Brief report from the 4th European Coaching Congress in Edinburgh

There is no doubt that coaching is with us and here to stay, taking firm hold in organisations, education, health care and of course continuing to thrive in sports. But is coaching – broadly referring to solution focused one-to-one activities – actually good for people? Does it work?

These were the sorts of questions debated at the 4th European Coaching Congress on 12-13 December, hosted by the British Psychological Society‘s Special Interest Group in Coaching Psychology and featuring an international audience including delegates from Russia, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

Dr Almuth McDowall from the University of Surrey was honoured to be invited as the first keynote of the day; she has also co-chaired the scientific committee for the past couple of years. Almuth reflects:

“Coaching is one of my ‘sideline research interests’ as I intuitively use a coaching approach in my teaching, and also work with individuals one-on-one when the opportunity arises. I feel strongly however that psychological underpinnings are absolutely paramount for making one-on-one work effective. Many of the activities we continue to rely on have a contradictory evidence base. For instance, we rely on the fact that giving others feedback will have an impact on their behaviour. But does it?

I outlined the concept of the ‘Feedforward Interview’, based on Avi Kluger’s work, which works on the assumption that people respond best when they are in a positive mood, when they have a constructive future focused conversation and also can consider between ‘what works best for them’ and how to achieve such conditions in the future. Research from my own MSc Occupational Psychology students, currently under publication, featured highly in my talk, as we showed that following Feedforward people have greater belief in their capability and are more likely to achieve their goals, with somewhat opposite effects for feedback! I also participated in another academic contribution with my former PhD student Celine Rojon, looking at how strengths focused peer coaching could positively impact creativity and innovation. What a stimulating event – I came back full of new ideas for future research and full of reflection for practice.”