Karine Mangion-Thornley

  • Karine Mangion-Thornley is originally from France. She joined Oxford Brookes in 2014 and her thesis title is ‘How is coaching perceived by leaders engaged in talent management and leadership development programmes?’.

    How did you hear about Oxford Brookes University?

    I attended an open day organised by the Oxford Brookes Business School, and I was impressed by the attention given to prospective research students and the communication established in those early stages. I received emails, had a meeting with the Programme Lead, and received feedback on my research proposal. It was very motivating!

    What attracted you to Oxford Brookes University to conduct your research?

    As a professional coach I wanted my research work to advance coaching as a research field and as a profession. As an academic, it was important for me to work with scholars who are research-active and publish regularly in academic journals. The International Centre for Coaching and Mentoring Studies offers multiple opportunities to share knowledge and ideas with a wide range of audiences, including a network of professionals (the Oxford Brookes Coaching and Mentoring Society). This, combined with the focus on research impact and strong relationships with academics and practitioners in the fields of HRM, and specifically coaching and mentoring, offered the ideal environment.

    What were you doing before?

    I was born and raised in the south of France. I have been living abroad for 20 years in Denmark, Bulgaria and the UK. I currently lecture in Human Resources Management and Leadership at Regent’s University London. My professional career started with an interest in languages and intercultural competence. Then, I worked as HR consultant in Paris and specialised in EU-funded programme management for the French Ministry of Education. A few years after moving to London, I set up a coaching and training practice focusing on leadership development and cross-cultural communication. I worked with leaders in various large organisations and I was intrigued that coaching provided by the organisation for talent and leadership development purposes was not always perceived as effective by its recipients. This was the starting point of my PhD inquiry.

    How easy did you find it to settle into the research environment?

    Oxford Brookes provides excellent support for both the individual and research community. The meetings with my supervisors are always thought-provoking, challenging and motivating. The research methods training was a real eye-opener, and technical support for research software has been great. Last, but not least, the online library is a real gem.

    Tell us about your research.

    My PhD study focuses on the role of coaching in talent and leadership development programs. Facing a shortage of talent at global level, CEOs consider the development of talented employees in the leadership pipeline as business critical. Coaching is often regarded as a core element of talent and leadership programs, yet there have been few attempts to explore its impact on the development of leaders within a global firm. To address this neglect, this study examines the perceived role of coaching in developing talented employees as part of a global talent management strategy.

    Research background and objectives: This study focuses on the role of coaching in talent and leadership development programs in a multinational financial services organisation. Global talent management and leadership development are the main priorities and amongst the most challenging issues on the agenda of CEOs (Tarique and Weisbord, 2018). Coaching is often regarded as a core element of these programs (CIPD, 2017) and yet there have been few attempts to explore its impact (Gallardo-Gallardo and Thunnissen, 2016; Blackman et al., 2016). To address this neglect, this study examines coaching in a global corporate environment, analysing perceptions of leaders who receive coaching as part of the organisation’s talent management strategy.

    Design and methods: The research aims to secure an in-depth understanding of the perception and meaning of coaching as subjective and socially constructed phenomenon, thus an interpretivist ontology and constructivist epistemology were adopted. The methodological design of the study is qualitative, idiographic and inductive. The single case study research design was selected to provide an in-depth and context-sensitive qualitative analysis of the role of coaching for leaders at various stages in their career development.

    The investigation focuses on coaching in four talent and leadership development programs delivered by the banking and financial multinational case company in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. The data collected is composed of 30 semi-structured interviews of talent-leaders, HR managers, internal and external coaches. The data is analysed using a thematic approach, suitable for qualitative inquiry.

    Key findings: The role of coaching in the context of talent management can be analysed at individual and organisational levels. Four overarching themes emerged from the data analysis: at individual level, (a) talent coaching for human and social capital development, (b) emergence of a rhetoric of talent coaching; at organisational level, (c) talent coaching to foster a coaching culture and leadership change; (d) instrumentalisation of talent coaching.

    The study findings provide specific insights on how coaching interventions can contribute to developing talented employees and support their career progression in the organisation. First, talent coaching may have different roles at different stages of leaders’ career. In their early career, junior leaders benefit more from networking, reputation building and sponsorship than from formal training interventions. In contrast, senior leaders value external and internal coaching as trustworthy and long-term relationships that support them to face challenges in their current position or in transition between two roles.

    Second, the study suggests that talent management in a large organisation may shift from an exclusive to inclusive approach by developing a coaching culture in order to enhance employee engagement and develop innovation. Finally, the findings suggest that coaching as part of a global talent management strategy may have a limited impact on the leaders’ leadership development and career progression, unless it continues informally after the end of the program in the form of a long-term mentoring relationship. Consequently, a definition of talent coaching is proposed, which encompasses various types of developmental interventions: instructional-feedback, mentoring, sponsoring, mediation and dialogic coaching.

    The study provides insights for HR managers who use coaching for talent development and leadership change. For example, further preparation and supervision seem necessary to support internal coaches taking part in talent management programmes. From a theoretical perspective, the study builds on the social exchange theory and psychological contract to examine coaching as a talent management practice. Specifically, it argues that talent coaching enacts the extension of psychological contract between talented employees and their organisation. This investigation was supported by a Harnisch grant from the Institute of Coaching, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School Affiliate.

    What do you enjoy about being a research student?

    I really enjoy the process of learning and becoming part of a research community. Also, I appreciate the rigour, attention to detail and the theoretical focus that I have developed over the years. My study has received a research grant from the Institute of Coaching, part of Harvard University which enabled me to be an ambassador for Oxford Brookes when presenting at the Institute of Coaching annual conference in Boston last October. However, the PhD journey is full of ups and downs. As a part-time student, I felt that the most challenging task was to set aside time and energy for research, which was constantly competing with my other teaching duties. So, planning ahead, communicating my goals with my employer and prioritising my research helped to keep the momentum and make progress. Developing trust and professional relationships with my supervisors was a key element in the construction of my new identity as researcher.

    What do you think about the research training offered at Oxford Brookes?

    I felt very well supported and I only wish I could attend more research training, not only on my speciality but to discover other approaches.

    What are your future plans?

    I am planning to continue researching and teaching in Higher Education, with a focus on research publications. I would like to disseminate the study findings with a wide audience to support individuals and organisations to leverage their coaching conversations.