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Few empirical studies have used a randomized controlled design to evaluate the impact of coaching, and there are even fewer that have compared coaching with other interventions. In the current field study, we investigated the relative effectiveness of coaching as an intervention to reduce procrastination. In a randomized controlled study, participants (N = 84) were assigned to an individual coaching, a self-coaching, a group training, or a control group condition. Results indicate that individual coaching and group training were effective in reducing procrastination and facilitating goal attainment. Individual coaching created a high degree of satisfaction and was superior in helping participants attaining their goals, whereas group training successfully promoted the acquisition of relevant knowledge. The results for the self-coaching condition show that independently performing exercises without being supported by a coach is not sufficient for high goal attainment. Moreover, mediation analysis showed that a coach’s transformational and transactional leadership behavior influenced participants’ perceived autonomy support and intrinsic motivation, resulting in beneficial coaching outcomes. The results may guide the selection of appropriate human resource development methods: If there is a general need to systematically prepare employees to perform on specific tasks, group training seems appropriate due to lower costs. However, when certain aspects of working conditions or individual development goals are paramount, coaching might be indicated. However, further research is needed to compare the relative effectiveness of coaching with other interventions in different contexts.
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ORIGINAL RESEARCH
published: 03 May 2016
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00629
Edited by:
Annamaria Di Fabio,
University of Florence, Italy
Reviewed by:
Letizia Palazzeschi,
University of Florence, Italy
Gabriele Giorgi,
European University of Rome, Italy
*Correspondence:
Sabine Losch
sabine.losch@sbg.ac.at
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Organizational Psychology,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 04 November 2015
Accepted: 14 April 2016
Published: 03 May 2016
Citation:
Losch S, Traut-Mattausch E,
Mühlberger MD and Jonas E (2016)
Comparing the Effectiveness
of Individual Coaching, Self-Coaching,
and Group Training: How Leadership
Makes the Difference.
Front. Psychol. 7:629.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00629
Comparing the Effectiveness of
Individual Coaching, Self-Coaching,
and Group Training: How Leadership
Makes the Difference
Sabine Losch
1
*
, Eva Traut-Mattausch
1
, Maximilian D. Mühlberger
1
and Eva Jonas
2
1
Division of Economic and Organizational Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria,
2
Division of Social Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria
Few empirical studies have used a randomized controlled design to evaluate the
impact of coaching, and there are even fewer that have compared coaching with
other interventions. In the current field study, we investigated the relative effectiveness
of coaching as an intervention to reduce procrastination. In a randomized controlled
study, participants (N = 84) were assigned to an individual coaching, a self-coaching, a
group training, or a control group condition. Results indicate that individual coaching
and group training were effective in reducing procrastination and facilitating goal
attainment. Individual coaching created a high degree of satisfaction and was superior in
helping participants attaining their goals, whereas group training successfully promoted
the acquisition of relevant knowledge. The results for the self-coaching condition
show that independently performing exercises without being supported by a coach
is not sufficient for high goal attainment. Moreover, mediation analysis show that a
coach’s transformational and transactional leadership behavior influenced participants’
perceived autonomy support and intrinsic motivation, resulting in beneficial coaching
outcomes. The results may guide the selection of appropriate human resource
development methods: If there is a general need to systematically prepare employees
to perform on specific tasks, group training seems appropriate due to lower costs.
However, when certain aspects of working conditions or individual development goals
are paramount, coaching might be indicated. However, further research is needed
to compare the relative effectiveness of coaching with other interventions in different
contexts.
Keywords: coaching, training, effectiveness, procrastination, transformational leadership, transactional
leadership, autonomy support, intrinsic motivation
INTRODUCTION
In today’s fast-changing economy, the growth, productivity, and continuity of an
organization are determined by employees’ professional and personal qualifications
(Kauffeld, 2010; Salas et al., 2012). Consequently, the demand for increasing employees
skills, knowledge, and productivity is high. One of the most widely used methods for
enhancing individual and organizational performance is training (Arthur et al., 2003). The
Industry Report (Training, 2014) stated that U.S. companies with 100 or more employees
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Losch et al. Relative Effectiveness of Coaching
invested $62 billion in training in 2014. Indeed, there is a large
body of literature on the effectiveness of organizational training
suggesting that this investment is justified (e.g., Morris and
Robie, 2001; Arthur et al., 2003; Keith and Frese, 2008; Salas
et al., 2008). Over the past decade, however, organizations have
increasingly relied on workplace and executive coaching, which
has grown into a mainstream developmental activity (Grant et al.,
2010).
According to the International Coach Federation (ICF)
1
,
a total of 2,100 professional coaches were operating globally
in 1999. By 2012 there were 47,500. In North America that
year, for example, the total annual revenue from coaching
was said to be $707 million. Yet, in terms of the impact of
coaching on organizations, the picture is less clear than what
is known about training outcomes. Although an abundance
of coaching literature exists, the majority of the published
empirical papers consist of contextual or survey-based research,
giving useful information about, for instance, the delivery
of coaching services rather than about coaching effectiveness
(Grant, 2013a). Two quantitative reviews have summarized
the research on the effectiveness of coaching. In one meta-
analysis, De Meuse et al. (2009) examined executive coaching
outcomes by estimates of return on investment. In another,
Theeboom et al. (2014) shed light on the beneficial individual-
level outcomes of coaching, such as performance or skills,
well-being, coping, work attitudes, and goal-directed self-
regulation. These reviews show how coaching affects individual
and organizational development. However, as empirical evidence
is still scarce and the literature provides mixed results, there
remains reasonable doubt if the individual and organizational
benefits of coaching can outweigh its high costs (Leonard-Cross,
2010). Nevertheless, although contemporary coaching research is
in its infancy, coaching practice is gaining ground (Grant et al.,
2010).
Overall, the figures presented demonstrate the willingness
of organizations to spend vast sums of money on personnel
and executive development (Bozer and Sarros, 2012). But how
does one know what method is appropriate to attain certain
organizational and personal goals? The literature provides some
comparative research on different coaching approaches and
methods. For example, in one study, researchers examined the
relative effectiveness of external coaching, peer coaching, and
self-coaching for improving the performance of participants
in two master of business administration programs (Sue-Chan
and Latham, 2004). External coaching and self-coaching were
more effective for improving students interpersonal team-
playing skills and course grades than peer coaching, and
external coaching was most effective in enhancing performance
and satisfaction. Another study compared professional and
peer life coaching and found that professional coaching was
more effective than peer coaching or no coaching (control
group) for enhancing engagement in the coaching process,
goal commitment and goal attainment (Spence and Grant,
2007). To the best of our knowledge, to date there is
little or no empirical research exploring the effectiveness of
1
http://www.coachfederation.org/coachingstudy2012
coaching in comparison to the more well established practice of
training.
Therefore, we sought to explore the relative effectiveness of
coaching compared to other forms of personnel and executive
development, such as training and education interventions. The
differentiation of coaching and the more established methods
seems to be crucial for several reasons. First, although the body
of literature on the effectiveness of coaching has been rapidly
increasing in recent years, only a few empirical studies have
used a randomized controlled design to evaluate the impact of
coaching (Grant et al., 2010). Drawing on a solid theoretical
framework, our empirical investigation of coaching effectiveness
further enhances the quality of coaching outcome research
and contributes evidence-based results (Cavanagh et al., 2005).
Second, the comparative evaluation of coaching effectiveness not
only answers the question if coaching is effective, but also may
provide evidence of the inherent beneficial effects and limitations
of the methods compared.
