Introducing my first guest: Erik de Haan

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.

Erik has an MSc in Theoretical Physics and gained his PhD with his research into learning and decision-making processes in perception. He is a British Psychoanalytic Council registered psychodynamic psychotherapist with an MA in psychotherapy from the Tavistock Clinic, has co-authored more than 200 articles and 14 books, and sits on the editorial board of three journals including the Consulting Psychology Journal.

What I really appreciate in Erik’s work is his focus and eye for the details at the same time. In his books for example in the “Critical moments in executive coaching” (here is a link to it on Routledge) he draws on a wealth of previous research to make his point, but there is a point at the end! (Something that I really appreciate after reading through a detailed material.)

A number of topics interest me in Erik’s work. One of the main themes for me is the workings of the coaching relationship. How strong is the effect of the relationship on the outcomes of coaching, compared to the other potential elements of the process (e.g. the methods being used)? How can we measure or at least conceptualise the relationship? (Whose perspective should we take for example when we are assessing the relationship?) These are topics that do come up in our conversation.

Another thing, or I should rather say things are the “small but intriguing” findings that he shares. Of course, these are not small ones. For example, he writes that “in fact, it was shown that the coachee’s resilience scores are a much better predictor of (coaching) outcome, to such an extent that most of the predictive power of other variables was picked up by Resilience which now seems to be a better ‘mediator variable’ for effectiveness than the relationship” (DeHaan, E.: What works in executive coaching, Routledge, 2021.)  When I read that sentence, I was totally amazed. I was aware of the importance of resilience but did not know its importance. I immediately had a number of follow-up questions:  does this mean that improving the resilience of coachees would contribute to the effectiveness of coaching? (On a personal note: I am a mental toughness master trainer..) Is there a level of resilience below which coaching would not be effective at all?

Another “small but important” statement from the same book: “There is no evidence yet that different coaches – e.g. coaches with different approaches or backgrounds – have distinct results, i.e. no evidence that certain coaches are more effective than others.” Lots of questions could come from this as well: does this mean that all coaching methods could yield the same results? Is it time to give up searching for the “best coaching tools”? I highly recommend reading the book – and other books of Erik as well – for a more contextualised understanding of these.

For me Erik is an exemplar of a researcher. He focuses on a question of his interest and guides us through a significant amount or previous results in his quest to find the answer. Not to mention that he is a great practitioner as well.

It was a pleasure to talk with him. Listen to the conversation here.

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