Introducing “Leading the way into the personal knowledge bases of everyday practitioners” (Book 3 of the Translating Coaching Codes of Practice series)

What a great time to take stock, and celebrate this considerable collective achievement of the good coach community!

"...such a wide range of people and ways of practice …"
"Each article is very quick to read with a lot of ground covered!"
"This sort of openness certainly helps me think about my practice and how it works - sometimes the same, and sometimes very differently from others."
"It really opens your eyes to the big wide ranging topic coaching is about!"
"I’d like to say thank you to all these coaches who have contributed such a wealth of their thinking about their practices"
"Wow! seems very academic...!"

These are just some of the comments we've received so far since releasing Book 3, 'Leading the way into the personal knowledge bases of everyday practitioners' (of the TRANSLATING Coaching Codes of Practice series) on the 29th September 2017.  To share what's in store in Book 3, which holds and acts as a practitioner reference for over 80 written pieces by 33 authors, here is the Preface. 


The Preface

THE GOOD COACH IS GROWING AND DEVELOPING TOWARDS BECOMING A PRACTITIONER RESEARCH INSTITUTION WHOSE CORE PROPOSITION IS TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS COACHING. 

Having the opportunity to year-on-year publish a new book as part of the ‘Translating Coaching Codes of Practice’ series gives the good coach community both validation and confidence that the good coach approach is making positive headway in delivering a sustainable and robust approach that is slowly reaching its vision; to touch 1 percent of the global population with inspiring, and effective, coaching conversations. 

We believe it is only through the rich and diverse contributions from each and every coaching practitioner’s to willingly engage in and share their personal experiences of professional practice that makes this project possible. Altogether we make up the good coach community. A space for experienced, as well as mature, practitioners to individually benefit from the principles underpinning the good coach, and a place where we are all collectively contributing through the good coach to a practitioner knowledge base that serves the broader community. 

Representing the community, we bring together these individual reports and accounts from the front line of every day coaching practitioners - whether as narratives, stories, cases, and other ways of professional reporting. Collectively, they begin to provide evidence that more fairly represents the diversity of approaches that exist. Each coaching practitioner is unique, with their own patterns of behaviour that they recognise as demonstrating their codes of practice from their personal knowledge base formed from all of their experiences. 


POSITIONING THE GOOD COACH ALONGSIDE TRADITIONAL INSTITUTES KNOWN FOR KNOWLEDGE CREATION

In Book 2, Insights from the leading edges of every day practitioners, we shared an example of technological ingenuity 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 revolutionize health and welfare benefits. As the research progressed, less than 3 percent of the DNA of a human genome was sequenced whilst the remaining 97 percent was labelled ‘junk’, unfortunately, by no less a molecular luminary than Francis Crick, co-discover of DNA’s double-helical structure.  The term initially suggested that there was a lot of non-relevant material, however as later studies progressed they turned out to be a long way from junk and morphed into the ENCODE project!

For the field of coaching this is a useful example of a cautionary tale. In traditional science, particularly natural science (which HGP belongs to), strict laboratory conditions and methodologies are fundamental in how they describe, predict and understand natural ‘stable’ phenomena. Their disciplines are typically supported by a knowledge base that incorporates mechanisms such as peer review and repeatability of findings to ensure the validity of scientific advances. This has reached a level of efficiency after thousands of years of debate and consensus-building.  And yet, any scientist, or expert in the field, who attempts to suggest that they’ve fully understood the phenomena and that knowledge is now complete are quickly exposed. 

In coaching, we’re still in the very early stages of articulating, identifying, understanding and appreciating which knowledge is more relevant, and directly contributes to, enabling our practice.  There is still more to learn, explore and be curious about. Setting arbitrary boundaries (or what scientists unfortunately referred to as ‘junk’) of what is considered to be the real knowledge base for coaching in this multidimensional and multifaceted world dominates coaching. This is why the good coach continues to choose to adopt an approach to ownership that is in-line with best practice for achieving real independence (similar to those traditional institutions that values independent knowledge creation). Furthermore, there are big implications for an approach that aims to respect the diversity of codes of practice of each practitioner, across a very diverse range of circumstances

Coaching is, by nature, dynamic from each moment to moment. Attempting to apply a traditional scientific approach that starts with isolating factors that can then be tested to get to some acceptable results, is ambitious. It creates a ‘superficial’ understanding of coaching, which is actually complex and messy. Instead a more open and inclusive approach is required that allows more opportunities to connect those words with (patterns of) behaviours that more accurately captures how each practitioner makes coaching work for them in their context. With time, and as recognizable patterns begin to emerge, it provides us with opportunities to start exploring, debating and building consensus as a community from a common framework. 


