Executive coaching – does it really work?

The executive coaching industry is growing fast with some studies reporting that up to 90% of businesses now use external coaches. Chris Martin from Silvermaple discusses the benefits and risks of this changing landscape and reviews the evidence to see if coaching actually works.


A changing landscape

Over the last decade there has been an explosive growth in the number of senior managers receiving coaching. This increase has also been reflected in the size and revenue generated by the coaching industry at a global level.

Membership of the International Coach Federation has more than tripled and in 2014 IBISWorld estimated coaching was a $1 billion industry in the U.S. alone, with the Harvard Business Review estimating the global coaching industry to be worth in excess of $2 billion.

Coaching isn’t just growing, it’s evolving. In addition to executive coaching, there are many other offerings available including; life coaching, health coaching, career coaching, and elite coaching. Multiple coaching models also exist all with accompanying coaching techniques, qualifications and networks. Coaches for their part have the choice of remaining true to one approach or blending this to suit the individual needs of their client.


‘Coaching isn’t just growing, its evolving’


Emerging benefits

• A shift in mind-set – Over recent years there has been a shift in people’s attitudes towards executive coaching. Rather than a remedial offering for struggling or underperforming leaders, coaching is now seen as a performance enhancing opportunity. Businesses who provide coaching within a culture that appreciates the need to invest in talent and leadership can differentiate themselves in a competitive market place.

• Increasing regulation – Its early days but we are starting to see a more regulated approach to coaching. Coaching federations and other formal bodies are increasingly outlining the skills, approach and qualifications required to coach others. As the industry continues to grow and diversify this regulation will become increasingly important in assuring quality and standards.

• Acknowledgement of the importance of behaviour in leadership – Behaviour is widely accepted as a fundamental component of leadership effectiveness. From decision making and risk taking to influencing and learning, all aspects of leadership performance are effected by behaviour. As a result, many coaching relationships focus on supporting leaders to achieve positive, lasting change in their behaviour.

• The sharing of expertise from other professions – Executive coaching is frequently provided by Occupational or Organisational Psychologists. However, psychologists and coaching professionals from other industries are increasingly involved in supporting people in the business context. Whilst this is not always a straightforward transition for the practitioner, the benefits can be significant.


Emerging risks

Difficulty separating opinion from factThe internet is full of articles about coaching, and finding empirically derived and robust information that is written by an impartial author is not always easy. For individuals and businesses to be empowered to make the right choices and to evaluate the effectiveness of a coaching relationship they must first understand the key ingredients of effective coaching.

Potential conflicts of interest – Coaches occupy a privileged and unique position. This is built upon trust and the belief that a coach has the skills and integrity to act in their client’s best interests. However, any relationship can be open to abuse, particularly when the practitioner gains financially from the frequency and tenure of the coaching relationship. Effective coaching develops independence and a client’s ability to self-reinforce, build personal insight and strengthen their own support network. Whilst this doesn’t mean that coaching relationships can’t be enduring, it does mean they should be enabling growth and self-efficacy.

Establishing the effectiveness of a coach – We live in an era where you can search on Google for the performance of a cardiologist or rate the quality of your tyre fitter via an app on your phone. Despite this there is little information available to establish the effectiveness of individual coaches. Good practice in executive coaching should include evaluation of the progress made by the client, together with perceived value of the coaching relationship.

Knowing whether coaching works for you – The individual themselves is one of the major variables when it comes to the relative success of coaching. Clients can be unclear about what they expect to get from a coaching relationship or how they would like it to work. In an environment where it increasingly becomes the norm for senior leaders to have a coach there may even be a degree of expectation that everyone ‘should’ have a coach. In this context individuals need guidance to establish whether coaching is for them or appropriate for addressing their goals or challenges.


With no shortage of executive coaches available how do you know who to choose?


Does coaching work?

What the research tells us

Whilst research has struggled to keep up with the diversity of emerging offerings, there are still useful studies to draw upon. One of these is the meta-analysis conducted by Theeboom, Beersma and Vianen (2014).