Functional and Structural Differentiation
of Coaching and Training
Coaching can be defined as a collaborative helping relationship,
where coach and client (“coachee”) engage in a systematic
process of setting goals and developing solutions with the
aim of facilitating goal attainment, self-directed learning, and
personal growth of the coachee (Grant and Stober, 2006; Grant,
2013b). The coachees responsibility is to implement action
steps to achieve defined goals, while the coach keeps the
coachee on track by managing the complex goal attainment
process (Grant, 2013b). The coachs function includes making
explicit the difference between coaching and other forms
of interventions (e.g., psychotherapy or expert counseling),
setting clear agreements, clarifying respective responsibilities,
and co-creating a supportive working relationship, as well as
eliciting a thought-provoking and creative process through active
listening and challenging questions (Grant, 2013b; “International
Coach Federation, 2015)
2
. In contrast, traditional training is a
planned and systematic process that promotes the acquisition
of relevant knowledge, skills, and attitudes through instruction,
demonstration, practice, and immediate feedback about trainees
performance (Salas and Cannon-Bowers, 2001; Salas et al., 2012).
From these descriptions, significant differences regarding the role
of coach and trainer during the process become apparent: A
trainer follows a predetermined agenda and structure, providing
instructions for achieving performance on relevant job or task
requirements (Grant, 2001; Salas et al., 2012). In contrast, a
coach follows the coachees agenda, providing support to create
individual solutions tailored to the coachees specific needs
(Grant, 2001). Therefore, coaching should be more effective
in enhancing a clients work-related performance. In line with
recent research finding that one of a coachs core competencies
is the ability to lead the client through the coaching process
(Mühlberger and Traut-Mattausch, 2015) we argue that a
coachs leadership behavior is a crucial factor for coaching
success.
2
www.coachfederation.org/icfcredentials/core-competencies/
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As Kemp (2009) has stated, the interaction of coach and
coachee is similar to the relationship between a leader and
an employee, with the aim of the coach or leader being to
facilitate and guide the follower’s development and performance.
Accordingly, there are significant overlaps between coaching
and leadership (Mühlberger and Traut-Mattausch, 2015): Both
can be seen as an interaction process where a coach/leader
asserts influence on the achievement of goals (Von Rosenstiel,
2006), the creation of solutions, and the development of
the motivation and competencies of their clients/followers
(Grant and Stober, 2006; Bass and Bass, 2008). However, there
are also differences. In the leader–follower relationship, the
leader is in a hierarchically higher position than his or her
followers and supports them in attaining organizational goals.
In contrast, the coaching relationship is one of equals (Rauen
and Eversmann, 2014) and the coach helps the coachee attain
his or her personal goals (Mühlberger and Traut-Mattausch,
2015).
Mühlberger and Traut-Mattausch (2015) suggested applying
the concept of transactional and transformational leadership
(Bass and Avolio, 1993; Bass, 1998) in the context of coaching.
One particular transactional leadership strategy—the contingent
reward component, characterized by setting clear basic
expectations and goals (Felfe, 2006)—is part of the coachs
role. For example, a coach shows contingent reward behavior
by communicating that the coachee is responsible for the
implementation of action steps and goal attainment (Mühlberger
and Traut-Mattausch, 2015). There are also certain overlaps
between coaching and transformational leadership in practices
that facilitate personal growth and motivate followers to perform
beyond expectations (Bass, 1999). Some of the strategies
transformational leaders use—individualized consideration,
intellectual stimulation, and inspirational motivation—
correspond to characteristic coaching behaviors. Coaches
show individualized consideration by acknowledging the
needs and goals of the coachees and supporting his or her
personal strengths. Coaches provide intellectual stimulation
by encouraging the coachees to consider issues from new
perspectives and by doing so, they challenge the coachees
assumptions and ideas. Finally, coaches provide inspirational
motivation by helping the coachees create an optimistic vision
for their future (Mühlberger and Traut-Mattausch, 2015).
Recent research demonstrated that transactional and
transformational leadership behavior can indeed be transferred
to the coaching context (Mühlberger and Traut-Mattausch,
2015). In an experimental study, undergraduates who obtained
group or dyadic coaching to reduce procrastination behavior had
higher goal attainment, goal commitment and goal self-efficacy
compared to a control group. Undergraduates in the dyadic
coaching setting, compared to those in the group coaching
setting, showed higher increases in goal attainment, intrinsic
motivation, and goal-related self-reflection. These effects were
mediated by transactional and transformational coaching
behavior. However, group and dyadic coaching consisted of
only one session lasting 1 h. To our knowledge, no research has
so far examined transactional and transformational leadership
behavior in a real coaching setting.
Furthermore, leadership research focuses on investigating
the mechanisms by which effective leaders exert influence on
followers behaviors and performance (e.g., Kark et al., 2003,
2015; Piccolo and Colquitt, 2006). When investigating the role
of the coach as leader and therefore highlighting transactional
and transformational coaching behaviors, it is consequently
important to gain insight into how these coaching behaviors
affect coachees behavior and performance. So far, however,
it remains unclear how coaches leadership behavior is linked
to coaching success. A further aim of the current study
was, therefore, to extend the research on coachs transactional
and transformational leadership behavior as the underlying
mechanism for coaching effectiveness.
The Present Study
We conducted a field experiment to examine the relative
effectiveness of coaching. For this purpose, we designed
several interventions aimed at reducing procrastination, as
this topic is relevant in academic and organizational contexts.
Procrastination is defined as “the voluntary delay of an
intended and necessary and/or [personally] important activity,
despite expecting potential negative consequences that outweigh
the positive consequences of the delay (Klingsieck, 2013).”
In one study, up to 70% of students stated that they
procrastinate (Schouwenburg et al., 2004), and another study
reported that 50% procrastinate chronically, causing severe
consequences (Day et al., 2000). Even in the general population,
procrastination is a common phenomenon with prevalence
rates of 20 to 25% (Ferrari et al., 2007). To overcome
procrastination and time management problems in academic
or workplace settings, training (Claessens et al., 2007) and
coaching (e.g., Karas and Spada, 2009; Schmidt and Thamm,
2008, Unpublished) interventions are commonly used. There
also exist a great number of self-help publications that give
advice on how to cope with this problem (e.g., Ellis and
Knaus, 1977; Fiore, 2007; Neenan and Dryden, 2013; Taylor,
2014).
This raises the question if following written instructions
and doing exercises without being supported by a coach is
sufficient to gain a benefit. To investigate which method is more
effective and why, we compared individual coaching with self-
coaching, group training, and no intervention (control group).
Following Kirkpatrick’s (1959/1994) four-level model of training
and learning evaluation, we asked participants to complete
multiple measures to assess the interventions impact on
satisfaction (reaction), content-related knowledge (learning), goal
attainment, and state procrastination (behavior). Considering the
characteristic features of individual coaching, self-coaching, and
group training, we hypothesized that there would be a difference
in the effectiveness of interventions on the different evaluation
criteria.
The reaction criteria represent participants’ affective and
attitudinal responses to the intervention (Arthur et al., 2003).
Research suggests that clients experience the interaction with
a coach providing feedback and support as important and
beneficial, leading to higher client satisfaction ratings as opposed
to those in self-coaching (Offermanns, 2004; Sue-Chan and
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Latham, 2004). As training is also characterized by immediate
feedback between a trainer and clients (Salas and Cannon-
Bowers, 2001; Salas et al., 2012) or by support trainees receive
from their peers (Colquitt et al., 2000), we would assume
similar beneficial effects on clients satisfaction ratings for
training. Therefore we expected that the level of satisfaction
among participants in the three intervention groups (individual
coaching, self-coaching, group training) would be higher than
among participants in the control group (Hypothesis 1.1).
However, we expected that the support and feedback of a
coach or trainer would lead to a higher level of satisfaction
among participants in the individual coaching and group
training conditions than among participants in the self-coaching
condition (Hypothesis 1.2.). The learning criteria were the
learning outcomes of the intervention that are usually assessed
by paper-and-pencil tests (Arthur et al., 2003). Unlike for
individual coaching or self-coaching, training is content based
rather than process based (Clegg et al., 2003). Thus, a main
component of the group training condition was the imparting
of relevant knowledge on procrastination, the mechanisms of
self-control and motivation, and time management techniques,
helping participants overcome procrastination. We therefore
hypothesized that participants in the group training condition
would score higher on a multiple choice test on content-
related knowledge than participants in the individual coaching,
self-coaching, and control group conditions (Hypothesis 2).
