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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This interplay between language, cognition and culture is relevant not only for our understanding of cross-cultural communication problems, but also for our better understanding of the communication challenges being faced within 21st century organizations. There are highly influential sub-cultures operating within our organizations and each of them uses language in a different way. Their use of language reflects and  reinforces important differences in the perspectives  and  values  held  by those who live and work in these sub-cultures (Bergquist, Guest & Rooney, 2004; Bergquist & Brock, 2008: Bergquist & Pawlak, 2008). Furthermore, as we come to realize (in postmodern fashion) that organizations are really nothing more (and nothing less) than extended conversations and conversational networks reflecting interrelated sets of shared care, commitments and coordination of action, the role to be played by language and its impact on cognition becomes even more important.

Natalie would do well to serve John by focusing on his use of language and on the assumptions, perspectives and values that underlie his use of language. It is very difficult for any of us to reflect critically on our own linguistic and cognitive world, for we can only reflect on this world from within the world (what is often called the “hermeneutic paradox”). A coach like Natalie can be of great value in this regard – though Natalie is in an awkward place because she dwells in a world that is very much like the one in which John dwells. How does she step outside her own assumptive world? Would john be better served by a coach who comes from a different country or for whom English is a second language? Might such a person offer a more critical and detached perspective – and ultimately be of greater benefit to John? Doesn’t this challenge the assumption that a trusting relationship between coach and client requires a sha red perspective (as well as mutual trust in competency and trust in common intentions)? We are now in a place – with professional coaching becoming a global enterprise – to ask this question about the relative value of local (parochial) versus global (cosmopolitan) coaching services.


Some of the more obvious shifts occurring in early 21″ societies have been identified and several implications have been drawn in this article regarding how these shifts might impact the professional coaching enterprise. Each of these shifts requires an expanded sense of self, of organization, of society and even of the entire global community. We might even want to reach out beyond our own world to consider the recent findings in astrophysics regarding our universe being much larger and more dynamic than we had previously believed. And what will happen during the next few years when new telescopes will be able to reach across vast time and space continua to actually witness the creation of the universe (the “big bang”). Rudolph Otto (1923) wrote many years ago about the reactions of human beings when confronting the “numinous” (unstructured experience of the massive reality that confronts us every day). How do we address the “awe-ful-ness” of our expanding universe? As one of my colleagues recently mentioned, our image of God (or some other guiding principle) is going to have to grow much larger, given the immense and expanding size of our universe.

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