Tag Archives: Coaching Psychology

Book Review-Handbook of Coaching Psychology

For the past several months, I have been using Palmer and Whybrow’s “Handbook of Coaching Psychology.” It has becoming one of my “must-have, go-to books” when researching or referencing coaching or coaching psychology topics.

Coaching draws so much from psychology, and in fact, psychology serves as the foundation to many coaching practices (Fillery-Travis & Lane, 2007). However, there are coaches who practice without being informed by psychological research, and they end up using “frameworks of dubious validity” and are often engaged “on a psychological enterprise without a background understanding of the psychology used” (p. 59).

Palmer & Whybrow (2007) explained that, “[t]he key difference between definitions of coaching and coaching psychology is that the latter include application of psychological theory” (p. 3). A coaching approach rooted in psychology can provide a unified voice for a coaching based on and informed by psychology (Palmer & Whybrow, 2005).

It is for these reasons that the “Handbook of Coaching Psychology” carries such great importance. This book is the first of its kind, in both its depth and breath, in the field of coaching psychology. Offering insights on coaching psychology practices, the “Handbook of Coaching Psychology” covers topics including the evolution of professional coaching & coaching psychology, cognitive-behavioral coaching, solution-focused coaching, psychodynamic coaching, positive psychology & coaching psychology, person-centered coaching, the role of coaching psychology (between counseling & coaching), coaching psychology supervision, psychometrics in coaching, and much more. There are even sections in the back of the book on coaching and coaching psychology-related professional associations and journals.

One chapter I really enjoyed is Bachkirova’s (2007) “Role of Coaching Psychology in Defining Boundaries between Counselling and Coaching.” In it, she explained how coaching suffers from a definitional consensus while trying to reconcile the tenuous position it’s currently in – between coaching and counseling. Bachkirova (2007) said that “coaching psychology” serves a dual role. First, it is an attempt to clarify the role and boundaries of psychology in coaching. Secondly, it also serves as a bridge connecting coaching and counseling/psychology.

Summary: The “Handbook of Coaching Psychology” belongs on every coach or coach-in-training’s library. It is the quintessential coaching psychology bible. If you are a coach or want to become one, you owe it to yourself to utilize sound psychological theories to inform and guide your coaching practice. The “Handbook of Coaching Psychology” will help provide the strong psychological foundation you need to be an effective coach and ensure that your coaching skills are evidence-based and grounded in science.

References

Bachkirova, T. (2007). Role of coaching psychology in defining boundaries between counselling and coaching. In S. Palmer & A. Whybrow (Eds.), Handbook of coaching psychology: A guide for practitioners (pp. 351-366). New York: Routledge.

Fillery-Travis, A., & Lane, D. (2007). Research: Does coaching work? In S. Palmer & A. Whybrow (Eds.), Handbook of coaching psychology: A guide for practitioners (pp. 57-70). New York: Routledge.

Palmer, S., & Whybrow, A. (Eds.). (2007). Handbook of coaching psychology: A guide for practitioners. New York: Routledge.

Palmer, S., & Whybrow, A. (2005). The Proposal to Establish a Special Group in Coaching Psychology. The coaching psychologist, 1, 5-12.

Coaching and Mental Illness

“Coaching is normally seen as an activity to enhance performance and achievement of goals” (Buckley, 2010, p. 394).

When coaches talk about clients in terms of mental health needs, these clients are better served by related fields like counseling or clinical psychology, not coaching or its cousin, coaching psychology.

There are many psychologists and other mental health professionals who have found coaching to be an appealing alternative to therapeutic practice. However, Anthony Grant cautions that these therapists-turned-coaches should not merely “act as a coach.” Instead, they should “develop coaching skills and psychological frameworks that go beyond existing clinical or counselling frameworks and applications” (Grant, 2006, p. 16).

Grant argues that in order for the field and profession of coaching to exist as a viable, independent discipline, it needs to differentiate itself from counseling and the mental illness, psychopathology model.

For coaches not from a mental health background (and even those who are) what follows should be required consideration in working with clients.

Peltier (2010, p. 304) asserts, “[C]oaches are not psychotherapists or doctors…[T]herapy is not their job.” However, coaches must still realize that in coaching sessions, they may be confronted with psychopathology. For this reason, it is important for coaches to be proficient in identifying clients who may need mental health counseling. On a related note, it is equally important for coaches to recognize their own need to be trained to spot mental health issues or signs of potential mental illness.

Peltier (2010) states that three mental disorders are most disabling and thus should quickly be referred to the appropriate mental health professionals. They are:

  1. Schizophrenia
  2. Bipolar disorder
  3. Dementia

* The three listed above (schizophrenia, bipolar, and dementia) usually require the intervention of a psychiatrist and a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
** For more details about these and other mental disorders, please consult the DSM-IV.
*** See Chapter 14 “Psychopathology and Coaching” of Peltier’s book “The Psychology of Executive Coaching” for a more in-depth coverage of this topic.

