The value of applying focused on-line coaching for professional development

This was a pilot study to investigate the effects of an on-line coaching process focused specifically on enabling individuals to take charge of their personal/professional development and to have access to tools and resources to enhance their self-directed learning. The focus group was participants from Eindhoven in the Netherlands. This study was carried out by Rachel Arts of Talentstorm, and Dr Yi-Ling Lai of Birkbeck College, University of London and Dr Valerie Anderson of Portsmouth University.


Key findings:


Motivators for engagement with self-development coaching:

Four themes emerged as prime motivators to engage with self-development coaching: Career development, personal development, curiosity and opportunism, however the the most prominent was a commitment to personal development.

‘I didn’t have access to a network here having just been here for about a year. So partly it was my mission to grow in my career, and that’s usually what I would have used my network for’

‘To help me understand where I stand and what I want to do’

‘I’m open minded. Why not? So let’s do it’


Advantages of an external coaching process:

 External perspective, knowledge and expertise, non-directive, trust

Trust in the process arose from its non-directive stance, combined with the external nature of the coaching facilitation. These factors provide a safe space for self-awareness and reflection necessary for affective as well as cognitive and behavioural self-development coaching outcomes.

‘It’s good to have an outside view and that gives you a different perspective, like a different lens to look at things through than perhaps I would do on my own naturally or within my environment’

‘I didn’t even know that there are actually ways to improve the way you learn things, which obviously there are, and there are a lot of tools’

‘She put me into a position that I should work with myself and understand myself…in the end that was much wiser than giving me a solution on a plate’


How coaching can affect participants’ self-development practices

Participants reflected that the self-development coaching process enabled them to recognize opportunities for implicit as well as explicit learning and forms of self-development.

The coaching process stimulated cognitive, affective and behavioural responses that enable participants to make sense of incidents from their past, reflect on their personal transition process, and further articulate a sense of their ‘future self’.

‘It was helpful to me to have a conversation, and that’s what’s nice about coaching, see what’s going on, unconsciously blocking you or consciously you want to achieve but you don’t even realise you want to achieve and verbalise it’

‘I remember the way she described the learning journey. That really opened my eyes and I thought, oh I never thought, it is like this and it works’


Conclusion & Recommendations

This pilot study suggests that self-development coaching provides a safe space for self-awareness and reflection as a basis for interactive processes to support participants’ affective, behavioural and cognitive development. This area, however, is under-researched and under-theorised.

The study sample included a significant proportion of expatriate workers, indicating the value of self-development coaching as a ‘stigma-free’ intervention, for professionals in expatriate contexts who face specific personal and professional challenges.

A number of areas for future research were identified by this study.


We are grateful to UFHRD (University Forum for Human Resource Development) for the honorarium to support this project.

To read the full Report including recommendations for future studies click here.

To find out more about our Self-development coaching offer click here.

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