A randomized controlled trial of leadership coaching training

Rae Rafferty, Southern Cross University

Document Type Thesis


Managing uncertainty, complexity and competing demands in the workplace has become a reality for nursing leaders across the globe. Many agree coaching skills are a core leadership competency that can assist leaders in managing this challenging organisational terrain. However, training in leadership coaching skills does not always translate to positive change in knowledge, skill or behaviour of leaders. Despite the considerable resources expended on teaching leaders’ better communication skills, there is a paucity of research that has demonstrated the outcomes of leadership coaching training or its sustainability.

This study aimed to test the outcomes resulting from leadership coaching training against controls, and to explore whether coaching support post-training makes a difference to any outcome-related gains made among leadership coaching training participants.

The trial took place over a six-month period from January 2014 to July 2014. Nursing leaders (n=86) were enrolled from 13 different hospitals and 21 different community health services, across one regional local health district in Northern New South Wales, Australia.

This study utilised a parallel group randomised controlled design. Participants were randomised to four training conditions: training-only; training plus individual coaching follow-up; training plus group coaching follow-up; and waitlist control. Psychometric and professional achievement measurements were assessed at baseline, two months and six months.

Results indicated that relative to control and training-only groups, the groups that received post-training coaching support demonstrated significant improvements in leadership coaching skills, emotional intelligence and goal attainment at six months post-training. No appreciable gains were found in the waitlist control and training-only groups at six months post-training. Whilst non-significant gains were located in the training-only group at the two-month point for some measures; these gains had reversed by six months without post-training coaching support, some to below baseline level.

Leadership coaching training (delivered as a combination of classroom instruction, experiential training, feedback, and post-training coaching) resulted in significant improvements in leadership coaching skills, emotional intelligence and goal attainment, with gains maintained for up to six months. Overall there was no significant difference between training-only and the control group outcomes at six months. These findings are of particular importance as they may indicate that providing leadership coaching training without follow-up could be a waste of limited and valuable resources. Implications for training and training-related investment are discussed along with ideas for future research in this area.