Peña & Cooper (2010) recommend referring coaching clients when the following mental health issues are present (this is not an exhaustive list, there are many more):

  1. High level of distress
  2. Persistent low mood
  3. Sense of hopelessness

Buckley (2010) states that when coaches are faced with mental health issues they should ask three questions:

  1. Can my coaching help? (Remember the purpose of coaching)
  2. What are my limitations?
  3. Should my coaching continue?

Buckley proposes a four-stage process to help guide a coach in making a decision:

  1. Recognize that some people may have mental health problems that make coaching inappropriate
  2. Understand the signs & symptoms of mental illness and be able to question the client further when necessary
  3. Understand the ethical, legal, and professional standards and practices
  4. Ask “What next?” Continue coaching, stop coaching or refer for medical help?

On the subject of coaching and mental illness, this statement sums it up best:

“Any diagnosis, treatment, ways to help or exploration of underlying issues is the province of mental health specialists and is best avoided” (Buckley, 2010, p. 395).

References

Buckley, A. (2010). Coaching and Mental Health. In E. Cox, T. Bachkirova, & D. Clutterbuck (Eds.), The complete handbook of coaching (pp.394-404). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Grant, A.M. (2006). A personal perspective on professional coaching and the development of coaching psychology. International Coaching Psychology Review, 1(1), 12-22.

Peltier, B. (2010). The psychology of executive coaching: Theory and application (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Peña, M.A., & Cooper, C.L. (2010). Coaching and stress. In J. Passmore (Ed.), Excellence in coaching: The industry guide (2nd ed.) (pp. 189-203). London: Kogan Page.

Understanding Psychometrics in Coaching

Psychometrics: The “science concerned with evaluating the attributes of psychological tests” (Furr & Bacharach, 2008, p. 8). The three most important attributes are: (1) type of data generated by the psychological tests (normally its scores); (2) the reliability of this data; and (3) the validity of the data.

In “Psychometrics in Coaching,” Jonathan Passmore (2008) said that while there is a growing number of instruments for use in coaching, a “surprising number of coaches do not know about the reliability or validity of the questionnaires they are using, or do not know about the theory or research evidence which underpins it” (p. 2).

When evaluating coaching assessments or instruments, Peltier (2010) suggests:

(1) Check the construct – “the basic concept that the instrument supposedly tests…Tests do not always test what they sound like they are testing” (p. 17).

(2) Validity – “Is this test measuring what it says it measures? Is it accurate? … Was this instrument developed for people similar to your client?” (p. 18).

(3) Reliability – Is the instrument stable? “Can you use it and get the same results that the designers get?” (p. 18). Are the results consistent when using with different types of clients.

(4) Standardization – Also known as norming. “To whom or to what is your client compared?” (p. 19) For example, a test that was created using a White, wealthy, highly educated as a norm group may not be as applicable to others.

References

Furr, R.M., & Bacharach, V.R. (2008). Psychometrics: An introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Passmore, J. (Ed.). (2008). Psychometrics in coaching: Using psychological and psychometric tools for development. London: Kogan Page.

Peltier, B. (2010). The psychology of executive coaching: Theory and application (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Business and Executive Coaching Buyer’s Guide

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) recently published a coaching guide. It appears that SIOP is trying to compete for a piece of the coaching pie by the language on the site, and I applaud them for finally doing so. For example,

“Effective [business or executive] coaching requires expertise in a wide array of fields including assessment, measurement and evaluation, change management, adult learning and development, leadership development, performance management, organizational behavior, and team dynamics. Because psychologists educated in Industrial and Organizational Psychology (I-O) have a doctoral degree and a thorough education in these fields, they are particularly qualified to provide effective coaching assistance.”

The language suggests that a good “coach” (in this case a business or executive coach, not a life coach) is one who is educated and trained in I-O psychology and the listing of things that add up to being an effective coach are taught in I-O programs. Good move I must say.

Under the first comment section SIOP makes an even bolder move by stating:

“Many people call themselves coaches, and their education may range from a one-day continuing education course to a doctoral degree from a major research university. (See the SIOP website for information on doctoral and masters level programs in I-O psychology.) Many organizations certify coaches although the meaning of many of these certification efforts is not clear. We believe the most effective coaches are well educated in the areas of I-O psychology listed above and encourage an organization to ask detailed questions about education and experience.”

Now, that’s taking your place in the coaching arena!

