaches and suggestion a selection of research questions which might be the focus for future research through collaborations across academic institutions and organisations. Note: Please bring your own sieve and oven gloves. 

Dr Sally Bonneywell, Professor David Gray & Erik de HaanAn innovative approach to accelerate female leadership in a global corporate organisation – a randomised controlled study and a qualitative study, look into its effects

The issue of gender representation at all levels of leadership is still, unfortunately, a topical one. One approach used by a multinational organisation to accelerate the development of female leaders was to use both individual coaching and group coaching simultaneously. In this session, the results of the unique randomized control study in coaching will be shared and discussed. In addition, the female leaders were also researched using a qualitative study and these results will add to creating the picture of how simultaneous methods of coaching can support female leader development. We will explore this blended research paradigm where personal inquiry and control-group statistics may meet and mutually strengthen our understanding of executive coaching. 

Dr Tim TheeboomChallenges of measuring coaching effectiveness

As coaching has grown into a billion dollar industry over the last three decades, the call for research on coaching effectiveness has intensified. Responding to this call, several research groups from all over the world have started promising lines of research. Both the quantitative and qualitative reviews that have been published recently paint an optimistic picture. However, the same research also demonstrates that several challenges need to be tackled. In this talk, these challenges will be presented as questions. Questions, that we - as both practitioners and researchers - need to collaboratively reflect on in order to advance both coaching research and practice.

Dr Simon HackettCreative approaches to research: A guided tour

How can an independent professional like me participate in research? In the face of an 'evidence based culture' how can I produce research on my own? The way research is conducted does not capture how I help people? Sometimes finding the right question to ask can be just as important as trying to answer it so this workshop will touch upon creative approaches, exploring implicit knowledge, and the role of experiential learning. Dr Simon Hackett will 'take you on a walking tour' through the often confusing and challenging maze of researching innovative and creative practices within traditional settings and institutions, using his work as an arts therapist in the NHS as an example. This 'guided tour' of challenges overcome, research tools developed, and problem solving about how to capture those seemingly 'unmeasurable' outcomes will offer you a chance to look at some examples and help you imagine the research journey you can set off on yourself.

- Dr Kathleen KingCoaching as inquiry: action inquiry going live

In this session we will look at action research/inquiry (AR) as a reflective learning process.  Much as with action learning, rather than ‘doing research’ and applying the findings to our (coaching) practice, AR can be a coaching practice in its own right. 

We will review action research in general, and ‘first and second person’ inquiry in particular and the conditions and consequences for AR as a coaching practice, which are as follows:

  • The coach takes a relational approach to coaching: in other words, is prepared to examine his/her own assumptions, and to be changed by the conversation
  • The client is up for similar inquiry, rather than looking for expert answers to technical questions.

In the second part of the session we will have a go at coaching as inquiry, review your experience, and answer any questions you may have.

- Dr Joanna Molyn, Professor David Gray & Erik de Haan: Research in progress

The Contribution of Common Factors to Coaching Effectiveness: Lessons from Psychotherapy Outcome Research The aim of this randomized control trials project was to contribute to the development of a comprehensive coaching outcome effectiveness model by examining the relative contribution of common factors such as: quality of coaching relationship, self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, hope and external factors such as perceived social support and psychological well-being in relation to coaching outcomes such as goal attainment, perceived stress and resilience. This randomised-control group evidence-base study used an experimental design. An experimental and a control group were randomly selected from the University of Greenwich Business Faculty population. The coaching intervention was standardised by using experienced coaches, trained and accredited by Ashridge Business School. Data was collected monthly over a period of 6 months with a follow-up collection 3 months after completing the experiment. Hypotheses will be tested to see whether variation in the extend and shape of change in goal attainment, resilience and perceived stressed between the experimental and a control group is explained by coaching. The findings generated from the study will contribute to the development of a comprehensive coaching outcome effectiveness model by incorporating psychotherapy outcome research and by statistically testing and validating coaching outcome measures.

