Coaching: looking back to see the future by yvonne thackray


Coaching is an amalgamation of a multitude of disciplines which are all looking to achieve the same end point “unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance” (Whitmore, 1992). The seeds for coaching began to form at the turn of the twentieth century as a “new derivative of the best thinking in self-improvement… and most recently in the business world, where it exploded into the corporate environment in the 1990’s” (Williams, 2004). They include:

  • Social science Psychology is the most influential, whilst sociology, linguistics, and anthropology are slowly making contributions to the field of coaching through their theories of human social behaviour and communication within the diversity of human culture and interaction.
  • Adult education, learning, and development.
  • Eastern, Western, and other philosophies. The vast body of philosophical knowledge is an important foundation for evidence-based coaching (Grant 2005) though it isn’t necessary incorporated into the foundations of coaching.
  • Performing arts draw on emotions, memories, and experiences to influence portrayal of a character.
  • Wellness generally in the form of work-life balance
  • Communication addresses the learning and processing of verbal and non-verbal language.
  • Literature linking creativity and innovation
  • Systems theory. Coaching has adapted systems theory concepts of feedback and feed-forward loops to manage and organise chaos.  (adapted Brooke 2008)

Coaching developed and grew with the popular notion of setting in motion the need for a more optimistic model that supports healthy individuals, juxtapositioned with the growing awareness and acceptance towards risk and accountability, the drive to flourish and reach their full potential across the multiple roles one can occupy throughout the whole lifetime. Furthermore, the society we live in has become more diverse and complex. We are all finding alternative ways to understand how it impacts our lives and what has made is having more leisure time and disposable income. Socially, it has become acceptable to spend one’s earnings on self-development.

Finding the right coach and even applying the knowledge, skills and ability used in your own profession due diligence should be carried out. There is still no single or unified operational definition of coaching because there is no unifying body of knowledge to connect it to the multitudes of models, theories, practices, effectiveness and standards. The coaching field is proactively building in all these areas and all the good coaches are participating in helping to build the foundations and specialisms. Hence take the time, similar to an investment strategy for purchasing something that is both of value and has immediate and long term benefits to you. Ask the right questions to find the right coach whom you can build a trusting relationship with to work through difficult and challenging obstacles in a safe environment!


  • Brook, V. 2008. Grounded theory of the roots and emergence of coaching
  • Grant, A. 2005. What is evidence-based executive, workplace and life coaching
  • Grant, A. 2006. A personal perspective on professional coaching and the development of coaching psychology.
  • Larson, M.S. 2013 The Rise of Professionalism
  • Whitmore, J. 1992. Coaching for Performance
  • Williams, P. (2004). Coaching and Mentoring International Annual Seminar January 20, 2004