The behavioral criteria were the effects of the intervention
on participants actual performance (Arthur et al., 2003).
In the three intervention groups (individual coaching, self-
coaching, group training), participants set goals and performed
the same self-reflection and action-planning tasks designed to
reduce procrastination. We hypothesized that participants in the
three intervention groups would have higher goal attainment
than participants in the control group (Hypothesis 3.1). For
the tasks performed, the trainer provided instructions and
exercises for overcoming procrastination, whereas the role
of the coach was to monitor the coachees goal-attainment
process and help them create individual solutions. Some
important differences between the individual coaching and
group training setting becomes apparent here: first, the focus
on the goal attainment process is a core component of
coaching conversations (Grant, 2012) and there is evidence
that coaching increases goal attainment and performance (e.g.,
Grant, 2003, 2014; Green et al., 2006; Ianiro et al., 2013).
Second, the problem-solving process characteristic for coaching
involves helping the coachees to reflect on their thoughts,
feelings, and behaviors which is associated with the facilitation
of coachees metacognitive skills (Grant, 2001). Metacognitive
skills have been shown to be crucial to improving task-
relevant performance (Zimmermann and Schunk, 2011). Third,
group settings like the traditional training entail the advantage
of shared experiences and support from peers (Nicholas
and Twaddell, 2008) when performing exercises to enhance
specific skills. In contrast, however, individual coaching is a
dyadic helping relationship (Jowett et al., 2012) that enables
more individualized support and attention from the coach
to meet the very specific developmental needs of the client
(Rauen, 2005; Nicholas and Twaddell, 2008). With regard
to the self-coaching condition, participants did not receive
the support of a coach or from peers. Thus, we assumed
that the success of the intervention would highly depend on
participants self-leadership skills, that is, on their cognitive
and behavioral strategies to motivate and direct themselves
toward desired outcomes (Manz and Neck, 2002). Consequently,
we expected that participants in the individual coaching
would have higher goal attainment than participants in the
self-coaching or group training condition (Hypothesis 3.2)
and participants in the group training condition would have
higher goal attainment than participants in the self-coaching
condition (Hypothesis 3.3). In accordance with the hypotheses
on goal attainment, we hypothesized that participants in the
intervention groups (individual coaching, self-coaching, group
training) would reduce procrastination more than participants
in the control group (Hypothesis 4.1). However, we expected
participants in the individual coaching condition to reduce
procrastination more than participants in the self-coaching or
group training condition (Hypothesis 4.2) and participants in
the group training condition to reduce procrastination more
than participants in the self-coaching condition (Hypothesis
4.3).
According to empirical findings, we have already noted that
coaches show transactional and transformational leadership
behavior, and that these leadership behaviors are positively
related to coaching effectiveness (Mühlberger and Traut-
Mattausch, 2015). But how do coaches transactional and
transformational leadership behaviors influence coaching
success? Some evidence comes from research on the effects of
leadership behaviors on followers values, beliefs, and attitudes,
demonstrating that transformational leaders enhance followers
intrinsic motivation (Charbonneau et al., 2001; Shin and Zhou,
2003; Gagné and Deci, 2005; Sun et al., 2012). According to
self-determination theory (SDT, Gagné and Deci, 2005), there
are basic psychological needs that underlie intrinsic motivation,
such as the need to feel competent, autonomous and related.
With respect to the working environment, the support of
followers autonomy turned out to be most essential factor to
affect intrinsic motivation and thus, increase positive outcomes
(Gagné and Deci, 2005). Transformational leaders create an
autonomy-supportive interpersonal climate by acknowledging
followers perspective, providing choice, reflecting feelings,
providing rationales for requested behaviors, and encouraging
self-regulation (Baard et al., 2004), resulting in high levels of
intrinsic motivation and learning (Charbonneau et al., 2001;
Hetland et al., 2011; Conchie, 2013). It is obvious that the type of
communication through which transformational leaders create
a climate of autonomy is parallel to the communication applied
by coaches in coaching conversations. Thus, we would expect
similar effects for the coaching behaviors on clients’ experiences
and, in turn, on the coaching success. Moreover, we have already
mentioned that coaches also show transactional (contingent
reward) leadership behaviors. Although leadership literature
mainly placed emphasis on the link between transformational
leadership and autonomous forms of motivation, we postulate
that the same process by which leaders have their effects on
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Losch et al. Relative Effectiveness of Coaching
followers also applies to transactional leadership behaviors in
the context of coaching. We argue that the coachees autonomy
may be supported in that the coach clearly states that even
if he or she actively supports the coachee in finding own
solutions to attain his or her personal goals, the responsibility
for goal attainment is still left with the coachee (Schein, 2003;
Rauen, 2005). To sum up, we state that coaches leadership
behaviors and coaching effectiveness are closely related to
coachees experiences of autonomy support and intrinsic
motivation. Therefore, we hypothesized that the difference
between individual coaching, self-coaching, and group training
on the evaluation criteria would be mediated by the coachs
transactional and transformational leadership behaviors and the
coachees perceived autonomy support and intrinsic motivation
(Hypothesis 5). Figure 1 presents our proposed theoretical
model.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Design
In this field study, a one-factorial between-subjects design with
four experimental conditions (intervention: individual coaching
vs. self-coaching vs. group training vs. control) was used in
order to obtain data on the evaluation criteria reaction, learning,
and behavior (Kirkpatrick, 1959/1994) at pretreatment and
posttreatment.
Participants
Participants were students of the University of Salzburg who
regularly procrastinate on academic tasks. They were recruited
by flyers and online advertisement for an intervention program.
Psychology students received credit in return for research
participation. A total of 134 respondents were randomly assigned
to individual coaching, self-coaching, group training or a control
group. If participants were unable to attend the prearranged
training dates due to other commitments, they were randomly
assigned to one of the other conditions. Fifty (37%) cases
were excluded due to quitting the study or missing data; the
remaining 84 participants allocated to the four conditions as
follows: 23 (27%) individual coaching, 13 (15%) self-coaching,
27 (32%) group training, and 21 (25%) control group. The
participants (20 men and 64 women) varied in age from 19
to 56 years. The average age of the sample was 25.95 years
(SD = 7.11).
Procedure
Figure 2 presents the study design. It includes information
on the procedure and the size of the various conditions.
The study was conducted at the Department of Psychology
at the University of Salzburg. After the registration deadline
and the assignment procedure, every participant received a
registration package, which included an information letter
regarding the specific intervention (only participants assigned to
individual coaching, self-coaching, group training), a registration
form, and an informed consent for participation and data
collection. Prior to the interventions (t0), all participants were
asked to identify individual goals they wanted to achieve
relating to their procrastination and learning behavior. Then
an online questionnaire was used to assess demographics
and gather baseline data about participants’ individual goals
and procrastination. Participants in the intervention groups
completed online evaluation questionnaires to assess mediator
variables in the course of the intervention (t1) and the
immediate effects of the intervention at the end of the
intervention program (t2).
3
By contrast, after the assessment
of baseline data at (t0), participants in the control group
did not receive any further intervention; they only answered
online evaluation questionnaires that were presented in parallel
to the intervention group surveys. After data collection had
been finished, participants in the control group were offered
the self-coaching intervention to support attainment of their
goals.
4
Intervention Groups
The individual coaching, self-coaching, and group training
conditions consisted of three sessions of approximately 2 h each
with 10 days in between. Session 1 focused on the discrepancy
between an actual and desired state and setting personal goals.
