In Career Coaching, Coaching, Coaching Science and Research, Leadership and Management Development, Leadership Coaching, Organisational Coaching

When exploring the delayed effects of leadership from a coaching perspective, is self-reflection the key or what occurs in the moment? It’s a topic of conversation that shows up in all our coaching engagements and something we keep a keen eye on. So much so, we have devised and continue to develop our coaching programmes with these factors amongst others in mind to achieve  optimal behaviour and mindset change during and post-coaching to optimise performance. In this article, the focus is on leadership in the workplace. However,  we feel it relates and translates into all aspects of life and career. It’s wherever it’s needed. 

Here’s Lillian Latto’s revised and condensed article in her capacity as a Research Associate for ICF Singapore of the pilot study conducted by Sunny Stout Rostron, Gordon B Spence and Michelle Van Reenan from the fields of leadership coaching and psychology.  From our perspective, we feel it’s important to recognise that everyone is a leader of some description regardless of your position be it in the traditional workplace or, hot desk, co-working space, your spare room at home, they’re all a place of work.  

Exploring the delayed effects of leadership coaching: A pilot study



Coaching is a reflective journey and not all psychological, or behaviours transcend immediately, and as such, the delayed effects are yet to be understood fully. This study investigates this further in the shape of a 10-week leadership coaching programme focused on enhancing employee engagement across an organisation,  namely,  15 leaders (mean age 47.3 years old, 12 men and 3 females to obtain a qualitative view, to reveal the effect of coaching on the coachee from an immediate and delayed perspective plus benefits of each, concerning transformational change.


  • To assess coaching effectiveness through tracking the degree of learning over some time to understand the effects of other factors such as organisational support and taking a closer look at how said factors influence final outcomes.
  • Is learning the desired coaching outcome whereby the coachees objective is the route to bring about awareness which leads to clarity which in turn provides the personal learning experience.
  • By acting congruently to understand how coaching supports more in-depth learning of personal skills, self-regulation and personal evolution.  Alongside how and where they surface, and how measured.
  • To move beyond simple pre–post-coaching ‘improvement’ data by complementing it with more objective measures, reports from others plus repeated observational studies collected six to 12months post-coaching.


To gather qualitative data through semi-structured interviews to provide personal narrative and to understand emerging patterns coupled with interpretive and intentional in the moment experience, with a focus on perceptions, attitudes, knowledge, values, feelings and any significant personal or professional learning practices. Framed through two questions to provide the essence for the study to demonstrate findings of the late-onset, i.e. 8-12 months after a coaching engagement. Secondly, from the outcomes recorded, which directly correlate to the coaching process. To conclude, each interview was structurally analysed, creating codes or building blocks of data, then each text was then summarised by the researchers. They compressed the narratives through a method of theory interpretation.


Four themes occurred during immediate coaching engagements:

  1. Communication 
  2. Performance    
  3. Enhanced Confidence 
  4. Enhanced Reflection                                    


Each area of discovery highlighted through the early stages of the coaching programme, which is of great personal importance to the coachees. What emerged is, it takes time for the full benefit of individual learning and implementation and or change to be achieved/realised. Meaning initial learnings lay dormant until a moment or situation presents itself through thought or a feeling — leading to a deeper level of personal understanding —  creating and facilitating a period of existing between deploying new strategies and ways of being, versus reverting to old habits. They are hence promoting a stop-start paradigm which lends itself to the theory behind transformational learning and the steps required to achieve this. Again, this coaching method facilitates coachees to gain clarity, develop new perspectives to assist their personal growth.  One of the implications and limitations of this study is the lapsed timescale, i.e. 8-12 months as this could contribute to participants ‘forgetting’ or associating initial learning identified through the coaching process and therefore suggests a shorter timeline of 3-6 months to enhance the quality of data collected.  Secondly, the design of the interview questions needs to be less general and more specific to reflect more concise learning experiences. Use of the Kraiger, Ford, and Salas’s(1993) three-component model of learning, cognitive, affective and behavioural as depicted in Figure 1, could be incorporated in a future study to support the design of interview questions to allow for better self-reflection. Lastly, this study is reliant on the participants being retrospective about change that potentially is yet to manifest. Also note that two areas arose as implications of practice, the first being the levels of enthusiasm from the participants, which could be viewed as reflective opportunities for them. With that, short coaching engagements of 4-6 session need to be cemented with follow up activities and re-engagement of coach assisted learning to increase effectiveness. The second being, what the coach would like to know in terms of the impact made from the sessions? This study should help them understand the substantial effect from an immediate and longer-term perspective as the conversations had, continue to live in the minds of the coachee, contributing to the manifestations and emergence of delayed effects.

 Steps in the transformative learning process:

  1. Experiencing a disorientating dilemma
  2. Self-examining, with feelings of fear, anger, guilt or shame
  3. Critically assessing assumptions
  4. Recognising that one’s discontent and the process of transformation are shared
  5. Exploring options for new roles, relationships and actions
  6. Planning a course of action
  7. Acquiring knowledge and skills for implementing one’s plan
  8. Provisionally trying new roles
  9. Building competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships
  10. Reintegrating new perspectives and capabilities into one’s life 

Seven-factor model of personal learning:

  1. Cognitive
  2. Effective
  3. Behaviour
  4. Self Private
  5. Self Public
  6. Social
  7. Systemic

Source: Mezirow (1978)


To conclude, the delayed onset of personal learning and personal change, should not be disregarded and a level of importance placed on this component, one could argue in equal measures to goal attainment, which is often the basis and measure for coaching outcomes. Even though this study does not report an immense significance, based on the participant’s responses, it is clear that transformation takes time to emerge. Therefore the delay of 8-12 months is too long a period. To increase connectivity between initial coaching sessions and learning outcomes for the coachee, the ‘incubation’ period needs to be closer to 3-6 months, as the more extended period contributes to the ‘link’ is lost in transit.

Ongoing coaching further down the timeline once the initial engagement is concluded, plus follow up activities are required, coupled with organisational support to augment learning to support the transformation. This approach will then provide both the coach and the coachee with the necessary data to measure effectiveness. Suggesting there is room for further investigation with a ‘tighter’ question design, and potentially a more balanced demographic as most of the participants are male.


For us, we feel once the initial coaching engagement has concluded in the physical sense regardless if the client is an individual investing in self or companies investing in their talent, we provide our clients with the option to include transitional coaching and internal strategy to augment their learning about self plus their desired change in mindset and behaviours. What we know for sure is for those who take this route, the return on investment, financial and otherwise is more significant than those who don’t.

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