Erik DeHaan: Connecting the worlds of physics and coaching – and a lot more

My first guest is Erik de Haan, who is the Director of Ashridge's Centre for Coaching with over twenty years of experience in organisational and personal development. He is a prolific writer and is known in the coaching world for his commitment to research and for his talent in uncovering intriguing insights about the coaching process.

Our conversation has a flow, starting with Erik’s background and how he was called to the profession of coaching. We discuss how certain ideas in physics are related to coaching, like levels of aggregation, how to “flirt with a hypothesis” and what could practitioner coaches do to be more conscious in engaging and being involved with research. Erik reflects on some research results around effectiveness and the coaching relationship.

You may take a look at why I invited Erik to the series at the following blog post

You can find a lot more about Erik on his personal website

If you are interested in getting involved in the world of coaching research, you may check EMCC Global’s research page on getting involved

Transcript

Zoltán Csigás 0:04

Hello, my name is Zoltan Csigas. And this is Zoltan's Podcast ON COACHING. In this series, I'm talking with internationally renowned coaching scientists and coaches. We explore their personal and professional insights on the science of coaching, and on the helping professions. Are you interested in how they got close to his profession? Are you curious about the new frontiers they are exploring right now? Join me and listen to the conversation, inspiration, and some fun is ahead.

My guess today is Eric DeHaan, Professor of organizational development and coaching director of the Center for coaching at heart International Business School at Ashridge and the prolific writer of articles and books on coaching and coaching Research. Welcome, Eric. I'm delighted to have you.

Erik DeHaan 0:54

Thank you so much, Tom. Very, very good to be here. Thank you, thank you for inviting,

Zoltán Csigás 1:01

Can we start with with a personal question that I've, I've read so many of your articles, and both on coaching, but what brought you to coaching research. So very in your passion coming from?

Erik DeHaan 1:15

Ha, that's a that's not an easy question. Coaching was older. So coaching is very much to do with my family dynamics. Somehow, my early childhood must have prepared me for this profession. My own understanding of it is that I, one are very many third generation Holocaust victims, although I'm a very minor one. But my grandfather was a resistance fighter in Holland. Therefore, when he had his first child of eight, who became my mother later, of course, this was exactly well, one month before the Germans invaded Holland, which, which was something he had already been warning about for seven years to everybody. So his prediction came out a bit like what we are seeing in Ukraine right now. But his prediction about the war came out and he became an instantly resistance person. I think it was quite unsafe. In my, in my mother's home when she was very young. And he was arrested, for example, he had to go underground, and many, many things happened, he survived the war. And I think he was okay with it. But his wife, for example, and his children probably suffered quite a lot. So, I found myself in a, in a family with some of some of the remnants of that. And I think from an early age, I was invited in to kind of help with psychological material or, or, or conflictual dynamics. And I feel that that's, for me the reason for entering this profession. Although I've only discovered any of this when I was 30. So I had no family members in in, in comparable professions, and I was a bit lost when I was 2829. And so I only discovered that there was something like coaching when I was about 30. Yeah, and the research answers maybe a bit easier. My father is a researcher and a professor in mathematics, I thought he was often in a kind of a fantasy world. So I decided that I was not interested in mathematics, because it was a you know, it took you away from from people from from life from from real reality. So when I discovered I had a talent in in the same area, I decided to study physics. So which is a almost a branch of mathematics, specially theoretical physics, which I studied, but I decided to, to study the real world. And that's what brought me to physics. But then I was still very unhappy. I didn't quite fit in as a as a physics student. So this is why when I was 2829, I really had to think about what would really fit me as a career.

Zoltán Csigás 4:19

I can see a parallel here because in my secondary school, I was taking physics clusters, and I was really drawn to theoretical physics. I've always been interested in in the physics of faith that time and space continuum whatever and then i i made the realization that it was too far away from from humans. Yeah, surrounding me that that's why I decided to be abstracted notice. I said yes, that's where my interesting research is coming from the they still have this. Okay, let's try to put numbers in Patreon so something around people who are of whoever interesting for

Erik DeHaan 5:00

Yes. So that that that insight took me about 15 years longer than it took you. So I only discovered that physics was far away from real life and humans and liveliness, when I was about 28, when I was 10 years into physics, but I did always feel I was different. I had different interests from my fellow students, I loved film, for example, at theater, not not the usual physics interests.

Zoltán Csigás 5:30

me ask what is the thing that you brought from your, from your physics background to your parents research practice?