TAKING A MORE OPEN APPROACH TO PRACTITIONER RESEARCH, THIS HAS LED US TO OUR THIRD BOOK IN OUR SERIES:

Translating Coaching Codes of Practice - Leading the way into the personal knowledge bases of everyday practitioners. 

An edited volume from a series of blogs first published on the good coach. 

Over thirty established practitioners (both new and regular contributors) share their insights, experiences and patterns of how they are making a difference through their coaching approach. They may be working from within an organisation - as a manager, leader, internal coach (individual, group and/or team) - or from a portfolio of service contracts with professionals (individual, group and/or team) in various organisations. 

Together with our current practitioner-authors, it has led the good coach to its most important insight, even confirmation, to date, as we can show in this publication: the leading edge in practice comes from every day practitioners who draw on their experiences and skills, whilst adapting relevant theories where appropriate, that constitutes their personal knowledge base. 

Each coaching practitioner speaks from:

  • A diversity of contexts: They work in a different context and in different locations around the world. They have developed their credibility and reputation for delivering a professionally tailored learning space that meets the objectives of other stakeholders involved in their market. 
  • Their unique Practice: They share how they are leading the way in “making it work”. Their practices are typically hard for another individual to fully replicate because they have their own words infused with their own personal meaning to talk about what they are doing. 
  • Setting their standards of practice: They demonstrate how they are leading the way in being “fit-for-practice”. This involves, in various degrees, comfortably engaging in the words used by their clients, diagnosing the individual and the situation to appropriately engage at the client’s level of readiness, a willingness to provide alternative and independent perspectives, and to ask the right questions, all whilst continuously creating and maintaining the conditions for coaching. 
  • Connecting their knowledge to others: They readily draw from their personal knowledge base that connects their living experiences with, and where appropriate, to a broad array of currently available knowledge from the wider context. The breadth of their personal knowledge base is also compelling because it suggests that the current resources for finding relevant coaching knowledge is still too simple for the realities which practitioners operate in. 

LEADING THE PROCESS OF FORMING PRACTITIONER KNOWLEDGE. EVOLVING THE BENEFITS OF SELF-REPORTING TO SELF, COMMUNITY AND THE MARKET THROUGH BLOGS.

We continue to be interested in finding those patterns that may eventually lead to similarities from the realities of the diverse practice that already exist. We’re not interested in rushing to ‘a final solution’. We’re still in those early stages of learning and appreciating the unique differences between each other’s practice that’s covered sweepingly under this broad term ‘coaching’. The level of detail required to begin reaching consensus particularly around definitions amongst a small group, let alone the 1 percent of coaching practitioners the good coach is looking to engage with, makes this a long-term project. 

All the practitioners that choose to engage with the good coach are contracting to engage in a meaningful and rigorous process that helps them to continue to make sense of how they practice as they write up and report on it through the medium of a blog/blog-article. 

The idea of Blog remains essential as a form of personal written expression; to talk about their practice, to increasingly want to write about their practice in the wider context of the field, and other coaching practice as they know it.

The various parts of Practice can be reported in different ways,

  • Key events that have been important experiences that have influenced how they apply their coaching approach, 
  • Immediate situations or challenges they are facing in their current assignments, 
  • Reviewing past situations in order to improve their current and future practice, 
  • Patterns of behaviours as a result of an accumulation of learning experiences over a period of time (a month, six months, a year, even a life time). 

Importantly, it is how they describe these events-patterns through their use of ‘I’.  Each practitioner-author has a different starting point as they engage in their reporting yet what is consistent, and becomes apparent for all, is acknowledging who the real audience is for their piece. 

Themselves!

