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Edie Seashore: On Coaching

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OD and Coaching: The Early Years

Edie: My first “work” was with the rabbis – the Hebrew Congregation of America.  I was sent in to these rabbis by Dick Beckhard because he got a better offer to go to Hawaii with the Young Presidents organization and begin to work with them.  So, he said, “Edie, you take this.”  And I walked in there.  I thought they’d drop dead. It was all men, and they just didn’t expect to see me.

Dorothy:  So, when we talk about using one’s presence in the role of being a coach, you were really standing at the very beginning of where that was getting identified?

Edie:  In this case my client was the chief rabbi who was in charge of the organization that was running this conference. I was constantly coaching him on how he could work with the people that were running the conference and coaching him on things that he could say that would help facilitate it and make it inclusive. I didn’t consider it “coaching.”  It was obviously part of my assignment. If he was going to be effective, he needed this kind of help.

Dorothy:  So, Edie, standing at the beginning and looking at the trajectory to now where we have words like: “it’s a learning engagement”, “it’s collaboration”, “it’s entering into an agreement about what’s your vision.”

Edie:  Contracting, yeah.

Dorothy:  Contracting.  So, how do you define OD and its relationship to coaching from then even to now?

Edie:  Well, I think OD was always considered a systemic intervention, and coaching may or may not have been.

Dorothy:  When coaching wasn’t looked at systemically, where was it valuable and where was it limited?

Edie:  When we did coaching, it was part of the intervention, the systemic intervention.  When I began to see it being done without any awareness or any concern for the larger system, I realized that it had shifted. I saw, in the 80s, when people started calling it “coaching” and putting the classes together and having the certificates.

Dorothy:  Programs really started in ’96. That’s when there started to be something called coach training programs.  And some people say they started offering things in the ’90s. There’s a lot of different ways of looking at that.  But, as I listen to you, you weren’t even calling it coaching. So, what was the thing that you weren’t calling coaching, but were seeing it as a subset of OD?

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