Erik DeHaan 5:36

I think there are many things, obviously, my PhD in physics made use of statistics. Although when I then went into psychology and coaching, I didn't recognize any of the statistics that coaches use. So all these kinds of tests that we now use on SPSS, they are not used by physicists, they, they use much more fundamental methods to do their statistics. But that's still something I can recognize and still use. But I think more importantly, in physics, there is a concept about looking at nature or looking at things at the right level of aggregation. For example, in this room, you can study all the kinds of molecules flying about in the room, and their dynamics. And that could give you equations and you can even open them up and see the atoms inside. But you can also study the temperature, which is the very same thing, this is the same, the speed of the, of the molecules and the temperature are very, very related. But of course, they have very different theoretical meaning physics is very good at finding meaning at at the, at the right level, macroscopic, all the way down to microscopic, and I think with, with coaching, I can use this. So when a client arrives for a session, there's all the kinds of fine fine grain stuff, the the kind of perceptual images or the kinds of details in their story. But there's also the more macroscopic levels. And I think, as a physicist, I'm very well trained to find a meaningful or a helpful aggregation level within that within the tiny, from from the very tiny, tiniest, to the global, you know, societal level of of, of impact.

Zoltán Csigás 7:32

It sounds very, if

Erik DeHaan 7:33

that makes sense.

Zoltán Csigás 7:36

Let's take a look at coaching assignments I'm involved in then there is always the what's happening here. Now, what are your current experiences your what your senses are telling to? Yes, then we have the other end of the spectrum. There's the systemic level, yes, in coaching thing. So what what is the context in which your team is doing this? Or that and how does it correct, yes, and then see those similar spectrum here. And

Erik DeHaan 8:02

that's what I mean. And then to make a choice on that, on that incredible richness, I'm still amazed by the richness of even a single meeting or a single conversation so rich, we often, if we're not really quite awake and lively, we miss some of that richness. But I'm quite overwhelmed by it's quite often in sessions, and then physics, my physics background, helped me to choose some kind of a level of, of understanding, which seems to be the most meaningful, either to me or to my client or to people they work with. And that sort of understanding of the level of of relevance is what I took from physics. level of aggregation, it's how they call it. Yeah.

Zoltán Csigás 8:51

You know, as a, as a practitioner, that I, I would love to ask for practical advice on how you do that. But I guess this could be a challenging question for your intuition. So I'm okay. If you just say that, well, that comes from a physics PhD. So let's go for that.

Erik DeHaan 9:11

No, I wouldn't say that I think anybody can use this, just like, I'm not a psychologist, and I use many, many psychological concepts and tools. So I feel free to use the psychologists toolbox. So I think any any psychologist like yourself should feel free to use, you know, the, the wealth of insight from physics, if you can use it. And to answer your question about intuition. I think that's, that's, of course, still a hard one. I think what is important is that you use hypotheses and and that you test your hypotheses. So you go to some kind of an aggregation level in your understanding, and then you offer some kind of a summary Then at that level, and then of course, you check with your client, whether that's really a meaningful level for them. So you have to constantly check back your, your understanding, or in other words, you have to flirt with your hypotheses, you have to kind of play with them, not never marry them, always just flirt with them.

Zoltán Csigás:

I love this. And I love the concept of hypothesis because we did something that links the, and they don't like Dutch authorities, but I have to use Yuan. So for me the hypothesis contact link the the world of practitioners in the world of researchers, and I know that there is an infinite number of continuum in between these two endpoints. But I love the concept of hypothesis and and if I can move on with the idea of hypothesis that, that what I love in research is that the next step in research or in doing science is always comes by asking a question by building on something that we have previously observed or read or we have inspired by so what was the most thought provoking? Article or study or think that what that you gave us a aha moment for you that you started to think of and move your research single?

Erik DeHaan:

Oh, well, so Tom, that's something you're now asking that happens quite regularly for me. So almost every year, there's some some article or sometimes a book that does that, for me, I got

Zoltán Csigás:

a few examples.

