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A Developmental Perspective in Coaching

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[This article first appeared in a 2008 issue of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations that was dedicated to Frederick Hudson, founder of the Hudson Institute and a leading figure in the application of adult development theory to the field of professional coaching. We believe that this article continues to be relevant and that its author, Pam McLean, is still honoring, through this article, the rich legacy left by Frederick Hudson.]

The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara is among a small cadre of coach training and learning organizations in North America emerging in the late 80’s and early 90’s, each with roots in specific fields of study, and applied theoretical orientations. like others, the Hudson Institute began building its coach training and education programs when the term ‘coaching’ was largely understood in the sports arena and the nascent field of coaching was frontier territory at the cross section of leadership and organizational development, human development, behavioral change, consulting psychology and various philosophical domains. As the profession matures, the author and other members of the Hudson Institute are able to appreciate the diversity and richness of multidimensional roots and the value of a broad pool of theoretical orientations informing this burgeoning field of coaching This introductory article reflects that diversity and richness.

Coaching has emerged at a unique time in history; few new professions have been born into such a change-dominated world. In the past, professionals have always functioned with a set of basic skills and concepts that they use repeatedly throughout their careers (medicine, law, finance). Coaching is radically different in that it has emerged as a field that, as its central function, facilitates change and development.  For this reason alone, it’s imperative that our profession has a coherent and explicit under­ standing of how change happens and how we support and leverage continuous change at the intersection of development.

At the Hudson Institute, our primary theoretical roots are in adult development, human systems thinking and change theory. Development is an ongoing process for the individual that is inextricably embedded in all levels of human systems, ranging from the internal system of self to the broader systems of teams, organizations, and extending beyond into cultures and today’s global forces. Development throughout our adult years as leaders, managers and individuals is at the heart of growth and change in all facets of our humanness and at all levels of human systems.

Our foundation in this broad domain began well before the field of coaching emerged. Co-founder Frederic Hudson served as the founding president of The Fielding Graduate University in the 70’s and 80’s, a learning organization whose mission  was  in  providing  graduate  degrees  to  midlife   adults  through  an innovative, self-directed learning model that embraced the inter­section of  change and development in the learning paradigm.

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