“Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.”

Marcus Aurelius


Since nothing quite like UP exists, the research literature on relevant interventions is practically non-existent. And we haven’t been around long enough to produce much for you to digest. 

That said, we’ve taken cues from Head Start, the Abecedarian Project, the Perry Preschool Project, and László Polgár, among others.

UP is not executive coaching, but since it may be the most analogous well-defined field we’ve included a few selected coaching papers and reports below. Hundreds more from other fields are available upon request.


Anna Blackman, Gianna Moscardo, & David E. Gray (2016). Challenges for the Theory and Practice of Business Coaching: A Systematic Review of Empirical Evidence. (Link)

Until recently, there has been little published systematic empirical research into business coaching. This article reports on a systematic, critical review of 111 published empirical papers investigating business coaching theory, processes, and outcomes. The present article identifies a significantly larger body of empirical research than covered in previous reviews and uses a Systematic Review methodology (SRm) to conduct a comprehensive review of the available empirical evidence into business coaching effectiveness focusing on implications for theoretical development, practice (within human resource development) and further research in this area. This review identifies convergence around factors that contribute to perceived effective coaching practice but nevertheless highlights a number of issues to be resolved in further research. These include determining the primary beneficiaries of coaching, the factors that contribute to coach credibility, and how the organizational and social context impacts on coaching. Weaknesses in coaching research methodology and research gaps are also noted.

Tim Theeboom, Bianca Beersma & Annelies E.M. van Vianen, The Journal of Positive Psychology (2013): Does coaching work? A meta-analysis on the effects of coaching on individual level outcomes in an organizational context, The Journal of Positive Psychology: Dedicated to furthering research and promoting good practice, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2013.83749. (PDF)

Whereas coaching is very popular as a management tool, research on coaching effectiveness is lagging behind. Moreover, the studies on coaching that are currently available have focused on a large variety of processes and outcome measures and generally lack a firm theoretical foundation. With the meta-analysis presented in this article, we aim to shed light on the effectiveness of coaching within an organizational context. We address the question whether coaching has an effect on five both theoretically and practically relevant individual-level outcome categories: performance/skills, well-being, coping, work attitudes, and goal-directed self-regulation. The results show that coaching has significant positive effects on all outcomes with effect sizes ranging from g = 0.43 (coping) to g = 0.74 (goal-directed self-regulation). These findings indicate that coaching is, overall, an effective intervention in organizations.

Rebecca J. Jones, Stephen A. Woods, & Yves R. F. Guillaume (2015). The effectiveness of workplace coaching: A meta‐analysis of learning and performance outcomes from coaching. (Link)

This study presents a meta‐analysis synthesizing the existing research on the effectiveness of workplace coaching. We exclusively explore workplace coaching provided by internal or external coaches and therefore exclude cases of manager–subordinate and peer coaching. We propose a framework of potential outcomes from coaching in organizations, which we examine meta‐analytically (k  =  17). Our analyses indicated that coaching had positive effects on organizational outcomes overall (δ = 0.36), and on specific forms of outcome criteria (skill‐based δ = 0.28; affective δ = 0.51; individual‐level results δ = 1.24). We also examined moderation by a number of coaching practice factors (use of multisource feedback; type of coach; coaching format; longevity of coaching). Our analyses of practice moderators indicated a significant moderation of effect size for type of coach (with effects being stronger for internal coaches compared to external coaches) and use of multisource feedback (with the use of multisource feedback resulting in smaller positive effects). We found no moderation of effect size by coaching format (comparing face‐to‐face, with blended face‐to‐face and e‐coaching) or duration of coaching (number of sessions or longevity of intervention). The effect sizes give support to the potential utility of coaching in organizations. Implications for coaching research and practice are discussed.

