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Coaching requires us to confront painful memories which might be obstacles in the way of coachees moving towards success and effectiveness. It doesn’t help to get coachees to forget or dismiss negative historical memory; instead we can encourage coachees to remember and to reflect on what could be new and different as they journey forward. The adage ‘ forget the past – get on with the future’ is insensitive and unhelpful. We need to encourage our coachees to confront their past experiences of racism because it is often the unspoken place of their ‘stuckness’. We need to be bold as coaches to not assume the status quo or pretend we live in racial utopia. How can we engage in a constructive way that is both supportive and challenging; in ways that confront brutal facts and also allows for compassion and catharsis?

Coaching Cases in Context

Here’s a range of coaching cases that illustrate race dynamic in a South African coaching context. How would you respond as a coach?

How do we coach a young White male who is feeling that there is no future for him in the workplace, that his worth is defined by his colour? How do we help him navigate a career development discussion?

What about a smart young Black woman that is struggling to deal with the patriarchy of her Black ‘affirmative action’ appointed manager? How do we meaningfully navigate not only race but gender and also understand the nuances of patriarchy that shows itself differently for Blacks and Whites.

How do we coach a near retired White man with immense experience and technical capacity who is now asked to skills transfer to a group of young Black engineers who have a different generational work ethic? How do we deal with race and generational identities?

How do we coach a new Black manager – respected engineer – that has struggled to move through the ranks over the years, who is now thrust into managing a diverse range of ‘born frees’?

How do we deal with transitional issues from technical to managerial leadership layered by his experience of career mobility in a discriminatory environment?

How do we coach a mid-career Indian or Coloured manager who feels they were discriminated against in the past and now don’t feel ‘Black’ enough in the new workplace?

How would you deal with this as ‘born free’ coach who did not experience the harshness of discrimination?

What if you are a White or Black internal company coach and you recognise that your coachee doesn’t want to be coached by you because of your race?

How will you coach a Black female leader feeling like she has to shift cultural behaviour and communication styles from home to the workplace-experiencing the need to adopt assertive styles at work and more passive at home?

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