Session 2 addressed the identification of dysfunctional cognitions
and patterns of behavior as well as the development of useful
strategies. Session 3 aimed at working out an action plan and
considering potential obstacles to goal attainment. Optionally,
all participants were offered a follow-up meeting to reflect on
their progress and difficulties regarding the implementation of
the action plan. To avoid a bias in data collection due to benefits
3
Six weeks after the intervention, participants were sent an online evaluation
questionnaire to obtain follow-up data on the long term effects of the intervention
program.
4
The procedure and treatments of the participants were approved by the ethical
board of the University of Salzburg.
FIGURE 1 | Proposed theoretical model illustrating that the influence of a coach’s leadership behavior on a coachee’s experiences (perceived
autonomy support and intrinsic motivation) has an effect on coaching outcomes.
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Losch et al. Relative Effectiveness of Coaching
FIGURE 2 | Study procedure with time of assessment and the number
of participants in the various conditions.
resulting from the follow-up meeting, appointments were
arranged after participants had completed the last questionnaire.
Coaches and trainers were blind regarding the study
hypotheses and investigated variables. We used guidelines
to instruct coaches and trainers about the content and
procedures of the individual units. Coaches were eight master’s
students in psychology who had successfully completed a
professional 1-year education program (for education concept
see Braumandl et al., 2013). Trainers were three master students
in psychology that were involved in designing the training
program.
Individual Coaching
The individual coaching was characterized by systematic support
of the coachee in setting appropriate goals, reflecting on the
progress toward the attainment of these goals, and developing
an individual approach that related to the client’s personal goals.
The first coaching session proceeded as follows: (1) introduction
of coach and coachee, (2) clarification of coaching relationship,
(3) support of the coachee during goal setting, and (4) receipt
of the first take-home exercise. The aim of the exercise was
to identify cognitions and behavior patterns associated with
procrastination situations. The second coaching session included
(1) a review of the previous session and (2) a discussion of
the first take-home exercise, both focusing on the coachees
goals, and (3) receipt of the second take-home exercise. The
aim of the exercise was to work out an individualized action
plan. The third coaching session included (1) a review of the
previous session and (2) a discussion of the second take-home
exercise, both focusing on the coachees goals, and (3) coachees
feedback on the coaching process. At the beginning and end of
each session, the coachee rated his or her progress toward goal
attainment.
Self-coaching
The structure and materials used in the self-coaching condition
were equivalent to those used for individual coaching, except the
role of coaches was replaced by written instructions in the form
of a self-coaching manual. Participants received the self-coaching
units by email and were told to return the completed units to
the sender (i.e., the contact person). It was up to the participants
themselves to set goals, reflect on the exercises, and identify the
relevance of the insights for their personal goals.
Group Training
The group training intervention was designed as a standard
training commonly employed in business. Therefore, the
structure was equivalent to individual coaching, but the methods
and materials had to be applicable to a group setting. Training
was characterized by the systematic acquisition of knowledge and
skills that relate to the reduction of procrastination. The first
training session proceeded as follows: (1) introduction of trainer
and trainees, (2) theoretical explanation on the phenomenology
of procrastination following an example case, (3) practice in
identifying dysfunctional cognitions and behaviors, and (4)
theoretical input and practice in goal setting. The second training
session included (1) a review of the previous session, (2)
theoretical input and practice in replacing the dysfunctional
cognitions and behaviors identified in the previous session with
functional cognitions and behaviors, (3) theoretical input on
the self-control mechanism, time management techniques and
motivation, and (4) practice in using immediate gratification
to maintain motivation. The third included (1) a review of the
previous session, (2) an explanation of obstacles that can impede
goal attainment and (3) practice in the use of time management
techniques presented in the previous session to deal with these
obstacles, (4) explanation of and practice in filling out an action
plan, and (5) rating of goal attainment and trainees feedback on
the training.
Measures
5
Effectiveness Measures
Satisfaction was assessed with the Coaching-Outcome-Short
Scale (Schmidt and Thamm, 2008, Unpublished). Six items
were adapted to measure participants satisfaction with the
coach, contact person, or trainer
6
(“How satisfied were you
5
In the current study, following variables were measured, but not further
analyzed: fear of failure and lack of motivation; self-efficacy; self-regulation; goal
clarity; imposter syndrome; trustworthiness; situational intrinsic motivation; self-
reflection; pressure and tension; intention to perform a plan; importance of goals
and expectations of success; charisma, extra effort, and satisfaction.
6
As participants in the control group received only online questionnaires without
interaction with a coach, trainer or contact person, the item was only assessed for
the intervention programs individual coaching, self-coaching, and group training.
Cronbachs alpha for the 5-item-scale was α = 0.91.
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Losch et al. Relative Effectiveness of Coaching
with your coach/contact person/trainer?”), the intervention
program (“How satisfied were you with the coaching /self-
coaching/training/goal setting?”), goal attainment (“How
satisfied are you with the progress toward achieving your
goals?”), outcome (“How satisfied are you in general with the
coaching/self-coaching/training outcome?”), personal change
(“How satisfied are you with the personal change through
coaching/self-coaching/training/goal setting?”), and level of
self-satisfaction (“How satisfied were you with yourself in the
coaching/self-coaching/training/goal attainment process?”).
Items were rated on a 10-point scale ranging from 1 (not at all
satisfied) to 10 (very satisfied). Satisfaction was measured at t2
(α = 0.90).
A multiple-choice test containing 14 questions (e.g., “Which
statement about procrastination is true?”) was created to check
participants acquired knowledge regarding procrastination,
the mechanisms of self-control and motivation, and time
management techniques. Each item had four answers with
between one and four correct alternatives. Participants
got one point for every item answered completely right.
They got no points for partially or completely incorrect
items. Acquired content-related knowledge was assessed
at t2.
Goal attainment was assessed on a process evaluation scale
(Braumandl and Dirscherl, 2005; Ianiro et al., 2014; Biberacher,
2010, Unpublished), ranging from 1 (not at all achieved) to 10
(fully achieved). Participants rated their degree of actual goal
attainment (“As of right now, to what extent have you attained
this goal?”) for up to three goals. Goal attainment was assessed at
t0 and t2.
To assess state procrastination, we used a 12-item subscale
of the Academic Procrastination State Inventory (APSI,
Schouwenburg, 1995; German translation by Helmke and
Schrader, 2000). The subscale measures state procrastination
in terms of delay, concentration deficits, and lack of energy.
Participants had to rate how frequently in the last week they had
engaged in procrastination-related thoughts and behaviors (e.g.,
“Put off the completion of a task”) on a 5-point scale ranging
from 0 (never) to 4 (always). Procrastination was measured at t0
(α = 0.75) and t2 (α = 0.89).
Mediator Variables
The following mediators were measured during the intervention
program (t1) between pre- and posttreatment
7
: Transactional
and transformational leadership behaviors of the coach, trainer,
or contact person were measured with an adapted version
of the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ, Bass and
Avolio, 1995; German translation by Felfe and Goihl, 2002).
Transformational leadership behaviors (α = 0.93, 12 items, e.g.,
“The coach helped me find new ways to reach my goals”) and the
transactional leadership behavior contingent reward (α = 0.83,
4 items, e.g., “The coach made it clear that I am responsible for
attaining my goals”) were measured on a 5-point scale ranging
from 1 (not at all) to 5 (frequently).
7
As transactional and transformational leadership behaviors as well as perceived
autonomy support refer to behaviors of interaction partners, these mediators were
assessed only for the intervention conditions and not for the control condition.
To assess participants perceptions of the degree to which their
coach, trainer, or contact person supported autonomy, we used
an adapted version of the Work Climate Questionnaire (WCQ,
Baard et al., 2004). Participants answered 15 items (α = 0.90,
e.g., “My coach listens to how I would like to do things”) on a 7-
point scale ranging from 1 (not at all true) to 7 (very true). Items
were translated into German and back-translated into English by
a native speaker to ensure accurate interpretation.