Erik DeHaan:

I mean, it when it comes to, to research in the helping professions, I was I was once very kind of moved forward by the book, written by one called the Great psychotherapy debate, which you probably know, it's a summary of decades of research in helping professions. So and that, that gave me so many insights that I could I could understand much more about how this was researched. So that's one example. But if if I can give a more recent example, I would say, the recent research, which tells us that actually the, you know, the way we are measuring the strength of the relationship between coaching and clients, or patients and therapists, that that measurement of the of the relationship is really not about the relationship. Although we thought for decades that this was a very good predictor for the outcome of of our sessions. It seems not to be the case. So you've probably seen it, there's a couple of articles that show that the relationship factor is not related to the benefit per session. I found that very mind boggling. And maybe I can I can give you one more example. If that's okay. Yes. And there's also a

Zoltán Csigás:

question, okay. Yes, one. But yes, please give me your give me the well,

Erik DeHaan:

third one would be a third example of something that really struck me recently, and about two years ago, was this finding in my studying just patient outcomes in the NHS in England, that it didn't really matter how many sessions somebody had with their therapist. So patients can achieve their, their, let's say, their best outcome within three sessions, five sessions or even 20 sessions, and didn't matter very much. That is, that's a mind boggling result as well.

Zoltán Csigás:

Is did that research say anything about that? What is the contributing factor to success, then?

Erik DeHaan:

If not really, so I mean, there is still what we call the dose effect curve, you see, kind of per session, you see the effectiveness go up, on average, of helping conversations. So there's still the same curve. But if you, if you give the patient eight sessions, to achieve this outcome that they can achieve, they will use the eight sessions to get there. If you give them more sessions, like 12, they will use the 12 sessions to get to the same point. So what the I think what the therapeutic relationship is doing is it's adapting itself to the amount of sessions that they can afford or that they can agree, or, or the patient just stops coming once they've got to that point. So because these are always measurements afterwards, these are evaluation measurements, but I found them very interesting because the conclusion has to be that's, you know, these sessions work and they even work quite independently of the amount of sessions that there are. So these are these are into into and really interesting articles that make me think

Zoltán Csigás:

I know why I'm boggled by the weather. Because the business conclusion would be or the effectiveness conclusion would be dangerous to contract for, for one session. Let's go for one introduction where it is get to know each other and tell you what is the whole thing of one thing, and then you have one session to get to your back?

Erik DeHaan:

Well, if you if you look it up, it's only this only works from about four sessions to 20 sessions. So you have to go first to fourth session, and it doesn't work for the very first sessions when you're still kind of building the relationship. So but yes, the many, many payments, insurance companies and and institutions are indeed arguing for very short, very short contracts, so that they have to pay they can pay less. But I don't think that's always the right conclusion. That's only the right conclusion in inverse statistical way. You know, I've personally had hundreds of sessions, and I really benefited from all of them. So it feels a bit mean to deprive people, a priori from more than four or five sessions.

Zoltán Csigás:

And I can, I can agree with this from the, from the human perspective. Yes, that's my personal experience, first of all, is that it's nice to be there. And sometimes, what I'm saying is that sometimes it is the relationship that heals, or that helped me and you know, the longer the exposure, the bigger the comes up, or that's my experience will be supported by time to research. And what I could go on, or we could go on in all in a number of directions from here, but what I, what I picked out for what my curiosity is, is that you said that, statistically speaking, they said, the two studies is not. And I'm just curious, and how much do you see research? What statistics is telling you in aggregation? Or in whatever context? Coming back to real life to home? Yeah, you are a person who knows a lot of operations. And do you see it working? I mean, really?

Erik DeHaan:

Yes, I mean, this is almost a political question. I mean, the truth. The truth has come under attack by many, many groups, groupings. And statistics have even come under attack. By many, many groupings. There are many individuals who use sources, which are, you know, for scientists, are really deplorable sources like Facebook, or, you know, or other social media. And I think that's part of it. And also the all the issues around globalization are other parts of it. So we are becoming a very kind of high numbers, society as well. And not all of us are enjoying that. So I can understand the resistance to globalization. And I can also see that there are many, many things that on an industrial scale, we are, we are damaging the planet, we are damaging people with inequalities. We are damaging people also through very bad leadership in many organizations. So I do understand why people don't feel at home in a scientific, lead globalized society, science lead, I should say. However, I am a firm believer in statistics, at least in a statistical sense. So statistics still tell me that there is a benefit coming out of Kochi. But of course, I know that for an individual case, there might be a detour deterioration, or there might not be a benefit. It's only only a statistical truth that this is worth doing. But I Yes, I took all my vaccinations and I will always follow research. I'm a researcher by nature. And I think I can, I can be convinced by an argument as well, if there is an argument and there might be an argument that, you know, that certain kinds of, for example, the coaching relationship, which was a very kind of established truth, in our profession, this was such an important factor for success. I can be convinced that we're not measuring it that we're not we don't know much about it, and that we don't really recognize what factors are at play here. So I think it it helps also to keep an open mind to follow science, because you can always be convinced of, of a, of an of a novel way of understanding things.

