None of these results are definitive regarding either autonomy or isolation. However, they do point toward the prevalence of a specific coaching culture that Vikki Brock and I identified in a chapter we wrote several years ago in a book edited by Drake, Brennan and Gortz (Bergquist and Brock, 2008). Brock and I identified six cultures that exist in most human service professions.
One of these is the professional culture (the others being managerial, advocacy, alternative/developmental, advocacy, virtual and tangible). We proposed in this chapter that many coaches are aligned with the professional culture–a culture in which practitioners conceive of coaching as a “profession” and seek to build its credibility through establishing a code of ethics, professional organizations and publications. They promote research and scholarship regarding coaching and express an abiding concern about the credibility of coaching as a legitimate human service endeavor.
Brock and I noted that 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 the professional culture support research on coaching, 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.
Brock and I suggested in our broad analysis of the professional culture that those drawn to this culture tend to value autonomy and social status — whether they be physicians, attorneys, veterinarians . . . or coaches. There is strong resistance to regulation (though a counter interest in certification and licensing). The engagement of professional practices are considered to be an art—an ineffable process that can’t be captured in a textbook or power point training program. For those in the professional culture, there is a subsequent distain for quantifiable accountability of their work (though there is a reluctant turn in recent years toward “evidence-based” practices in many professional fields as a result of the managerial culture becoming dominant). I will return to this dynamic several times in this summary report.