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Anthony M.Grant

The use of coaching in organisations has grown phenomenally over the past fifteen years. Fifteen years ago the term "coaching" within organisational settings was frequently an euphemism for performance management with "difficult" employees; a way that organisations could ensure the ongoing evaluation and counselling of underperforming employees (e.g., Hillman, Schwandt, & Bartz, 1990), often in order to meet the legal requirements for dismissing employees.

By 1996 the perception of coaching had developed and moved away from such negative connotations to the extent that the American Psychological Association journal Consulting Psychology: Theory, Research and Practice published the first special issue on executive coaching, an issue that highlighted the role of the psychologist as executive coach. The publication of papers related to executive coaching has also grown significantly in that time. A search of the database PsycINFO for publications between 1900 and 1996 using the keywords "executive coaching" found only 19 citations, but a further 245 papers were published between 1996 and January 2007.

Even a cursory overview of this literature indicates an increasing sophistication over time. Where early papers which sought to define and explain executive coaching to a naive audience, recent work spans integrated theoretical perspectives, comments on best practice and outcome studies. It is this context that makes it a pleasure, as the guest editor, to be able to further contribute to the growing literature on executive and organisational coaching with this special issue of the International Coaching Psychology Review on executive and organisational coaching.

The broad aim in putting this issue together was to assemble a diverse range of papers which would make a contribution to the growing knowledgebase, and which also addressed executive and organisational coaching from a range of novel perspectives.

Surprisingly, the expertise of sports and performance psychologists has received relativity little attention in the executive coaching literature. The lead article by sports and performance psychologists Lydia Ievleva and Peter Terry outlines synergies between sport and business, and draws upon Orlick’s 2008 model of excellence. Well-known in the sport and performance field, Orlick’s "Wheel of Excellence" has rarely been applied in executive coaching settings, yet the model’s core components of Commitment, Mental Readiness, Positive Images, Confidence, Distraction Control, and Ongoing Learning have clear relevance for executive populations.

Sandy Gordon is also well-known for his work as a sport and performance psychologist. In his paper he focuses on Appreciative Inquiry Coaching (AIC), a coaching approach derived from Appreciative Inquiry. Since its inception in the 1980’s, Appreciative Inquiry has evolved into an important organisational change philosophy and methodology. Appreciative Inquiry as a strengths-based approach to organisational change is an ideal framework for coaching. This paper outlines the key tenants of the AIC approach and illustrates its application to common coaching issues.

The quality of the relationship between the professional coach and the client is intrinsically linked to the success of coaching engagements. Central to this is the coach’s ability to manage the myriad of factors at play. Travis Kemp argues that the coaching literature has tended to overly-focused on theories and models of practice at the expense of developing understandings of what constitutes an effective coaching relationship. Kemp’s paper makes some important points on self-management which are of significance to professional executive and organisational coaches, and which have relevance for both actual practice and the supervision of professional coaches. The paper provides a theoretical framework for operationalising this relationship and facilitating coaches’ own process of introspection and continuous development.

The final two papers in this special edition present empirical studies into the nature of the Australian executive coaching industry. The first of these by Binstead and Grant extends the somewhat limited knowledge base about the executive coaching industry in Australia, investigating factors such as practitioner’s fees, awareness of competition and qualifications.

The last paper in this special issue is from Grant and O’Hara who explore the key characteristics of the commercial Australian executive coach training industry. There is little in the literature that investigates the nature of the executive coach training industry. This is an important area for investigation, particularly given that coach training organisations are in a position to significantly influence both coaching practice and the future development of the coaching industry

In closing, I would like to thank the editorial board for supporting this special issue and I thank the authors for their contributions. I hope readers find that this issue does indeed approaches the topic of executive and organisational coaching from a range of original perspectives, and that this issue is a useful addition to the literature. I would welcome comments and feedback, so please do not hesitate to contact me by email.

Dr Anthony M. Grant

Coaching Psychology Unit,
School of Psychology,
University of Sydney,
Sydney, NSW 2006,
E-mail: anthonyg@psych.usyd.edu.au

Hillman, L. W., Schwandt, D. R., & Bartz, D. E. (1990). Enhancing staff members' performance through feedback and coaching. Journal of Management Development, 9(3), 20-27.


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