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Hidden in Plain Sight: The Active Ingredients of Executive Coaching

  • D. Douglas McKenna (a1) and Sandra L. Davis (a2)

Abstract

We propose that I/O psychologists who coach executives have overlooked psychotherapy outcome research as a source of information and ideas that can be used to improve our executive coaching practices. This research, based on thousands of studies and many meta-analyses, has converged on the conclusion that four “active ingredients” account for most of the variance in psychotherapy outcomes. We describe how this literature has identified four primary “active ingredients” that account for most of the variance in psychotherapy outcomes: 1) Client/extratherapeutic factors (40%), 2) The relationship or alliance (30%), 3) Placebo or hope (15%), and 4) Theory and technique (15%). Working on the assumption that psychotherapy and executive coaching are sufficiently similar to justify generalization from one domain to the other, we describe these four active ingredients at length and explore how they may be at work in the executive coaching process. We also suggest that I/O psychologists have training and experience that allows us to leverage some of these active ingredients in our executive coaching (e.g., understanding of client individual differences related to coaching outcomes). But we also have areas of weakness (e.g., building a strong working relationship with an individual client) that may need to be bolstered with additional training and development experiences.

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Corresponding author

E-mail: dougmck9@comcast.net, Address: The Oceanside Institute, 3866 Oceanside Ave., Greenbank, WA 98253

References

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