Theeboom et al looked to address the question of whether coaching had an effect on five outcome categories: performance/skills, well-being, coping, work attitudes, and goal-directed self-regulation. Their results indicated that coaching had led to statistically significant positive effects on all outcomes with effect sizes ranging from g = 0.43 (coping) to g = 0.74 (goal-directed self-regulation).

The factors that contribute to successful coaching

Nadine Page and Erik de Haan asked ‘does executive coaching work?’ in Vol 27 of the Psychologist (2014). They focussed on the factors that lead to successful and impactful coaching specifically; personality, the coaching relationship, and type of coaching applied by the coach.

They reported that the strength of a coaching relationship was the most powerful predictor of coaching outcomes. More specifically, their research suggests that ‘it is important to build rapport that is task-focused, with clear and achievable goals, as this leads to successful outcomes, more so than just focusing on developing a close relationship or bond.’ Another important predictor they identified was ‘the degree to which clients can motivate themselves, their self-efficacy, or if you like, ego strength or self-confidence’.



Senior leaders and the companies they work for increasingly understand that behaviour has a significant impact upon business performance strategically and operationally and that executive coaching can significantly impact an individual’s behaviour.

The evolution of executive coaching and the sharing of techniques from other industries is also enriching what coaches can offer their clients. Despite this, executive coaching is not for everyone and as the industry continues to grow there is a risk that some may join the profession for the wrong reasons. Ideally, we need to ensure that clients and client organisations are sufficiently well informed to make the right choices about who to engage as a coach and how to work with them.

Finally, it is affirming to read evidence that executive coaching can deliver real and meaningful results for individuals and businesses. More research is needed though if we are to ensure continuous improvement and that coaching remains a scientifically robust and impactful intervention.


About the author

Chris Martin is a Business Psychologist and Founding Partner of Silvermaple. You can visit at

Catching Up With Our Midlands Associates

As a company that works with clients across the UK, having regional networks of associates is incredibly important. Quite apart from the environmental benefit of reducing the distance associates have to travel, it’s good for our customers and their local economies. After all, it’s so often the case that knowledge of a particular region, an understanding of local business and even a local accent can make the learning experience more ‘real’.

That’s precisely what we did for one of our clients, a leading UK car manufacturer based in the Midlands. For the past two years CentreStage has been providing actors for their extensive development programme and as part of our commitment to quality, we’ve developed a network of highly-skilled Midlands-based associates. As a thank you for their contribution to the programme (and for generally being brilliant), we caught up with them in July for a day of revelry Birmingham-style, with a city centre treasure hunt, a curry and one or two strategic watering holes.

Carry On Appraising!

3C Performance Management Specialists have created an interactive workshop that takes managers through ‘a year in a day’ of managing performance!

Why do we like a good novel? Or soap opera? What is it that keeps us coming back for more? The plot, perhaps, a juicy murder or sordid affair? More than anything else, it’s having characters you care about. And that’s part of the secret of the success of 3C’s latest management skills workshop, Carry On Appraising, which uses a series of video clips, email trails and assorted collateral to immerse delegates in the world of Alex – a chap trying to do his job – and his colleague, Sam.

It’s their relationship, and the fall out from it, that forms the basis of the ‘Carry On’, and what starts out as a minor issue between them develops, from scene to scene, into a major performance challenge. At every stage, delegates are invited to intervene, and to try addressing the performance issues.  And the longer they leave it the worse it gets! The day culminates in delegates giving both team members an appraisal.

One of the key aims of the workshop is to draw delegates into the reality of managing performance all year round, not just at appraisal time. Other learning includes dealing with performance issues before they become a major challenge, understanding the difference between coaching and performance conversations and operational 1-2-1s, as well as effective questioning, listening and feedback skills.

We were delighted to be asked by 3C to provide the video element for the workshop, and given a tight timeframe undertook a complete production service, including casting, location, direction, filming and editing. And what’s been interesting from the early workshops is how much participants care about the characters. It’s that emotional investment in the story they see unfold that makes the workshop so effective and unique. Because if delegates know a Sam or Alex in real life, it’s far easier for them to transfer learning from workshop to workplace.

