E-coaching for leadership development

by Anne Ribbers & Alexander Waringa

Anne Ribbers and Alexander Waringa are researchers at Tilburg University and the founders and managing partners of eCoachPro. eCoachPro is a consultancy, coaching and training company on embedded people development for sustainable results. An important element in their approach is e-coaching. In 2012 they published their first book on e-coaching which tells about their ABC model, method and online environment for e-coaching. The book has a strong theoretical and practical fundament. Routledge bought the English rights of the book on e-coaching and will publish it by the end of 2014. In 2010 they received a substantial grant from the governmental Dutch Institute for Scientific Research (NWO) for their research project on web based coaching (e-coaching) in developing managerial coaching skills. In the next paragraph you find a summary on their research project.


Several studies show that managerial coaching skills can create more productive and healthy organizations, and can improve the job satisfaction and job well-being of employees, as well as decrease sickness absenteeism. Despite standard training and development programs on managerial coaching, low levels of engagement and well-being exist in some workplaces which lead to high sickness and absence rates. Low managerial coaching skills can have several causes, including mid-level managers, ending up in management positions, not because they were trained and developed as managers, but because they were performing well in their specific job. Web Based Coaching using email may have advantages over the more traditional forms of in-person coaching, given that it is accessible to large groups of managers and safeguards the manager’s anonymity. The low-threshold accessibility of the Internet makes it particularly suitable for offering and receiving coaching focused on the development of leadership skills, since WBC is time and place independent. For managers, WBC increases speed, flexibility and accessibility of executive coaching since it takes place on the job on a daily base. It makes coaching available to people in all geographic regions. WBC makes it feasible to increase the frequency of contact moments and to decrease the time spent per moment of contact. Thus WBC may reduce coach time and subject time. Therefore a WBC intervention for developing managerial coaching skills has the potential to provide a major contribution to the development of managers.

In the last 2 years 6 behavioral web based interventions of 14 weeks each took place in five different Dutch organizations (private, public and health). 30 professional internal and external coaches cooperated in the project. Approximately 170 managers participated in the web based intervention. The study design is a prospective, controlled web-based behavioral intervention trial. Standardized and validated questionnaires/were administered at four time points: T0 (baseline, i.e., 1 day prior to WBC intervention), T1 (at 3 months, i.e., at the end of the intervention), T2 (at 6 months), and T3 (at 12 months). The main components of the intervention were: (A) Gaining insight into managerial coaching skills and how these skills can help improve managerial effectiveness, (B) Becoming aware and conscious of one’s managerial coaching skills; (C) Working on personal development objectives through writing exercises and behavior experiments and (D) Evaluation and feedback. The general objective of the intervention trial was to evaluate the effect of this web-based behavioral intervention on the development of Managerial Coaching skills. The intervention is hypothesized to lead to increased levels of managerial coaching skills. The analysis is about to be carried out in the coming months. From the qualitative responses of the participants we expect the findings to be positive regarding the effectiveness of the intervention.

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