Executive coaching is commonly utilized in organizations to facilitate the personal and professional growth of executives. It is argued that executive coaches utilize proactive influence tactics to create behavioral change in their clients. No known study has linked these tactics with executive coaching behaviors. Predictions were made regarding the influence tactic outcome, timing, and objective.
Members of 10 organizations affiliated with executive coaching were targeted for participation. A total of 201 diverse participants started the online survey and 110 participants completed it. In addition, 22 executive coaches participated in a semi-structured interview.
Of the 33 hypotheses tested, 15 were statistically supported. In regards to outcome, coalition tactics, consultation, inspirational appeals, and rational persuasion were more frequently associated with commitment. In terms of timing, consultation was more frequently utilized during initial influence attempts, whereas pressure was more frequently utilized during follow-up attempts. Data also revealed that inspirational appeals and apprising were more frequently used during initial influence attempts, and coalition tactics were more frequently used during follow-up attempts. In terms of influence tactic objective, executive coaches used apprising, coalition tactics, consultation, inspirational appeals, rational persuasion, and pressure to change behavior. When the objective was to assign work, coaches used collaboration and ingratiation. Legitimating tactics were utilized frequently when the objective was to both assign work and change behavior.
Since some participants indicated the term ‘influence’ was a source of contention, follow-up interviews were conducted. The results suggest that influence does play a role in executive coaching, but to varying degrees. Coaches commonly described their behaviors as asking questions, offering information, listening, and setting and monitoring goals. Coaches described their engagements as consisting of up to five phases: (1) rapport building, (2) objectives, goal setting and contracting, (3) assessment, (4) coaching and monitoring results, and (5) long-term transition. Commitment was the most common outcome of their engagements.
This is one of the few empirical studies on how coaches influence the behavior of their clients with influence tactics. Results offer insights into executive coaching engagements, how coaches perceive their behavior, areas for developing coaches, and techniques for creating successful outcomes with clients.