David Hancox, CFO at Structa LLP, says of Carry On Appraising “Even in the early days of the programme, 3C have had a big impact on how we think about and manage performance.  The interactive development sessions for all managers and introduction of core competencies have really opened our eyes to how we can keep our highly skilled workforce engaged and motivated.”

If you would like to talk to 3C Associates about Carry On Appraising, you can email or phone +44 (0)1491 411544.

Wilde About Arts



Just as we at CentreStage believe in the importance of creative thinking in the work place, we’re also strong believers in the power of the Arts more broadly in improving lives and broadening horizons. And for no one is access to the Arts more important than vulnerable young people. That’s why we’re supporting Wilde About Arts, part of an incredible programme of workshops run by South Hill Park Arts Centre for young people.

Wilde About Arts is a fantastic class for  young carers, young people who are in care or who are considered ‘at risk’. It is a life-line for many who have been forced to grow up sooner than they should. In the weekly two-hour class, art is used as a means of escapism. Participants are free to explore their creativity and self-expression in a safe environment and under the watchful eye of two professional tutors. And it’s a life-line that was put in jeopardy last year by the announcement of local council funding cuts.

It’s a time when all public services are feeling the funding squeeze, and the Arts are no different. But we believe Wilde About Arts, and other programmes like it, are too important to be lost to austerity. Accessible to everyone, regardless of age, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or social-economic background, the youth programme run by South Hill Park is a voice for diversity and a step towards the provision of equal opportunities to young people.

Annually, Creative Learning at South Hill Park works with over 2, 000 young people through the courses, classes and opportunities they have on offer. The arts centre runs the most successful Summer and Easter school in the region and has a dedicated team of individuals aged 14-21 called ‘Missed Out’, who work as a team to create events for other young people in the area, including band nights, quiz nights and a festival for primary school children which attracts in excess of 400 students annually.



Eleven Nineteen is another of the workshops on offer at South Hill Park. An open access club for young people, participants pay just £1 per week to take part in a professionally led activities such as Chinese Lion Dancing, spray paining, sword fighting, yoga, street dance, musical theatre, outdoor survival and much more. Because of the low price, the session is accessible to everyone with inclusivity, togetherness and discovery lying at the heart of the group.

All of this is only made possible by donations. Without that support, life for young people at South Hill Park would be a very different experience. Asked to indicate which skills and abilities they had improved by participating in a course or class at South Hill Park, 90.1% said they had increased their confidence, 85.9% said they were better at working in a team and 83.1% said they were better at Social Integration and making new friends. But in addition to this, access to and participation in the Arts can, in the long term, be an alternative to depression, social exclusion and anti-social behaviour.

For now, Wilde About Arts and other youth programmes continue to improve young lives in and around Bracknell, but they depend on outside support. If you would like to support the youth programme at South Hill Park, email Mark Hooper –

For more information, visit

Spotlight: Lee Fisher

For a number of years, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Lee Fisher. We spoke to him about his journey from professional ballet dancer to learning and development consultant.

Tell us about your work.

I’m a Lane4 associate and coach. That means I get to work with lots of organisations and teams, supporting leadership and team development, getting involved in group and one to one work. And I recently came across CentreStage, which has been nice, using theatre, which is my background, as part of the process. I’m fairly new to the use of theatre in learning and development as a concept, but it’s something I’m passionate about. To see it used in the corporate world is really interesting and has affirmed to me the power of theatre in the learning environment.

Where does that passion come from?

It’s in every fibre of me. I started dancing at age five or six, went through intensive training and ended up at the Royal Ballet School, then joined Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. I performed for nearly 20 years. I’ve also worked a little as a choreographer and director.

What do you miss most about your life in the Ballet?

I feel very privileged. I’ve had a very fortunate career. I’ve toured the world, danced on major opera house stages and danced with wonderful artists. I miss the camaraderie and team spirit you experience when bringing a show to the stage. I also miss being so oriented to detail and physical fitness, and being a part of something. And I do like a good show at the end of the day!

How did you go from Ballet to where you are now?

