Thursday, October 8, 2015
A catalyst for change? Coaching and mentoring
John Whitmore, in his article, Will coaching rise to the challenge? throws down a wero (challenge) for coaching as a profession.
He opens by describing some of the possible benefits of the economic crisis in the States (the article was written in 2009), highlighting the fact that apparent negative setbacks can be a catalyst for review and change. In particular Whitmore outlines how people can be sparked into taking opportunities to escape from the illusion of wealth, especially with support such as that provided by coaching. The process can lead to a change in attitude and viewpoint - both of which are fundamentally important in shaping outlook. Coaches can ask new questions about a person’s job, relationships and lifestyle that can help them re-assess their purpose, life, and values. As such, two primary products of coaching are a growth of a person’s awareness and responsibility, which apply to all aspects of life.
Whitmore also talks about leadership, ranging from the pragmatic (people in leadership roles are often unaware of the benefits and availability of coaching), to the conceptual (we do not need to wait around for the ‘next great leader’). Instead, he advocates for leadership from within, in part through the development of self-responsibility - something that many people need to develop. Coaches, using skills such as asking, as opposed to telling, and pulling rather than pushing, alongside rigorous frameworks and strategies for working with sustainable change, can help people develop the skills to meet and adapt to altering circumstances.
To achieve this, Whitmore asserts that coaches need to keep up to date with current affairs and global shifts - and this is where he throws down the wero - can coaching change? It has already made a move from a one-to-one coaching to working with large groups and institutional change. Can it become more global so that it can impact humanity as a whole? To do this would require a change of focus from individual to collective responsibility, as well as an acceptance that, if a coach’s ideals are more inclusive than the person who they are coaching, then their values need to precedence.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, although I had to think long and hard about the notion of the coach’s ideals taking the forefront. The more I mull it over, however, it makes sense. As a mentor working in a group of mentors, we have often discussed how we work with mentees whose ideals differ fundamentally to ours to the point that they are not comfortable on any level. In particular some of the unquestioned biases that a mentee may have. We talked about the skill of asking questions that help a person hold up a mirror to themselves seeming to be essential, as well as carefully asking the difficult questions. There was also agreement. however, that if a mentee’s views were derogatory and extremely biased we would clearly state disagreement. It’s a tricky space to work in, but as Whitmore says, coaching (and I would also add mentoring) has “the means to construct exactly what is most needed all over at this time, the individual and collective responsibility essential for the survival of life as we know it” (Whitmore, 2009, p. 3). Would be great to read what you think.