- Janet Sheath: Researching your relational career

An interactive workshop for you to research your own career and to consider your role working with careers of the future. In this workshop, we will position your career as a research project of your own. We will explore the changing nature of careers and what this means for you and for career coaching. We are moving away from the idea of “What do you do?” to “Who am I?” This shifts the focus of career coaching from employability to identity. We will relate these ideas about careers as identity and careers as relationships to your own working worlds. The workshop will be informed by relational career research and current career theory.

Dr Megan Reitz: Speaking truth to power and mindful leadership 

Moment by moment we make choices in our conversations regarding what to say and what to stay silent about. We also send signals which communicate to the other that it is safe to speak up or that it isn’t. Much of the time these ‘choices’ are in fact unconscious and carried out on autopilot.

To develop more open and transparent dialogue we need to be able to speak up and listen up but this requires us to change often ingrained conversational habits. How do we do this? Can we really do this sustainably? Megan shares her most recent ideas and findings from bringing together her research on Speaking Truth to Power (with John Higgins) and Mindful Leadership (with Michael Chaskalson).

- Max Neal: Making Learning Last: Insights and Technology from Sport

Many parallels can be drawn between sports mentoring and relational coaching. Both mentoring and relational coaching are most effective when both coach and coachee are engaged and challenged – but how can we empirically measure this?

In this workshop, Max will showcase and demonstrate the latest technology at the cutting edge of mentoring and sports coaching research and practice. This technology, ranging from brainwave scanning headsets to wearable electrocardiogram monitors, allows us to interpret physiological and neurological biomarkers to better understand when and how we are challenged, and how to use this knowledge to create engaging and challenging coaching conversations that create learning for both coach and coachee. In addition to this, Max will share his own research into what makes mentoring effective and what barriers prevent effective mentoring relationships from forming.

Steve Chapman

Steve  Chapman’s  mission is to be playful with not knowing. He is a speaker, writer, consultant and artist who specialises in exploring creativity and the human condition. He has worked with a wide range of individuals and organisations in many sectors, helping them to make friends with uncertainty, disturbance and difference as an inevitable consequence of intervening in human social processes. He is a graduate of the Ashridge MSc in Organisational Change and visiting faculty at Ashridge Business School, the Metanoia Institute and Roffey Park. In 2014 he published his first book “Can Scorpions Smoke? Creative Adventures in the Corporate World” and is currently working on his second, entitled “Oh, my broken brain – on creativity and the human condition.” His 10 year old daughter is his mentor and Chief of Imagination.

Professor Charlotte Sills

Charlotte Sills is Professor of Coaching at Ashridge Business School and a member of faculty on Ashridge’s MSc in Coaching and Diploma in Coaching and Consulting Supervision.  She is also a psychotherapist, coach and supervisor in private practice and a member of faculty at Metanoia Institute, London teaching on the MSc in TA Psychotherapy and MSc in Humanistic Psychotherapy as well as on. Amongst her publications are Coaching Relationships (edited with Erik de Haan, 2012) Relational TA – Principles in Practice, edited with Heather Fowlie (Karnac 2011) and Transactional Analysis – A Relational Perspective with Helena Hargaden (Routledge 2002) which won the Eric Berne Memorial Award in 2007.



09:00 – Welcome Teas & Coffee

09:30 – Charlotte Sills & Erik de Haan Introduction

09:40 – Keynote Speech

10:20 – Q&A with Buzz Groups

10:35 – Panel Session (Researchers and coaches responding to the Keynote)

11:20 - Tea & Coffee

11:35 – Parallel Workshops

13:00 – Lunch

14:00 – Charlotte Sills & Steve Chapman: Creative Adventures, interactive live research

14:30 – Parallel Workshops

15:45 – Tea & Coffee

16:00 – Panel Session (Researchers and coaches reviewing the day and suggesting a future agenda for coaching research)

16:45 – Ann Knights & David Birch reflecting on the day.

17:00 - Drinks & Networking


Conference Team

- Erik de Haan

- Charlotte Sills

- David Birch

- Ann Knights

- Jennifer Potten

Event Time

July 03, 2018. 9:00 AM  -  5:30 PM


Ashridge House
, Berkhamsted , HP4 1NS, United Kingdom

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