In 2005 I decided to retire from dance. I’d been working increasingly with groups in the world of community dance, and I really enjoyed that. And I had the opportunity to do a Masters in Applied Dance. I’d always been interested in what makes some dancers more successful than others, so the focus of my studies was psychological performance. There wasn’t much written about dance psychology at the time. It was all sports psychology. So I wrote my MA dissertation on applying psychological enhancement techniques to ballet dancers.

I also went on a year-long leadership programme, a part of which was in Windsor. It was there that I met a client of Lane4, who loved my story and suggested I meet Liz Campbell. I met Liz, and she suggested I go and meet the Lane4 team at a Magic Monday forum, which I did. I wasn’t expecting to do a presentation as well though! I ended up doing a team-building workshop for Lane4, and off the back of that Liz suggested I go to a matching event, which I went to not realising it was a job interview! I subsequently joined Lane4 as a fast track consultant. Lane4 were interested in performance from a dance perspective. So a lot of what I do around motivation and performance comes from the dance world, with coaching being a big part of it. My work for Lane4 is probably around 75% of what I do, the remainder being community dance – I still do work for Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Lane4 are known for applying the principles of high performance in sports to the corporate world. So how does dance differ from sports?

Well there are lots of similarities. Doing the very best you can do, having appropriate goals and maintaining self-belief. In terms of differences, the dance world is far more subjective and open to interpretation. You will go to the same ballet performed by different dancers because of different interpretations. Those elements of interpretation and artistry aren’t as prominent in the sporting domain. What I notice when working with CentreStage is the actors are able to highlight nuance and subtlety in communication, which isn’t immediately measurable but is incredibly important.

What do you think delegates get from working with actors?

It’s so powerful. Seeing situations played out that they can relate to is really enlightening. When people can put themselves into the shoes of the protagonist, it’s great learning. Then to sit one to one and test skills in the moment and get real-time feedback is a great learning opportunity.

For some time I’ve worked with a theatre company that uses actors in prisons, and some of the research they carried out in terms of the impact of forum theatre on personal change was staggering. The research focused on the extent to which prisoners would reoffend or go into employment. Ultimately the use of theatre had a massively positive impact. That’s one of the reasons I value working with actors so much.

You said that your MA dissertation focused on applying psychological enhancement techniques to ballet dancers. What were your findings?

That the more successful dancers were intuitively using techniques such as visualisation, goal setting and positive self-talk. For example, just before you go on stage, what are you saying to yourself? What is your mind-set and how does your mind-set influence your performance? I hadn’t imagined when writing it that I would end up working for a company like Lane4, but now it feels like a really logical progression.

Do the same rules apply in the corporate environment?

I think so. Leaders who are able to focus on the right things at the right time and maintain their motivation, those who are resilient across their beliefs so they can recover from setbacks and maintain performance under pressure are the most successful. I think great athletes, dancers and leaders share those attributes.

I get a massive buzz from doing what I do now. It’s an ideal second career! Giving people that space to grow and set exciting goals, creating the right environment in which people can express themselves, and being able to share that environment with them feels like a real privilege, so I can see myself continuing to do it for many years.

If you didn’t work in this field, what would you do – your perfect ‘third career’?

I fancy being a river keeper on a beautiful stretch of river. I have a passion for nature and the outdoors.

The Power of Theatre in the Fight Against Cancer

We felt incredibly privileged to be asked to contribute to the recent bowel cancer screening launch event organized by Slough Clinical Commissioning Group and Macmillan Cancer Support.

The free event, at Slough’s Montem Leisure Centre, brought together people from across the Slough community to raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening, encourage communities and service providers to engage with each other and improve the health of individuals through prevention, early diagnosis and education.

Dr Nicky Myerscough, from Crosby House Surgery and the Macmillan Clinical Lead at the CCG, said: “This is a great opportunity to spread the word to the local community about the importance of screening. Unfortunately, Slough has low uptake rates which means that cancers often aren’t spotted until late. We hope that people will be encouraged to participate in screening so that potential problems can be detected and treated at an early stage, thus avoiding much unnecessary suffering for patients and their families.”

