Carolyn Maue


Carolyn Maue with Colleen Bastian

What does leadership coaching do?  What makes coaching most effective? What qualities should you look for in a coach? In other words, what are the “ingredients” of successful coaching?

Earlier this year, I compiled data on my own coaching services by sending a survey to gather information and insights from leaders and key stakeholders who had participated in the coaching process with me. To build upon this subjective information, I turned to my friend and colleague, leadership coach Dr. Colleen Bastian, knowing that she was familiar with this topic through her research for her doctoral dissertation.

An interesting and thought-provoking article Colleen mentioned piqued my interest with the reference of “ingredients”, as my upcoming book is Gourmet Leadership: Turn Up the Heat on Your Secret Sauce!  McKenna and Davis made a bold claim that the active ingredients of clinical psychotherapy could be applied to coaching.   Based on empirical research, McKenna and Davis explained that the active ingredients of clinical psychotherapy included:

  • client extra-therapeutic factors (which explain 40% of the variance in client outcomes),
  • the therapeutic alliance (30%),
  • expectancy, hope, and placebo (15%) and,
  • theory and techniques (15%).

The first ingredient is the client’s ability and willingness to change, which according to the authors, determines 40% of the positive outcome. As Colleen described, “Even though the article was somewhat controversial, since many people see psychotherapy and coaching as very different disciplines, there are certain things that we know are similar.  For example, the success of the coaching engagement is directly impacted by the client’s desire to change.” Colleen went on to describe how she uses this technique in “chemistry” meetings with her prospective clients: “I look to see how open they are to the process of development and change and how suspicious they are.  For example, are they worried who’s going to know that they are being coached?   I listen to their voice, the way that they talk about it, and the way they express their curiosity vs. skepticism about coaching.  And if overall they seem to have a relatively high level of commitment, then I have a good sense that we should proceed.”

The second ingredient is the relationship between the client and the coach, which attributes to  30% of the success. Colleen says, “When I think about the coaching engagements that I’ve had, the ones that I find that are truly successful usually have a strong relationship component. There’s a lot of trust that we have in our working relationship. They’re hiring me because they want me to challenge them, in a respectful and empowering way that helps them grow. So that’s what they come to me for. And that’s why I’m able to help them be successful.”

I find this to be true my own coaching practice as well. This quote from the survey I conducted earlier this year illustrates this ingredient:

“I felt seen by Carolyn. In her own quiet way, she helped me identify strengths I was underutilizing and encouraged me to think bigger and aim higher in my goals for my team and the faculty. After working with her, I now feel excited about exercising my leadership in areas that are important to me like diversity, inclusion and equity.”

An interesting phenomenon that Colleen and I discussed regarding the relationship was the aspect of “fit” in coaching – the chemistry between the coach and the leader. We both have had the experience of meeting a client whom we initially  wondered about in terms of fit – stylistically, would we click and resonate? And yet, inevitably, once the choice was made and the coaching relationship ensued, those issues of fit abated as we delved into the issues and solutions generated from the coaching conversations. So both of us have learned that a strong coaching relationship can be built among many different types of leadership and style of coaches.

The third ingredient, the client’s expectations and hope, determines 15% of the coaching success. Colleen pointed to suggestions from the article on how the coach can activate hope within the clients, including sharing stories of success with other clients, connect clients with others who have faced and surmounted the same issues, and recognize that the coach is part of the successful equation. This quote from my survey exemplifies this ingredient: “As I was trying to find my footing in a new role with greater responsibility, she was both a sounding board and a support, validating my observations, encouraging my decision-making, and providing ideas and strategies for addressing certain problems.”

The fourth ingredient is the coach’s theory and techniques, which is 15% of the successful outcome. Colleen and I agreed that it is an essential aspect of coaching to assist the client in clarifying what they hope to achieve in the coaching process. To achieve that, the tools coaches use need to be customized to achieve the outcome of the coaching to the clients.    Colleen said, “ I might use a specific assessment tool, or use a visual technique like metaphor, or hold reflective space to encourage the client to think deeply in quiet for a few minutes.”  Helping the client focus on what they want to achieve, and finding the tools and path to achieve that, is an essential ingredient of the coaching process.

Colleen and I agree that the most important ingredients that make coaching successful are the client’s desire and willingness to grow and change, and the relationship between the coach and the leader. So, if you are considering engaging with a coach, consider the areas of your leadership and work that you’d like to change and improve, and then seek a coach in whom you have confidence and has the skills and experience to help you grow in those areas.