Writing has important advantages. For example it creates a mechanism of expression that has proven to be have important advantages for sharing; as well as an important basis for proposing and agreeing meaning for others; and to begin engaging in broader conversations that could eventually lead to building consensus. 
This process of writing is also evolving in the material our community is collecting:  

  • The initial focus: Our authors value practitioner knowledge as a means of progressing their understanding and use of coaching. That is why the first draft is for the author. 
  • The second draft is for the good coach community: Here, our central, core group of blogatorial members help to represent the good coach community and provide important editorial (blogitorial) support
  • The published version, through the good coach web site distribution, is for the much wider audiences of readers: Feedback from wider audiences again illustrates the wide range of interests in the wider community for what catches their attention. 

We have also directly received positive feedbacks from the practitioners themselves that the benefits of writing about their practice has helped them to deepen their awareness, confidence and reflection around their client work. A greater authority over their practice. A usable resource that becomes part of their portfolio and branding in client development, and most importantly it has added to their development as a practitioner. 

Moreover, it’s through the process of writing that we begin to learn more about the contexts in which coaching takes place, which is more important than the content itself. For eventually, context will be what allows practitioners to more openly compare their practices with others. the good coach encourages practitioner-authors to write about their practice and asks them to more thoroughly consider, explain and ground how their practice is formed from their experiences (some might even call this coaching coaches). And importantly, it incorporates the discipline of providing definitions, as well as revealing all those subtle and significant reciprocating behaviours that are as much as part of the conversation as the words spoken themselves. 


DEFINITE PATTERNS IN THE MATERIAL OUR AUTHORS PRODUCE ABOUT THE FIELD OF COACHING OVERALL: SUMMARIZED IN FOUR THEMES AND 8 KEY TRENDS

Curating this ‘growing’ collection of writings straight from the front lines and those published through the good coach that affords us to share some key trends from applying the good coach approach.

Book 2 referred to ‘Insights from the Leading Edges of Everyday Practitioners’. We consider there is a growing confidence in the way that Coaching practitioners are finding more coherence in their Practices. Albeit while still covering a very broad range of circumstances.

Book 3 refers to ‘Leading the way into the personal knowledge bases of everyday practitioners’. We consider the continued learning, collected from a range of materials, starts with coaching practitioners being the first to acknowledge that this is part of their Practice (and review of their ‘fitness-to-practice’). How they are making the most of their experiences in Coaching, as well as progress in establishing the territory where coaching can contribute.

We have grouped the current material into four themes:

  1. Leading Edge: Influences on Practitioner's Learning and Development
    Part 1 brings together material broadly around the subject of how Practitioners live on their own edges of continually making sense of their coaching circumstances – continually learning and developing their Practice.
  2. Cutting Edge: Investigating patterns from Practitioner Experiences
    Part 2 focuses more on the challenges of the external conditions that have to be appreciated, and how Practitioners have to marshall their experience of these immediate circumstances.
  3. Opportunities at the Competitive edge: Branding, professional development, societal needs
    Part 3 talks about how Practitioners also work to link what they are doing to a wider context.
  4. What's next: Practitioner research
    Finally, Part 4 is a collection of material where Practitioners are thinking forwards, both for themselves, as well as wider ways of connecting, researching further how to make the most of what they bring.

And we share the 8 key trends that has emerged from evolving the good coach process:

  1. Emphasis on actual practice descriptions. There is a trend towards coaching practitioners using individual examples and cases as representative of their overall approach to practice, and even the shape and identity of their practice.
  2. Detail about the actual context in a specific case as well as the wider field, with an acceptable level of disclosure to the extent that the descriptions are personal rather than over generalized.
  3. Diversity factor of how authors are increasingly unashamed in expressing their own focus rather than feeling they must conform to some approved focus in how they talk about their practice.
  4. Extraordinary diversity of material. No two coaches write about the same things because of the lens they are looking through, however, some themes are beginning to show themselves.
  5. Trend towards writing a series on their practice. They are seeing the personal benefit that far exceeds the simple marketing benefit.
  6. Coaching in an organisational context offers more support, and gets to a level of coherence that practitioners are interested in, due to the very nature of an organisation’s focus on process and output which makes process and output easier to talk about (compared to coaching individuals on a wider basis).
  7. Length. Practitioners are writing longer pieces because they are beginning to look at their practice, their practice in comparison with others, and giving more attention to some of the wider field. 
  8. References are used as a more overt inclusion of connection to the wider field that’s typically used in the traditional sense of reference to available publications in which knowledge basis is formed and some measurement of knowledge formation is possible i.e. by the no. of references to any material across the field.