Zoltán Csigás:

And thanks for watching. It's been political. As you know, one of my aims with this whole series is to spread the idea of scientific thinking,

Erik DeHaan:

Oh, okay. We're among friends.

Zoltán Csigás:

And I hope we can get more friends. And yes, that's my word view as well. But why I've asked the question is that I do see the same tendencies science being questioned, even in an unscientific way being questioned, because I know that well, that's the truth. Yes, the question stuff,

Erik DeHaan:

partly through very bad sources as well. So I work with a lot of students who are studying coaching and other professions like consulting or supervision, and they rank dissertations as the right papers. And they very often find a fantastic quote on on the internet. And I do that as well, I find quote, so I found a beautiful quote by John Lennon, recently, and then I bought his book, and I could could not find the quote anywhere in that book. So on the internet, we sometimes find data and sources and information which isn't really doesn't stand up to scrutiny. And it's, it's a real problem. I think,

Zoltán Csigás:

that and they absolutely agree with that. Do you have a suggestion or, or an idea for people who are interested in getting more into the science of, of coaching and of the helping professions, what should be the things to look out for when they are consuming information consuming research, for example, around coaching or having professional?

Erik DeHaan:

Well, I would, I would hope that they don't, they won't just consume the information, but they would actually check it so that they would stay a little bit longer by, you know, if they find an interesting fact, that's, of course, intriguing. But then I would recommend reading a couple of articles around that, not just one article, and, of course, to read peer reviewed articles about it, which which demonstrate the fact. So if, for example, if they pick up from this podcast, that coaching is statistically speaking, effective, and they're intrigued by that, then I would say, don't start repeating that mantra, or that, you know, fact that you've heard, check it out first. And, you know, read some articles, see if you also can be convinced, by those articles, that coaching is statistically now demonstrated to be effective up to a certain point, of course. And then, and then start talking about it, let's say, so keep checking, keep reading and follow your passion as well. I think it helps to be passionate, because then you would always want to know more about the and you want to know the counter examples as well, if you're really passionate about these things.

Zoltán Csigás:

We we've been making a number of studies, how to engage with them to keep checking in. Let me ask one more first, well, I have a number of personal questions. The next one, we have personnel when asked, what was what was your favorite research study or one of yours that you have led you have done recently or in? Or in your career that gave interesting results? Or that kept you moving on? Could you share something out of your research story?

Erik DeHaan:

Well, I can, I can give you a very recent one. That, that I'm proud of that I have enjoyed doing together with a statistician, Victor Nielsen, who has helped me do the the actual analysis. And it's an interesting one, because I can't publish it. So I've already sent it to 10 peer reviewed journals. And they all say they're not interested for various reasons. And the study is a meta analysis of all the randomized controlled studies in coaching. So there are about 3037, I think of them now, over the last 20 years. And we have done an analysis of what all these randomized studies, what they are telling us about effectiveness of coaching. So it's a very abstract topic. But I think it's a very good article because it bases itself on randomized control trials, which are, which are the best trials that we have. And it's also interesting because it shows a few things that we didn't know yet about the coaching outcome research, but I haven't been able to, to hand it to an editor. They've all pushed back so far, so I may, I'm going to rework it one more time this weekend. And then send it again. And don't forget, if you send in an article to a peer reviewed journal, you on average, you get a response in about 60 days. So I've been I've been sitting on this article for for more than a year, now it's 14 months old. And I'm very fearful that there will be another randomized control study that I have not included. So then it will be outdated the moment it goes to press. So that's a bit of a tragedy. But, but but still something I'm quite proud of.

Zoltán Csigás:

It tells me this story, that it's not an easy thing to be a researcher, sometimes sitting behind books and writing interesting stuff, but we have the burden of getting published and being reviewed and criticized. So but for me, that's the part of the process that ensures that we are giving out quality stuff from our hands.

Erik DeHaan:

Yes. And I think I think there's also something about, you know, I think in physics, and also in medicine, we're quite interested in the data and the statistics. What I'm finding is in, in psychology, and in in the organizational development, literature, and coaching, people are more interested in models I find so this meta analysis study doesn't have a model of coaching, or a model of effectiveness. And that was often a reason for an editor to say that it's not interesting, or that is not so relevant. So yes, it can be it can be very hard. But it's also amusing, you know, I, I don't need to kind of publish for my, you know, for my daily bread. It's a kind of a hobby still for me. So I find it amusing as well that I get so many rejections. Yeah. Oh, about it.

