Setting new standards of professional management coaching

Submitting Institution

University of Surrey

Unit of Assessment

Business and Management Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Specialist Studies In Education
Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services: Business and Management

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Summary of the impact

Impact stems from Surrey's research in the field of coaching which has shaped a professional code of conduct, increased the professionalization of coaching and, through an application of this, enabled redundant managers to create new businesses and improve skills.

Outcomes are reflected in the international new Code of Conduct, having an indirect impact on a sector with 25,000 members in 100 countries worth over US $25bn, by professionalizing standards. The Silver Academy, an EU-funded People Project, delivered direct impact by applying action-research to coaching techniques and creating new opportunities for redundant managers, creating 20 new businesses and improving re-employment.

Underpinning research

The problem

Coaching and mentoring is growing exponentially as an area of activity for management practitioners internationally (representing a US $2.5bn industry in the US alone). However, this expansion has also brought the risk of poor or unethical practice, alongside scepticism over its effectiveness as an activity that adds value beyond a small category of senior executive positions. The underpinning research, conducted over a number of years at Surrey Business School, addresses both of the following issues:

  • Producing the evidence necessary to inform professional decisions on the development of a code of conduct ( ref. 3.1);
  • Direct empirical evidence of how coaching and mentoring can improve the employment/business prospects of redundant middle managers ( ref. 3.6).

The research

This involved the collection and synthesis of theory and data relating to the process of professionalization in general, comparisons with other professional bodies, and evidence of risks and opportunities associated with this process. The credibility of this comparative evidence was enhanced by the Surrey team's track record of theoretically-informed empirical investigations of coaching styles and the supervisory needs of coaches and mentors. The latter work on coaching supervision and wider studies of experiential learning, informed the action-research underpinning the Silver Academy Project. This involved initiating, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of coaching techniques with a group of newly redundant managers aspiring to start their own businesses (results are reported in references 3.5-6 below).

The results

The research into the professionalization of coaching demonstrated the relevance of the following professional success factors for coaching:

  • The need for coaches/mentors to undergo specific training linked to a measurable competency framework;
  • The requirement for practitioners to engage in recorded continuous professional development;
  • The need for on-going mentoring and supervision of coaching practitioners;
  • The requirement to develop a formal Code of Ethics.

The Silver Academy action research produced the following outcomes:

  • Supporting 20 wholly new business start-ups;
  • The development and validation of a Coaching Toolkit for entrepreneurs;
  • The (then) innovative development of an online Linked-in community through which members share resources, debate business issues and arrange face-to-face meetings, self-management programs, virtual boardrooms and peer mentoring for emotional support;
  • The identification of factors that contributed to success in mentoring start-up relationships.

References to the research

1. D.E. Gray (2011) `Journeys towards the professionalisation of coaching: Dilemmas, dialogues and decisions along the global pathway'. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice. 4(1) 4-19.


2. D.E. Gray (2010) `Towards the lifelong skills and business development of coaches: An integrated model of supervision and mentoring ' Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice. 3(1) 60-72.


3. D.E. Gray (2007) `Towards a systemic model of coaching supervision — some lessons from psychotherapeutic and counselling models'. Australian Psychologist. 42(4) 300-309.


4. D.E. Gray and P. Jackson (2012) `Coaching supervision in the historical context of psychotherapeutic and counselling models: a meta-model' in T. Bachkirova, P. Jackson, and D Clutterbuck, Coaching and Mentoring Supervision, Maidenhead: OUP McGraw-Hill Education.

5. D.E.Gray (2007) `Facilitating management learning — developing critical reflection through reflective tools'. Management Learning. 38(5) 495-513.


6. D.E.Gray, Y. Ekinci, and H. Goregaokar (2011) `Coaching SMEs managers: business development or personal therapy? A mixed methods approach. International Journal of Human Resource Management. 22(4) 862-881.


Details of the impact

The research underpinning the professionalization of coaching informed the policy development of the world's two major coaching professional bodies, the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). The Code of Conduct (available at ( has had impact on Practitioners and Professional Services by establishing the basis for both these professional bodies to adopt formal systems of self-regulation — recognised by the EU. In this regard, Surrey's research into the professionalization of coaching can be seen to have: `changed practice' for this group of professionals, initiating practices shown to be effective by research; `influenced professional standards, guidelines and training'; enabled the use of `research findings by professional bodies to define best practice'. Also the adopted recommendations on training and supervision suggested by the Surrey professionalization studies contributed to an `influence on CPD' and `improved standards in training' within the coaching profession. It has also had Economic, Commercial, and Organizational Impact by helping to make this growing occupational activity more sustainable by ensuring standards of accountability and service quality (there are over 25,000 coaches belonging to the two major professional associations covering over 100 countries;; ) and thereby reducing the risk of harm and economic loss.

As a demonstration of the application of professional coaching standards, the Silver Academy project in SE England had the following Economic, Commercial, Organizational Impacts: "at least 20 new businesses; at least 13 existing businesses have become more successful; at least 19 delegates achieved other successful outcomes from the programme" (Reference 5.5 below, p.9). It has provided an on-going system of mutual support for participants via a Silver Academy Alumni Network, run by the participants themselves, that aims to "Organize and conduct high quality business events; Progressively develop the Silver Academy Alumni network; Liaise with local businesses and chambers of commerce; Generate sufficient funds to finance events; Market the Alumni group" ( The group has been posting information and events through this forum continuously from its 2011 initiation until the present, well beyond the formal period of action research which terminated in September 2011, providing evidence of sustained economic and commercial vitality for the local economy.

Reach and Significance

Significance. The Surrey research on the professionalization of coaching was promoted by 2010-11 President of the ICF and circulated to the executive boards of both the ICF and the EMCC prior to their joint strategy meeting in Madrid in 2011 (reference 5.6 below). By providing rigorous evidence of the state of coaching relative to other professions, it offered a robust evidence-base for policy formation that has now shaped the professional standards of the world's two most important coaching bodies — and their collective membership. The significance arises from the centrality that codes of conduct play in any credible professional body, especially one with a global membership of over 25,000.

The Silver Academy project's direct significance can be evidenced by its success in fostering 20 start-up businesses in the UK and improving business performance for existing businesses. This process of formation was directly associated with the application of action-research techniques to the process of coaching within the study group (individual case studies from participants can be found in reference 5.5 below; also reference 3.6 above). However, it also has indirect significance in providing a case-study for the benefits of professionalised coaching applications. This holds significance for the profession itself (consolidating its evidence base) and for universities who provide considerable volumes of training and CPD for coaches. The Silver Academy's Reach is directly linked to the SE regional economy and to its EU partner in Poland where 8 businesses were created. Indirectly, it has the potential for wider reach through the dissemination of its Coaching Toolkit through universities and the professional coaching associations.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Former President, International Coach Federation (Contact details provided)
  2. Former President, European Mentoring and Coaching Council (Contact details provided)
  3. ICF/EMCC Code of Conduct at:
  4. Silver Academy Alumni web pages:
  5. EU People Project (Silver Academy Final Report)
  6. ICF/EMCC Press release