Pardip Kumar and Amit Kamliwala performing at the launch

Pardip Kumar and Amit Kamliwala performing at the launch

People automatically receive a simple bowel cancer screening test kit in the mail when they turn 60 and every two years thereafter, up to 74 years of age. As of December 2014, a total of 40,302 people between 60-74 years of age living in Slough had been invited to take part in the bowel cancer screening programme since its inception in 2006, but only 15,157 completed the test, leaving over 25,000 unscreened individuals.

Regular bowel cancer screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage when patients may have no symptoms, so in an area where the take-up of bowel cancer screening tests is particularly low – compared to the national average – Slough CCG and Macmillan are particularly keen to empower individuals to make informed choices.

As part of their aim to make the recent launch memorable and engaging, Slough CCG/Macmillan asked us to create a piece of theatre that would explore the sensitive issues around bowel cancer in an absorbing way, to entertain an audience while delivering impactful messages, and reflect the cultural and social barriers to cancer screening.

So we worked with Slough CCG/Macmillan staff to understand their objectives and approached local playwright, Adam Foster, to script a 20-minute play that could be staged simply and effectively as part of the launch. Developed over a number of weeks, the final script explores the world of Rahul and his son, Jamal, and the development of their relationship over many years. The story, often told in flashback, culminates in Rahul being diagnosed with bowel cancer and the subsequent, heart-breaking repercussions.

CentreStage actors Pardip Kumar and Amit Kamliwala brought the two characters to life in what was a touching, often funny piece of theatre. The event also included healthy food demonstrations and tasting, Zumba and Tai Chi taster sessions and free health advice with over 30 local service providers setting up stalls on the day.

CentreStage actors Amit Kamliwala and Pardip Kumar with The Mayor of Slough, councillor Arvind Dhaliwal

CentreStage actors Amit Kamliwala and Pardip Kumar with The Mayor of Slough, councillor Arvind Dhaliwal

Gloria Askander, Programme Lead for Slough CCG / Macmillan Screening Improvement, said, “Over 320 people attended the community event and the feedback received has been very unlifting, positive and definately help to build greater awareness around bowel cancer and bowel cancer screening. The message we really wanted people to take away with them was;  ‘that completeing the bowel cancer screening test can save your life’. The case studies and live drama appeared to have a significant impact on those who attended and we are sure that they will talk to their family, friends and community members about the importance of bowel cancer screening.”

For more information about the partnership work the CCG and Macmillan Cancer Support have been doing within the Slough community visit the Bowel Cancer Screening Improvement Programme page.




Driving Success Through Leadership

Since January 2015 CentreStage has been working with one of the UK’s largest and most successful car manufacturers, which over the last three years has invested heavily in supporting its managers to deliver inspirational leadership and ensure sustainable growth.

As part of its employee engagement strategy, the organisation conducted a survey of managers from across the business and from the results sought to create a development programme that would respond better to the needs of its workforce.

The survey showed that managers wanted the ability to personalise their learning journey with a modular programme, where they could select areas for their own development. They wanted interventions which were shorter, more focused and a better match to their specific needs.

The result was a programme encompassing over 60 courses aimed at multiple levels of management within the organisation, covering a wide spectrum of skills areas from soft skills through to harder skills like Financial Management.

The emphasis for all courses is to have innovative and engaging methods of delivery, allowing people to learn by doing. Live training events (1 or 2 day courses) are fast paced, energetic and dynamic, designed to re-create situations managers find themselves in on a daily basis, which is where CentreStage comes in.

For over a year, CentreStage has provided actors for over 30 different courses within the programme, contributing experiential interventions such acted simulations, one-to-one role-play and forum theatre sessions.

The results are pretty impressive. In 2014/15, over 15,000 delegates attended a course, with 94% saying they achieved their personal development objectives and are more effective in their role.

Employee engagement results have improved in every measure in the last 18 months, while there’s been a significant improvement (10%) in the perception of employees that there are more development opportunities available to them and that they feel that they are getting the training they need.

The programme has been recognised in two leading industry awards, including the CIPD Awards.

The programme continues to be rolled out today, and since early 2015, CentreStage has developed an ever-growing pool of experienced professional role-players to support it.

