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The Impact of Leader Coaching Behavior on Engineers’ Motivation to Learn and Voicing Behavior

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Engineering Leadership Development Division Technical Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1208.1 - 23.1208.19



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Paper Authors


Toby Egan Purdue School of Engineering & Technology

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Dr. Toby Egan is an associate professor at the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology--IUPUI and the Purdue University Graduate School. Before becoming a professor he was a vice-president for a Minneapolis-based consulting firm and worked closely with Fortune 500, nonprofit and governmental organizations. Dr. Egan trained and coached teams, managers and executives in engineering and technology related organizations. He also was a tenured associate professor at Texas A&M University and has his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He is an active reseacher and consultant on issues of leadership and organization development and has published widely.

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1The Impact of Leader Coaching Behavior on Engineers’ Motivation to Learn and VoicingBehaviorDespite its popularity, limited research has investigated the efficacy of leader coaching behaviorin organizations. In addition, team participation and leadership have been emphasized in theengineering and engineering education literature. Using a sample of 699 engineering firmemployees and 129 leaders, the purpose of this study was to examine the relationships amongperceived leader coaching behavior and engineering employees’ affective, learning and voicingreactions. In particular factors influencing employees’ perceived ability and willingness to‘voice’ opinions and perspectives while participating in day-to-day work activities wereexamined. These study results have implications for engineering leadership and education bothhigher education and the workplace.Over the past two decades leader coaching behavior has become increasingly popular in andimportant to organizations (Park, 2007). Leaders and organizations started to recognize theimportance of leader coaching—defined as an effective leader interaction and communicationpractices that improve employee learning and effectiveness (Ellinger, Ellinger, Hamlin, &Beattie, 2010; Kim, 2010; Peterson & Hicks, 1996)—as one of the most desirable behaviors forsuccessful management and leadership and learning organization (Ellinger, Ellinger, & Keller,2003; Hargrove, 1995). An important aspect of problem solving are employee perceptions theycan voice concerns, share information, and even disagree about engineering related decisionswhile maintaining support from leaders in the organization. In addition, early indications from alimited number of studies supports the connection between leader coaching-related behaviorsand employee motivation to learn (Egan, 2008). There were no studies identified in engineeringcontexts.The proposed model contained nine hypotheses, including:H1: Leader coaching behavior is positively related to employee voice behavior.H2a: The positive association between leader coaching behavior and employee voice behavior ismediated by employee psychological safety.H2b: The positive association between leader coaching behavior and employee voice behavior ismediated by employee motivation to learn.H2c: Psychological safety is positively related to motivation to learn.H3a: Leader agreeableness is positively related to leader coaching behavior.H3b: Leader conscientiousness is positively related to leader coaching behavior.H3c: Leader neuroticism is negatively related to leader coaching behavior.H4a: Leader personality (agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism) are indirectlyassociated with employee voice behavior through the mediation of leader coaching, and, in turn,team members’ psychological safety.H4b: Leader personality (agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism) are indirectlyassociated with employee voice behavior through the mediation of leader coaching, and, in turn,engineering employees’ motivation to learnStudy ParticipantsResponses for the present study were gathered from 699 employees (79% response rate) and 129leaders (89% response rate) from a large US-based electronics and technology company(110,000 employees). 2At Time 1, leaders and employees provided responses to demographic-related items (e.g., age,gender, ethnic/racial identity, education, tenure, work unit). leaders self-reported responses toindividual personality-related questions at Time 1 (e.g., agreeableness, conscientiousness,neuroticism) and employees were asked to report on their leader’s coaching behavior. Onlyemployees whose leaders had completed a Time 1 survey were invited to participate and leastfour employees rated each leader. At Time 2, leaders rated each employee’s voice behavior andeach employee was asked to report on their motivation to learn and psychological safety.MeasuresPersonality. leaders responded to 21 survey items regarding their individual personalitycharacteristics Goldberg’s (1990) Big Five Inventory.Leader Coaching Behavior. Employee perceptions of their leader’s coaching behavior wasassessed using eight items from Ellinger et al. (2003).Psychological safety. Employees responded to Edmondson’s (1999) seven survey itemsemphasizing perceptions of their psychological safety.Motivation to learn. We used Noe and Schmitt’s (1986) three-item scale to measure motivationto learn.Voice behavior. We used Van Dyne and LePine’s (1998) six-items to measure employees’ voicebehavior.Levels of Analysis and General Analytic StrategySeveral study hypotheses (1, 2a & 2b) involve more than one level of analysis. Leader coachingbehavior, motivation to learn, and psychological safety are considered group level variables,while variables such as employee voice behavior are considered individual level variables. Alongwith leader assessment of employee voice behavior, employee perspectives were nested withinleader work groups. In order to address this, hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) analysis(Raudenbush & Byrk, 2002) was performed at three levels. HLM was also utilized to examinethe potential for cross-level and/or nonindependence effects. HLM supported strong positiverelationship between engineering leader proactivity, conscientiousness and leader coachingbehavior.Structural equation modeling (SEM) was utilized to explore several hypotheses (3a, 3b, & 3c).SEM allows for a concurrent test of significance at the same, group level of analysis (e.g., leaderpersonality, leader coaching, psychological safety, motivation to learn). SEM provides the mostappropriate balance of statistical power and Type I error rates. According to MacKinnon et al.(2002), in the simultaneously assessing the path from an independent variable to a mediator andthe subsequent path to an outcome variable. The measurement model fit the data well x2=(897,N=173) 1339.54, p <.01, GFI = .98; AGFI = .96; NNFI = .97; CFI = .96;. RMSEA = .05, RMR= .05.These study findings suggest that some leader personality traits and their related coachingbehavior can influence engineering employees’ perceptions of support for their own learning aswell as increase the likelihood that employees will participate in information sharing.Implications for leadership in general, training for engineering company leaders, and forengineering education will be discussed.3

Egan, T. (2013, June), The Impact of Leader Coaching Behavior on Engineers’ Motivation to Learn and Voicing Behavior Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22593

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