Research Paper: An Exploration Of Values: Application In Coaching

Research Paper By Asheena Budhai-Manuel
(Executive Coach, SOUTH AFRICA)


The coaching profession is currently seen as largely unregulated and a type of ”Wild West” due to the lack of scientific evaluation of coaching outcomes (Taylor, Passarelli, and van Oosten, 2019).  The desired outcome of a coaching relationship is sustainable change.  This paper explores Core Values in Coaching as the building block for sustainable change.  Research has shown that self-discovery leads to understanding Core Values which achieve clarity and direction, and when linked to goals, be it short-term or long-term life goals, the alignment that is created 1) lays a foundation of Life Balance and 2) catalyzes forward momentum.

It is proposed that this alignment can serve as a guiding compass to achieve unique, self-defined success from the individual to the organization and ultimately to society.  Facilitating self-discovery through the coaching process using many tools or frameworks, can begin with understanding core values.  It is postulated that when the inherent needs of the client are met by facilitating self-discovery, it creates motivation and leads to subsequent action by the client (Taylor et al., 2019).  This draws insights from the Self-determination Theory (SDT) and Intentional Change Theory (ICT). It also draws on organizational development and management consulting that true change begins with the personal values that are inculcated into the organizational culture and propel into society.

Literature Review

Human Need

The driver to change in human beings begin with a motive, i.e. a need, want, interest, or desire that propels a person in a certain direction (Weiten, 1998: 379), and the various theories give emphasis to either biological, social, or adaptative roots of motives.  Of interest is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Figure 1) that is based on the assumption that basic needs must be met or faced before higher needs can be activated, setting a type of evolution of needs. Sosteric (2020) clarified Maslow’s theory into a list of Seven Essential Needs: Physiological needs, Safety & Security Needs, Love & Attachment Needs, Truth Needs, Self-esteem/Power Needs, Alignment, and Connection.

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Figure 1:  Updated Theory on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Self-determination Theory&Intentional Change Theory

Self-determination theory indicates that 3 needs are “basic universal needs” (Taylor et al., 2019 cite Deci & Ryan, 2002a, p. 7) that are innate (i.e. not learned or socialized) and shared by all humans (Taylor et al., 2019 cite Grouze et, 2005):

  • Need for autonomy: to feel free to act with own volition and choice(Taylor et al., 2019 cites Deci &Flaste, 1995, p. 89).
  • Need for relatedness: to feel connected to others to the point of feeling cared for and having the opportunity to care for others.
  • Belonging is a key human desire (Taylor et al., 2019 cite Baumeister, 2005) and it is through relatedness that this desire is satisfied.
  • This resonates well with the need to be socially connected, physically or technologically, in many instances that we find ourselves in this modern era.
  • Need for competence: to feel effective and confident and to express that competence in actions, words, and other ways in one’s social interactions.

Intentional change theory (Taylor et al., 2019 cite Boyatzis, 2006, 2008) seeks to explain the process whereby adults change themselves in sustained ways.ICT maintains the change process is not linear or continuous and is experienced as a series of discoveries, five of which are as follows:

  1. Articulation of and commitment to an ideal self,
  2. Assessment of the real self in comparison to the ideal self,
  3. Development of a learning agenda to transform the real self toward the ideal self, and
  4. Practice and experimentation with elements in the learning agenda. These four discoveries are all reinforced by the
  5. Development of trusting, reassuring relationships that provide support and encouragement during the other four discoveries and throughout the change process.

The gap between the Ideal and the Real Self creates the motivation and desire to merge the real with the ideal.  When coaching to discover the ideal self and the real self, there is a need to understand core values and current values.  When current behavior, perceptions, feelings are in a type of conflict they are commonly in conflict with a core value.  Values thus play a foundational role in self-discovery that a coach can facilitate to inspire sustained change from individuals to organizations to society.

Personal Values to Organisation Results to Transformed Society

Organizations are often in conflict being plagued with poor and unaligned processes, strategies, culture, skills/competencies, structures, and technologies.  Organizational design, management consulting, and leadership experts all start tackling this organizational wasp nest by focusing on one element first.  Value.  Before the big picture of the organization can be brought in with fancy Vision and Mission statements, one has to construct such with each constituent of that organization i.e. the employees especially influential employees. g. the leaders.  In their book, Managing by Values (1997), Blanchard and O’Connor build their organizational game plan starting with a personal vision and mission statement.  They begin this by defining Acts of Life which are clarified as:

  1. Act 1: Achieve. Achieving is natural for humans and we may be the only species that set goals beyond the day to day survival.  We want to be something.  Act 1: Being-by-doing
  2. Act 2: Connect. Connecting is about relationships.  We experience life’s offerings, invest in our own and others’ lives, and share time and talents with others.  Act 2: Being-by-being-with
  3. Act 3: Integrate. Bring the two acts together by defining and redefining your own purpose and values and putting them into action in ways that are meaningful to you and the people, principles, and commitments you cherish most.

