Master Psychology Essay


What are the features of a good coaching program?

Your answer must refer to psychological theories and findings, and also to descriptions of how these might be applied to business practice. Your answer should be between 1800 and 2200 words.


Title: What are the features of a good coaching program?


Coaching is a process through which an individual is offered with performance-focused and goal-centered support that results in action (Bressler & Wilson, 2006). It is the role of the coach to provide this form of support. The coach works with individuals as well as organizations as his clients. According to Shaw & Linnecar (2007), the role of the coach is to find a connection between the present scenarios and future possibilities, to link the inner purpose of the individual to the outer work, and to inspire others to become more effective leaders, team members, and networkers. They also provide a model for the way forward and train individuals towards that model.

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            The work of coaching individuals either in their personal capacities or in the organizational context necessitates the existence of a coaching program. A good coaching program brings about success in the coaching activities that are carried out while a bad coaching program leads to failure. The aim of this paper is to explore and critically evaluate the features of a good coaching program in the context of business practice.

Features of a good coaching program in an organization

            A coaching program brings about numerous benefits to an organization. During the coaching process, employees are challenged to question the status quo. They are also inspired to be creative in addition to being motivated to achieve transformative results. This leads to a rapid improvement in the corporate culture and organizational productivity. Coaching is an excellent way through which employees are advised on how best to direct their abilities towards the achievement of the intended goals. Therefore, the furthest that the coach can go is to endorse and sponsor an individual without any use of coercive power to control over their activities. A good coaching program enables coaches to move towards the achievement of this goal.

            A coaching program resembles any other major organizational project. Many coaching programs are aimed at bringing about improvement in performance across the organization. Therefore, first and foremost, such a coaching program has to win the approval of the board. The appropriate organizational leader should present an argument in front of the board members that includes a strategic case of how it will facilitate the achievement of organizational objectives.

            The board of the organization would also be interested in a cost-benefit analysis of the coaching program. This analysis shows how the program will contribute to the various commercial operations within the organization (Cohn, 2005). Moreover, a project management case has to be made, which demonstrates that the program is achievable. To safeguard achievability, a scoping exercise, as well as feasibility studies, should be carried out. It is imperative that the outcomes of such studies are presented to the board.

            It is also appropriate for targets to be set in the context of the proposed program with the aim of facilitating progress in terms of the outputs to be produced, the outcomes to be delivered, and the organizational objectives to be met. In this case, the number of people to be coached should be identified. Moreover, the value of the improvement in efficiency or extra output should be determined. Other key aspects in the target-setting efforts include the development of skills, qualifications for entry into the coaching program, the value of the human capital required in the program, and the projected improvement in productivity (Shaw & Linnecar, 2007).

            According to Law (2007), quality assurance is a core feature of a good coaching program. Quality assurance is a process that specifies the milestones to be achieved, the core objectives, and the resources needed to achieve these objectives. Law (2007) argues that all targets should be assessed on the basis of the SMARTER model. ‘SMARTER’ stands for ‘Specific’, ‘Measurable’, ‘Achievable’, ‘Realistic’, ‘Time-bound’, ‘Evaluative’, and ‘Reviewed’ (Law, 2007).

            There is abundant literature on ways of ensuring that the goals of a coaching program are specific, measurable, realistic, achievable, and time-bound. In most of this literature, the focus is on executive coaching. One of the psychological theories discussed in executive coaching is the ‘client model’ (de Haan, 2010). De Haan (2010) observes that during a coaching program, clients experience ‘critical moments’ which every good coach should focus on. De Haan notes that there is a positive relationship between the occurrence of critical moments and the emergence of positive outcomes for clients. The crucial thing in this regard is to ensure that clients are provoked by what they view as insensitive or unhelpful actions by coaches. According to De Haan (2010), critical moments manifest themselves in new realizations through explicit reference as well as the use of metaphors.