Zoltán Csigás:

And I know that it's not just a habit to share things from unpublished materials. But is that something that you could say from the results of the study? And I'm absolutely okay, if you say no, but this? Yeah, everything you said is so intriguing. You don't know. Okay, well, what are the outcomes that that you find to be interesting? And they don't get published? I'm like, Yes.

Erik DeHaan:

Yes. And that's sometimes, you know, I can say this, that I find it amusing. And that, you know, it's not my, it for my ego, for my self worth, it's not so important to publish this study. But I do feel for younger researchers, like you, you know, like yourself, you know, I do remember when I was in my 20s, I started to publish my first physics articles and have the same sort of experience is sometimes that it was excruciatingly hard. So I think I'm by now I'm also a little bit privileged, because I've already published things, some some more informal journals, they know my name. So they they take it on. So I think I'm quite spoiled in other areas. But with this meta analysis, I've had real difficulties. And to answer your question, yeah, well, we found it's only a bit technical, of course, will be found. But we found that coaching was less effective than psychotherapy per session. somewhat less effective, but not not that it was it's like point, the delta, which is measures this is about point eight, in psychotherapy. And it's about point 73.7. So it's not a huge difference, not a huge gap. That's one thing. What we also found is that the spread even though these randomized studies, they are very different different different fields, the spread of the effectiveness is smaller than in psychotherapy. So they are clustered more together in coaching, which I thought was very encouraging. And finally, we found that interesting little things, which could turn out to become big things, for example, that female clients doing better than their male clients, as far as we could establish that. And I've always thought that coaching is a bit of a female professional. So yeah, I found that interesting as well.

Zoltán Csigás:

Yeah, all three of these circulars be okay. Let's, let's read more about those. That's my, that's my first reaction. Yes. And you know, what, what I'm thinking is that I, I read your books, and the and in one of them what really catches my eye is that the younger coaches under certain circumstances, under certain circumstances, than to be more effective than experienced one. Yes, yeah. We found quoting you wrong. No, no, I have. So these, these aggregated results are very intriguing. Yes, I agree. Okay, so what's the point of that? Are they more curious? Do they have a different kind of courage? Are they? Do they have less self limiting beliefs? Or are there methods they are using are less qualified, if that's appropriate? In their mind that they're more flexible? Yes. Could

Erik DeHaan:

be, could be, I think all of those things you mentioned could be could be really relevant. Plus the fact that maybe they are also more motivated at the beginning of their careers, and they're less kind of blase about their their work or less kind of grandiose, you know, overly confident, maybe the, as you you will see with older petitioners, so all of these factors might play a role. And, yeah, this is something that I also find very interesting. And we couldn't, we couldn't test that in the meta analysis. So it doesn't come out of my own work. But I've seen that in other people's work. And, yeah, it's, it's, it's humbling, isn't it, especially for senior practitioners, to to know this, that you become, you may become kind of less effective over the course of your career.

Zoltán Csigás:

Yes, I used to tell my, my students, though, when teaching about therapy, because I was teaching at a university for a few years, I was always telling them that psychology psychotherapy and coaching so these helping professionals are the ones in which you, you, you get aged into. So the more older you are, the more experience you will gain mature, yes, yes, we will get more mature your value will rise compared to let's say to, to pro athletes, or, or sports man who the three each of Mexico, earlier age, and yes, their physical capabilities, David? Yes. degree. So?

Erik DeHaan:

Yes, well, I think that is true commercially. And it's true, definitely also true in terms of the power that you wield, both in the profession with colleagues, and in the consulting room, with your clients or your clients will admire you more put you more on the pedestal. So it is true that as you mature, you, you have a bigger impact in certain ways to be a financial, for example. However, if you look at how helpful you are for your client, which should be the number one qualifier, I think research is showing quite clearly that we we are becoming less helpful to our clients

Zoltán Csigás:

over time for self reflection for a number of us, and how can we keep or helpful as at the top? Yes, what does he have to say about us? Or go or whatever? And and let me take this, and circle back to a concept you were mentioned previously, is that you've told us about relationship and how does the coaching relationship work? And while you didn't talk a lot about how does it work? Well, you mentioned that search and research say that the thing we sought to measure as coaching relationship, it may not be the thing that we are measuring now. So I'm curious, what is there anything, that curiosity, so it's just about the components of the relationship? So what is the thing that we can take for granted? I mean, scientific, under scientific circumstances are within the boundaries of

Erik DeHaan:

what Sorry, what is the thing we take for granted? What do you mean by that?

