Home Concepts Schools of Coaching Adlerian Alfred Adler and the Future of Coaching: Ethics, Equality, and Eternity

Alfred Adler and the Future of Coaching: Ethics, Equality, and Eternity

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In her comments, Page highlights the difference between espoused and enacted values and challenges coaches, when there is a conflict between the two, to ask the question “Which side am I on?” If “good” coaching helps organizations destroy the environment, for whom is it “good?” Is coaching being used as a way of “cooling the mark out?” (Goffman, 1952) That is, do coaches serve the function of softening feelings of loss or failure, similar to how one member of a team of con artists befriends, explains, and helps the “sucker” in a fraud adjust to their victimization? That is, to what extent does coaching serve to blunt discontent and maintain the status quo that is implicated in social and environmental destruction? (see IPCC, 2018)

“Psychology of use” is an Adlerian principle that can help coaches and the coaching profession sort through these questions. Robert Powers and Jane Griffith (2013) explain that understanding a person’s behavior is not achieved by listing traits associated with their actions (laziness, bad temper, intelligence) but by observing how they use their various capacities. As a corollary of social embeddedness, psychology of use takes into account the dynamic nature of the interlocking social systems in which we are embedded. Using this principle, we can ask “ultimately, in this situation, to what use are my efforts being put?” instead of categorizing what we do as intrinsically good or bad without reference to context. Actions or even personality traits that are useful and beneficial in one situation or for one group of people may not be so for other situations or groups. Therefore, it is incumbent for coaches to ask when considering the purpose of each engagement and each coaching interaction, “who, ultimately, does this benefit?” and “who, ultimately, does it harm?”

Asking this question can reveal where we actually stand on an issue, along with consequences that lie outside our immediate awareness. Without that awareness, our conscious choices are limited to whatever is “usual,” “expected,” “normal,” or “standard.” That is, to keep doing what we have been doing. Coaching that helps one person, organization, or state better exploit or damage other persons, organizations, or states can be considered “good” only from the perspective of the exploiter. Whatever our intentions, in polarized situations our actions put us on one side – exploiter – or the other – exploited.

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