Building on part 1 of ‘What is organisational coaching?’, where we explored this topic in the context of the power of the question in and of itself, part 2 of this series explores this question in the context of our typical assumptions about defining what we do, and organisational coaching is no different.
When we pause for a moment and take a step back, reflecting on the coaching profession as it is emerging in its relative infancy, what is immediately noticed is the prevalent idea that one-to-one coaching and team coaching seem to be well understood, albeit with a wide range of perspectives on how to go about it. In contrast, when we look at organisational coaching, this is a very different kettle of frogs.
When you look at the near endless stream of books and articles on coaching, a common thread is the prevalence of statements that represent people’s attempts to define coaching, with some being really good and some not-so-good. And these definitions most certainly add value, and we have all learnt from them. Yet, we believe, that the value-add from definitions will only take us so far in our coaching practice.
So… what does this mean?
While definitions are important at the entry and intermediate levels of coaching, the question is, to what extent are definitions important at the advanced and mastery levels of coaching. Definitions are a little like training wheels when learning to ride a bicycle, a steadying hand we only need for so long, and sooner or later, those steadying wheels become an impediment, something we all know from experience. Can you imagine someone arriving to ride the Tour de France or the Argus Cycle Tour in Cape Town with some training wheels?
The question is – to what extent is coaching any different? Yet, this is the dominant practice throughout our coaching institutions.
As a coach aspires to develop their practice towards the advanced and mastery levels, that developmental journey evolves into a different approach to learning and practice. While the entry and intermediate levels are about taking on new things in the learning journey, the advanced and mastery levels are about continuously letting go of what is unnecessary until one arrives at a point of the very essence and nothing else.
Coaching definitions are by their very nature, of the past. They are past tense. History. In contrast, coaching practice is not of the past, it is of the present, present tense. Taking a very different perspective, there is absolutely no way a master coach could define a coaching engagement, for the simple reason that it hasn’t happened yet. Mastery in coaching is about letting go of our training wheels, letting go of our definitions and models, so that we can truly be there in the coaching, free from any past tense and preconceived ideas that can get in the way of the coaching relationship and the collaborative endeavour in our work together.