What is it about?

In recent years, there has been an increase of research regarding factors that make executive coaching effective. These factors are often termed success factors and shape the coaching process as well as different coaching outcomes. The current review aims to contribute to this stream of research by specifying a) the actual behaviors underlying success factors, and b) the temporal order in which success factor should be implemented over the course of the coaching process. Coaching behaviors are influenced by success factors and describe what coaches actually do during the coaching process. Specifically, actual behavior constitutes the visible and observable part of success factors. We contend that it is not sufficient to know which success factors are important, because it remains unclear “how” and “when” success factors are implemented. We found 19 empirical studies that assessed actual coaching behavior in the context of executive coaching. The identified behaviors were summarized and classified into common themes using thematic analysis and in a next step arranged in a temporal order to specific coaching phases. The temporal order was informed by the GROW model by Whitmore (1996). The resulting temporal model of executive coaching behavior includes five categories: contact phase, exploration phase, operationalization phase, conclusion phase and recurring coaching behavior category. Results indicate that coaching behavior differs across phases. Our findings contribute to a more detailed picture of what happens within executive coaching on a behavioral level. Moreover, understanding the underlying mechanisms of effectiveness helps identifying the coaching behaviors that need further investigation.

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Why is it important?

• This paper is relevant for coaches who want to focus on adapting their coaching behaviors to the stage of the coaching process. • This paper provides insight into the concrete coaching behaviors that promote the implementation of success factors during the coaching process.


Behavioral observation offers a detailed perspective of the coaching process. It helps to gain insights in the actual behavior of the coach.

Lara Calasso
Universitat Zurich

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This page is a summary of: What are executive coaches actually doing and when are they doing it? A systematic review of coaching behavior., Consulting Psychology Journal Practice and Research, April 2024, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/cpb0000267.
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