WHERE IT BEGAN:
After publishing the first book, Much Ado About Coaching (2014), we intuitively knew that we were doing something different. For a start we weren’t telling people what needed to be done, rather we were interested in sharing our experiences of what was working in practice through our writing. We were looking to inspire others to reflect on our collective learning experiences. We wanted to consider the insights that were relevant to others and help them find their own ways to apply them in their day-to-day. What’s more we were breaking the rules and disrupting the norms that exist both in our field of coaching and publishing.
We were doing something that was quite leading edge too – we just needed to be able to articulate what that was! We needed to break down what it was we were doing.
- Everyone had a learning mind set.
- We all felt comfortable working with someone else from the group who supported us through the writing process.
- We were all excited in being able to share how our coaching experiences shaped us personally and professionally on a regular basis.
- On top of that there was something in our approach that supported each of us to stay open and honest about our practice.
It required us to step back and do some further investigation to check whether we were on the right path. Hence it was necessary for us to expand our reach, gain new insights and perspectives, draw on each other’s experience, and give each other room to continually develop our own practice. You might call that practitioner research, or even peer-to-peer coaching.
WHERE WE ARE NOW:
Fast forward two years, and we’re very excited to celebrate our second book, Translating Coaching Codes of Practice: Insights from the leading edges of everyday practitioners. A ‘growing’ collection of coaching knowledge from the leading edges of everyday practitioners who were answering a rather challenging question, “How do you validate your own coaching practice?”
Now let me be clear this wasn’t the lead-in question that we put forward to our practitioners – we’d scare a lot of them away rather than attract them! Coaches are still not well practiced at reporting their own practice and so we took a coaching approach (coaching coaches even) by asking them either what was currently important to them in their practice or what their top three coaching experiences were. It also became apparent that practitioners have very few opportunities to talk about these positive experiences. With every conversation we had we saw how they ‘lit up’ and became more engaged and animated as they got a chance to relive and share those moments with someone else. And then, when they translated those experiences and wrote them into their blog-article that gets published, another blog-article appears, and then another.
Translating Coaching Codes of Practice is an edited volume from a series of blogs first published on the good coach. Over fifteen established practitioners share their insights and experiences of how they translate these questions through their practice, and an exercise we think could be of value to coaches generally. Each coach works in a different context and in different locations around the world. Each share their leading edges of how they are making it work for them. Working with them led us to our most important insight, even confirmation, to date (particularly amongst the good coach blogitorial team): the leading edges in practice come from every day practitioners.
“Why? What’s the evidence?” we hear you asking.
Let us share how we arrived to this point:
- In the market: They have all been working and applying their coaching approach in contexts that best fit their practice, and they have developed their credibility and a reputation for delivering a professionally tailored learning space that meets the objectives of other stakeholders involved.
- As a practitioner: They are all passionate, and work hard at giving that quality of attention. This leads to engaging conversations that support their clients in strategically meeting their endeavours and continuously reaching their evolving potential.
- Articulating practice via blogs: They have willingly (and possibly even unknowingly) begun to translate and share their codes of practice that are unique to them. These practices are typically hard for another individual to fully replicate. Everyone has their own words infused with their own personal meaning to talk about what it is they are doing. Being able to talk about their approach, describing those behaviours and interactions in their own way, they bring alive the words and action in the context and environment they’re each working in.
Moreover, the practice of writing a series of blogs and articles presented another opportunity to report on their experiences (some even call this their real Continuing Professional Development). These opportunities may be based around some immediate situation(s) or may be the result of an accumulation of learning experiences over a period of time (a month, six months, a year, even a lifetime). More often than not it’s a combination of the two. Periodically sharing snapshots of the breadth and depth of their coaching from their environments, they are also disclosing their own personal development through their professional practice as well as demonstrating tenets of good research into where real knowledge lives about what works.
Connecting lived experience with, and where appropriate, to a broad array of currently available knowledge from the wider context, practitioners draw from both of these to make sense of and inform the space they work in with others. The breadth of their knowledge base is also compelling because it suggests that the current places for finding relevant coaching knowledge is too limited and narrow for the realities which practitioners actually operate in. Furthermore, it healthily demonstrates how practitioners are themselves life-long learners. This should in turn inform the coaching field that life-long learning is fundamental in any of the studies and research involved as we don’t yet have a final solution.
Encouraging and nurturing this type of articulation and reporting of practice, which is then published through various platforms and made available to others in coaching, is raising the level of quality and rigor. Additionally, it reveals how each coach has found ways to move beyond the conventional codes of practice that can be viewed as being too vague and out of touch with people’s reality. Experienced practitioners have a much more sophisticated approach of ensuring how they are ‘fit for purpose’ with their market. As one of the contributor’s and reviewer’s said, “It’s a high quality pick ’n mix where each time you dip into the book you’ll look forward to coming back for more insights!”
And so, the first three parts of Translating Coaching Codes of Practice presents:
- Part 1: Leading edges in practitioner learning and development
- Part 2: Cutting edge performance in practitioner delivery
- Part 3: Identifying the competitive edges in the market
Our approach is not to rush to a ‘final solution’; rather we’re more interested in finding those patterns that may eventually lead to similarities that have evolved from the realities of the diverse practice that already exists. We can also learn how to move forward from other disciplines, and they may act both as a cautionary tale and an example of technological ingenuity, about the learning still to come about in coaching.
For example, from the field of biosciences the Human Genome Project (HGP): an ambitious international effort to sequence the three billion nucleotides within thirteen years that would revolutionise health and welfare benefits. It started with a simple premise known as the Central Dogma coined by Francis Crick, “DNA makes RNA makes protein makes us”. However, it became clear through the research that protein constituted less than 2 percent of the DNA. The remaining 98 percent was referred to as ‘junk’ and as Rose and Rose (2014) pointed out, “the term [junk], however, proved to be seriously misleading, with painful consequences for the hope of the HGP as ‘the book of life’…But at the time when the HGP was being contemplated, it was the genes, not the junk, which offered clinical hope and raised the possibility of future patents.”
The term junk suggests that there was a lot of material non-relevant, however as studies progressed this turned out to be a long way from being junk. “The revelation of the complexity of the human genome came as a surprise, at least in part due to the sequencers’ failure to recognise the significance of the fact that the genome is the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary history.” A lot has been discovered, but it has not produced that immediate personalised medicine based on genetic information (gene therapy).
There are a lot of parallels, even cautionary tales and lessons we can learn from the HGP and usefully bring into coaching –
- starting with evolutionary history; being curious about diversity rather than setting arbitrary boundaries (or what scientists unfortunately referred to as ‘junk’); and
- the robustness of coaching approaches that may eventually hold the legal designation of a ‘professional’ that includes independent and objective validation.
In this multidimensional and multifaceted world that coaching currently occupies, the good coach chooses to adopt an approach to ownership that is in-line with best practice for achieving real independence.
And so, in Part 4: Extending the frontiers of knowledge through practitioners’ practice, the final section in Translating Coaching Codes of Practice, we offer some practical and pragmatic perspectives about sharing practitioner experience that we think will continue shaping the perceptions and insights of our field. We suggest using an open approach towards practitioner research, and in parallel building up a quality body of practitioner knowledge that truly represents the leading edges of everyday practitioners. That is where the real knowledge lives. We just have to keep finding ways to get to it.