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Six Institutional Cultures and the Coaching Challenges

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Clients with a managerial orientation want Susan, as their coach, to be able to assist them in a very tangible manner to become more skillful and therefore successful and “promotable” in the organization. One of Susan ‘s clients actually fits this mold.  He wants her to help him find the “keys to success” in his institution.  To the extent that Susan is oriented toward the managerial culture, she is likely to feel comfortable with this client’s expectations; to the extent that Susan is oriented toward the professional culture, she is likely to feel constrained by these expectations – that’s why she would like to work as a professionally oriented coach with leaders who are interested in the big picture rather than the “trivia” of specific performance skills or job promotions.

The Alternative Culture

Leadership Values: Focus on Strengths and Potential (Learning) of Employees and the Overall Level of Innovation in the Organization

Criteria of Leadership Success: Development of an employee’s “breakthrough” Innovations

Coaching Orientation: Eclectic (Whatever is the “latest” thing—often residing outside the traditional boundaries of coaching perspectives and practices)

Nature of Coaching Clientele: Small, select clientship

Criteria of Coaching Status: Certification (input measure)

Nature of Coaching Impact: Unspecifiable, but deep and long-lasting level


Coaches and the users of coaching services who are aligned with the alternative culture conceive of coaching as a vehicle for the creation of programs and activities that further the personal (and often the spiritual) growth of all members of the institution (or even more broadly the entire community). Flaherty says: “coaching is a way of working with people that leaves them more competent and more fulfilled so that they are more able to contribute to their institutions and find meaning in what they are doing.” Those leaders who are aligned with this culture tum to coaches who value personal openness and service to others, as well as the integration of mind, body and spirit. Neither group accepts what they see as an artificial distinction between personal and organizational coaching.

Leaders who are aligned with this culture tum to coaches who speak about learning organizations. As Peter Senge, one of the early proponents of the learning organization, has noted: “The organizations that will truly excel in the future will be the organizations that discover how to tap people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels in an organization. Learning organizations are possible because, deep down, we are all learners.”  Furthermore, as learners, we should not avoid taking risks and making mistakes, yet we should avoid repeating the same mistakes and taking the same unsuccessful risks. We learn from our mistakes (as well as our successes).

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