Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

The Scientific Building Blocks for Business Coaching: A Literature Review

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

The Scientific Building Blocks for Business Coaching: A Literature Review

Article excerpt


Key focus of the study

For many years almost every article published on business coaching started with the same sentence, namely that business coaching is a newcomer to the world of business and an emerging industry that still needs some time to develop (Clegg Rhodes, Kornberger & Stilin, 2005; King & Eaton, 1999). Although it is a growing industry (Shelley, 2008), the academic research on the topic is still in its infancy and there is a need for empirical work in this field (Beets & Goodman, 2012). Coaching appears not yet to be an academic discipline standing on its own (April & April, 2007). Evidence of this is the fact that the conceptual and operational identity of coaching is also still unclear (Cilliers, 2005).

It is important to note that there is not an absence of knowledge on coaching, only that this knowledge is in its nature more practical because it describes the way in which coaching practitioners operate in their specific industries. This makes the knowledge more context specific. Therefore literature on coaching is mainly found in popular journals and magazines (Cilliers, 2005), including popular books on this matter (see Upton, 2006 and B. Anderson, 2007, as examples).

Coaching is also addressed as part of management and leadership training together with themes such as mentoring in some Master of Business Administration courses (April & April, 2007). Empirical research on coaching, however, is according to Passmore and Gibbes (2007) mostly done by students and researchers at postgraduate level. The results of this research have remained largely unpublished (Passmore & Gibbes, 2007). There has more recently been a shift in the themes of articles, away from describing practices, to asking questions about the effectiveness of coaching (Bowles, Cunningham, De La Rosa & Picano, 2007).

The present study aims, firstly, to explore the literature regarding the way in which literature reviews have to be done. The results of this investigation will then, in the second instance, be used as a lens to investigate the published articles in the field of business coaching. This will result in the compilation of a comprehensive updated literature review that can form a basis for future academic research on the subject of business coaching.

Background to the study

In order to assess the level of knowledge on coaching, it is important to stipulate to what extent it contains the elements included in a comprehensive body of scientific knowledge. Mouton (1996) provides a simple scheme of elements of a scientific body of knowledge. At the most basic level scientific knowledge is made up of concepts. Concepts act as the carriers of meaning. When associated concepts are combined and sentences formed, one arrives at statements or propositions. When related statements are combined, more complex conceptual frameworks such as typologies, models, theories and eventually broad theoretical paradigms and research traditions are created (Mouton, 1996).

Information should only be added to the body of knowledge once it is accepted by the scientific community (Mouton, 1996). The community will only do so once the information (theory or hypothesis) has been submitted for evaluation by relevant experts. Only when they have scrutinised and accepted the information as a plausible claim will they endorse and disseminate it, namely publish it (Babbie & Mouton, 2012). Academic knowledge is thus mostly disseminated through peer-reviewed academic journals.

Research purpose

Some efforts have been made to explore the body of knowledge captured in the literature and several literature reviews in the domain of coaching have already been published. One of the earliest literature reviews on business coaching was done by Kilburg (1996). He concludes that there is a dearth of empirical research on the actual work of practitioners in the field and that most of the available literature is devoted to managers exerting themselves to add coaching to their roles to empower subordinates. …

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