I also like their questions to ask a coach. And in the comment section warns those seeking coaching to, “Watch out for gimmicks and one- size-fits-all solutions. Make sure the coach is using tools that are valid, i.e., have evidence of their usefulness for their intended purpose, and appropriate for the individual and setting.”

In particular, I like these questions:

(1) What is your training and experience in the following areas?

  • Individual Assessment
  • Measurement and evaluation
  • Performance evaluation
  • Change management
  • Training and development
  • Organizational behavior
  • Team dynamics

(2) How much and what kind of experience do you have in organizations?

(3) How much and what kind of experience do you have in this industry and with
individuals in this role (e.g., line management, staff functions, professionals)?

(4) How many people have you coached?

  • How did you identify the problem(s) of the individual?
  • How do you assess the individual?
  • What tools do you use? What experience have you had using them?
  • What kind of action planning process do you use?
  • What kinds of developmental activities do you employ?
  • How do you evaluate progress? How? When?

(5) How (and how often) do you evaluate the effectiveness of your coaching?

(6) What ethics code guides your work?

  • How does the coach handle ethical problems?
  • Who is the client?

(7) What are your references?

In raising concerns about the definition of coaching (as a distinct, standalone profession) and about the credibility of coaches as well as an entire coaching industry that has sprung up, Grant (2007) raised an important consideration. He says:

“Because coaching is an industry and not a profession, there are no barriers to entry, no regulation, no government-sanctioned accreditation or qualification process and no clear authority to be a coach; anyone can call themselves a ‘Master Coach’” (Grant, 2007, p. 27).

He goes on to say that there are so many “coach training organisations [sic],” some of which are nothing more than credentialing mills because after a few days of training and payment you can become a certified master coach. “[I]t sometimes seems as if ‘every man and his dog’ [can] offer a coach certification programme… making the value of such certifications highly questionable” (Grant, 2007, p. 27).

I think it’s important to take heed of this piece of advice:

“Make sure that you take the time to find an individual (or firm) who has the skills and approach that works for your organization and your needs” (SIOP, 2009).

Disclosure: I am currently in an Industrial and Organizational Psychology program and am a member of SIOP.

References

Grant, A.M. (2007). Past, present and future: The evolution of professional coaching and coaching psychology. In S. Palmer & A. Whybrow (Eds.), Handbook of coaching psychology (pp. 23-39). New York: Routledge.

SIOP. (2009). Selecting a Coach: What Industrial and Organizational Psychologists Bring to the Table. Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/workplace/coaching/selecting_a_coach.aspx

Book Review: Good Boss, Bad Boss

good-boss-bad-boss-book-cover

In an email exchange, Professor Robert I. Sutton (author of the highly acclaimed book, “The No Asshole Rule”) asked me if I was interested in seeing a “galley” of his upcoming book, “Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst” (due out September 2010). According to Dr. Sutton, “galleys” are “essentially cheap paperback versions of the book that usually have a few typos and may need a little more editing” sent as advanced copies “to the press and other opinion leaders.” I responded that I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of his book and would love to have an advance copy.

I am a fan of Dr. Robert Sutton. I follow his blog, Work Matters regularly and enjoy his writing style. Because I’m fascinated by workplace psychology (I write the WorkplacePsychology.Net blog), I am always interested in articles and books that have a good mixture of research and practical writing and applications. In other words, cut through the bull and tell me what I need to know and make sure that what I need to know is backed by evidence and research. Last year, a book I read (“The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It” by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath) met this practical application + evidence-based criteria.

Here’s a little history for those not familiar with Dr. Sutton’s previous book. “The No Asshole Rule” is about the harm done by jerks or assholes in the workplace and what to do to survive working with or for an asshole and how organizations can get rid of or better yet, screen these individuals out before hiring them in the first place. As he explained, while words like bullies, jerks, creeps, tyrants, etc. could have been used, the word “asshole best captures the fear and loathing I have for these nasty people” (Sutton, 2007, p. 1).

Ok, let’s move on to “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”

Dr. Sutton says that as more people shared with him their asshole stories, about working and dealing with assholes (as a result of reading or hearing about “The No Asshole Rule”), he realized that everything came back to one central figure — the boss. It was from the countless workplace asshole stories and the desire to share how to be a skilled boss or how to work for one that led Dr. Sutton to write “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”

The book cites a University of Florida study that found employees with abusive bosses were much more likely than others to slow down or make errors on purpose (30% vs. 6%) [the technical term for this is “counterproductive work behavior”]. When you purposefully slow down your work, it’s called production deviance. Employees with abusive bosses also hide from their bosses (27% vs. 4%), not put in maximum effort (33% vs. 9%), and feign being sick (29% vs. 4%).

