Home Concepts Best Practices The Interdisciplinarity of Professional Coaching: A Whole Person Globalized Imperative

The Interdisciplinarity of Professional Coaching: A Whole Person Globalized Imperative

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We suggest that a professional coach is particularly in need of generalized skills and knowledge, for this person must address a wide variety of issues being raised by a diverse set of coaching clients. Even when working with one specific client, the coach must be positioned to appreciate the whole person – not just their role as manager, policy maker or technician. The Navy crew member will sometimes guide in a plane and at other times guide the production of an omelet, while professional coaches will host a variety of roles when working with their clients, including cheerleader, friendly critic, networker, problem-clarifier—the list goes on and on. Each of these roles requires a distinctive perspective and often command of (or at least access to) a specific discipline (be it psychology, finance, operations research, or cultural anthropology).

Coaching the whole person, in other words, require a “whole coach.” Interdisciplinarity is required—this is part of the job description for a professional coach. As coaches, we work with the science and the art of what it is to be human. In so doing, we bring the broadest variety of brushes and brushstrokes, pigments and passions, to our work. We variously engage in neuroscience and narrative; in business facts and life’s passions; in character and process.


We suggest that the interdisciplinary challenge – and necessity—moves beyond just the multiple roles played by the professional coach. There is an attending challenge that comes with the global outreach of coaching and the clients being served by coaches. As Thomas Friedman (2007) has noted, the world has become quite flat for many of us as coaches. We must address coaching issues through many different cultural lenses. The so-called “grand narrative” of Western societies that have greatly influenced the field of professional coaching is not holding up as experienced and highly-successful practitioners from Asia, South America and Africa speak about the way in which they are working with coaching clients and the diverse nature of the issues being brought forth by their clients. A much more mixed and nuanced narrative is required.

In recent years, a specific phrase has been applied to the sources of a dominant grand narrative that has reigned supreme for many decades (even several centuries) in our world. This phrase concerns a perspective that is embraced by researchers, societal analysts, corporate leaders—and many professional coaches. These men and women live in western (W) countries and are well-educated (E). As such, they live and work in an industrialized (I) society that is rich (R) and developed (D)—in other words, WEIRD.

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One Comment

  1. Rey Carr

    November 21, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    I like this article and its argument for the generalist coach. It probably would have had a stronger impact had it been written about 20 years ago before the “niche” concept began to permeate coaching. Many coaches have bought into the idea that creating a niche area is the most effective way to get clients. Some coaches have straddled this advice by adding several niches to their service descriptions.


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