Zoltán Csigás:

Yeah. Love question. I just wanted to be very sure that I asked, you know, what are the Are there any concepts or components of the coaching relationship? That has been proven to work?

Erik DeHaan:

Yes, it's a fascinating area. And it's, I think it's very much in development at the moment, but what we used to do and and before us, of course, many psychotherapist, including one polled, who I mentioned, who wrote a, an important book about this, we used to just want to measure the relationship, the working alliance in the in the helping professions. And we did this by asking the clients about the relationship. And so sometimes we also asked the coach about the relationship, or we ask an observer looking at videos about the relationship. And already from the very beginning, we noticed or we found that actually what the coach says what the client says. And what the observer says is hardly correlated is not good, not correlated very much that should already have made us think a little bit. But I think what we now beginning to realize is that these measurements, they are they come From an idea of a, of a one person psychology, so they, they are actually measurements of what one person experiences as a relationship. And that is not the same as an in between an A co created emerging relationship. So it's not a one person psychology, measurement is not the same as a two person psychology interaction. And I think we're not really measuring this two person, thing. Between us, we are measuring one person expressing him or herself, about the working alliance, about the strength of the relationship. And what you get then, is that you actually measure a much more holistic image that they have of the coach or the coaching or the whole process. It's all intermixed, so their own motivation, their own optimism, their own outcomes, what they feel they've got from the coaching, and the working alliance, they are very strongly correlated. So what you're really measuring is how happy they are generally with coaching. So you don't really pick up aspects of the relationship, the you know, what, is there any contracting? Is there any kind of understanding clarity about goals, you can ask those questions, but the answers are going to be mixed with a general sense of well being or, or being helped. So I think we can stop asking so many questions off the client, because the answers will correlate usually anyway. And we should begin to ask ourselves questions about the dynamics in the room. But that's very difficult to measure,

Zoltán Csigás:

as this is what I wanted to add that there seems to be a challenge for the tools, because most of the tools we are using,

Erik DeHaan:

yes. Well, it's also, yeah, no, that's true. But it's, it's long been said that out of those three measurements from the client side, from the coach side, or from the observer side, the one that is actually the most interesting one in in terms of effectiveness, for example, the one that correlates best with effectiveness seems to be the observer measurement. So it does seem to be the case, there's an observer looking at two people working together, that they can, they can see something about, you know, what's what's co created, what's shared between those people. So there are a number of articles that show that if you measure effectiveness, well, which is on an objective scale, or in the eyes of other people around the coachee, and you measure the working alliance, by an observer, and measured by an observer, then you get variables that that have a meaningful interaction. So I think we all we can get there, we can get there, but we shouldn't be too glib or to kind of superficial in our understanding of the coaching relationship.

Zoltán Csigás:

That's very interesting. And I could just keep on thinking about the role of supervisors, and how they can impact the development of the coaches. And of course, they are there because we all think that supervision benefits the coach, well, then this could add an additional role to the to the supervisor, and they can think of, you know, the, my insurance supervisor, let's, let's call that, that third point, third person perspective, and sometimes trying to take taking a look at what is going on between me and my clients. Can I just take a different perspective? Can I just change my perspective in the given situation? That's the situation. I have lots of practical, full of ideas. Yes, that I could

Erik DeHaan:

bring. Yeah, I like I like that very much. That that supervision could play a role in this. And also we could do so much more kind of study of supervision. I think supervision is really important. So for example, the the impact of the supervisor on the client of the coach, that's not been studied very well yet. But you're quite right. A supervisor could play an important role and supervisor could for example, as as we do a dash which and we have a supervision qualification program as well. And we look at these things with other supervisors. But supervisors could also look at sessions, you know, with evidence like transcripts, either written transcripts or recordings, or they could even come and join for part of a session and then have a view of what kind of relationship patterns are there. And I think that kind of feedback is can be very helpful to coaches.

Zoltán Csigás:

I have this fiber in my mind. I'm talking about this topic. But let me move on because I have one more question. And I'm conscious about your time that there are so many areas of research around the helping profession around coaching, and what is my opinion one? What are the most important frontiers? Now? Where should we focus on?

