Home Research History of Coaching Natalie and John: A Narrative Perspective on the Past and Present Dilemmas and Opportunities Facing Organizational Coaching

Natalie and John: A Narrative Perspective on the Past and Present Dilemmas and Opportunities 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]


Natalie has been an organizational coach for the past eight years, having served for many years as Vice President of HR for a medium-sized high-tech firm in the Twin Cities. She met John at a Habitat for Humanities meeting several years ago. They struck up a casual friendship and actually worked together in building a home over several weekends. During a lunch break, John informed Natalie that he was serving as Vice President for Operations (COO) at a large hospital in Minneapolis. Natalie let John know that she was an organizational coach and often was working with high level leaders like John. She had great empathy for the challenges John is facing, having previously served herself in a C-suite role at an organization that was admittedly much smaller than John’s hospital and in a different line of work. Natalie noted that John’s job must be particularly difficult right now, given the crises in American health care. John offered a sigh and a quick turn of his eyes to the heavens above. Then they both went back to work on something they could accomplish that was quite tangible–building a home for a deserving family in St. Paul.

Though Natalie had not given John a business card, nor attempted to solicit his business, she received a phone call several days later from John. He sounded very hesitant on the phone, indicating that he didn’t want to intrude on Natalie’s life. John revealed that he had gotten her business phone number from the Habitat office only after he had lied and told them that he needed to call about the coordination of work schedules for the house they were building. After exchanging some pleasantries, Natalie reassured John that his phone call was not at all intrusive. Then, John got down to business. He indicated that he wanted to hire Natalie as his coach and wondered if this were possible, given that they were working on Habitat together. John indicated that if it were necessary, he would drop off the Habitat project and begin work in several months on another Habitat project.

Before making a commitment to John, Natalie asked some questions regarding why he wanted a coach, what he would hope to accomplish with the coaching session, and how the payment for coaching services was to be structured. John indicated that he had been talking with his wife during the past month about work-related stress and, in particular, about the contradictory demands being made on him by the president and other vice presidents of his health care organization. His wife, Marnie, suggested that he consider hiring an organizational coach (Natalie herself worked in an organization that offers coaching services). John told Marnie about his chance encounter with Natalie and Marnie immediately encouraged John to give Natalie a call. John indicated that he hoped Natalie might assist him in mapping out a strategy for building better relationships with the men and women whom he supervises. While his organization has never done much with coaching services, John believed that he could obtain funds to support the coaching services. He was pretty sure that Kurt, the President of his organization, would approve of this allocation of funds-being a strong advocate (at least on paper) for “developmental” services in his hospital.

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