Importantly, this informs us that there is a growing awareness and deepening of confidence about how much there is still to do in making the most of each coaching practice.


WHERE NEXT:

the good coach aims to continue developing the concept of practitioner research and make it a more accessible approach for everyday practitioners. Broadly speaking the three areas we want to carry on investigating are: 

  • The real researchers are the practitioners, themselves. The emphasis being on the practitioners themselves learning to report on their own research - their real-life experiences of applying their coaching approach in their own words - using best practices of reporting from traditional institutions where more formal research is typically carried out. Sharing those experiences through a blog or blog-article emphasizes the expression of a personal view that also consider the audience. It enables practitioners to feel freer to talk about their personal experiences from their practice, and it gives them the opportunity to write about how they view what they are doing with some depth and understanding. 
  • Practitioner research is about exploring the wide range of factors, data, and contexts that better represents the complex reality that each individual lives and works in. It’s moving out of the laboratories where isolating factors in stable and simplified conditions dominates. It’s all about having the confidence and capacity to describe, predict and understand how each practitioner’s personality has learnt to connect with others, particularly those individuals who they work better with, in their situation and context to do good coaching. 
  • Validity of practice can thus be measured through those behavioural patterns. They can typically be predicted once the practitioner is aware of how and why they are using them (cause-effect) and shown to produce fairly similar results when those same behaviours are applied across a range of contexts and individuals. Writing about practitioner experiences and observing where similar behavioural patterns emerge across them is where practitioner research really begins to inform and give shape to a practitioner’s practice, and how it compares with another coaching practitioner’s practice and the wider field of practice. 

Each practitioner continues to build their personal knowledge base, and in parallel contributes to building up a quality body of practitioner knowledge that truly represents the diversity of unique practices and leading edges of everyday practitioners. This is where we continue to believe the real knowledge lives. We just have to continue finding ways to get to it that eventually becomes reproducible by others.


Finally, if you would like to order your copy of any of the books currently available in the TRANSLATING Coaching Codes of Practice series, just click here, and purchase at our online print-on-demand, self-publishing and distribution platform Lulu.com. Or, if you are ready to share how your practice works contact us now.

Celebrating progress at the good coach! by the current tgc Leadership Team

“Having been in coaching and mentoring for three decades, it takes a unique text to stop me in my tracks and go “wow!” This book does that.” 
Margaret Chapman-Clarke (2017)

A chartered and registered psychologist, EI Coaching and Consulting, mc@eicoaching.co.uk

 

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“…these coaches talk about what they really do, offer opinions on the field and discuss what they care deeply about. Their intentions is to reflect on their practice, share this with peers and validate their work. The desire is to push back the boundaries of the coaching frontier with integrity – they just do that.”

the good coach (tgc) itself is a Voice, along with the Voices of our practitioner authors telling us their stories directly from their practice.

Our aim of getting practitioners Voices more appreciated for the knowledge they have about their practice, has itself been receiving strong encouragement in recent months. We thought it worthy to share something of how tgc’s Voice is working.

Since the publication of Book Two last year we have received quite an array of formal and informal feedback, on how tgc’s Voice is working. Some of this we have already shared through the medium of the website. Just the same as for us as coaches in our personal practice, feedback on what is working positively – how and why – is so formative in establishing practice.

In particular this has helped tgc to build its practice. Three themes have been coming through clearly. They are experienced professional coaching practitioners:

  1. Who do coaching but choose not to call it coaching
  2. Who do coaching but had never realised it was coaching
  3. Who do coaching at a high level but they are looking for how to explain it. They value the opportunity tgc provides to continuously learn about their practice. The more experienced they are the more they value this
“It will help build a much richer picture beyond the plethora of textbooks, to capture the lived experience of what, day-to-day, it means to coach and be coached.”

