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The Context of Coaching

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Clinical psychologists were dominated by diagnosing, treating, and repairing. Moreover, their professional organizations and funding and reimbursement resources keep their performance boundaries narrowly focused upon treatment, problem-solving, and rehabilitation. By the late 1980s, many forward-looking people were asking: “To whom do people turn to for assistance when they are disoriented but not sick, empty but not depressed, bewildered but not helpless?” One response that came in the 1990s was “personal and professional coaches.”

The function of career professionals in 1960, when that field was emerging, focused upon matching personalities of young adults with linear career paths for lifetime employment. Today there are few linear careers and lifetime employment is extinct. The typical college graduate is now expected to have six to eight “career” identities during his lifetime? How do people learn to move in and out of work settings with some degree of confidence and inner leadership? One answer is from career coaches. Career professionals are increasingly using coaching strategies to train clients to connect their inner skills to outer work.

In the 60s and 70s, government and large organization planning was conducted from the top-down. That doesn’t work in environment of constant change. In today’s environment planning is done with everyone involved, using “open-space,” “future vision,” or other approaches that require employees as well as structural systems to change. Coaches are often employed with consultants to facilitate these processes.

During the 70s and 80s when corporate structures were evolving away from hierarchical control of employees and toward trust and collaboration with workers, widespread training was needed to help every worker think and behave like a leader.

  • The emphasis was on business performance, as in TQM and ISO and JIT, steps in the right direction.
  • Then came seminars on teamwork and empowerment, which made the focus more personal, but still contained by immediate corporate issues.
  • Consultants also added to the flow toward coaching, through their work with key corporate figures and system interventions.

But these approaches to change had one common flaw: they came and went like waves hitting the beach. They didn’t last. Then it occurred to a great many that if organizations are going to make lasting changes, the individuals working in them must change first. Stephen Covey was a major figure in the shift from corporate talk to training highly effective persons. In the late 80s, corporate coaching came on to the scene, to work overtime with both individuals and systems. They function like leaven in bread, to get the job done in a lasting way.

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