The fundamental building block seems to be Core Values, which is not just an intellectual process of getting to a logical conclusion but to dig deep to the level of inner values, for an individual and the organization.  These core values guide and shape the way purpose is fulfilled and the demonstration of which is exemplified in everyday business.  Blanchard and O’Connor (1997) advocate the Self First in the MBV® process, their framework for stability, continuity, and growth in the midst of a challenging and changing environment.  This requires:

  1. Willingness to believe in an agreed-upon set of values and
  2. Continuous diligence in putting those values into action.

More recently, the Center of Creative Leadership also created a leadership toolkit of books, “For the Practicing Manager” around the Finding Your Balance (Gurvis and Patterson, 2004) and Setting Priorities (Cartwright, 2007) which also start with personal values and knowledge-sharing on creating clarity, balance, success, organizational performance along with the basics of how values motivate action and how the alignment thereof leads to personal and organizational results.

Dr. Mandeep Rai (2020) in her book Values Compassillustrates how values can influence and create a shared culture typified in a country and form shared values.g.the pragmatism of China, South Africa’s ability to forgive, Cuba’s capacity to problem-solve, Danish equality, USA’s entrepreneurship, Rwanda’s cleanliness, North Korea’s loyalty, and Australia’s Mateship, etc.

George and Sims (2007) in their book, True North: Discover your Authentic Leadershipdepict that one of their five dimensions is to practice solid values or risk losing integrity and trust as a leader and of course, as a person.  It seems that values or core values are not just something that you have but importantly what you do.

Assessment of Values Survey

The Values Survey

This short survey was designed for those who have not had coaching experience before to initiate a process of self-discovery using values exploration (see Appendix A1).  This survey used some of the questions posed in Dr. Rai’s Value Compass(2020, 342:346).  The first step was to find core values, find the connection of values to life, and what was learned.  The final step was to invite the use of the knowledge going forward.

Evaluation of the Results

The key investigation was to decipher what was the perceived role of extracting core values.  Some of the statements were:

  1. I have a sense of achievement and fulfillment knowing that I will leave a legacy.
  2. Keeping me humble and driven at the same time.
  3. Live by example and be happy.
  4. Direct you to be the best version of yourself, not to compete with others, and to be positive.

When asked what resources or support mechanisms they would like to use to align their goals with their recently uncovered core values, 60 % wanted to research it more, while 40 % indicated that a coach may be required.  The former is indicative of the need for autonomy and how important it is for a coach wanting sustainable change for their clients to develop an “unconditional positive regard” and not advise or lead the client.

This is what Carl Rogers (1959) as cited by McLeod, S. A. (2014), developed in his person- or client-centered approach when he found that a helping relationship is created with:

  1. Genuineness(opennessandself-disclosure),
  2. Acceptance(being seen with unconditional positive regard), and
  3. Empathy (being listened to and understood).

The last question was to share any insight or learning about the values survey was as follows:

  1. Constructive in reflecting on our roots and heritage and the role they play in shaping our lives. Put your mind to it and you can achieve anything.
  2. Values are the cornerstone to ethical and inspirational leadership and create intrinsic strengths to allow the individual to remain focused on achieving their goals despite external challenges.
  3. Important to live by certain values and standards otherwise one is always trying to achieve someone else’s goals resulting in feelings of “un-accomplishment” and always unhappiness.
  4. Good to reflect on feeling, We must allow ourselves more time to just be.

The reflections on the learnings from the Values Survey indicate how a single values exercise evokes different responses and it arguably results in varying impact to the individual, some might research, explore further, look for a coach or simply do nothing.  It is thus key that as a coach, once there is awareness, insight, or learning, the application in the client’s life is facilitated by extracting the actions that are pertinent to the client’s forward movement.  This supports self-determination Theory and Intentional Change Theory.

Although the survey was anonymous, 80% of the respondents shared their excitement around the survey, that it was thought-provoking and it was for the first time to reflectin that manner.  This revealed a desire for action that could be facilitated into sustainable change by a coach.


