Stop – before you start….

If you are thinking of embarking on any research programme, please learn from some of my experience – including my mistakes.

From my coaching supervision programme I had some burning questions. Coaching supervision models have been ‘borrowed’ from the helping professions and some have said that the coaching ‘profession’ needs to develop their own models. However, there is little evidence as to why they need to develop their own.

My experience of group coaching supervision in organisations caused me to question whether the process was ‘fit – for – purpose’. Internal coaches and their clients seem too busy to engage in the coaching process and as regards time for coaching supervision…. what a luxury that would be!

It was clear, in my little head, that this needed researching – and major research at that! I was also sure that everyone would agree with me.

Just as I was about to rush off and share my ideas, I was given some good counsel, from a friend who has recently completed his doctorate.

  • Reflect on your questions – what are you really asking?
  • Is this your perception, or are you basing this on evidence? – As an aside, this refreshed my thinking on evidence based coaching, evidence based decision making and evidence based leadership.
  • If you are going to pursue this, it would probably mean embarking on a PhD or a DBA. – I didn’t really understand the difference….
  • Think about how much time you can dedicate to this? A part-time PhD is six years of your life.
  • What University are you thinking of pitching this to? Research whether they have a faculty covering your area of interest – and staff that will find your subject sufficiently interesting that they will want to be your supervisor.

All of this was sound advice. I could have made myself look a right idiot before I’d even started.

This thought process and research took much longer than I anticipated. I found universities with specialist interest in coaching, but they were miles and miles away from where I live. I knew that I’d need to meet with my supervisor regularly and go on development workshops. It didn’t rule them out, but it was a consideration.

I found aPhD is more focused on contributing to the theory, whereas a DBA is a mixture of research and practical application. I also found that a DBA is far more expensive than a PhD, as a significant amount of it is taught. However, having a significant taught element means you are part of a cohort where you can share ideas and concerns, whereas a part-time PhD is described as being very solitary.

So, if like me, you’re not sure which route you’d prefer, think about your learning style. That helped me.

Now, you think you’re clear about what you want to research (you’re not, but we’ll come to that in a later blog….), don’t be afraid to start talking to people about it. Other specialists in your area, academics, LinkedIn forums etc. This will help you ‘drill’ your thinking.

I cannot tell you how many helpful people I encountered – and I haven’t started yet. I found researchers who had identified gaps, experts who shared their thoughts and academics who shared their experiences; including debates as to whether to go for a PhD or a DBA. Nearly all of them ended the conversation with, “keep in touch” or “let me know how your research goes”.

My solace? People agreed it was an area of research that was interesting to the coaching world and needed doing. Although I suffering a bit of ‘imposter syndrome’, no one said that I was a blithering idiot and should give up the idea.

In my next blog, I will explain how serendipity then happened for me, taking me to the next stage….


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