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The Conscious Coach as Midwife

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Coaching for transformation requires a new skill set guided by new metaphors. As coaches, we know the power of metaphor to invoke change in the service of our coachees. I wonder what metaphors would best describe our work and roles as coaches? I am part of a coaching community of practice that is exploring alternative metaphors for coaches, mostly working in spaces of racial and gender justice in corporate and community contexts. This article is both a conceptual and community of practice reflection and an invitation to other coaching communities to amplify our exploration of metaphors for socially conscious coaching.

Traditional metaphors of coaching include coach as thinking partner, facilitator, healer, guide, mentor. In all of these metaphors, there is an implicit ‘power over’ relationship, where the coach becomes the more knowledgeable, experienced, and responsible one inadvertently. However, we know as coaches that we are partners to our coachees and recognise that the real work is the work of the coachee and less ours. In this context are there different metaphors that better describe the work and the role of the coach that embodies this genuine partnership, where each party has something valuable, diverse, and necessary for the transformational process.

Our choice of metaphors becomes especially important when we navigate new conversational spaces that business and leadership coaching has traditionally avoided. These topics include conversations of power dynamics about race and gender as manifest in racism and patriarchy. In adopting a feminist lens to organisational coaching, we recognise the real issues people of colour and women are dealing with is less about technical and leadership competence, it is about navigating social and institutional systems set up to advantage one group over the other.

As a coaching community of practice with mostly White female coaches working with mostly Black African female clients, we engaged in a series of conversations about our coaching relevance especially on the back of #Black Lives Matter. What is the role of coaching and coaches as agents of social change? Do we continue to serve White male corporate capitalism or adopt a bolder, ethical, and socially responsive approach to our work as coaches? In this light, as a community of practice, we explored the metaphor of the coach as a midwife as one potentially powerful metaphor that helps us as transformative coaches to reframe what we are about and the responsibility attached to this new way of seeing.

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