Exploration of an association between self-awareness and engagement in executive coaching in a South African public utility
Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study was inspired by the quest of a South African public utility confronted with complex challenges which necessitated requisite leadership behaviour change, to understand what differentiated executive-level leaders who chose to engage in executive coaching from those who did not. Executive coaching was offered as a support mechanism to accelerate the absorption and application of learning for behaviour change during an executive-level leadership development programme. For the duration of the programme though, requests for executive coaching remained relatively low for the total executive-level leadership population. The study’s research question was: Is level of self-awareness in executive-level leaders a differentiator for openness to engage in executive coaching? This was delineated from the broad definition of self-awareness as the extent to which individuals see themselves as others see them. To answer the research question, three hypotheses were tested based on the three secondary objectives of this study in order to determine: 1) Differences in self-awareness from an emotional perspective for leaders who engaged in executive coaching versus those who did not; 2) differences in self-awareness from a developmental perspective for leaders who engaged in executive coaching versus those who did not; and 3) differences between leader self-awareness from and emotional perspective versus a developmental perspective. An exploration of existing literature on the focal topics of this study suggested that openness to both learning and behaviour change is positively associated with leadership self-awareness. The researcher postulated that an informed interpretation of such association could present worthwhile information to be employed towards the optimisation of executive coaching as a support mechanism to leadership development programmes. This study was conducted from a post-positivist paradigm. This allowed for researching a complex aspect such as openness to deep personal change and growth, through a quantitative exploration of associations between variables as well as the offering of possible explanations for those. Secondary data was analysed through the application of descriptive and inferential statistics. The study did not find statistically significant evidence to support the three research hypotheses postulated regarding a possible association between leadership self-awareness and openness to engage in executive coaching. However, at a descriptive statistical level, the study did reveal a general trend of a positive association between well-developed emotional-capacity on constructs commonly related to pro-change behaviour (adaptability, flexibility, impulse control and stress management) and a high level of self-awareness from a developmental perspective. Due to the inability of this study to find statistically significant evidence in support of the hypotheses postulated, the researcher had to conduct a further exploration of findings and conclusions from studies related to the current study, in an effort to interpret the current study’s findings. A comparison of the current study’s findings at a descriptive statistical level with other related studies generated a number of additional questions and recommendations for further research. It also brought to light support for executive coaching as a primary mechanism available to organisations to cultivate leadership self-awareness and adaptability to change. This study indeed produced more questions than answers, and the researcher is of the opinion that the value of this research lies in the reflections, further questions and recommendations for further research produced during the struggle to overcome the limitations of the study.