In a noisy marketplace, the growing momentum for fresh and independent perspectives. This is a message coming through loudly and clearly from the coaching academic and increasingly professional circles.  

One thing we would like to share here is some feedback we have recently received, which adds greater encouragement to our progress. The feedback itself comes from another independent and leading Voice in our field that aims to bring the best in coaching together.

Coaching at Work, whilst being UK based, has a following of what must be one of the largest international communities of people interested in coaching. For example their publication Coaching at Work speaks of the 36,000 followers they encourage via social media, as well the need to connect to the wider community.

The most recent book from tgc has been selected by Coaching at Work for a book review in their March / April issue. This has been written by a recognised leading Voice in the field, Margaret Chapman-Clarke, who is featured on the cover and the lead interview article in the same issue, “The one that got away”

http://www.coaching-at-work.com/

This in itself is invaluable feedback. It is an outstanding endorsement for what tgc stands for, what we have achieved, and for the perspectives our authors have brought. See the full book review on page 57 at Coaching at Work (subscription)

The special focus, and emphasis, seen and described in this review will further focus how the tgc community will continue to shape its voice. In particular, how writing adds important energy and focus for coaching practitioners, in their practice. As Margaret Chapman-Clarke remarks,

“It is a true collaborative and multi-vocal work. It is creative, bold and courageous and should be the ‘go to’ title (and blog) for anyone embarking on coach training. It may also inspire practitioners to write about their experiences for the blog.”

We look forwards to your continuing interest in what we are doing and we look forward to hearing from you.

the good coach 2017 Leadership Team: Sue Young, Jeremy Ridge, Yvonne Thackray

Book Review by Morton Patterson: "Translating Coaching Codes of Practice is a big book; it’s more like a reference book!”

Translating Coaching Codes of Practice is a good reference book that I would look to dip into and say, "I wonder if a coach has experienced it and what do they say." 

 

Translating Coaching Codes of Practice is written from the perspectives of the practitioner who’s practicing in sharing their expertise. What I have found with many coaching books is that they like to share their model that they have been successful in; whereas the beauty of this book, which is what I really like about it, is it’s about real insights from the leading edges of everyday practitioners.

Codes of practices exist

The image supports the different backgrounds from each of the practitioners, and it really gets that message across of diversity and diversity of coaching approaches. The front cover has a real international scope with the iconic images of Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and for me this reflected the different standards and the types of coaching that there is in this book. Then reading the title of the book, Translating Coaching Codes of Practice, it implied that this book would be looking to explore the many different codes and practice of coaches. And in this volume, each of the practitioners are beginning to translating their code because they are explaining what it means for them and their clients: their approach to coaching is being expanded on, it’s being explained, and it’s being expressed.

What I liked

The editor did a really good job in some of the chapter headings. For example, I think the chapter, “Creating engagement between the coach and the clients is very relevant. Similarly when I think about “Creating and maintaining the quality of attention”, the beauty of that heading was not only creating, because you can create and maintain a quality of attention for a couple of minutes, but how the hell do you maintain it during the session? 

Another chapter I enjoyed was chapter nine, “Identifying the competitive edges - Coaching as a profession which I think it’s really relevant.  It moves into the whole issue around regulation; coaching is not regulated as other professions e.g. accounting or engineering. With no disrespect, some people do just fall out of bed and say they’re a coach tomorrow because they’ve attended a seven-day course. And another worrying aspects that I’ve received, particularly after signing up to a UK coaching professional body, they might send you some media one day and then the next thing you might receive in the post is a certificate. This happened to me and I’m thinking, “I haven’t done anything…why am I receiving a certificate?” and as one of the articles points out “Its a bit messy” is true.

Translating Coaching Codes of Practice is a book that I’d keep on my shelf, and when the good coach digests comes in I'll have a look at the heading to see if it's relevant and does it relate to me. It’s one of my ways of keeping up-to-date and in touch with the field and market. 

To connect with Morton:

Morton Patterson (BA Hons, NLP Prac) is a practicing coach, business consultant and facilitator. He specialises  in helping clients to know their value and package their services  He writes about knowing your value, and the importance of having a strong sense of awareness and confidence in your own value, as this shows up in your relationships, the fees you charge and how you conduct yourself. He works with small business owners in the UK and internationally.