The degree of participants perceived intrinsic motivation
was assessed with a short intrinsic motivation scale (Kurzskala
Intrinsischer Motivation, KIM, Wilde et al., 2009). Participants
rated nine items (α = 0.91, e.g., “I think that working on my
learning behavior is very interesting”) on a 5-point scale from 1
(not at all) to 5 (very much).
RESULTS
Effectiveness of Interventions
To test the hypotheses on the effectiveness of individual
coaching, self-coaching, and group training, the intervention
programs were evaluated by comparing the degree of content-
related knowledge and satisfaction at posttreatment (t2). To test
for changes in goal attainment progress and procrastination,
we calculated the difference between each participants rating
of goal attainment and procrastination at posttreatment (t2)
and pretreatment (t0). Significant main effects were followed
up by post hoc comparisons using Fisher’s least significant
difference test. Table 1 presents the means and standard
deviations of the dependent variables at pretreatment (t0) and
posttreatment (t2).
Preliminary Analyses
First, we examined our data for potential differences in
the baseline measurements. One-way analyses of variance
(ANOVAs) showed that the four groups were equivalent at
baseline on actual state of goal attainment for the main goal,
F(3,80) < 1, p = 0.847, η
2
= 0.01, and procrastination,
F(3,80) < 1, p = 0.806, η
2
= 0.01.
Satisfaction
Hypothesis 1.1 stated that the level of satisfaction among
participants in the intervention groups would be higher
than among participants in the control group. A one-
way ANOVA revealed a significant effect of intervention
on satisfaction, F(3,80) = 6.37, p = 0.001, η
2
= 0.019.
Post hoc analyses indicated that participants’ satisfaction
was significantly higher for individual coaching (M = 7.52,
SD = 1.33), p < 0.001, and group training (M = 6.59,
SD = 1.79), p = 0.009, compared to the control group
(M = 5.23, SD = 2.08), whereas self-coaching (M = 6.21,
SD = 1.75) did not significantly differ from the control
group (p = 0.117). Thus, Hypothesis 1.1 is partly supported.
Hypothesis 1.2 posited that the level of satisfaction would
be higher among participants in the individual coaching and
group training conditions than among participants in the
self-coaching condition. Participants satisfaction for individual
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TABLE 1 | Means and Standard Deviations for the effectiveness measures (Time 0, Time 2) and mediator variables (Time 1).
Study variable Condition
Individual coaching Self-coaching Group training Control group
M SD M SD M SD M SD
Time 0 variables
Goal attainment 2.91 1.44 3.15 1.57 2.81 1.42 3.19 2.06
Procrastination 2.70 0.46 2.70 0.38 2.57 0.46 2.65 0.68
Time 1 variables
TFL 4.15 0.55 3.08 1.00 3.54 0.76
TAL 3.97 0.63 3.45 0.82 3.66 0.83
PAS 5.99 0.54 5.09 0.99 5.48 0.98
IMOT 3.90 0.56 3.26 0.67 3.55 0.59 2.85 0.91
Time 2 variables
Satisfaction 7.52 1.33 6.21 1.75 6.59 1.79 5.23 2.08
Content-related knowledge 2.90 1.29 2.75 2.17 4.30 1.65
Goal attainment 6.96 1.49 5.15 2.08 6.07 2.24 5.62 2.22
Procrastination 1.89 0.61 2.15 0.71 1.99 0.63 2.42 0.83
TFL, transformational leadership behavior; TAL, transactional leadership behavior; PAS, perceived autonomy support; IMOT, intrinsic motivation.
coaching was marginally significantly higher than for group
training (p = 0.065) and significantly higher compared to
self-coaching (p = 0.035). However, group training did not
significantly differ from self-coaching (p = 0.528), which partly
supports Hypothesis 1.2.
Content-Related Knowledge
Hypothesis 2 posited that participants in the group training
condition would achieve higher scores in a multiple-choice
test regarding procrastination, self-control and motivational
mechanisms, and time management techniques than participants
in the individual coaching, self-coaching, and control group
conditions. As only five multiple-choice tests were returned
by the participants of the control group, their data could
not be included in the analysis. In individual coaching,
five cases were excluded due to missing values. A one-
way ANOVA revealed a significant effect of intervention
on content-related knowledge, F(2,56) = 5.59, p = 0.006,
η
2
= 0.17. Post hoc analysis indicated that scores achieved
on the multiple-choice test were significantly higher for
participants receiving group training (M = 4.30, SD = 1.65)
compared to individual coaching (M = 2.90, SD = 1.29),
p = 0.006, and self-coaching (M = 2.75, SD = 2.17),
p = 0.010. There was no statistically significant difference
between the individual coaching and self-coaching conditions in
content-related knowledge (p = 0.806). These findings support
Hypothesis 2.
Goal Attainment
Participants set up to three individual goals. Their first goal
represented the main goal and was well documented in all
conditions. As not all participants set a second or third goal or,
especially in the self-coaching and control group, documented
changes of second or third order goals from t0 to t2, we
could not clearly match goal-attainment ratings. Hence, goal-
attainment progress was analyzed only for the first goal.
8
In
Hypothesis 3.1 we stated that participants in the intervention
groups would have higher goal attainment than participants in
the control group. A one-way ANOVA revealed a significant
effect of intervention on goal attainment for the main goal,
F(3,80) = 2.79, p = 0.046, η
2
= 0.10. Post hoc analysis indicated
that goal attainment progress was significantly higher for the
individual coaching condition (M = 4.04, SD = 1.74) compared
to the control group (M = 2.43, SD = 2.46), p = 0.025. The
self-coaching (M = 2.00, SD = 2.16, p = 0.607) and group
training (M = 3.22, SD = 2.73, p = 0.228) conditions did not
significantly differ from the control group, thus partly supporting
Hypothesis 3.1. Hypothesis 3.2 predicted that participants in the
individual coaching condition would have higher goal attainment
than participants in the self-coaching or group training condition
and Hypothesis 3.3 posited that participants in the group
training condition would have higher goal attainment than
participants in the self-coaching condition. The increase in goal
attainment was higher for the individual coaching condition
than for the self-coaching condition (p = 0.014), but the group
training condition did not significantly differ from the individual
coaching (p = 0.243) and self-coaching conditions (p = 0.116).
Thus, hypothesis 3.2 is partly supported and Hypothesis 3.3 is not
supported.
Procrastination
In Hypothesis 4.1, we predicted that participants in the
intervention groups would reduce procrastination more
than participants in the control group. A one-way ANOVA
revealed a significant effect of intervention on procrastination,
8
There were five cases in the group training condition where goal-attainment
ratings at pretreatment (t0) were missing. Missing values were imputed using the
expectation-maximization algorithm by the Software Norm (Version 2.03).
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F(3,80) = 3.17, p = 0.029, η
2
= 0.11. Post hoc analysis indicated
that individual coaching (M = 0.80, SD = 0.60, p = 0.003)
reduced procrastination significantly more than no intervention
(control group; M = 0.23, SD = 0.72) and group training
(M = 0.57, SD = 0.58, p = 0.060) reduced procrastination
marginally significantly more than no intervention. The self-
coaching group (M = 0.54, SD = 0.49) did not significantly
differ from the control group in the reduction of procrastination
(p = 0.155), which partly supports Hypothesis 4.1. Our next
hypotheses stated that participants in the individual coaching
condition would reduce procrastination more than participants
in the self-coaching or training condition (Hypothesis 4.2)
and participants in the group training condition would reduce
procrastination more than participants in the self-coaching
condition (Hypothesis 4.3). Individual coaching did not
significantly differ from the self-coaching (p = 0.230) and group
training conditions (p = 0.193), and there was no statistically
significant difference between the group training and self-
coaching condition (p = 0.888). These findings reject Hypotheses
4.2 and 4.3.
