The Lived Experiences of Executive Coaches: A Phenomenological Study

Deborah George-Feres, Walden University


Executive coaching is a systematic process for increasing self-awareness and enhancing leaders' capacity. The field is undergoing tremendous growth that has resulted in an increased number of practitioners entering the profession. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of 16 executive coaching practitioners to illuminate patterns of excellent coaching practices by drawing from the theories of experiential learning, self-determination, and motivation-hygiene. The problem was that business leaders seem to lack uniform criteria for selecting qualified executive coaching practitioners. Data collected came from semistructured interviews. The study involved validating the transcribed data via NVivo 10 and then coding the data for emergent themes. Those themes revealed that executive coaching is contextual; successful practices consist of a client-centered model grounded in ethics, expertise, and experience; evaluation tools are multifaceted and multidimensional; and motivation and autonomy are central to success in the coaching engagement. Recommendations include investigating leadership, conflict, or situational analysis theories to ground the field, rather than drawing from psychological theories. Managers can benefit from this study by understanding the value of autonomy and motivation in the workplace. Implications for social change include a framework that includes the elements of a successful coaching engagement to guide business stakeholders or human resource personnel in selecting qualified executive coaching practitioners.