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Edie Seashore: On Coaching

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My colleague got the brilliant idea that this was going to be the best approach in this particular situation. He has a very receptive client for the first time in many years who said, “You tell me how this is gonna make a difference. What’s the best way for us to go about this?” And my colleague said, “Let’s give this a shot.  I think this is gonna make the biggest difference.” Make it transparent—they’ll understand what feedback is. They’ll understand their behavior better, and other people will be observing this. Let’s see if we can get the biggest bang for our buck. So, he got his consultants that he thought could do this, and the consultants are beside themselves with glee, and the clients are loving it. That’s what I mean by the part where coaching was confusing to me early on because it was being done out of a context. This way, they see the person in their systems. They can make it a systemic intervention. That’s OD.

Dorothy:  So, what you’re really saying is-is that coaching within organizations is too often not built into the actual context. And not built into a process for actively being able to hear verification or illustration of the points being made?

Edie:  –Not only hear it but also see it.

Dorothy: Also, if the feedback given is not in relation to a request the recipient is making, then the recipient will not have the context or actual data for the feedback given,  so “that” feedback from others doesn’t actually connect with the recipient.  The learning opportunity will be missed. The feedback doesn’t connect or “land” with the recipient.

Edie: I think the chances of it landing more often and more effectively would be better if the feedback process would shift to people seeking out the information because they’d like to know whether they’re really on target, and if not, where are they off.  Even then, recognizing that it may not be all of them either. It is the way they’re being perceived that’s making the difference.

Coaching and OD Values

Dorothy:  Edie, in a way you are suggesting that if coaching is going to be really more powerful and legitimized, then the values of OD are important for coaching?

Edie:  I’ve always thought so, but I have to admit coaching is quite successful without incorporating these values. I don’t go around preaching this because it’s a little bit ridiculous, but I’m impressed—I’m enormously impressed at the extraordinary hold the coaching community has in the world. Perhaps it’s a substitute for what therapy was in the 50s. That’s an idea I hadn’t thought of until you asked the question.  It may be the watered-down version of therapy.

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