Positive Regard for Coaching Clients
The results we found when comparing USA and non-USA coaches revealed an intriguing difference that might be revealing of the way coaches perceive and relate to their clients. If we first look back at our previous study, we find that the statistical analysis of differences between personal and organizational coaches responding to questions about problems with their clients yielded the most significant results yet obtained in this study. By contrast, there is only one significant difference to be found between USA and non-USA coaches – but it is an interesting difference and quite significant (.02 level). While most of the respondents to this inventory indicated that they rarely are “unable to find something to like or respect in a client”, the mean score is higher for the non-USA coaches.
We might speculate that the USA coaches are embracing a classic American character of liking everyone they meet. Will Rogers, the famous American humorist and Hollywood cowboy, indicated that he never met anyone he didn’t like. Another Rogers (“Mr. Rogers”) offered a similar universal opinion about all human beings. There is even a third Rogers (the famous therapist, Carl Rogers) who preached (and practiced) “unconditional positive regard.”
Are USA coaches, perhaps, permeated with this Rogerian positive regard—which might complement a more general sense of optimism and an action-orientation. If this is the case, then we might speculate about how this influences the nature of coaching being engaged. ICF emphasizes the placing of responsibility for problem-solving in the hands of the coaching client. Is this an American perspective that has been infused in ICF (as an organization founded in the USA)? We might also point to a comparable emphasis on being sure that the monkey (problem-ownership) remains on the client’s shoulder (Bergquist and Mura, 2011). This seems very American. Perhaps, the appreciative perspective that is now common among American coaches (Bergquist and Mura, 2011) is also in alignment with the Rogerian positivism about coaching clients. Future studies might focus in part on this fascinating and important difference—if it does exist—between USA coaches and coaches residing in other countries.
These cultural issues might be interwoven with issues regarding the coach’s personal values and ethics when working with clients. Are there some inter-connections between these ethical issues and the unconditional acceptance of a client’s worth and capacity to solve problems? Do we find that an appreciative (positive) perspective regarding our coaching clients is likely to be aligned with a more flexible ethical code? Is one of the costs of a strict code of ethics the tendency to be more judgmental not only about one’s own coaching practices, but also about the level of respect for one’s clients? We will be exploring this interplay in our future studies using the existing inventory data – and hopefully date from additional studies.