Bastian, C.C. (2015). Does Academic Training Influence Executive Coaches’ Stated Beliefs and

Practices? (Publication No. 3729358) (Doctoral dissertation, California School of Professional Psychology). ProQuest Dissertations.

Maue, Carolyn (2020). Coaching Evaluation by Coaching Clients and Coaching Evaluation by

            Key Stakeholders.

McKenna, D.D. & Davis, S.L. (2009). Hidden in plain sight: The active ingredients of executive

Coaching, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 2 (3), 244-260.



What Makes Leadership Coaching Successful?

What does leadership coaching do?  What makes coaching effective? What approaches are most effective in coaching, for yourself or someone whom you believe would benefit from it?

These are questions that I continue to explore in my evolution as a leadership coach.

One way to identify these variables is to gather data from coaching clients and their constituents. As part of this ongoing effort, I sent out a survey in 2020 to two groups who have experienced my coaching practice first-hand: 1) leaders who had work with me in leadership development coaching; and 2) key stakeholders in the coaching process, including those who referred or recommended coaching, or decision-makers, peers and staff who had participated in a 360° process to provide feedback regarding the leaders’ effectiveness.

The survey results provided rich insights into what the leaders and key stakeholders I have worked with found most useful in coaching. They also gave important recommendations as to how I could continue to improve my coaching services and delivery. Their input helped inform my objective – to continue to identify what makes coaching most effective, and to clarify what coaching approaches are most useful.

The focus of coaching is often to assist the leader to build skill and competency in specific areas. Here are areas of improvement as seen by leaders and stakeholders in key leadership competencies, accompanied by specific comments when applicable:

  • Increased strategic thinking – 80% of the coaching clients and key stakeholders reported significant improvement in the leader’s application of strategic thinking to opportunities and challenges.
  • Increased confidence – A high percentage of the respondents noticed increased confidence, executive presence, and composure.“Thanks to coaching, the self-confidence of each of the emerging leaders soared. Each one became more decisive and sensitive to how they impacted the people around them. Critically, these leaders also became more willing to address poor leadership or behavior in others; their coaching showed them the ‘right path’ and they weren’t willing to accept anything less in the workplace.”
  • Leading Others – Over 90% of the clients reported improvement in leading and mentoring direct reports. “The coaching has made me think about my leadership role more intentionally and this has helped our faculty get through a very challenging time with the Covid19 epidemic. Carolyn helped me to see their trust in me as an asset that I can utilize to help when we are asking faculty to do difficult work for the good of the institution.”
  • Career Advancement – “Following the completion of coaching, the leader I referred to you was promoted to a newly-created position in a higher-ranking office, built her own team, took on a much larger portfolio of responsibilities, and was recognized by leadership for her accountability and innovativeness.”
  • Positive reputation – Key stakeholders noted a strong return-on-investment due to the positive impact on the leader’s reputation with customers, within the department and throughout the organization.

The results also identified the specific approaches used by the coach that they found effective:

  • Focus on strengths: “I felt seen by Carolyn. In her own quiet way, she helped me identify strengths I was underutilizing and encouraged me to think bigger and aim higher in my goals for my team and the faculty. After working with her, I now feel excited about exercising my leadership in areas that are important to me like diversity, inclusion, and equity.”
  • Provide support and suggestions: “As I was trying to find my footing in a new role with greater responsibility, she was both a sounding board and a support, validating my observations, encouraging my decision-making, and providing ideas and strategies for addressing certain problems.

The surveys were invaluable in identifying ways in which my coaching services could be improved, including:

  • Helping clients build their capacity to assume more responsibilities
  • Increasing their collaboration skills with peers and stakeholders
  • Helping leaders develop their mentorship abilities more fully
  • Requesting (Key stakeholders) to be kept in the loop as to how the leader was doing in their development process

I have integrated these into my coaching practice, in the effort to continually improve my coaching effectiveness.

What should you expect from coaching, and what should you look for in a coach? Use this data to help you consider areas of leadership in which you’d like to improve and consider the approaches and qualities in a coach that will be most useful to you!

The Three Big Things Your Team Needs From You This Year

A theme I am hearing now in my work with leaders is the challenge of leading as we enter the second year of the pandemic – how to keep teams motivated, how to plan for the future, and how to keep people engaged. My colleague Scott Eblin has generously gathered some great wisdom from experts on what your team needs from you right now. I hope you find this helpful!

