Edie Seashore: On Coaching

52 min read

Edie:  I know it. And when it first came out, I went down to the Center for Creative Leadership and talked to the head guy. At the time, I was president of NTL, so this was in the 80s. And—no, it was in the 70s. They were delighted to host me down there and were very cordial about hearing my perception of their 360, which was not very friendly. I told them I thought it could be used more effectively. I didn’t think it should be abandoned. And I made some suggestions about the “OD way of using it”  I said, for one thing, if the trust in organizations isn’t high enough for people to actually sit down and talk with one another, then at least let them sit down with a group of people from the same category from which they’re getting the results. So, if they’re getting them from peers, let’s sit down with some peers. Even if it’s a facilitated discussion, let them ask questions of the peers around what it is that the feedback was about so they understand it. Ask help from the peers to point out to them when they’re doing this, so that they can experience it, because there’s many a slip between what they hear and what they can actually see themselves doing.

Our best experiences are people catching themselves in the act.  Then they say, “Oh, my God.  This is what it is. This is what I feel like. This is what I’m thinking, and this is why I’m doing this.”

Dorothy:  Which is really what happens in group work.

Edie:  Yes. That was what the T-group was based on to a great extent. The feedback was in the here and now. That was the idea. And feedback in the here and now is still the most effective feedback, but if they’re going to do these 360s anyway, at least get the collaboration of the people who are giving them feedback. It may not be the exact person, but it’s at least the category. In other words, if they’re hearing something from their peers, then let them get together with the peers and say, “Let me understand this and let me ask you, will you please point out to me when I’m doing this so that I can experience what it is you’re—what’s happening at the time?” Which was the basis of the T-group.

Incidentally, I have a colleague right now who has an enormous consulting project with one of the international pharmaceutical companies. He’s having the time of his life, but he consults to  all  the head people, following them around five days a month everywhere they go and giving them instant feedback. Everybody seems to be loving it—but the paradigm of feedback really should be changed from giving to requesting or asking, because I will ask people for the information I need. Then we’ve got something really going for us.

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