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Coaching and Expertise in the Six Cultures

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I propose that each of these six distinct cultures (each with its own history and values) yields a specific perspective regarding the most valued sources of expertise that can (and should) be engaged in guiding the short-term tactics and longer-term strategies of the organization. These six cultures also offer distinctive perspectives regarding the very nature and purpose of organization coaching and, in turn, assumptions about the way in which to work most effectively with organizational leaders. In my review of these six cultures, I will address not only the issue of expertise, but also that regarding the nature and purpose of coaching—for I am seeking in this essay to not only address the challenges of expertise, but also ways in which coaches can help their clients address these challenges.

The Professional Culture

Expertise is valued and engaged based on the credentials of the expert. This culture focuses on an input measure of quality and credibility. “Show me where you come from.” When providing expertise and advise, it is critical to identify the source of this expertise and advice. The validity of evidence will not be considered until attention is directed to the status of those delivering the evidence: is this published in a reputable journal or book publisher? Dose this expert come from a prestigious university, research institute or think tank. “Show me his badge!” (rarely “her” badge—in part because of discrimination in many prestigious institutions against women, as well as minorities of all ilk).

What then about the role played by coaches in a professional culture, as they seek to assist their clients with the challenges of expertise. Coaches and the users of coaching services who are aligned with this culture conceive of coaching as a “profession” and seek to build its credibility through establishing a code of ethics, professional organizations [such as International Coach Federation (ICF)] and publications [such as the International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring] and research and scholarship regarding coaching. In many cases, the established professions (in particular, psychology and business consulting) have claimed that they alone can certify coaches or, at the very least, that the field of coaching should be closely monitored and controlled. The motives behind this professional concern are laudable: concern for quality of service and for an adequate foundation of theory-based and evidential research to support coaching practices. However, underlying these legitimate motives is often an unacknowledged thirst for control of the field (with its potentially rich source of money and capacity to influence personal and organizational lives).

While those aligned with this culture support research that establishes “evidence-based expertise, they are inclined to identify coaching as an “art” rather than a “science,” and cringe at any efforts to quantify (and therefore constrain or trivialize) the specific outcomes of coaching. Coaches who associate with this culture often embrace many untested assumptions about the dominance of rationality in the organization—and more generally in the world. They are often “dumbfounded” that “scientifically-generated” and rationally ordered arguments are not immediately excepted when offered by credentialed “experts.” They are also likely to assume that rationality saturated the coaching profession. They conceive of the coaching enterprise as the generation, interpretation, and dissemination of knowledge and the development of specific values and qualities of character among leaders in the organization. It is also important to note that those aligned with the professional culture tend to differentiate between managers and leaders. As “professional” coaches they are inclined to associate their work with leadership, rather than the more “mundane” (in their view) operations of managers in the organization.

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