Exploring the coachee’s expectations and experiences of the coaching relationship within a state-owned utility
Globally and in South Africa leaders are required to lead in economically unstable environments. Organisations are proactively responding to leadership challenges through the use of coaching as leadership development instrument. In context of the state-owned utility in South Africa, coaching is central to its leadership strategy to build leadership capacity and empower leaders. Coaching is mainly concerned with the enhancement of skills, productivity and attainment of developmental goals of leaders through a relationship between the coach and coachee that is characterised by trust, commitment and collaboration. The coaching relationship has been identified as an important driver of the coaching process. Researchers have expressed a need to learn more about the coaching relationship. It has been found that current research entails predominantly outcome, effectiveness and impact studies of the coaching relationship. There is limited research available on exploring the coachee’s perceptive experiences of the coaching relationship. Gathering information from coachees on their experiences of the coaching relationship will greatly improve the understanding of the effect their expectations from the leadership coaching and outcomes reached during the leadership coaching process might have. Thus, the study endeavoured to explore the expectations and experiences of coachees of the coaching relationship. An explorative qualitative study was conducted using a social constructivist grounded theory methodology. Six semi-structured interviews were conducted with senior managers in the state-owned utility who were selected through purposive and theoretical sampling. Cases were sampled to a point of data saturation. Grounded theory guided both data collection and analysis through the application of open coding, axial coding and selective coding. The findings of the study supported the importance of the coaching relationship. The study revealed that participants enter the coaching relationship with no clear expectation of the coaching relationship. However, the results indicated that six theoretical categories depict the experiences of the coaching relationship. The coaching relational experiences have been identified as a growth-focused relationship, where the coach, through the informal application of a coaching approach, establishes a “friendly” relationship that enables the coachee to grow. The relationship develops over time and is strengthened by the establishment of a quality working alliance built on trust, commitment, collaboration, integrity and acceptance that extends beyond the formal coaching process. It was found that there are interdependent relationships between the theoretical categories, ultimately contributing to the experience of the coaching relationship as a growth-enabling relationship. Additionally, the coachees evaluate the quality of the relationship against the ability to facilitate experiences of growth and attainment of coaching objectives.