Mediation Effects: Influence of
Transactional and Transformational
Leadership Behaviors on Coachees’
Experiences and Effectiveness
To test Hypothesis 5, that coaches transactional and
transformational leadership behaviors would influence
participants experiences and, in turn, that these experiences
would explain the difference in the effectiveness of the
intervention programs, we performed serial multiple mediation
analyses with the software PROCESS (Hayes, 2013, Model 6). We
used a 95% bias-corrected bootstrap confidence interval (95% BC
CI) and 5,000 bootstrap samples. Transformational leadership
behavior, transactional leadership behavior (contingent reward),
perceived autonomy support, and intrinsic motivation were
used as mediators. On the basis of previous results, we first
employed Contrast A (individual coaching vs. self-coaching,
group training vs. self-coaching as a covariate) as independent
variable to examine the effects on the dependent variable goal
attainment. Second, we employed Contrasts A and B (individual
coaching vs. group training, self-coaching vs. group training
as a covariate) as independent variables to examine the effects
on the dependent variable satisfaction. Means and standard
deviations of the mediator variables (t1 variables) are displayed
in Table 1.
Goal Attainment
Mediation analyses revealed a significant total effect of individual
coaching on goal attainment for Contrast A, b = 2.04, SE = 0.80,
t(60) = 2.55, p = 0.013. The effect was non-significant when
the potential mediators transformational leadership behavior,
perceived autonomy support, and intrinsic motivation were
added to the prediction, b = 0.92, SE = 0.90, t(60) = 1.03,
p = 0.308. For Contrast A, the bootstrapped indirect effect of
individual coaching via transformational leadership behavior,
perceived autonomy support, and intrinsic motivation was
significant in a positive direction, b = 0.21, SE = 0.14, 95%
BC CI [0.05, 0.72]. Moreover, the total effect of individual
coaching on goal attainment for Contrast A was non-significant
when the potential mediators transactional leadership behavior,
perceived autonomy support, and intrinsic motivation were
added to the prediction, b = 1.04, SE = 0.85, t(60) = 1.23,
p = 0.225. For Contrast A, the bootstrapped indirect effect
of individual coaching via transactional leadership behavior,
perceived autonomy support, and intrinsic motivation was
significant in a positive direction, b = 0.10, SE = 0.07,
95% BC CI [0.02, 0.35]. Furthermore, the indirect effect
of individual coaching via perceived autonomy support
and intrinsic motivation was significant as well, b = 0.21,
SE = 0.15, 95% BC CI [0.02, 0.72] (for the path coefficients see
Figure 3).
Satisfaction
Mediation analyses revealed a significant total effect of individual
coaching on satisfaction for Contrast A, b = 1.30, SE = 0.56,
t(60) = 2.31, p = 0.024, and Contrast B, b = 0.93, SE = 0.46,
t(60) = 2.01, p = 0.049. The effects for both contrasts were
non-significant when the potential mediators transformational
leadership behavior, perceived autonomy support, and intrinsic
motivation were added to the prediction, b = 0.25, SE = 0.41,
t(60) = 0.60, p = 0.550 and b = 0.07, SE = 0.31, t(60) = 0.22,
p = 0.827. For Contrasts A and B, the bootstrapped indirect
effect of individual coaching via transformational leadership
behavior, perceived autonomy support, and intrinsic motivation
was significant in a positive direction, b = 0.36, SE = 0.16,
95% BC CI [0.16, 0.95] and b = 0.21, SE = 0.09, 95% BC CI
[0.08, 0.49]. Moreover, the total effect of individual coaching
on satisfaction was non-significant for both contrasts when the
potential mediators transactional leadership behavior, perceived
autonomy support, and intrinsic motivation were added to the
prediction, b = 0.24, SE = 0.39, t(60) = 0.61, p = 0.550 and
b = 0.09, SE = 0.30, t(60) = 0.28, p = 0.777. For Contrasts A
and B, the bootstrapped indirect effect of individual coaching via
transactional leadership behavior, perceived autonomy support,
and intrinsic motivation was significant in a positive direction,
b = 0.18, SE = 0.10, 95% BC CI [0.05, 0.50] and b = 0.09,
SE = 0.06, 95% BC CI [0.00, 0.27]. Furthermore, the indirect
effect of individual coaching via perceived autonomy support
and intrinsic motivation was significant, as well, for Contrast A,
b = 0.38, SE = 0.19, 95% BC CI [0.11, 0.87] and Contrast B,
b = 0.23, SE = 0.14, 95% BC CI [0.02, 0.61] (for path coefficients
see Figure 4).
In sum, the results, supporting Hypothesis 5, show that
the higher goal attainment and satisfaction in the individual
coaching compared to self-coaching and group training
conditions were explained by the coaches behaviors and
clients experiences. Clients experienced more transformational
leadership behaviors in individual coaching that further
led to the perception of autonomy support and intrinsic
motivation, resulting in higher goal attainment and satisfaction.
Likewise, the coaches transactional leadership behaviors
contributed to clients’ experience of autonomy support and
intrinsic motivation, resulting in higher goal attainment and
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FIGURE 3 | The effect of intervention group on goal attainment via coaching behaviors (transformational or transactional leadership behavior) and
coachee experiences (perceived autonomy support and intrinsic motivation).
p < 0.10,
p < 0.05,
p < 0.01,
p < 0.001.
satisfaction. Unlike transformational leadership behavior,
however, coaches transactional leadership behavior was
not necessarily required to influence clients experiences
and in turn to explain differences in goal attainment and
satisfaction.
DISCUSSION
In the current research we conducted a randomized controlled
study to provide further evidence on the effectiveness of
coaching in comparison to other interventions in the
context of procrastination prevention. For this purpose, we
created individual coaching, group training, and self-coaching
interventions to assess their relative effectiveness as compared to
a control group that received no intervention. Interventions were
consistent regarding procedure and content, that is, participants
set goals and performed the same self-reflection and action-
planning tasks designed to reduce procrastination. However,
the settings differed in respect to the specific intervention
characteristics. Participants of the control group had to set goals
with regard to their procrastination and learning behavior but
did not receive any further treatment. Following Kirkpatrick’s
(1959/1994) four-level model of training evaluation, we assessed
participants self-rated satisfaction, content-related knowledge,
goal attainment, and state procrastination as a measure of the
effectiveness.
Contrary to our predictions, the increase in goal attainment
in the group training condition did not significantly differ from
the increase in the individual coaching, self-coaching, and control
group conditions. That is, even if group training could help
participants attain their goals, training was not more effective
than merely setting a goal or engaging in goal-striving activities
by oneself. As expected, individual coaching was the most
effective intervention to facilitate participants goal attainment.
Therefore, our findings support the understanding of coaching
as goal-focused communication intended to help foster the
regulation and direction of clients’ resources to create purposeful
positive change (Grant and Stober, 2006; Grant, 2012). That
participants of the control group reported some degree of goal-
attainment progress was surprising, as they did not objectively
receive any intervention. However, they set goals prior to data
collection and answered effectiveness measures, as well. It is
possible that the set goals indeed had an influence on the
goal attainment of the control group. According to goal-setting
theory (Locke and Latham, 2002), goals enhance performance
by directing attention to goal-relevant cognitions and behaviors,
increase motivation and persistence, and stimulate the regulation
of task-related strategies (Wood and Locke, 1990). Another
possible explanation is, that goal setting in the control group
condition could have framed the perception of undergoing an
intervention and, in turn, may have led participants to consider
their goal-attainment progress with some pattern in mind, for
example, that ratings must increase from the first to the second
assessment. This is a characteristic of the “demand effect” that
may particularly occur in within-subject designs (Gneezy, 2005;
Charness et al., 2012). In light of this explanation, it is reasonable
to question if the goal-attainment progress of participants in the
control group was comparable to that of participants in the group
training condition.
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FIGURE 4 | The effect of intervention group on satisfaction via coaching behaviors (transformational or transactional leadership behavior) and
coachee experiences (perceived autonomy support and intrinsic motivation).
p < 0.10,
p < 0.05,
p < 0.01,
p < 0.001.
