Home Concepts Organizational Theory Coaching and Expertise in the Six Cultures

Coaching and Expertise in the Six Cultures

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Like its counterpart (the managerial culture), the advocacy culture is often about numbers. However, the matrices are now often about the nature and size of sampled populations and about the assumptions being made (often tacitly) in the interpretation of data that has been gathered. Among those aligned with the advocacy culture there is often considerable skepticism—and the bar of credibility and acceptance is often very high. While those in the alternative culture can be accused of accepting expertise and advice too easily, those in the advocacy culture can often be accused of being much too suspicious and closed minded to the ideas being offered by those from the “establishment.” They join with those in the alternative culture in residing outside the mainstream but are often unwilling to accept any ideas that come from sources they don’t trust.

There is also a tradition of collective bargaining that resides firmly in many branches of the advocacy culture. Data becomes a weapon rather than a source of shared insight. Numbers are used to gain support for a specific initiative. “Experts” are hired to represent a specific perspective and set of priorities. Unfortunately, the crisis of expertise can be profound when the advocacy culture and often-accompanying polarization reigns supreme.

How then does one provide coaching in an advocacy culture—and how is there any genuine contributions to be made by “experts” who are not simply “hired guns”? First, coaches and the users of coaching services who are aligned with this culture conceive of coaching as a vehicle for the establishment of equitable and egalitarian policies and procedures regarding the distribution of resources and benefits in the organization. Those aligned with this culture often have been associated in their past life with the formulation and/or enforcement of HR (human resource) policies and procedures (serving as “policy police” in a large corporation or government agency).

Leaders who are aligned with this culture turn to coaches who value confrontation and equitable, enabling and empowering strategies that bring all stakeholders “to the table.” Leaders turn to coaches who operate a bit like the Mafia consiglieres as war-time strategists. These coaches recognize the inevitable presence of (and need for) multiple constituencies with vested interests that are inherently in opposition. They believe that coaching is essential to this engagement.  Coaches (and leaders) associated with this culture embrace many untested assumptions about the ultimate role of power in the organization. They frequently identify the need for outside mediation and conceive of the coaching enterprise as the surfacing of existing (and often repressive) social attitudes and structures, and establishment of new and more liberating attitudes and structures.

The Virtual Culture

Expertise is a shifting phenomenon for those residing in this newly emerging culture. Experts come and go, based on their latest result. “What do you have to say that is new and interesting?” “What have you done for me lately”. Expertise can also be based on some very much up-to-date assessment of the expert’s credibility by someone or some organization that is “hot” right now. They recognize intuitively the powerful role played by exponential growth (Taleb, 2010). Something is “hot” for a moment and then collapses into “cold.” Given the exponential growth, “You must show me what you have right now and tell me in a few words why I should believe you and take action based on what you have just submitted to me.” In this culture, the expertise often comes from many miles away—thanks to the Internet. Thomas Friedman’s (2005) “flat world” is fully apparent in the virtual culture’s view of expertise. David Smick’s (2008) “curved world” is also fully apparent with its often-dangerous self-reinforcing patterns of diffusion and acceptance (Taleb’s description of exponential growth). Much like those in the alternative culture, occupants of the virtual culture are vulnerable to short-term, faddish acceptance of a “new” perspective or practice.

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