Email: morton@mortonpatterson.com
Website: http://www.mortonpatters.com
 

Morton is gifted in his calm open manner and ability to support clients with practical strategies that can be applied. He is a first class communicator, and an experienced presenter with an engaging and inspirational style.

Initial Impressions of Translating Coaching Codes of Practice by Aurora Aritao (Guest)

Translating Coaching Codes of Practice is a grown-up, mature book that puts the finger on the pulse on what coaching is, in all its diversity and richness."

 

My approach to using this book

I don’t always have the time to read from beginning to end of reference or nonfiction books. I have two spirited kids under 7. I’m building a business. I’m writing a masters thesis. When I’m pressed for time, I go to the synopsis then the table of contents and have a feel for what the book is about. I let the chapters jump at me, based on how relevant they might be at that moment in time. I pick the most relevant sections to read in one sitting. The rest I skim through for their key messages. I scan for topics that spark an emotional connection.

This is my approach to this book. It’s big, it’s deep and it will stay with me a while.

The reader who reads it all will enjoy the dynamic switching in topics. In one section, the book focuses on practitioners’ ways of relating their coaching, which is reflective and quite personal, in the next, it covers topics about feedback, structure and contracting, which are more objective, concrete and formulaic.

 

A book of short stories and companion to a coach’s tools

This book can supplement a coach’s toolbox by lending beautiful short stories from other practitioners. It is in essence a collection of short stories created originally as blogs, seen through the eyes of practitioners with varying domain knowledge and at different stages in their coaching career.

The editor rightly explains it in the introduction that this is a really different and fresh approach. It’s not a book that dictates what coaching is rather it does a great job of showing how multi-faceted and eclectic coaching truly is today.

 

The importance of the on-going sharing on coaching

Because of all the variation and evolution that we are seeing in the practice of coaching, I continue to refine that concrete, all-encompassing definition of coaching in my mind that works for me. I’m always interested in feedback from practicing coaches around the world on how they have come to define coaching in their minds.

Books like Translating Coaching Codes of Practice are so valuable to practitioners, students and clients of coaching, because I believe that there still exists a perception of complexity in coaching, especially in the executive and corporate space. Questions like how do we measure success remain open for debate.  It’s still evolving. 

This book helps to capture the essence as well as the evolution of coaching at this moment, in all its diversity, complexity and richness.

To connect with Aurora:

Leadership Coach and Consultant

twitter: thriveinmind

aurora.aritao@insead.edu

https://hk.linkedin.com/in/auroraaritao

Book Review: "Translating Coaching Codes of Practice" - I was intrigued by the promise of the title of this book... and I was not disappointed! by Isobel Gray (guest)

(Contributing author of the two poems in the book)

“I found this book very impressive and richly affirming; stimulating and thought provoking, with plenty of practical tips and original insights for review. … I do not feel it’s a one-off read through book. Rather it is something that I can see myself coming back to frequently as a regular reference point because of the very rich and diverse menu of material on offer in this book.”  Isobel Gray, 2016.


Overview

I associate ‘Code of Practice’ with a process around professional standards that is essentially compliance based, rather than anything more inspirational. Turning the word ‘code’ into the plural of ‘codes’, together with the strapline “Insights from the leading edges of everyday practitioners” suggests a whole different interpretation that is much more inspiring as every individual has a unique personal approach in their practice within the broad principles of 'a coaching approach'. The reality of this more holistic approach happens in a broad range of life and organisational circumstances and for me it represents something much bigger.

For me, the totality of this book represents this reality through the eyes of practitioners – who are the people on the front line.

In her preface, the editor, Yvonne Thackray, uses the story of the Human Genome Project (HPG) as a powerful analogy for the positioning of ‘the good coach’ in relation to the evolution of the role of coaching and the coaching world itself.  The initial leading ‘expert’ scientists identified that 98% of the DNA material was “junk” declaring that it was not relevant. It turned out that the material identified as “junk” indeed did play a critical if complex role; it was just poorly understood and too complicated to take account of (similar to the simple model that is being promoted by vested coaching organisations).

