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Executive Coaching is a relatively new profession and even its practitioners sometimes struggle to explain what it is. In fact, coaching is a helping service that draws on many other disciplines to contribute to its own growing body of thought and evidenced practice. This growing body of research serves to educate and inform practitioners and supports a wider understanding of coaching.


Last week I attended the 8th Oxford Brookes University Coaching and Mentoring Research Conference. 18 different research projects were presented and discussed. The diversity reflected the university’s commitment to producing coaches who develop their own practice beyond the use of coaching tools and techniques, informed by a deep understanding of the underlying knowledge base.


One presentation was informed by existential philosophy. Another, by the psychology of immunity to change. One used adult learning research on ego development, whilst another compared team coaching to organisational development ideas about team performance. But, in addition to the evidence of rigorous academic thought, very real-world issues of effectiveness, customer satisfaction and return on investment were front and centre.


Coaching research gives us the opportunity to look at real-world coaching practice beyond the marketing brochures. I certainly came away inspired to continue my own learning, and convinced that it’s the combination of critical intellectual thought and real life experience that makes coaches truly able to deliver.