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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There is a third type of issue which often faces an organizational leader—and which sometimes is brought up during a coaching session: organizational mysteries.  Issues of this type typically defy all disciplinary descriptions and are under no one’s control (extern al locus of control). Organizational mysteries often concern economic rollercoaster rides, fickle or shifting customer interests, public policy flip-flops, or the drama of office politics. We don’t know why “it” has happened or how to fix “it.” We aren’t even quite sure what ” it” is all about. In a postmodern world of complexity, unpredictability and turbulence, we are likely to find more mysteries in our personal and organizational lives – and fewer puzzles that can be easily understood and resolved.

There is a fundamental mystery that john and his colleague s at the hospital face. In fact, it is a mystery for most men and women working in health care, legislators who are trying to formulate new health care policies in the United States (and in most other countries) and the patients who wish to receive high quality health care services. This mystery concerns the wounded nature of contemporary hea lth ca re. Why is the health care system so broken? How can health care systems heal if they are themselves deeply wounded and if those working in the health care system are wounded (and are often wounding one another)? What can be done in response to the crisis in health care? At some deep and lingering manner, this mystery underlies at least some of the challenges being faced by John. Is She spending long hours working (even while at home), because somehow he believes (or at least hopes) that he can help heal the health care system? Does Kurt offer a vision in order to reduce the despair of his employees – and is this part of the source of frustration experienced by those in his organization who have grown cynical and pessimistic?

It would seem that the issues being faced by coaching clients are less likely to be puzzles and more likely to be problems or mysteries. For coaches like Natalie, this means that work will become even more challenging. Successful coaching is likely itself to be more of a mystery or at least a problematic enterprise. On the one hand, coaches are more likely to be valued—for we all would like some assistance when addressing a problem or mystery. On the other hand, it may be much harder to determine the success of coaching enterprises—precisely at a point when economic hard times necessitates  a  careful  and  convincing  evaluation of coaching outcomes. We are also likely to find more “soft” coaching that focuses on decision-making processes, personal values and even one’s spiritual core given the prominence of organizational problems and mysteries. The “hard” coaching that focuses on personal performance becomes less relevant, for this type of coaching primarily addresses issues that can be framed (appropriately) as organizational puzzles (for example, how does my client provide her subordinate with constructive feedback or how does my client increase active participation in an upcoming meeting?) This is a perfect example of the kind of nested dilemmas that face many coaching clients–yet in this case it is the field of professional coaching itself that is confronted with a set of nested dilemmas. Soft coaching is more appropriate, because contemporary organizational leaders are more often faced with difficult problems and mysteries than with puzzles. Soft coaching, however, is hard er to measure than hard coaching and accountability is more difficult to assign. All of this exists in a world that is requesting more measurement and accountability.

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