The influence of coaching on the work engagement and burnout indicators of a corporate leadership group

De Beer, Elise (2013-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.


The key objective of this mixed method research study was to establish the influence of coaching on the work engagement and burnout levels of a corporate leadership group. Previous literature reviews support the importance and impact of work engagement and burnout on business performance, leadership success and continuity. Leaders are under increased pressure to grow business and deal with the diverse business challenges. A highly-engaged leadership team with low levels of burnout thus becomes critical to sustained and successful business. Work engagement and burnout levels in leadership need to be proactively managed and supported in order to remain competitive in business. The literature review of this study furthermore positions coaching, whether group or individual, as impactful leadership and change interventions. To eliminate the possibility of bias and add to the credibility of the study, triangulation was included in the quasi-experimental study. The study included an analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data on the impact of coaching on work engagement and burnout levels. Quantitative data was collected at three intervals over the period of a year, using a work engagement and burnout measurement instrument in the form of a self-administered questionnaire. Qualitative data was collected through in-depth individual interviews with all participants and coaches, which occurred after all interventions and measurements were completed. This study provides quantitative and qualitative supported insights into the influence of coaching on the work engagement and burnout levels of an executive leadership team in a specific service area of a corporate organisation. Insights were obtained about the variance of work engagement and burnout levels at a group level, after voluntary group and individual coaching interventions. These variances were compared to those of the work engagement and burnout levels of the control group, who received no coaching interventions. The study established that coaching has a statistically significant positive impact on the burnout levels of both the experimental and control groups, due to the ‘carry-over’ effect of the measurement and communication process. This positive impact on burnout can therefore not be solely ascribed to the coaching intervention. The study also established that coaching has a positive impact on leadership work engagement, but which is not statistically significant. Improvements to the measurement and coaching processes are required in order for the coaching support programme to become a sustainable and even more effective part of leadership support in the organisation. The study confirmed previous research on the existence of burnout and engagement challenges in leaders. It also confirmed research that positions coaching as an effective leadership support mechanism. The recommendations are that work engagement and burnout be measured continuously in the organisation as part of its business management cycle to ensure awareness, proactive support and management of work engagement and burnout in leaders. Coaching is recommended as an effective mechanism to assist leaders with their engagement and burnout challenges. Due to the study’s limited scope, recommendations for future research, such as comparative studies, extension studies with larger sub-samples, longitudinal studies and on-going practice in the field have been made.

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