Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Malcolm Nicholson (UK)
I have to put my cards on the table straight away and say I am mightily impressed by the thinking in Lawrence & Moore’s book. For me, so much resonated. They have created thinking that leapfrogs the development offered by most coaching organisations and allows coaching to step up to add the value that is required by organisations, reflecting the complexity and unrelenting change with which most organisations are struggling. How can coaches add value to people who are having to constantly learn, adapt and be creative as well as do their day job if coaches themselves are following a well worn path?
They push the boundaries of accepted wisdom around what coaching is, encouraging creativity and new approaches. How many coaching authorities will look at a group coaching scenario and ask ‘What model of coaching will work best for this group? Dialogic coaches are more likely to encourage the group to explicitly question and review its own model for coaching than they are to hold the group to account to the version of coaching presented. Heresy?’
Some business books can be a chapter masquerading as a book (get one idea and pad it out). The ideas and concepts discussed are developed throughout the book and the authors shine different lights from different perspectives throughout.
They build from an examination of the traditional approach to coaching – (Goal orientated style) through to dialogic approach and then a systemic approach.
The authors challenge – but don’t dismiss – a lot of the perceived wisdom of ‘purist’ – or as they call it ‘traditional’ coaching. (‘We talk. Coachee decides to change’). This approach is two people sitting in a room, hermetically sealed by a membrane of confidentiality. The focus is forward and goal orientated. The coach works leader by leader they are contracted with and focus on that individual. However, for most organsations, this is simply the calling card now. It may get you through the door, but it won’t keep you there. Business situations offer complexity that would have been unthought of even 5 years ago. (See previous ICN article ‘The Changing Demands of Leadership in the 21st century. Is Coaching Keeping up?’)
They then go on to examine the Dialogic Approach; (‘We engage in dialogue. Change emerges from the dialogue.’) Change occurs through this dialogue which can involve key stakeholders and working groups. It understands that leadership is relational, that they flexibly contract the boundaries of confidentiality, create space for reflection and change through the level of dialogue, which may include others outside that room. And yes, it’s OK to talk about a person’s background and yes, it is necessary to go back in order to go forward, to ensure you’re not papering over the cracks of a subsiding structure.
The Sytemic approach looks at the individual like a dialogic coach, but as part of a group, a team, an organisation and maybe even a broader canvas. Leadership impacts the whole system so the coach listens for patterns of dialogue and story to create space for individual and organisational change.
Lawrence & Moore then move on to look at systemic approaches in Coaching Practice. At an individual level – in other words, the coachees view is inevitably narrow, so how does the systemic coach broaden and enrich that perspective? The authors encourage creativity, or as John Dewey called it, “Having some serious fun”.
They then expand this approach to coaching teams and groups, then coaching the organisation.
The book rounds off with a fresh perspective on Coach Development. As alluded to earlier, many training programmes focus on ‘competence’, a necessary set of foundations on which to build (In a musician’s term, learning the scales). They identify that many organisations don’t offer much to the experienced coach to help them coach in complexity or traverse to larger groups.
‘Capability’ builds on competence, requiring self- awareness and reflection to enable active learning to develop. Without this, no insightful development will occur. It will be using the tools in a mechanistic fashion. In other words, I have learned the scales, but can’t do anything else with them.
Finally, ‘perspective’ reflects the work of Robert Kegan on adult development and thinking. Lawrence & Moore talk about ‘Vertical development’ instead of the more common approach of ‘horizontal development’ in order to be a curious coach, seeking understanding and helping the organisation and coachee with meaning-making. Familiarity with models and theories means the systemic coach can bring them into play, as a jazz musician is able to think and create simultaneously. “Music in the moment”.
At a broader perspective and on a more pragmatic level, coaching as a business is going through consolidation and being flooded by people freshly qualified. The approaches offered by Lawrence & Moore enables the experienced coach to differentiate their approach and develop and enrich the experience they have built up to add greater value to their clients.
So to summarise, I’ll leave the last word with the authors themselves:-
‘… we challenge the idea that coaching is all about goal setting and action plans. We challenge the idea that coaching is best described as one person coaching another. We challenge the idea that becoming a better coach is all about acquiring new skills. We offer this three dimensional perspective… to those of us who believe we need to think differently about coaching if coaching is to remain relevant. The world is changing, so must we.… we suggest we must all:
Above all perhaps, we need to get (even more) curious’
Lawrence, P. & Moore, A. (2018). Coaching in three dimensions. Meeting the challenges of a complex world. Routledge Oxon.
About Malcolm Nicholson
Malcolm Nicholson is the owner and Coaching Director for Aspecture, and has worked successfully with a wide range of senior business people around the globe for over 19 years, enabling them to improve business results through transformational changes. To find out how he can help your organisation, contact him at email@example.com or on +44 1932 267597.
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