New findings on the effectiveness of the coaching relationship: time to think differently about active ingredients?

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De Haan, E., Molyn, J. & Nilsson, V.O.
Consulting Psychology Journal, 72.3, 155–167, 2020

This article critically reviews two recent, large-scale, randomized controlled trials in
executive coaching, to drive further exploration into the topic of the coaching
relationship as a predictor of coaching outcome. One of the trials was designed at
senior levels in an industrial setting and the other was an experiment with coaching
in a business-school context. Each trial demonstrated considerable
and significant coaching effectiveness with the coaching relationship (“working alliance”) as an important ingredient of effectiveness.
The more recent randomized-controlled-trial sample, which was longitudinal, seems to show that we may have to radically change our understanding of the impact of the coaching relationship on coaching effectiveness.
Contrary to previous consensus, it seems the working alliance between client
and coach is not strongly related to coaching effectiveness. The strength of the
working alliance only correlates with a higher effectiveness score from the beginning
of the coaching relationship, but it does not significantly correlate with
increasing outcomes through further coaching conversations.
Some possible explanations for this unexpected and seemingly contradictory finding in the area of “working alliance” are put forward and critically reviewed.