            Executive coaching is just one of the many forms of coaching that can be used in an organization setting (Law, Ireland, & Hussain, 2007). There is a need to ensure that the appropriate form of coaching is chosen in every situation. The proper choice of coaching method greatly influences the outcome of the coaching activity. However, there is a tendency for certain forms of coaching to dominate the organizational environment at different times. For instance, executive coaching has been a dominant form of coaching over the last decade (Feldman, 2005). Executive coaching is meant for managers in which case it acts as a developmental intervention. This explains why practitioner literature in recent years focuses on executive coaching. However, not much has been done with regard to empirical research, particularly in relation to the processes that underlie effective coaching (Fieldman, 2005). For this reason, there is little emphasis on issues such as measurability, achievability, and specificity.

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            A good coaching program should also provide for a clear distinction between the form of coaching that takes place in an environment of independence and the one that takes place in a group setting. In executive coaching, it is common for a manager to be coached independently of other employees of the organization. This is understandable considering that he is at a position of leadership and his work-related needs are radically different from those of his subordinates. 

            According to Diedrich (1996), an iterative approach greatly contributes to success in a coaching program. In this approach, the assessment process provides many ‘loops’ of feedback as well as developmental counseling sessions that are of immense value to employees, both in their individual capacities and within their respective groups. 

            It is not right to discuss the elements of a good coaching program without focusing on the importance of identifying and selecting the right coach for the job (Shaw & Linnecar, 2007). It is imperative for the organization to hire a coach who is professionally qualified for the job. For this reason, there is a need for an in-depth understanding of the qualifications of a coach. There are many associations that attract membership from professional coaches. These associations put in place certain rules and regulations for their members. Focus should be on these rules and regulations in order to accurately determine the standing of the coach in relation to the organization’s coaching needs. Moreover, a good coach is one who clearly understands what his qualifications are in relation to practice. Moreover, such a coach should not have any problems stating them before commencing any involvement with his client.

            In some countries, there are obstacles in the identification of coaches. For instance, in the UK, no protected title exists for a ‘coaching psychologist’. The protected titles that come closest to coaching roles in the UK include ‘Registered Psychologist’, ‘Registered Occupational Psychologist’, and ‘Practising Psychologist’ (Shaw & Linnecar, 2007). However, the British Psychological Society has already established the Special Group in Coaching Psychology. This group facilitates debates relating to coaching roles and ethics. For coaches in the UK, it is imperative to maintain relations with this group in order to gain awareness on the best ways of upholding professional standards. Furthermore, the group has achieved a major milestone by providing a channel through which it can maintain openness to even the coaches who practice outside the UK.

            In this scenario, it appears as though the coaching profession does not have clear-cut standards that coaches are supposed to adhere to as far as rules and regulations are concerned. Legal situations differ from one country to the other, and this undoubtedly impact upon coaches’ work. However, with the growing interest in coaching, it is likely that many countries are going to move towards convergence as far as statutory provisions of the coaching profession are concerned (Shaw & Linnecar, 2007).

            In the meantime, there are some key considerations that apply to any country. For instance, coaches are obliged to maintain the confidentiality of the client. They should also refrain from engaging in dual relationships. Moreover, coaches should refrain from perpetuating disagreements and pursuing arguments during a coaching session. In such a situation, they right thing to do is to agree to differ. To reduce the likelihood of disagreements that may jeopardize the continuity of the coaching program, a clear agreement should be made between the client and the coach, preferably in the form of a written contract. This brings clarity in the relationship between the client and the coach right from the beginning of the program.

            Prior to the creation of the written contract between the coach and the client, it is imperative that the client understands the limits of the coach’s competence. This is a very crucial undertaking, particularly if some of the issues arising during the coaching program relate to mental health. It is upon the coaches to raise this issue upfront because coaching is a very new profession and boundaries may not always be clear. Some coaches, particularly those who work independently, tend to employment the services of another coach themselves so that they can discuss any issue of concern in a confidential environment (Shaw & Linnecar, 2007).

