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Edie Seashore: On Coaching

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So, my first few clients with him were really people who were changing their whole system–doing different kinds of conferences to work in the systems that he was introducing me to. When I left his organization, I was going out into the field on my own. I was turning about 30 at that time, and the field was becoming OD. I counted on all of my previous people who have been working with me through the NTL process to get me into organizations and then to help me.  So, I was constantly being coached by them.

I didn’t ever think of calling it that, but as I began to work with my clients, they were the role model I had – those who had been working with me.  So, I began to work with my clients in the same fashion as they had been–as I had been coached.  I was beginning to coach my clients and work with them on what they were doing.  A lot of what I did was in forming the relationship with the client.  It was a collaborative relationship, so it was actually their system. I was coaching them on how to work more effectively in their system.

So, when coaching came along as a formal field, all of us looked at each other and said, “They have taken a fraction or a piece of what we do as part of our whole practice and suddenly made it a certified field.”.  I said, “We’ve been doing this all along.  It’s been part of our work–it’s built into what we do.  It’s a natural part of what we do.”

One of the things that astonished me about these early days was that people who were called “coaches” were doing it without any systems orientation.  That is to say, they didn’t have that as part of their repertoire—to put the person they were coaching in the systemic frame. And so, they were coaching them without ever having any knowledge of their–real knowledge of their organization that they were in, never having met the team.

My first reaction was one of astonishment that coaching could be done effectively.  When I heard that some had clients whom they had never met except on the telephone and they were doing all the coaching of them over the telephone, I thought, wow, this is pretty interesting because all the coaching I ever had was in some kind of a context. All the coaching I ever did was in a systems context.  So, how are they doing this coaching, even though it seemed to have worked?

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