The coaching profession – a bit of a rant.
I’m hoping Jude won’t mind me using space within her magazine for me to have something of a whinge at my profession. It is an entirely personal perspective. I will provide no objective evidence nor cite any research and you’ll be quite at liberty to dismiss my thoughts as groundless.
Alternatively, you may feel that I have a point and have raised an issue worth discussing. I hope so.
Coaching is a loose term and a broad church
I love the eclectic mix of schools of thought, philosophies and disciplines that have coalesced around this still very young profession of coaching.
Sport has contributed ideas around achieving peak performance and flow states. Academia has added rigour and discipline to measurement and best practice. Psychology and Psychotherapy have provided excellent supporting structures in terms of accreditation and supervision. Business and consulting have enabled coaching to have a massive positive impact on the lives of coaches and clients alike.
There is value in all of this.
It’s not yours, it’s ours
But I see a growing trend for each of these contributors to try to put a flag down and claim coaching as their own.
I’ve been making a living as a corporate coach (for want of a better term) since 1999. My background is in business and the world of work and I have a pretty decent track record of success in that sphere. But I have never been an elite sportsman, a researcher or a trained psychotherapist and would likely be dismissed as a lightweight in those circles.
Conversely, I know the business world can be equally sniffy about coaches they don’t view as having the ‘right’ background.
There’s a kind of snobbery which I don’t like. I remember walking out of a seminar at a University Business School when the speaker described Tim Gallwey as a ‘mere tennis player’.
Gallwey is in fact the author of the Inner Gamer series of books and considered by most serious students of coaching as one of the most influential figures in developing the profession as we know it today.
Surely it can be more than one thing?
I think this mirrors a growing (and worrying) trend in society towards tribalism and polarisation. I also think that Covid and the lockdowns have exacerbated this tendency because coaches’ revenue streams and therefore livelihoods are affected and are at stake.
I see this a lot with Life Coaches for example, selling online courses on managing your money mindset and avoiding a scarcity mentality, but only if you pay in full by Friday!
I honestly believe there’s room for us all. There’s a whole world of people who need help getting from where they are to where they want to be and potentially a coach for every circumstance.
I think there’s a danger that the profession becomes too inwardly focused and creates impenetrable bureaucracies that try to ensure only the ‘right’ people get to be involved.
All the while, our clients are yelling, “I just want some help!”
Those same clients, by the way, being more than bright enough to discern whether a coach they have come by is capable and the right fit for them or not.
Whatever shall we do?
I offer a clumsy analogy but it’s the best one I’ve come up with so far. I see old style command and instruct ways of leading and communicating with people like a receding tide, and good riddance.
Left behind, on the exposed beach, are rockpools full of coaching ideas.
Let’s have a wander around some of them and if we discover something interesting shout, “Come and look at what I’ve found!”
I’ll show you mine if you then show me yours.
In this way we can bring all of the disparate influences on the coaching profession together to create a richer whole.
We grow when we embrace rather than reject different points of view. We’re coaches. We’re better than this. We’re supposed to teach people this stuff.