            For the coach to understand mental health issues and to relate them appropriately to his practice, he needs to have an understanding of relevant psychological theories. Some of the psychological theories that are of the greatest relevance at the basic level include personality theories, adult development theories, models of adult learning, theories of work-life balance, models of career development, and theories of emotional intelligence. At an advanced level, a coaching program can benefit even more from the stewardship of a coach who has an in-depth understanding of the psychology of transition from one developmental stage to another as well as family systems theory (Clayton, 2005). An understanding of abnormal psychology and psychological assessment methods can also be of great benefit in a coaching program within the organization (Clayton, 2005).

            There is a major concern regarding the lack of adequate research in the area of the competences of a professional coach (Cooper & Sadri, 1991). This concern is based on the lack of standards, making organizations vulnerable to sales pitches and fads (Cooper & Sadri, 1991). In the absence of standards, there is no clear sense of the ways in which the coaches are evaluated in terms of their ability to meet the needs of their clients. This concern is magnified by the fact that the specific situations that necessitate the establishment of a coaching program tend to vary from one organization to the other.

            In efforts to address this concern in relation to the features of a good coaching program and coaching theory, some researchers have adopted a systems-oriented definition. From this perspective, executive coaching is viewed as an experiential leadership development process in which focus is on building the capability of a leader to achieve organizational goals both in the short term and in the long term. This entails an individualized approach where one-on-one interactions are carried out, data is obtained from multiple perspectives, and there is mutual respect and trust. This feature of executive coaching can be replicated in other forms of coaching programs, particularly those involving lower-cadre employees, in order to make them appropriate in an organizational setting. For instance, in such programs, it is imperative that the coach works in partnership with the employees for maximum impact to be achieved.


In conclusion, there are many factors to consider in ensuring that a good coaching program is being successfully implemented within an organization. In recent literature, most attention is on executive coaching. Nevertheless, there are several other forms of coaching that are equally important. The coaching career is a new one, and it is for this reason that professional standards are yet to be agreed upon and formalized. However, there are some key universal elements that characterize a good coaching program.

This paper has established that a good coaching program should be specific, measurable, achievable, time-bound, and realistic. It is also evident that organizational leaders need to focus a lot on the professional competencies of the coach. A good coach is one who understands various psychological theories and their relevance in practice, particularly in the context of a specific coaching program.


Bressler, F, & Wilson, C, 2006, ‘What is coaching?’ in Passmore, J, (eds.), Excellence in coaching: the industry guide, Kagan Page, London, pp. 1-48.

Clayton, S, 2005, ‘Releasing talent through coaching’, in Grant, P, (eds.), Business psychology in practice, Whurr, London, pp. 221-226.

Cohn, J, 2005, Growing talent as if your business depended on it, Harvard Business Review, October 2005, pp. 3-11.

Cooper, C, & Sadri, G, 1991, ‘The impact of stress counseling at work’, Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, Vol. 6, No. 21, pp. 411-423.

De Haan, E, 2010, ‘Clients’ Critical Moments of Coaching: Toward a “Client Model” of Executive Coaching’, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 607-621.

Diedrich, R, 1996, ‘An iterative approach to executive coaching’, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol. 48, No. 2, pp. 61-66.

Feldman, D, 2005, ‘Executive Coaching: A Review and Agenda for Future Research’, Journal of Management, Vol. 31, No. 6, pp. 829-848.

Law, H, Ireland, S, & Hussain, Z, 2007, ‘Definitions: Coaching psychology, coaching, mentoring and learning’, in Law, H, Ireland S, & Hussain, Z, (eds.) The psychology of coaching, mentoring and learning, John Wiley, Chichester, pp. 189-247.

Law, H,2007, The psychology of coaching, mentoring and learning, John Wiley, Chichester.

Shaw, P, & Linnecar, R, 2007, Business coaching: Achieving practical results through effective engagement, John Wiley, Chichester.

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