Erik DeHaan:

Okay, I think we mentioned some already, that around the relationship, for example, more holistic measurements, if possible, we measured we mentioned videos and observers and how they can help. And I think all of the research that's taking place in Germany with the help of video recordings of sessions is very, very helpful, and is beginning to yield interesting and hard findings about coaching. So I've also collaborated with one of the German universities, the one in Bonn, where Professor Yan Neela works. And we do a joint project together where I deliver the videos of coaching from from England, and she and her team and some of my team as well, we have we analyze those video images in terms of the relationship and all these things. So I think that's very exciting research. And I also wanted to say that, although we've been talking, quantitative research, today, very much, I'm also a fan of qualitative research, I think that it's also very exciting. It's just that you don't, you don't find facts, you still find inspiration. And if you do a lot of it, then you might still find facts, because you can, you can take all your qualitative information, and then do some statistics if you have a lot of it. So I love qualitative research as well. And I've grown into it, because there's efficiencies, you don't get any exposure to that. So it's become something interesting for me in the new profession. And that includes also introspective research, where you kind of analyze your own dreams or your own experiences of coaching in a very subjective way. That could also be very interesting, provided it's done in a rigorous way. So at Ashridge, we do a lot of action research, which I don't know if you're familiar with ways where you can study your own actions in it as whilst you are in action.

Zoltán Csigás:

I am, I hope that it is useful for our audience to hear a bit more about that, because for me, Action research is something so which practitioners can get involved in the product research more easily, yes. And then to finish from the vehicle. So yeah, it would be curious on your, you know, on your suggestion, so how can practitioners? Yes, yes, closer to the researcher, who actually got other things?

Erik DeHaan:

No, that's, that's beautiful. I completely agree with you. And in fact, I would almost say, Don't get involved in, in quantitative research, unless you are really passionate about it. Because I've seen too many examples of people doing, you know, making a survey, sending it around, and then analyzing the results of the survey. But because they have no control group, or they don't really know what's what they're doing, they don't find anything. So even though they spend time in quantitative research, if it's not really randomized control trials, or something serious, you usually don't find anything useful. So it's, it's you arrived. For most practitioners, it's best to stay out of quantitative research, unless they really love it. But go to, for example, action research. And you can start with, you know, just keeping a diary of your, you know, making a kind of a transcript or a diary of your coaching work. And you just put that in a in a notebook, you know, like this. I've got my notebook always with me, so and, you know, write down your findings. And that can become a beautiful article that people will want to read. And even if it doesn't, if it does never become an article, it will make you a better coach, I think because you will do some cycles of reflection on top of your reflection with your clients. So yeah, that's something open to all of us. And in fact, from a regulatory perspective, we do need to make notes, don't we, you know, it's an ethical thing that you make notes. So you already started making notes in or just after your sessions. And just to kind of kind of process those notes a little bit more, that's already action research in my view.

Zoltán Csigás:

I'm so glad that you you brought in qualitative research, because

Erik DeHaan:

because it's that your own domain assault on of studies, or is you let's say

Zoltán Csigás:

that currently I'm involved in in a project like that. And I'm fascinated by the individual depths that we can touch there. Yes. And, and they do see, they do see that these data, these are different discourses, I mean, talking quantitative or qualitative research or which, which seems to be barriers, which seems to serve our profession better. That's something that I hear in some discussion. And then I'm happy to hear that someone like you, that the both of them have a place at the table. Because I, I think that we need to grasp as many tools that as we can to understand the beautiful thing that we call coaching. So again, whatever so if we can make a contribution then let's make it with whatever we want. With it. However, we can make it

Erik DeHaan:

Yes.

Zoltán Csigás:

Do you have a favorite qualitative study? With me asking you about your feelings

Erik DeHaan:

there's so much so dumb, but ya know, it's a little bit hard to answer favorite. Yeah. best ever. Best Ever article?

Zoltán Csigás:

You I know that doesn't exist and just is there one so provoking article or research? recommend others to read?

Erik DeHaan:

