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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Welcome to a World of Problems and Mysteries

At the heart of the matter is a particularly difficult dilemma in the field of professional coaching. This dilemma concerns the nature of the issues being addressed by coaches and their clients. In many cases, a coaching client is addressing issues that might be described as organizational puzzles. These issues can be framed in a specific discipline (finances, personnel, marketing, etc.) and they usually operate in a domain over which a coaching client has control (internal locus of control). Accountability can readily be assigned. Success or failure can easily be assessed (metrics) in the resolution of a specific organizational puzzle.

In other cases, the issues being addressed are organizational problems. Issues of this type are multi-dimensional and often require multi-disciplinary perspectives. An organizational problem may involve finances, personnel issues and marketing. Accountability is much more difficult to assign, for an organizational problem usually is partially under the control of the client and partially under the control of other stakeholders within and outside the system (a mixture of internal and external locus of control). Metrics are much more difficult to apply in determining the relative success or failure of the solution generated in addressing a problem. Organizational problems become even more elusive and difficult to assess when they involve dilemmas and paradoxes—and this often is the case. One solution to an organizational problem creates a new problem or one approach to the problem necessitates the neglect of an alternative approach which is just as viable. We even find dilemmas and paradoxes that are embedded in or nested in other dilemmas and paradoxes—quite a challenge!

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 define all disciplinary descriptions and are under no one’s control (external 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.

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