Axel Meierhoefer, Ph.D. is a 2011 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Mitch Kusy, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Carolyn Kenny, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Louellen Essex, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Cynthia Roman, Ph.D., External Reader


phenomenology, manager, leader, executives, coach, coaching, long-term, business, diversity, employee development, leadership, corporate, dynamics, shift, relationships, qualitative, improvement, change, goals, transition, success, achievement

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Publication Date



The focus of this dissertation was on the changes in long-term external business coaching relationships (defined as more than 4 months). The current study intended to answer two questions: (a) how does the relationship between a coach and a coachee change in long-term coaching engagements? and (b) how do these changes impact the coaching process dynamics and results? The phenomenon that was discovered through this research is called the shift moment. It exemplifies the transition from skill or problem oriented issues, which often represent the original cause of the coaching relationship, to the holistic transformation of the coachee. A qualitative study using a phenomenological approach and semi-structured interviews of 8 participants was conducted. Multiple rounds of interviews were performed to allow increasing depth. The interview plan was developed based on a previous pilot study. The semi-structured interviews lasted 55 to 75 minutes, were conducted via phone or digital meeting software, and were recorded and transcribed. Detailed findings centered around 4 themes: trust and depth; shifting dynamics; the new, post shift moment coachee; and the impact for leadership and coaching. First, a significant level of in-depth trust between the coach and the coachee was fundamental to a successful long-term coaching relationship. Second, the indications in shifts from short-term to long-term relationships were diverse and, to be able to recognize them, the coach needed to be very sensitive and experienced. Third, while the coachee was initially interested in business-related issues, over the long-term coaching relationship, the shift moment opened the focus to the whole person. The various behaviors that identified the coachees in relationships with employees, bosses, and the organization as a whole, involved the way they expressed themselves when they encountered others, and often evolved into new behaviors. Fourth, the shift moment experience and resulting long-term coaching relationship had impact on the coachee’s new behaviors for business, leadership, and for the coachee as a person in all aspects of life. The confirmation of a shift in dynamics, the discovery of the shift moment, and a limited set of indicators that signified the occurrence of this moment were important results of this study. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible at the OhioLINK ETD Center,