Read more here

The Importance of Strengths

In this week’s episode of the Graceful Confidence podcast, my colleague Lauren Debick, and I discussed how uncovering and using our strengths can help us become more confident, more efficient, and more effective in both the workplace and in our personal lives.  We had a wonderful, lively discussion, and Lauren’s insightful questions kept the conversation moving as we covered the importance of strengths, tools to assess them, the relationship of strengths to confidence, and the impact and opportunities for change as a result of the pandemic. Enjoy!

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Maxed Out on Pivoting

I hear this from clients a lot these days. Spending 9 – 10 hours a  day in online meetings. Making decisions, developing multiple budget drafts, submitting project plans – all, knowing full well, that it could change in a day, a week, a month – depending upon the  virus, the  economy, the whims, even the misguided good intentions. And then the day starts all over again. New meetings, new plans, new direction. All of which can change on a dime. Exhausting.

My son Rob, athlete, coach and a direct care supervisor, agreed to help me with the analogy of pivoting in sports to what is happening in our workplaces.

How does the word “pivot” apply right now to what you are experiencing at work?

It’s important to remember how emotional all of this is. When I played high school football, there was this build up throughout the week and we worked on a specific game plan tailored to the team we were playing. We put everything into it, emotionally and physically. And  then the game would be over. There was a brief grieving period of  letting go, but then right away we’d have to move onto the new game plan. That’s what it is like at work right now. It’s very emotional and we need to increase our empathy for others as we all go through this.

What’s the most efficient way to pivot?

Pivoting in an athletic sense literally means to  turn and change direction. You have to start with one foot firmly rooted to the ground. At work, that planted “foot” is the clear objective to what you are doing. Details and process may change; the goal does not. This allows us to stay rooted with the planted leg, but handle the change of details with the pivot.  Soccer is all about opening up space. When the play gets jumbled up, thee best way to break up is to kick a long ball across the width of the field that opens up the space of the field. Often at work we get cluttered and scattered and focused on one detail. When we expand our minds to the bigger vision, we can find space to do it differently and more easily.

We are living in constant change. The HBR article the summer 2020 issue, “Leading in a Permanent Crisis” talks about  the need to “embrace equilibrium.” How do you get ready for multiple pivots?

Stay flexible – In sports, flexibility is the main factor. And at work,  keeping an open mind and being able to put yourself in unfamiliar or even uncomfortable situations allows us to be able to do things we have always done one way, in another way. As a pitcher in baseball, I didn’t have a really strong arm. I learned that changing up speeds can be as effective as throwing hard. Some of the most successful pitchers are crafty and figure out the nuances, like changing up your speed, being good at “ locating” (getting the ball where you want it). It’s not necessarily meeting others’ expectations for how it should be done. It  is playing to your strengths and finding the best way for you to do it. The time now is perfect  for it. We don’t need to go into an office 8 hours a day, and many of us are much more productive. AND . . .

Anticipate –  Agility is aided when one has the ability to see and anticipate things before they happen. If you develop a way to make decisions based on external factors possibly changing, it becomes much more comfortable to accept changing results.  It’s anticipating something is going to happen. Michael Jordan’s brilliance was that he  was a step ahead of anyone on the floor – he could see it happen before it happened. So he knew exactly where to put the ball.

Thanks to Rob! Here he is working out with his new “weights” – how’s that for doing things in a different way!

The Adaptability Quotient

We all know that to be a successful leader one needs to have intelligence – IQ. And we also know that “EQ” – Emotional Intelligence Quotient – is essential for effective leaders to communicate, have empathy with their team members and colleagues and know how to motivate and self-regulate. And now there is AQ- the Adaptability Quotient – the skills needed to pivot and change course in the rapidly changing work place. Here is a great article with tips on how to develop your AQ!  Enjoy!

Click to Read the Article.

#alexcelgroup #leadership #coaching



Accentuate the Positive

As a leadership coach, I like to concentrate on the positive – focusing on strengths and things that work well and figuring out how to do them more often or even better. It’s also important to look at the common mistakes that leaders make, and how to remediate them. Here’s a great summary – it can help you be even more effective leader, as well as prevent turnover of your valued employees.  Enjoy!

Click here for the full article.

#alexcelgroup #leadership #coaching

Benefit of a Strengths-based Leadership Approach

My mother always said “You attract more flies with honey.” Using a strengths-based leadership approach with our own leadership style as well as the people we lead has proven to be the most effective, and encouragement and connection is key to getting that philosophy across. Here are some great tips on how to encourage and engage. Enjoy!

Read more here

#alexcelgroup #leadership #coaching