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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As seems to have always been the case, when humankind has met a new and daunting challenge, a new technology has been discovered or invented to successfully address this challenge – and to produce new challenges. We can point to an era in the distant past of widespread glaciations and the resultant use of fire by our Pleistocene forebears as an early example of new-technology-matching-a-major-challenge. In our own era, we can point to the new digital technologies for partial answers to the challenges of complexity, unpredictability and turbulence. Computer -based technologies, often centered on the use of the Internet and other nonhierarchical communication structures, have made the challenges of postmodernism at least seem less daunting and more controllable. Here enters the professional coach and here enters the prospects of newforms of coaching.

More than most other human service endeavors, professional coaching is a product of the new technologies. Many coaches do most of their work over the telephone and through use of their computers. It is almost a prerequisite that an article written about coaching include a picture of a coach sitting on her deck in Wyoming looking over the magnificent Grand Teton mountains, while phone­ coaching her client in Pittsburgh or New York City. Natalie could be on vacation in Wyoming or even Peru and still coach John, just as John could call Natalie during his trip to a hospital in Tokyo. These condition s create major boundary issues for both Natalie and John. When is Natalie truly on vacation? Shouldn’t john concentrate on the major cross-cultural challenges he is facing in Japan rather than hiding out in his room and calling Natalie?

Technology is likely to continue exerting its influence on professional coaching. It may even profoundly change the character and dynamics of professional coaching. We are likely to see not only telephone­ coaching, but also videophone coaching in the near future. Coaches are already making use of Skype and other computer-based communication tools so that they can not only reduce transmission costs but also see their client and be seen by their client via inexpensive video cameras attached to their computer. Will Natalie and John soon subscribe to Skype and purchase webcams to supplement their in-person and telephone meetings? As the speed of transmission increases, we can anticipate even more extensive and skillful use of video-coaching and videoconferencing.

We will also witness the expanded use of various hand- held communication devices, such as the Blackberry, and the concomitant use of brief text-based interactions between coach and client. This already occurs in the context of shadow coaching: real-time questions to provoke in-the-moment reflect ions and adjusted actions.  A twittering coach? We can anticipate a form of just-in-time-coaching that will be valued in particular by younger, computer-savvy leaders who like to address and resolve issues quickly. They want a coach at their side (on their Black berry) who can move just as quickly in engaging this issue-resolution process. Natalie and John may be “too old” or too much out of touch with the mega-fast world of text-messaging; however, they will certainly have to be conversant with these new technologies if they are to work successfully with younger clients (Natalie) or younger employees (John).

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