Snyder Fellows observed in research on coachability through the Staley School


Even in programs where leadership coaching is essential, there are still people who are not as receptive to being coached as others. Faculty at the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State are conducting research to find out what causes this variation in coachability, specifically in the Snyder Leadership Legacy Fellows program.

This program began in 2015 and is based off of Coach Snyder’s 16 Goals for Success—a system of goals consisting of leadership principles and practices. An essential part of this year-long program is the Snyder Fellows being paired with a faculty member or staff of the K-State community for leadership coaching. Some Snyder Fellows thrived in their coaching sessions and others did not.

“One thing that we noticed after our first year of pairing students with faculty and community coaches, is that some students reported that they gained a lot from their coaching experiences, while others didn’t seem to engage in the process very much,” said Marcia Hornung, program director of the Snyder Leadership Legacy Fellows program. “Typically, when an individual seeks professional coaching, they pay for the service and recognize the value that it might have for this individual. In a program such as the Snyder Fellows, or in other class experiences, where coaching is more prescribed, we, the faculty of the Staley School, began to discuss whether this might be related to a students’ readiness to engage in a coaching relationship.”

And so, the “Exploring Leadership Coaching Readiness” research project at the Staley School of Leadership Studies was born in 2016. So far, there have been two classes of Snyder Fellows who have been participated in this research project as a part of their experience in the program.

Currently, the research project is conducted by Brandon Kliewer, assistant professor of leadership studies; Andrew Wefald, assistant professor of leadership studies, and Hornung.

Kliewer helped design the ways that the leadership coaching for the Snyder Fellows is conducted, and he is also a leadership coach for the program. He said this gave him insight on how to best create research methods for the project so it naturally aligned with the program.

“I wanted to make sure that our leadership coaching was having a positive impact on the program. Our hope is and was that the research would inform our leadership coaching practice,” Kliewer said.

The project is on-going with the current class of fellows. The first part of the data collecting begins with a pre-program Qualtrics survey. Throughout the length of the program more data is collected via surveys given after each coaching session between a Snyder Fellow and their coach.

There have been challenges in receiving survey answers that can be turned into data to be analyzed.

“We came up with these surveys to administer to both coaches and the Fellows about how they felt about every coaching meeting that they had,” Wefald said. “We just still do not have a ton of data because the Fellows, nor the coaches, are not really filling the surveys out like they are supposed to.”

The coaches take these surveys after coaching sessions to record their thoughts on whether their mentee was receptive to coaching. Snyder Fellows do not get to see what the coaches write, but the coaches see the answers the Snyder Fellows give. This is to provide accountability and give more coaching support.

While at this time those they do not have definitive answers on what makes a person more coachable, Hornung said she looks forward to the outcome since she is not usually involved on the research side of programs.

“I am typically more involved with programs from a curriculum and fundraising perspective. It’s been very interesting to learn more about the impacts our program is having, based on research,” Hornung said. “I’m excited to use the information we gather to continue to improve our program.”