Grant, Anthony & Cavanagh, Michael. (2007). Evidence-based coaching: Flourishing or languishing?. Australian Psychologist – AUST PSYCHOL. 42. 10.1080/00050060701648175. (PDF)

Coaching and coaching psychology offer a potential platform for an applied positive psychology and for facilitating individual, organisational and social change. Experts from around the world were invited to comment on the emerging discipline of coaching psychology and the commercial coaching industry. Several key themes emerged including the potential of coaching to contribute to health promotion, social change and organisational development. There was unequivocal consensus for the need for an evidence-based approach to coaching. A review of the psychological coaching outcome literature found there have been a total of 69 outcome studies between 1980 and July 2007: 23 case studies, 34 within-subject studies and 12 between-subject studies. Only eight randomised controlled studies have been conducted. This indicates that coaching psychology is still in the early stages of development, and can be understood as an emerging or protoscientific psychological discipline. A languishing-flourishing model of coaching is described. To flourish, coaching psychology needs to remain clearly differentiated from the frequently sensationalistic and pseudoscientific facets of the personal development industry while at the same time engaging in the development of the wider coaching industry.

Joy McGovern, Ph.D., Michael Lindemann, Ph.D., Monica Vergara, M.A., Stacey Murphy, Linda Barker, M.A., & Rodney Warrenfeltz, Ph.D. “Maximizing the Impact of Executive Coaching: Behavioral Change, Organizational Outcomes, and Return on Investment” The Manchester Review, Volume 6 • Number 1, 2001 (PDF)

Executive coaching, which surfaced as a leadership development practice over a decade ago, is now among the most widely used executive development techniques. Yet, despite its growing tenure as a leadership development practice, executive coaching is still used sparingly in many organizations, and has remained underutilized. The authors believe this is because the paucity of empirical research into its effectiveness leaves the field open to speculation and subjective opinion.

De Meuse, Kenneth P., Dai, Guangrong and Lee, Robert J. (2009) ‘Evaluating the effectiveness of executive coaching: beyond ROI?’, Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 2:2, 117 — 134 (PDF)

The popularity of executive coaching has increased dramatically in both the practitioner world and academia during the past decade. However, evaluating the effectiveness of coaching has lagged behind. Executive coaching is a multi-disciplinary practice, and professionals from many different scholarly back-grounds provide coaching services. The paucity of empirical research may be attributed to the lack of a consensus among these divergent professionals regarding whether and how to evaluate the effectiveness of coaching. In this article, we conducted a meta-analysis of the empirical research as well as reviewed the retrospective studies evaluating coaching effectiveness. Subsequently, we discussed six areas that impact the way researchers evaluate coaching effectiveness and the conclusions they may draw from their studies. Although the Return On Investment (ROI) index provides a straightforward, overall measure of effectiveness, its veracity and usefulness is questioned. It is hoped that the clarification of these areas will help guide the future of coaching evaluation research and practice.

Lawrence, Paul & Whyte, Ann. (2013). Return on investment in executive coaching: A practical model for measuring ROI in organisations. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice. 7. 4-17. 10.1080/17521882.2013.811694. (PDF)

Research and anecdotal evidence suggest that the majority of organisations make no attempt to evaluate their investment in executive coaching services. Although a body of work espousing the value of financial return on investment (ROI) methodologies exists, few organisations appear to have faith in the value of these frameworks in persuading senior management as to the efficacy of coaching. This paper reports the findings of a survey conducted with purchasers of executive coaching services (purchasing clients) using a semi-structured interview. The survey was designed to explore how purchasing clients currently evaluate their investment in coaching. Using a grounded theory approach, a new model for evaluating investment in coaching services is presented. The new model places a primary emphasis on establishing the purpose of coaching, and on establishing an ongoing, formative approach to evaluation. The potential value of the new model to both organisations and executive coaches is discussed.

Anderson, Merrill C. (2001). Executive Briefing: Case Study on the Return on Investment of Executive Coaching. (Link)

The Bottom Line: Coaching produced a 529% return on investment and significant intangible benefits to the business. The study provided powerful new insights into how to maximize the business impact from executive coaching.