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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Head vs. Heart

Another set of decisions faces Rachel, as she begins working with Sam. To what extent should she focus on emotional issues, rather than staying with the reasoning that Sam is doing regarding his job, his work with subordinates and his response to the divergent priorities offered by his President? This decision on the part of Rachel and Sam might relate not just to their own expectations regarding professional coaching services, but also to their own assumptions about the roles to be played by men and women in contemporary society. Rosabeth Kanter wrote during the 1960s about the role played by secretaries in American corporate life. She noted that these women (and they were rarely men) often played the role of surrogate wife to their male (and they were rarely female) bosses. They served in a supportive staff role, often moving along with their boss when he is promoted into a job of greater responsibility (the secretary becomes part of the “chattel” accumulated by a male executive during his climb through the organization).

The secretary was often the social-performance manager for her boss, reminding him of birthdays, anniversaries and other commemorations, as well as advising him on how to work with specific members of the organization; she was also a key “node” in the gossip network of the organization, finding out what was really happening elsewhere in the corporation. Most importantly, the secretary serves as the “heart” to balance off the “head” of her boss—much as the traditional wife served as heart and social anchor for the family (the husband becoming the disengaged and “wounded” member of the family according to Samuel Osherson).

To what extent has the professional coach taken over the role of secretary and even surrogate wife/spouse—providing guidance for a client as he or she navigates the treacherous waters of corporate life. How many coaching clients (especially male clients) look to their coach (especially female coaches) for the “heart” (emotional intelligence) that they lack or that they have never developed given the dominant technical-rational climate of contemporary organizations? Has coaching emerged as a viable form of human service to replace the role once played by the secretary? Robert Bellah and his colleagues have suggested that the psychotherapist has taken over the role of priest and the confessional booth in contemporary America. Has the coach similarly replaced the socially-sensitive secretary—or perhaps has become a combination of socially-sensitive secretary and confessional priest? What role should Rachel play? As a woman, should she be particularly sensitive to the expectation that Sam may hold with regard to the problems he is experience in working with his subordinates? Does he want her to become his heart – and how might Marnie feel if Sam begins to rely on Rachel for advice about how to work with other people (perhaps even including his wife and friends)?

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