Yeah, I just I just like to kind of observe that qualitative research does not produce truth, not in a general sense, only Subjective Truth, so no objective truth. So, in terms of the political question you asked earlier, qualitative research is as bad as fake Facebook or any other kind of influencer, on the internet. So it's, it's not for that person purpose that we do it, we do it for the purpose of inspiration or faith or finding our own subjective kind of liveliness or novelty. So if that's the purpose, I think you can think about qualitative research more widely. And you can just think of, you know, plays that or music or, or anything that or a walk in the park, session of mindfulness meditation, so anything that inspires counts as qualitative research for me. So, if you would ask me favorites, I would probably come to you back with with quite obscure references to tragedy or, you know, other cultural expressions. I was reading the letters between Freud and Lou Salomi recently, Sigmund Freud and Lucinda may have had correspondence. She's, she became a psychoanalyst, and they both discussed patients in their letters. And, you know, that was very inspirational for me. And it's, although these were just private letters. In fact, this is this is qualitative research, certainly for her, you know, she because she, she was a relatively less experienced psychotherapist. So occasionally. And also, she lived into Germany with a very, very high inflation, so she had no money for a while, even though she she was of, you know, by noble descent. So, Freud gave her money and patients at at times, just to help her out. So then she reported back about those patients confidentially to Freud as kind of a form of supervision. And I find that kind of thing very inspirational. So if you ask me a good piece of recent action research that I've I've read, I would say the letters between Salome and Freud.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you both. For me, just something that I will just cut out. I don't remember what is the final length or your availability we have agreed? I've got

Erik DeHaan:

10 minutes more 15 minutes more if that's okay with you if you have more questions, I mean, we've covered a lot already, but yes,

Zoltán Csigás:

I would have two more. Okay, and let me ask one of them upfront that you mentioned that you have prepared some answers and they don't want Your your work to not be so is there anything you have prepared for? And I have not

Erik DeHaan:

asked? No, I the only preparation that I've done is read your your potential questions. And they they gave me a lot of you know, the responses were already flashing through my mind. And so in some some I found a bit harder to answer. But I won't mention those now, because then you will confront me immediately with one of those questions. And others were just quite inspirational. But But nothing in particular that I feel I need to mention.

Zoltán Csigás:

Okay, then I just have to here is the cutoff point. I have one more question to us. Do you see any blind spots or research? I know this is a period of thing to ask, if you would feed them that it would? It wouldn't be a blind spot. But do you see any areas? Yeah, there from a methodological point of view, from a content point of view that have not really got proper attention lately, or where you see a huge potential? Yes.

Erik DeHaan:

Well, it's funny, but that was one of the questions that I found a bit hard to answer. So but I will get I'll give it a try. Yes. So the blind spots? Obviously, one, we've already mentioned, the fact that the experience of coaching is very holistic. So when I go to my sessions to my supervisor, for example, I have a very kind of

an experience of helpfulness, which is, goes across all sorts of dimensions that researchers usually ask. So do I get new ideas? Yes, I get new ideas. Do I get support? Yes, I get support? Do I value the relationship? Yes, I value the relationship? Am I going in in an optimistic way? You know, am I am I kind of positive about the work? Yes, I always look forward to the session. So it's all mixed, in my mind all these kind of specific dimensions that people measure. They're all mixed in my mind, and my impressions are much more holistic, and much more around meaning. So which means that sometimes one little statement from a session can follow me for weeks. But you never know which statement that is. So it's very hard to measure. So that's a blind spot in research that we that we asked such focused questions, we have to do that, because otherwise we don't get statistical data. Yet, we know that the whole experience is holistic. And there are other blind spots as well. So I've been I've been very positive about randomized control trials, because I think they're very rigorous, if done well, like, for example, by medics very often they've done well. However, in coaching, of course, the coachee knows whether they are in the control group, or in the coaching group, because either they receive coaching or they don't receive coaching whilst they do the questionnaires. And I think that is such a big difference, to just do questionnaires, or to have sessions and then do questionnaires, that it's a bit of an unfair comparison as well. So there are some problems with randomized control trials are some blind spots that we find very difficult to address. And, in fact, the editors that turned me down with my paper, that's one of the one of the things they raised a couple of journals raised the fact that I was not critiquing randomized control trials. And of course, they are right to say that, on the other hand, we don't have anything else better quantitative research. So those are some blind spots that I can see.

Zoltán Csigás:

We have methodological challenges or challenge of methods. Yes. For the whole researchers of coaching because we are focusing over here, it's pretty much experimenting, we're observing something which is very subjective. Yes, putting that into boxes or to numbers. Yes, it is the challenge to make the observation and I think that's that's a beautiful challenge to have. Yes, yes. Thank you very much for your time and for joining me.

Erik DeHaan:

I really enjoyed it sorta Yeah. Interesting conversation for me. Thanks to your you know, your your views and also thanks to your your questions. Very nice meeting you in person finally, after so many emails over the years. Thank you. Goodbye.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you for listening to on coaching podcast, where I have furious conversations with virginal Coaches and researchers if you enjoyed this episode make sure to rate us and subscribe I also invite you to visit Zoltan she guides.com where you can access more resources regarding the coaching industry very well

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