“Good Boss, Bad Boss” is about the best bosses and what they do. It’s not about incompetent or even mediocre bosses. As Dr. Sutton puts it, it doesn’t matter if you’re a boss whose team brought in the highest sales number or a principal of an award-winning school, if you treat people badly, you don’t deserve to be called a great boss.

Good bosses need to have the right mindsets by embracing five beliefs:

(1) Following Lasorda’s Law? Finding the balance between over-managing (or micromanaging) and under-managing. Good bosses understand when to exert more control vs. when to back off, and when to coach vs. when to discipline.

(2) Got Grit? Good bosses think of managing in terms of a marathon, not like a sprint. Effective bosses can communicate a sense of urgency without treating things like one long emergency.

(3) Small Wins? Having long-term goals is important, but good bosses also know that the day-to-day efforts and small accomplishments also matter. The best bosses are those who can break down problems into bite-size, achievable pieces for their employees.

(4) Beware the Toxic Tandem? The Toxic Tandem is made up of the boss’s obliviousness (to what their employees need, say, and do) and self-centered ways and the idea that followers closely watch their boss’s words and actions.

(5) Got Their Backs? Good bosses protect and fight for their employees. These bosses take the heat (from upper management) when their employees screw up.

Good bosses have their fingers (and ears) on the pulse of what their employees are thinking, feeling, and acting. These bosses know that to be successful they have to spend time and energy to reading and responding to employees’ feelings and actions. Good bosses also possess self-awareness, being highly aware of their strengths and weaknesses while striving to overcome pitfalls that may sabotage their performance.

“Good Boss, Bad Boss” warns that there is no panacea. There is no magic formula to what makes a good boss, and anyone who “promises you an easy or instant pathway to success is either ignorant or dishonest — or both,” says Dr. Sutton.

“Good Boss, Bad Boss” ends by asking and suggesting the audience think about two questions. These two questions should be something good bosses focus on daily:

(1) Would people want to work for you and would they choose to work for you again if given a choice?

(2) Are you in tune with what it feels like to work for you?

Summary: “Good Boss, Bad Boss” is an insightful and well-researched book. Following in the footsteps set by The No Asshole Rule, “Good Boss, Bad Boss” delivers a knock-out punch to those asshole bosses whose cluelessness continues to harm both their employees and the overall organization. Using the power of storytelling, Robert Sutton masterfully weaves together research and stories about good and bad bosses and behaviors in the workplace that led to their successes and failures. If you want a magic pill or quick solutions on how to be a great boss and avoid being a bad one, this is not the book for you. However, if you value the power of insight and self-awareness as part of an on-going process toward becoming a great boss, then you’ll love “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”

References

Pearson, C. & Porath, C. (2009). The cost of bad behavior: How incivility is damaging your business and what to do about it. New York, NY: Portfolio.

Sutton, R. I. (2010). Good boss, bad boss: How to be the best… and learn from the worst. New York: Business Plus.

Sutton, R. I. (2007). The no asshole rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t. New York: Business Plus.

Differentiating Coaching Psychology from Counseling Psychology

[Note]: This post is a reprint of my response in a LinkedIn group discussion in the British Psychological Society’s Special Group in Coaching Psychology (SGCP). The original discussion question asked for responses regarding the differences between coaching and counseling psychology with the aim of defining coaching psychology.

COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY

In the U.S., the Society of Counseling Psychology (Div. 17 of the American Psychological Association) views counseling psychology in this manner:

“Counseling psychology is unique in its attention both to normal developmental issues and to problems associated with physical, emotional, and mental disorders.” (Div. 17 website)

Counseling psychology works with clients who require therapy to address issues (which can range from mild to severe). In my opinion, there really is not a clear distinction between counseling psychology and clinical psychology, as both can tackle various forms of mental illness. Because counseling psychology uses psychopathology (mental illness) and operates with that in mind, it is psychology for “therapy” or psychology for the treatment of mental health problems.

COACHING PSYCHOLOGY

Anthony Grant (2006) defines “coaching psychology” this way:

“Coaching psychology can be understood as being the systematic application of behavioural science to the enhancement of life experience, work performance and well-being for individuals, groups and organisations who do not have clinically significant mental heath issues or abnormal levels of distress.”

I like this last part of Grant’s definition because coaching works with healthy clients, not those needing mental health counseling.

Coaching starts with the premise that the client is healthy and works to enhance the client’s well-being and performance (in life and/or the workplace). If and when coaching clients do need “therapy,” the coach should be competent enough to recognize this need and the importance of referring these clients for therapy.

References

Grant, A.M. (2006). A personal perspective on professional coaching and the development of coaching psychology. International Coaching Psychology Review, 1(1), 12-22.

Society of Counseling Psychology. About counseling psychologists. Retrieved from http://www.div17.org/students_defining.html