Home Research History of Coaching Natalie and John: A Narrative Perspective on the Future Hopes and Fears Facing Organizational Coaching

Natalie and John: A Narrative Perspective on the Future Hopes and Fears Facing Organizational Coaching

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[Note: An earlier version of this essay first appeared in a 2009 issue (No. One) of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations]


What if Natalie ·continues to coach John past 2009? This would first of all probably mean that Natalie has been successful working with John –   which is good news. There may have to be changes in the coaching strategies being employed, however, because the coaching process has “matured” for Natalie and John. They know each other better–including their strengths and weaknesses. They also will have built mutual trust – in the competencies both exhibit in their intentions regarding the coaching engagement and, hopefully, in their shared perspectives regarding what is ultimately important in the world and how best to find meaning in their individual lives and coaching engagement. There are other reasons for continuing to modify their coaching engagement – and these reasons impact on not only the professional relationship between Natalie and John, but also the field of professional coaching in general. Several of these reasons will be explored in this article.


The world of economics doesn’t look very promising in most of the societies that currently support professional coaching. We are confronted with fundamental challenges – either the flat, hot and crowded world portrayed by Thomas Friedman (2008) or the curved and dangerous world of David Smick (2009). In either of these worlds, professional coaching can no longer be a luxury, benefit or even a primary vehicle for avoiding litigation. John is undoubtedly experiencing the financial challenges facing his own hospital, given the health care crisis that is prevalent in the United States.

If we are experiencing hard times, then professional coaching will have to be justified with hard data that matches the hard times. In terms of the diffusion of an innovation, such as professional coaching, we will clearly be meeting the concerns of the early majority. John is not alone in being skeptical about the faddish claims being made by those who have marketed professional coaching during the past twenty years. We need measurement and accountability. Does this mean that all (or most) coaching programs operating within organizations must demonstrate a Return on Investment (ROI) or at least a Return on Expectations (RO E)? Perhaps they do. At the very least, it means that the benefits of coaching will have to be documented. We know from research on innovation diffusion, that the early majority wants evidence. This doesn’t necessarily have to be quantitative evidence—especially if this quantification results in trivialization of coaching outcomes. We certainly don’t need an elaborate strategy of measurement that is based on faulty inferences or very soft data (“garbage in and garbage out”). In many cases, the early majority will be convinced by a thoughtfully prepared series of case studies. This majority will be convinced by an in-depth analysis of not only the outcomes of effective coaching but also some of the reasons why specific coaching strategies seem to be most successful when applied to specific organizational issues or when engaged with specific client constituencies.

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