Friday 2 October 2015

Interesting Assumptions

I have just completed the first assignment for my ILM diploma in coaching. It was an interesting process, and I have enjoyed engaging with a wider range of literature, and some very stimulating conversations with my tutor, Simon Whalley of Bluetree Development

However, I was struck by, and indeed took exception to, some of the assumptions made by whoever devised the assignment. The title was 'Establish the organisational context, strategy, culture and processes for coaching or mentoring at a senior level.' That was fair enough: it is a diploma in Executive Coaching, after all.

But consider this: 'Critically review the skills and behaviours required for ethical practice in coaching or mentoring at a senior and strategic level,' and also this:  'Justify the importance and role of codes of practice, contracting and supervision at this level of coaching or mentoring practice.'

In both of these cases, there seems to be an implication that there is something distinctive about working with senior people; as though those lower in the organisational hierarchy do not need their coaches to be ethical, nor to contract well, follow codes of practice or receive supervision.

Clearly that is nonsense. 

And it may be that I am being over-pedantic in picking up on the wording so precisely, but I fear I am not. Rather I think it plays into another agenda, and one which the coaching bodies such as AC and EMCC risk colluding with: that there is something superior about executive coaches.

I find some of my clients make the same assumption: in tenders, I am regularly asked about differential pricing for senior and junior coaching. But to me that makes no sense. Some of the most challenging work I have done (challenging for me and for the person being coached) has been with people at a low level in the hierarchy. Likewise, some (though not all) of my senior clients are very easy to coach: they are bright, open to learning, adept at finding what will be useful and integrating it into their thinking or behavioural repertoire, and so on.

As I start work on a voluntary basis with some troubled families, I suspect I may find some tougher work with unemployed people or youngsters still in education than anything I have encountered so far - indeed, that is one of the reasons I am choosing to volunteer for that work.

So just as I am wary of those who style themselves Master Practitioners of whatever field of OD they practice, so I am wary of those who label themselves Executive Coach.

For me, a good coach is a good coach - and a big ego is not a pre-requisite...

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