Sustainable change is the holy grail in the coaching relationship, but it is also an allusive quantification to enable the scientific evaluation of the benefits of coaching.  We explored that to achieve sustainable change, needs have to be met as defined by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Specifically, the coaching relationship needs to begin with self-discovery and thereafter meet 3 fundamental innate needs of autonomy, relatedness, and competence (Taylor et al., 2019) for the client to initiate intentional change.  Theories from a coaching perspective i.e. Self-determination Theory and Intentional Change Theory advocate for the self-discovery of the ideal self and the real self.  According to the theories, motivation for change can be created when the real self aspires to the ideal self.  One of the fundamental aspects of self-discovery in both the realm of the ideal self and the real self is values or core values.  We looked at this building block of the coaching relationship as well as sustainable change, in the use of value exploration from the individual to organizations to society.  We did a short study on what the “uncoached” person could learn or be motivated into action by undergoing a simple core values exercise as developed by Dr. Rai (2020).  After uncovering their 5 core values, diverse learnings, and motivation were experienced.  Further exploration or research was supported by 60 % of respondents, while 40% wanted to use a coach.  I believe that the short study revealed in some way the fertile ground for change that lay in the self-discovery of their values.


It is recommended to continue the study of the coaching by using a sample such as the one provided here, allow them to evaluate their real self (using the building block of values, goals, strengths, weaknesses) before the start of the coaching contract.  The coaching sessions will introduce the ideal self and real self-evaluations, development of action plans, learnings, and forward movement.  When the required number of sessions are complete, the client evaluates themselves and the coaching experience.  The before and after coaching evaluations can serve as a measure of the outcomes of coaching.


Blanchard, K., and O’Connor, M. 1997. Managing By Values, Better-Koehler Publishers, USA.

Cartwright, T. 2007. Setting Priorities: Personal Values, Organizational Results, Centre for Creative Leadership, North Carolina, USA.

George, B., and Sims, P. 2007. True North: Discover your Authentic Leadership,  Jossey-Bass, USA.

Gurvis, J., and Patterson, G. 2004.An Ideas Into Action Guidebook: Finding Your Balance, Centre for Creative Leadership, North Carolina, USA.

McLeod, S. A. 2014. Carl Rogers. Simply [Electronic] Available: [ 2 October 2020]

Rai, M. 2020.The Values Compass, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, John Murray Press, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, Great Britain.

Sosteric, M. 2020. The Seven Essential Human Needs – Basic Statement, [Electronic] Available: [July 5, 2020].

Taylor, S.N., Passarelli, A.M. and van Oosten, E.B. 2019. Leadership coach effectiveness as determined fostering self-determined, sustain change, The Leadership Quarterly, 30. 101313.

Weiten, W. 1998. Psychology Themes & Variations, 4th edition, Brookes/Cole Publishing, 378 – 414.

Appendix A1

Actual Research Instrument: Values Survey

Greetings! This survey is part of my Research Project for my Professional Coaching Certificate at the International Coach Academy.  The survey is taken from The Values Compass by Dr. Mandeep Rai (2020).  This survey requires ample time for you to reflect on your life, so I suggest reading the questions, reflecting, and then completing the survey.

Values are unique and personal, some are:

Passion, Modesty, Health, Diversity, Craftmanship, Humor, Steadfastness, Authenticity, Goodness, Faith, Integrity, Commitment, Chutzpah, Work, Autonomy, Obedience, Positivity, Fortitude, Joy, Dignity, Humility, Happiness, Spiritual Wellbeing, Ethics, Fulfilment, Emotional Wellbeing, Balance, Love, Freedom, Honesty, Success, Intellectual Achievement, Individuality, Fearlessness, Fun, Logic, Truth.

  1. Think about a time in your life when you have been truly happy. Reflect on what were the circumstances, what needs were met, and how? What made you feel fulfilled?  What values come up for you? Add them in the comments, including others you may think of.

Type in the Values only.

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  1. Think of a time in your life that was particularly disappointing. What was missing?  What went wrong? Which needs were not met?  What values were not met? Add them in the comments, including others you may think of.

Type in the Values only.

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  1. Think of a time in your life when you have been most upset. Why was that?  What values had been violated or in conflict? Add them in the comments, including others you may think of.

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  1. Think about your 1) Ultimate Aim in Life, 2) Your biggest accomplishment, 3) Your greatest regret. What do you think connects them?

Type in your thoughts on the connection.

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  1. After completing the Values Exercise. What are the 5 values that are central to your Life i.e. Your Core Values?

Type in 5 Core values

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  1. How well do you currently live these values? Rate yourself from Not at all to Very Well.

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  1. What role can your knowledge of your Core Values play in your Life?

Type your thoughts here

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  1. Reflect on what (resources, support mechanisms) will serve you in aligning your Life Goals with your Core Values? Share them in the comment box.

Choose one or more:

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  1. Any additional comments, takeaways, insight, or learning? Share it in the comment box

Type your thoughts here

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