Berkshire Healthcare – Suicide Prevention

In May, CentreStage begin supporting a new strategy for Suicide Prevention training for Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. The training is aimed at raising awareness across the workforce, and improving the quality of care the Trust offers for people at risk of suicide.

Recent research suggests that 70% of people contemplating suicide are not in touch with mental heath services. This can be because many of them don’t actually have mental health problems. It can also be because people don’t know how to access the service, or because rigid referral criteria results in people being bounced between different parts of the NHS.

The ongoing programme, to be delivered at three different levels, focuses on up-skilling staff across the organisation, from administration staff to ‘Crisis Teams’, and in most cases includes live actor sessions, giving delegates the chance to conduct face to face risk assessments and safety plans.

The level three training, a 9 week course delivered specifically for crisis workers, is offered at academic Level 6 and 7 with university accreditation. For this course, CentreStage actors will play service user characters in crisis: the course participants will be assessed on their crisis resolution skills used during these simulated interventions.

For a list of NHS-recommended sources of support for people contemplating suicide, visit:

For NHS support on offering support to those who are suicidal, visit:

England 2022: Yes or No?

Breaking News: Following an extraordinary meeting of FIFA’s Executive and Ethics Committees, Qatar has been stripped of the right to host the 2022 World Cup Finals.

It’s a headline that just about sounds plausible, given the controversy and criminal investigations surrounding FIFA’s top brass. But the ‘live’ news bulletin is in fact the first part of our latest team-building workshop, developed with our friends at Lane4. Suitable for groups of between 10 and 100, the fast moving simulation immerses delegates in the murky world of politics, tasked as an independent committee with deciding whether England should accept FIFA’s last-ditch offer to host the Finals in place of Qatar.

Drip-fed information in the form of government reports, memos rolling news bulletins and even tweets, participants must work together whilst considering a broad range of political ‘hot potatoes’; energy, the environment, international relations, transport links, infrastructure. And to make it even more real, participants can meet with a range of key stakeholders; Government ministers, environmental lobbyists and even a Qatari Ambassador, who may or may not be amenable, and may or may not choose to share key information.

The simulation ends with a lively TV debate in which representatives must justify decisions under the glare of the studio cameras!

CentreStage and Lane4 have run this fast-moving, engaging workshop many times to universally excellent feedback. To find out more, get in touch!

NHS England and the New Care Models

In his Five Year Forward View for the NHS, Simon Stevens noted “The traditional divide between primary care, community services and hospitals – largely unaltered since the birth of the NHS – is increasingly a barrier to the personalised and coordinated health services patients need.”

There have been many attempts over the years to break down barriers between general practice, community providers, hospitals, health and social care and mental health services, but success has been limited, with patient experience seeing little discernable difference. And that’s where the latest focus on new care models by NHS England aims to be different. Rather than closer working being a means in itself, the new care models take as a starting point the patient experience, and the associated objectives of integrated care, reduced admissions to hospitals and care closer to home.

Central to this has been the creation of a national network of Vanguard sites, each taking a lead on the development of new care models for its local population to act as the blueprints for the NHS moving forward. There are three types of model: MCPs (multi-specialty community providers), concerned with moving specialist care out of hospitals and into the community; PACs (primary and acute care system), with single organisations providing hospital, GP and community services; and enhanced health in care homes.

And with the creation of this network of Vanguards came a need for NHS England, which oversees the budget, planning, delivery and day-to-day operation of the commissioning side of the NHS in England, to recruit a new care models team, responsible for linking with and supporting Vanguards across the country.

Following the creation of a behavioural framework – both true to the values of the wider NHS constitution but also relevant to the fast paced reality faced by the New Care Models team – and the design of bespoke assessment exercises to measure both current capability and future potential of candidates, CentreStage was asked to provide support from both a role play and observation perspective.

Working alongside senior managers from the New Care Models team we helped to assess 80 posts, each with multiple vacancies, within the space of 2 months.  By any standards this was a large recruitment campaign and with high stakes given the levels of talent NHS England were looking to attract.

Needless to say the New Care Models team is now in place and has already started to see significant results both in terms of patient and staff engagement across vanguard and other sights.  You can read more about their progress at