Moreover, participants in the individual coaching and group
training conditions reported significantly less procrastination
compared to those in the control group. Our findings show
that both individual coaching and group training were effective
interventions to reduce procrastination, which is in line with
existing research on the effectiveness of procrastination and
time-management-related interventions (e.g., Van Eerde, 2003;
Green and Skinner, 2005; Karas and Spada, 2009; Schmidt
and Thamm, 2008, Unpublished). Contrary to our assumption,
however, individual coaching did not significantly differ from
group training in the reduction of procrastination. As the
training evaluation literature suggests a link between learning
(e.g., declarative knowledge and skill acquisition) and behavioral
change (Colquitt et al., 2000), our following results may
shed light on this finding. As we assumed, participants who
attended group training achieved higher scores in a multiple-
choice test regarding procrastination, mechanisms of self-
control and motivation, and time management techniques
than participants in the individual coaching, self-coaching, and
control group conditions. This result is not surprising, as
one of the main objectives in group training was to impart
knowledge and specific skills to overcome procrastination. In
contrast, individual coaching focused on creating individual
problem-solving strategies tailored to the respective goals
and the needs of the participants. This involved supporting
coachees in the planning, monitoring, and evaluation of goal-
attainment strategies, which is associated with the development
of metacognitive skills (Veenman and Elshout, 1999). Therefore,
our findings point to different learning processes encouraged
by individual coaching and group training: As metacognitive
skills are procedural knowledge (Efklides, 2006), coaching
primarily fostered a more implicit, self-directed learning process
that may have enabled participants to successfully change
their procrastination behavior. However, by enhancing relevant
knowledge and skills (i.e., proper use of time-management
techniques), group training primarily fostered a more explicit
(declarative) learning process that may have enabled participants
to apply the demonstrated solution strategies to their posttraining
environment.
Another result was that participants in the self-coaching
condition did not significantly differ in reducing procrastination
from those in the individual coaching, group training, and
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control group conditions. Participants were able to improve
their procrastination and learning behavior to some degree
through self-coaching, though, they did not report less state
procrastination compared to participants in the control group.
Self-coaching is a self-directed learning and development process
that is not supported by a coach; it requires very high
self-regulation, self-motivation, and self-learning competencies
(Lieser, 2012). As it is known that procrastination involves
impaired self-regulation (Baumeister et al., 1994), this result is
not surprising.
Regarding the reaction criteria, results revealed higher levels
of satisfaction for participants in the individual coaching and
group training conditions compared with the control group.
However, satisfaction ratings among participants in the self-
coaching condition were nearly equal to satisfaction ratings
in the group training and control group conditions. Overall,
satisfaction was highest in individual coaching, which even
marginally differed from group training. In the current study,
satisfaction ratings included information on, for example, how
satisfied participants were with their goal-attainment progress
or their personal change through the intervention. Hence,
this difference (i.e., between individual coaching and group
training) may have occurred because coaching specifically aims
at systematically facilitating clients goal attainment process and
personal growth (Grant and Stober, 2006), which is in line with
our finding that coaching was most effective in supporting goal
attainment.
We argued that the influence of a coachs transactional and
transformational leadership behavior on coachees’ experiences
determines coaching success. The findings support Hypothesis
5: Coaches transactional and transformational leadership
behaviors contributed to coachees experience of autonomy
support and intrinsic motivation, resulting in higher goal
attainment and satisfaction. Our results are in line with previous
experimental research (Mühlberger and Traut-Mattausch, 2015)
findings that coaches show transactional and transformational
leadership behaviors when leading coachees through the
process. We provide further evidence that individual coaching
leads to more exposure of transactional and transformational
leadership behavior compared with self-coaching and group
training. Moreover, coaches transformational leadership
behaviors were related to coachees perceived autonomy
support. Thus it seems that coaching behaviors, for example,
acknowledging coachees perspective and needs and involving
coachees in the problem-solving process, are prerequisites to
creating an autonomy-supportive environment. Transactional
leadership behaviors (contingent reward), for instance,
clarifying mutual expectations and responsibilities in the
coaching agreement, were also positively related to coachees
perceptions of autonomy support. Finally, coachees experience
of autonomy gave rise to high levels of intrinsic motivation.
According to self-determination theory, autonomy and
intrinsic motivation are critical factors in behavior-change
settings, producing behavioral outcomes that are more likely
to succeed (Ryan and Deci, 2008; Ryan et al., 2011). In
sum, these findings lend support to the idea that coaches
transactional and transformational leadership behaviors are
critical antecedents of coaching success. Furthermore, the
results show that coaches leadership behaviors and coaching
effectiveness are closely linked to coachees perceptions and
motivation.
Practical Implications
In general, the current study further contributes to the systematic
evaluation of coaching effectiveness by drawing on the firm
theoretical framework of transactional and transformational
leadership research and using a randomized controlled design.
This will be of benefit for coaching professionals, as they can
refer to empirical, evidence-based results when offering coaching
services. In this regard, the findings on the satisfaction with
the interventions may be of particular relevance because clients
can be considered customers (Allinger et al., 1997). Thus,
when satisfaction with the provided services is high, there
is a good chance for positive word-of-mouth communication
(Allinger et al., 1997; Anderson, 1998). This may have an impact
on the attendance, implementation, and subsequent funding
of human resource development programs in organizations
(Allinger et al., 1997). Moreover, in the service literature,
word of mouth is regarded as a determinant of consumer
choice and resulting competitive advantages in the marketplace
(Chung and Darke, 2006) for professional coaches and
trainers.
Our results on the relative effects on procrastination and goal
attainment lend support to the view that individual coaching
and group training are effective interventions for developing
skills and changing behavior. This may help in the selection
of the appropriate human resource development method for a
given situation: To systematically prepare employees to perform
on specific tasks (e.g., communication or time management
skills), individual coaching and group training are similarly
effective. As costs for group settings are lower than for dyadic
settings (Mühlberger and Traut-Mattausch, 2015), group training
should be considered as an intervention. However, individual
coaching was superior in helping participants attain their goals.
Therefore, coaching may be indicated when certain aspects
of working conditions or individual development goals (e.g.,
intercultural communication skills or creating realistic timetables
for a project) are paramount. Furthermore, when leading clients
through the coaching process, coaches show transformational
leadership behavior (Mühlberger and Traut-Mattausch, 2015).
Transformational leadership is supposed to be effective under
conditions that require leadership beyond the conferring of
extrinsic reward and punishments—conditions that may involve
unstable and non-routine situations in organizational change
processes or resistance of followers (Shamir et al., 1993;
Tonhäuser, 2013). Indeed, research demonstrated that executive
coaching in times of organizational change was associated,
for example, with executives and managers increased work-
related goal attainment, enhanced solution-focused thinking,
and a greater readiness and ability to deal with change (Grant,
2013b).
As our results of self-coaching suggest, independently
performing exercises without being supported by a coach is not
sufficient to enhance performance and facilitate goal attainment.
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Losch et al. Relative Effectiveness of Coaching
Limitations and Future Research
One limitation of our study is that participants received a
treatment of 6 h over a period of 3 weeks, where effectiveness was
assessed immediately after the intervention. As procrastination is
associated with severe self-regulatory failure (Baumeister et al.,
1994), it would be useful to add further follow-up measurements
to examine if the interventions were able to create sustainable
change.
Second, it is to assume that our findings may be subject
to common method bias, as effectiveness measures were
limited to participants’ subjective self-assessments (Podsakoff
et al., 2003). The reliance on self-report data is an important
limitation in the current coaching evaluation literature (Ely
et al., 2010). In particular, people tend to overestimate
procrastination and performance when assessed using self-report
instruments compared to externally assessed procrastination
and performance (Rotenstein et al., 2009; Kim and Seo, 2015).
Furthermore, this study was conducted in only one university.
Therefore, findings from the present study might also be biased
by the organizational culture of the university which may
create an emotional climate both for employees and students
(Giorgi, 2012, 2013), leading participants feeling obliged to
give positive responses regarding expected study outcomes.
