E-Coaching community: What have we learnt in a year- Theme 6: Research

research 1

As it was mentioned in a previous blog post, one of the objectives of our e-coaching network is to bridge the gap between e-coaching researchers and practitioners. Through our group discussions, practitioners and researchers exchanged information, ideas, insights, and contributed towards building a knowledge base around e-coaching. Practitioners shared personal knowledge, particularly tips, techniques, experiences- which I have summarized and categorized into distinct themes (see previous blog posts) – 1. Conceptual issues, 2. Media, 3. Tools , 4. Ethics and other issues relating to the e-coaching process, and 5. E-mentoring.

Researchers on the other side, also shared relevant information about their own ongoing research. This post provides an overview of the empirical research, which members of our community are currently undertaking, as well as a review of past literature in e-coaching.

Review of empirical e-coaching literature.

E-coaching is a growing phenomenon (Grant and Zackon, 2004; ICF, 2007) and its use is expected to increase in the future (Frazee, 2008). However, empirical research lacks behind practice. A review of the literature, posted previously in this blog, showed that empirical research, despite having offered several encouraging indications that support the efficacy of e-coaching, it remains scarce. For the purpose of this review, e-coaching was defined as a relationship between coach and client, which is delivered at a distance through telephone, video, email, and additional synchronous or asynchronous e-coaching tools. 

landscape empirial research

The landscape of empirical e-coaching research consists of several studies- Young & Dixon (1996), Wang (2000), Charbonneau (2002), Berry (2005), Bowles & Picano (2006), Frazee (2008), Ghods (2009), and Poepsel (2011). Most of these were doctoral dissertations, and with the exception of Charbonneau´s (2002) qualitative study, most employed a quantitative design.


focus of empirical e


Issues which the above mentioned studies examined included:

  • e-coaching outcomes and their sustainability (Ghods, 2009)
  • perceptions of  e-coaching from coaches´ perspective (Berry, 2005) or clients´ perspective (Ghods, 2009)
  • the efficacy of asynchronous e-coaching media in terms of goal attainment, level of hope and well-being (Poepsel, 2011)
  • the use of e-coaching in organizations and the factors influencing perceived success of e-coaching programs ( Frazee, 2008)
  • whether a strong coach-client relationship can be established and sustained at a distance (Ghods, 2009).
  • preferences for telephone coaching in comparison to face to face coaching, in terms of working alliance and change (Berry, 2005)
  • factors affecting media selection from coaches´ perspective in executive coaching (Charbonneau, 2002).

telephone coaching


1. E-coaching has several advantages:

  • It enables coaching on-demand, provides access to expertise, serves geographically dispersed individuals, is cost-effective ( Frazee, 2008).
  • It promotes follow- through and accountability ( Charbonneau, 2002).
  • “It offers increased accessibility and frequency of communication, and may thus, facilitate a more human process than face to face coaching” (Frazee, 2008)

2. Is telephone coaching effective?- Research illustrated mostly positive attitudes towards telephone coaching. However, findings were inconsistent. 


a) Telephone coaching was perceived by coaches and clients to be a satisfactory experience and comparable to face to face coaching. 

Coaches´ perspective:

  • Telephone is the most frequently used medium in coaching (Berry, 2005; Grant & Zackon, 2004; Poepsel, 2011) and it´s comparable to face-to face coaching (Berry, 2005)
  • Telephone enhances intimacy and disclosure and adds depth to the coaching process (Mc Laughlin)

Clients´ perspective:

  • Clients were satisfied with telephone coaching  (Ghods, 2009)
  • A strong coach-client relationship can be developed over the phone (Ghods, 2009)
  • Positive and sustainable (6 months after) outcomes, as a result of telephone coaching. (Ghods, 2009)


b) Telephone coaching is less effective than face-to face coaching: 

  • Telephone coaching was perceived to be less effective than face to face and less appropriate, particularly when the coaching concerned sensitive or behavioral issues ( Charbonneau, 2002)
  • Rapport building was perceived to be more difficult at a distance (Frazee, 2008).

2. Is text-based coaching effective?

technology mediated

Research examined asynchronous text-based coaching and indicated positive findings. 

  • Asynchronous text-based coaching (online forums and structured exercises) was found to be effective in terms of goal attainment and well-being ( Poepsel, 2011).

Literature references used for this review are listed in the following blog post, literature references.

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Ongoing research in e-coaching.

ongoing research

Members of our e-coaching community are currently carrying out research:

1. Skype coaching

skype 2

a) Bev Hancock´s research focuses on developing an assessment matrix for e-coaching. This research is investigating what goes on in an e-coaching session, whether technologies like Skype, Vsee etc. are sufficient to pick up visual cues and what other ways can we find to pick them up, (e.g. enhanced sensitivity to language). Additionally, this study is focusing on how to learn to observe non-verbal cues in e-coaching.

 b) Chris Jones´ masters thesis used a control group approach to compare Skype coaching experiences with face to face experiences in terms of rapport, goal completion, eye contact, and sound levels, in three organizations. In contrast to the face to face group, the Skype group significantly changed positively their opinion of Skype coaching with respect to rapport and goal completion, both short and long term.

As this study concluded, “..all modes of communication have their issues, even face to face. For example in a face to face session there is an immediacy to the response that can limit creativity, however a detailed and considered response can be given by email. Email coaching conversely lacks (unless the partners are skilled) emotional cues. There is no panacea in coaching, it really comes down to what are the coach and the client comfortable and competent in using. Competency being important when using technology.”

2. Telephone coaching with online text-based support. 

phone 2

A research team led by Prof. Geissler is exploring the experiences of a coach and 17 coachees with a blended program, consisting of telephone coaching sessions and additional online text-based support, in the form of prepared questions, which the client answers in written form. The web-based program used in this study was described in a previous blog post.

The research team is analyzing data from 17 audio-recorded coaching sessions and screenshots of the coachees´ written answers. Additionally, semi-structured interviews are carried out by members of the team with the coach and with the coachee, in order to increase the credibility of the results and offer triangulation.

Findings of this ongoing research are so far, indicating positive experiences with this blended coaching program from the perspectives of the coach and the clients. The interview data are used to explore critical moments in the coaching process for the coachee and the coach.

3. Virtual reality coaching


A doctoral research is carried out by Angelique Andrews, focusing on virtual reality coaching. This research will provide insights into coachees´ perceptions of avatar coaching through Second Life.

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