The first item in both questions–concerning the “experiences in coaching clients”–ranking highest and was least likely to be controversial. 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 on 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 concerning 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 in Phase Four when comparing results from these surveys with those reported by David Orlinsky and his colleagues in their study of clinical psychologists.
Results from both surveys suggest that it’s not all about the influence of direct work with clients or one’s own personal life. There are many ways in which coaches are influenced by less immediate sources. For example, quite high mean scores and rankings are to be found in both questions with regard to “taking coaching specific courses, seminars or workshops.” This item yielded very little disagreement among the respondents to the second question (current development), but somewhat higher disagreement among respondents to the first question (overall development). Reading also was influential in terms of current development, whereas getting coached and collaborating with other coaches was considered influential in the overall development of coaches. Are these latter influences more likely to be strong in the early career of a professional coach?