To ensure valid results, objective criteria or multi-source data
should be used to evaluate coaching outcomes (Ely et al., 2010).
For example, we suggest investigating the relationship between
procrastination and academic success by including external
indicators of performance, such as final exam or course grades
(Steel et al., 2001; Kennedy and Tuckman, 2013; Lowinger et al.,
2014) or the proportion of scheduled exams actually passed as an
effectiveness measure.
Third, we examined the effectiveness of interventions
designed to reduce procrastination in an academic setting.
Therefore, one might question if results can be extended to
procrastination and time management issues in the workplace,
and if the pattern of findings varies depending on the purpose
of the interventions. More research is needed to investigate
the relative effectiveness of coaching in, for example, managing
conflicts or developing social and intercultural skills in the
organizational context.
Fourth, the number of participants in each condition is
very small due to the high dropout rate or missing data.
In particular, there was a dropout of 20 (61%) cases in the
self-coaching condition, followed by 17 (39%) in the group
training, 9 (30%) in the control group, and 4 (15%) in
the individual coaching condition. Therefore, results have to
be considered with caution
9
and further studies based on
9
To test our results on the effectiveness of interventions for significance when
self-coaching condition was excluded from the analyses, we further performed
group comparisons only between the individual coaching, group training, and
control group condition. Results supported our findings for the evaluation
criteria and showed that participants’ satisfaction in the individual coaching
(p < 0.001) and group training condition (p = 0.010) was significantly higher
compared to control group, whereas individual coaching and group training
did marginally significantly differ (p = 0.066) in the level of satisfaction, F(2,
68) = 9.41, p < 0.001, η
2
= 0.22. For content-related knowledge, scores achieved
on the multiple-choice test were significantly higher for participants receiving
group training compared to individual coaching, F(1,45) = 9.75, p = 0.003,
a larger sample size are required to confirm our findings
and reach valid conclusions about the effects of self-coaching
interventions (Nezu and Nezu, 2008). However, the dropout
rates of the current research lead us to the assumption that
the lacking interaction with a coach who keeps participants
on track might be a problem inherent to self-coaching,
making it difficult to examine the effects of this type of
intervention.
Furthermore, the findings in the current research underline
the characteristic benefits of interventions: Training was more
effective in enhancing knowledge, whereas individual coaching
particularly facilitated attainment of personal goals. It would
be interesting to investigate the effectiveness of coaching when
combined with group training. In one study, training followed by
individual coaching sessions to work more on particular aspects
that were personally relevant enhanced productivity more than
training alone (Olivero et al., 1997). It remains to be examined
if the effectiveness of the interventions combined goes beyond
the effects of receiving only individual coaching. Moreover,
individual coaching followed by group training could also be
an effective strategy: through individual one-to-one coaching
sessions, coaches can gain valuable insight into the nature of a
given problem and related specific concerns of the clients. These
information could consequently help to design training that is
more accurately tailored to identified needs and the individual
characteristics a client brings to the training environment
both factors that have significant influence on training success
(Salas and Cannon-Bowers, 2001). Further research is needed to
see how combined interventions are best designed to ensure the
maximum effect of transfer.
In addition, like the majority of the outcome studies
included in meta-analyses (De Meuse et al., 2009; Theeboom
et al., 2014), we evaluated the effectiveness of coaching in
terms of an intervention designed to modify specific, goal-
relevant thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. Besides, coaching
aims at improving individuals functioning by enhancing their
interpersonal and intrapersonal resources (Grant, 2012) which
are known to serve preventive and protective functions (Di Fabio
and Kenny, 2011; Di Fabio, 2015). For example, addressing a
project manager’s abilities to cope with stressors at an early
stage could help organizations to save costs related to poor
time management, stress-related absenteeism, or burnout at
a later stage (Duijts et al., 2008). Consequently, in line with
findings on the preventive role of individual resources (Di Fabio
and Kenny, 2011, 2012a,b, 2015; Di Fabio, 2015) and looking
ahead to future coaching evaluation research, we emphasize to
focus increasingly on coaching interventions from a preventive
perspective.
η
2
= 0.18. Goal attainment was significantly higher for the individual coaching
condition compared to control group (p = 0.028), whereas group training did
not significantly differ from the individual coaching (p = 0.250) and control
group condition (p = 0.235), F(2,68) = 2.53, p = 0.087, η
2
= 0.07. Regarding
state procrastination, individual coaching (p = 0.004) reduced procrastination
significantly more than no intervention (control group) and group training
(p = 0.069) reduced procrastination marginally significantly more than no
intervention. The individual coaching did not significantly differ from the group
training condition in the reduction of procrastination (p = 0.207), F(2,68) = 4.48,
p = 0.015, η
2
= 0.12.
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Losch et al. Relative Effectiveness of Coaching
Finally, we demonstrated that coaches transactional and
transformational leadership behaviors increased perceived
autonomy support and intrinsic motivation of the coachees,
resulting in beneficial coaching outcomes. There is a need to
investigate further the effects of coaches leadership behaviors
on coachee perceptions. Leadership research has shown that
transformational leadership behaviors increase trust in the leader
(e.g., Podsakoff et al., 1990) and enhance perceived justice
(e.g., Pillai et al., 1999). As psychotherapy research has shown,
clients secure attachment to their therapist is important for
changing symptom distress (De Haan, 2012; Wiseman and
Tishby, 2014). Likewise, transformational leadership focuses on
the development of subordinates to become autonomous and
competent (Popper and Mayseless, 2003), emphasizing the role
of transformational leaders as attachment figures (Davidovitz
et al., 2007). It may be that transformational leadership behaviors
make coaches appear trustworthy, promote the experience of
justice, and give rise to coachees secure attachment to their
coach.
CONCLUSION
We examined the relative effectiveness of coaching in comparison
with other interventions and provided evidence for the different
impact they have on individual-level outcomes: our findings
not only show that coaching and training effectively enhance
performance, but also emphasize the beneficial effects of coaching
on clients’ goal attainment. In addition, to shed light on the
underlying mechanisms of coaching effectiveness, we extended
recent research on coaches transactional and transformational
leadership behavior. By adding cognitive and motivational factors
(perceived autonomy support and intrinsic motivation), we
get a better understanding of the interplay between coaches
leadership behaviors and coachees’ experiences and needs during
the coaching process. We demonstrated that transactional and
transformational leadership behaviors affect clients perceptions
and motivation and that these experiences predict coaching
success. These are important findings as they provide coaches
with the knowledge to create highly effective learning and
development environments. To get a profound understanding
of the specific features and limits of the different methods (i.e.,
coaching vs. training), more empirical research is needed that
investigates their relative effectiveness and underlying processes.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
Both authors (SL, ET-M, MM, and EJ) substantially contributed
to the conception and the design of the work as well as in the
analysis and interpretation of the data. As the first author (SL)
prepared the draft, the contributing authors (ET-M, MM, and EJ)
reviewed it critically and gave important intellectual input. Both
(SL, ET-M, MM, and EJ) worked for the final approval of the
version that should be published. Both authors (SL, ET-M, MM,
and EJ) are accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring
that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of
the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We thank Anne-Christine Fenske, Regina Feichtinger, Christine
Gruber, Julia Kerschbaumer, Siegfried Lindner, Elisabeth
Mairhofer, Patrick O’Mara, Sandra Pirchner, and Alexander
Seifert for conducting the individual coaching and group training
sessions. We acknowledge financial support by the Open Access
Publication Fund of the University of Salzburg.
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Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that the research was
conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could
be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
The reviewer LP and handling Editor declared their shared affiliation, and the
handling Editor states that the process nevertheless met the standards of a fair and
objective review.
Copyright © 2016 Losch, Traut-Mattausch, Mühlberger and Jonas. This is an open-
access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted,
provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original
publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.
No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these
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