Home Research Coaching Surveys The Development of Coaches Survey: III. Influence and Learning

The Development of Coaches Survey: III. Influence and Learning

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The Influence of Direct Experience

Professional coaching has often been described as an “in the moment” and “here-and-now” experience. Some of this emphasis on direct, immediate experience can no doubt be attributed to the origins of many coaching schools and perspectives in the environment of personal growth training and workshops (originating in the 1960s) and in the environment of organization development consultation with its emphasis on feedback, disclosure and experientially-based team building. Whatever the origins of this emphasis, we see it alive and flourishing among the coaches who responded to these two surveys.

The first item in both questions–concerning the “experiences in coaching clients”–ranking highest and was least likely to be controversial (high variance). Everyone seems to agree that the direct experience of working with coaching clients trumps every other source of influence. Training, the reading of books and observation of other coaches at work can’t compare with the influence of actually doing the coaching and learning from this practice of coaching. The spirit of John Dewey and Kurt Lewin lives with their advocacy of action research and the learning that occurs when actively engaging the world (learning-by-doing).

We also see this emphasis represented in the high rating of an item in question one concerned with the influence of experiences in one’s personal life–though it is interesting to note that this item rates lower when respondents are considering the influence of personal life experiences in their current coaching practices. We might hypothesize that these experiences have had a greater impact in the earlier years of one’s life as a coach than in one’s current practices.  Would we find a similar emphasis on direct experience among those working in other human service professions? Does the influence of personal life experiences tend to diminish over time among those working as clinical psychologists–are they more likely to keep their personal lives isolated from their professional life? We will be able to provide a partial answer to this question when comparing results from these surveys with those reported by David Orlinksy and his colleagues in their study of clinical psychologists.

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