Home Concepts Best Practices Coaching in Organizations: A Status Report (Past, Present and Future)

Coaching in Organizations: A Status Report (Past, Present and Future)

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Fad or Foundation

What has brought Sam to Rachel? His wife has recommended that Sam get a coach and Rachel chose several years ago to become a coach. Where did coaching come from, why is it popular today, and what expectations do Sam (and Rachel) hold as to the final outcomes of their work together? In many ways, professional coaching looks like another “fad” – hot for a few years and then fading into the mist, along with bio-feedback, encounter groups, management-by-objectives and quality circles. Like other fads, professional coaching is guilty-as-charged with regard to over-promising, building on personal testimony rather than carefully documented evidence, and focusing more on marketing and advertising than product improvement. We also see the “fad” orientation of professional coaching in the very word “coaching.”  This term was borrowed (without permission!) from the field of sports coaching. Like the terms “team building” and “game plan” the term “coaching” comes with all the conceptual baggage and expectations about outcomes that are to be found in competitive sports. While the explicit statements about coaching may focus on collaboration and “win/win” there are the implicit assumptions about competition—with one winner and one loser. If there is a winner and loser, then who will inevitably lose? A social-critical (Continental School) analysis would suggest that inequitable treatment is inevitable (“those with the gold rule”) and the British School (Tavistock) can identify ways in which organizations cover over or distort the true stories about competition for scarce resources. Organizational coaching may be not just a fad, but also a fad that inevitably contributes to victimization and dis-empowerment.

Substantial evidence can be offered suggesting that professional coaching as a fad is now past its peak (reached 5-10 years ago) and will soon fade from view. Attendance at many international meetings on professional coaching is dropping off. The fees being charged are now leveling off. Using the metaphor of the “Old West” – the gold has been tapped out and the prospectors have folded up their tents, packed their wagons and moved on to another purported vein of gold (fad). This being the case, then perhaps Sam should look elsewhere for assistance and Rachel should look for a more secure position inside an organization or shift to an alternative endeavor as an independent provider.

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