Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Executive Coaching as a Transfer of Training Tool: Effects on Productivity in a Public Agency

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Executive Coaching as a Transfer of Training Tool: Effects on Productivity in a Public Agency

Article excerpt

Numerous factors have been identified that influence the extent to which knowledge acquired during classroom training transfers to the job (e.g., the work environment; the personality of the trainee).(1) There is considerable evidence that a critical factor influencing transfer of training is the extent to which the trainee receives the opportunity for practice and constructive feedback.(2) One-on-one executive coaching can provide this opportunity. Coaching trainees once they return to the job can facilitate the transfer of training, especially if the coaching fosters the development and use of knowledge imparted during training. Through coaching, trainees have a safe, personalized environment in which practice and feedback can take place.

In recent years, there has been particularly rapid growth in the use of one-on-one executive coaching.(3) Among the organizations adopting this practice are: American Express, the American Management Association, AT&T, Citibank, Colgate, Levi Strauss, Northern Telecom, NYNEX Corporation, and Procter & Gamble.(4) Yet, the use and efficacy of one-on-one executive coaching has not, to date, been reported in a public sector municipal agency. To our knowledge, the present action research is the first such intervention.

Various methods of executive coaching have been employed; some programs, grounded in a psychodynamic perspective, aim to ameliorate personal problems; others are more directive, using, for example, goal-setting, feedback, and collaborative problem-solving.(5) The present intervention entailed the latter approach, emphasizing: (1) goal-setting, (2) collaborative problem solving, (3) practice (4) feedback, (5) supervisory involvement, (6) evaluation of end-results, and (7) public presentation.

Through one-on-one executive coaching, managers were given the opportunity to practice and obtain constructive feedback regarding the subject matter they had "learned about" during training. Each coach met individually, on a weekly basis, with one or more managers. Managers received coaching on topics such as personal issues, project planning, implementation of changes, and the probable short- and long-term impacts of their actions on their personal performance and on the performance of their units. Naturally, all feedback was constructive in nature, and included suggested modifications in behavior where appropriate.

The seventh component of coaching, public presentation, was a central facet of the present intervention. The managers who were coached were notified at the outset that they would be required to make an oral presentation of their results, accompanied by a written report, to a group composed of their peers, supervisors, and (importantly) top-level executives - including the agency commissioner



Thirty-one participants (top-level managers, mid-level managers, and supervisors at a health agency in a major Northeastern city) participated in this action research. All participants volunteered to participate in both phases of this endeavor Phase One consisted of classroom training, Phase Two entailed one-on-one executive coaching.

During Phase One, the senior author served as the classroom instructor, and the 31 participants were called "trainees." During Phase Two, the senior author served as consultant to eight managers. The consultant taught these eight managers how to be one-on-one executive coaches. The project for these managers (coaches) was to coach the 23 remaining participants (coachees) during Phase Two.

Procedure: Phase One

The 31 trainees acquired knowledge of managerial competencies(6) during classroom-style, three-day, interactive, training workshops, conducted by the external consultant. The workshop content provided an overview of the most important roles managers and supervisors needed to enact to increase productivity, quality, and effectiveness within the agency. Trainees learned to identify the roles they had been enacting, new roles they should consider enacting, and when various roles were appropriate. …

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