This truly resonates with my experience of the limitations in learning that take place in organisational life on a daily basis. Assumptions and limited thinking leads to what turns out to be flawed thinking – only obvious with the benefit of hindsight! This demonstrates the value of “being curious about diversity, rather than setting arbitrary boundaries” (Preface page v). It’s also good to see that this book continues to represent, and continually pushes forward,  the philosophy of ‘the good coach’: (1) Celebrating the diversity of approaches to coaching, and (2) Taking an independent position in seeking to develop a deeper understanding of coaching and how it operates in all its different contexts.


Detailed Review

As an experienced Executive Coach, and having reviewed the broad based multi-disciplinary field of knowledge and writings about coaching over a number of years, I foundthis book both refreshing and highly stimulating. Most current writings on the subject of coaching are generalized and heavily based on ideas and theory. While these have their place, there is very little of substance out there that truly connects to the real experience and perspectives of coaching practitioners, and the messy realities and complexities of organisational life that coaches work with.

The book contains a substantive collection of nearly 70 short articles portraying experiences and perspectives on coaching practice, written by 18 experienced coaches who bring a diversity of styles and backgrounds. This diversity is further manifested in the international mix of authors, from the UK, mainland Europe, India, Asia and the US. The impact of this in a deeper and more creative way is illustrated in one of the articles "East meets West" which explores how different philosophies rooted in different religious and ethnic cultures, can be drawn on in a way that respects and makes best use of the similarities, as well as the differences, to inform coaching more creatively.

I was drawn to the fact that the articles, although written in a good variety of styles, demonstrated rigor and objectivity, while being highly personal and true to the individuality of the authors. Here is a group of diverse and, experienced coaches freely sharing their knowledge, experiences and perspectives. Along with the writing itself, the references and author profiles show clearly that the material has been written by highly established coach practitioners, several obviously familiar with the leading edge of research in the field; others being more experience based.

I liked the fact that the book was highly approachable and easy to read. Most of the articles were originally written for ‘the good coach’ blog, (www.the-goodcoach.com). While these can easily be seen individually on-line free of charge, it is very different having them collated in one place. The format of a range of short articles grouped into clusters within 3 broad themes meant there was a sense of true coherence with the ability to dip in and out. That really worked for me.

I also believe that in our field, experiential learning is central to effective coaching. After all, that’s what we draw on with our clients. We help them draw on the true value they bring to situations, which otherwise they can hugely under-estimate.

I particularly liked those who were more open about the true challenges and issues facing them and who drew on their experience when describing cases and providing examples of the kind of issues clients bring. For example, managing upwards in the traditional hierarchical culture that still exists in parts of the UK Civil Service; what 'resilience' looks like for real from the perspective of a group of managers in a UK public sector organisation, and how peer coaching helped them be more resilient; making tough career choices in the fast moving and competitive environment of Professional Services.

Other articles focus on particular approaches and techniques used in coaching. For example how to make good use of psychometrics in coaching and the challenges of coaching typically “dominating” personalities; using coaching approaches with teams and groups to create greater “collective intelligence”, gaining more of a thought through “mindful” contribution from more people within an organisation. While there is much written about these themes, the sharing of the knowledge, the real experience and learning of practitioners landed with me powerfully.

Other articles drill into the general terms and labels we use in coaching, for example “readiness”, and examine what they mean in more detail and how coaching really works with that. I particularly liked this article. It starts by exploring relevant research and theories before moving on to give a detailed description of the behaviours this particular practitioner had identified, from observing his experience, as the typical sequence of coach behaviours that contribute to creating the most conducive conditions for developing the coaching relationship, being led by the moment-to-moment ‘evidence’ of the behavioural cues from the client. It made more explicit, what I think I do, largely intuitively.

A further three articles review evaluation approaches to coaching. The theme of ROI has become a real ‘mantra’ that is increasingly thrown around. While there are useful perspectives to be gained and common strands of good practice, I found one of particular interest.  It explored how the use of qualitative research “collecting stories from our experience” can add to the highly elusive and much sought ‘ROI’ measures used in coaching, and how these can be integrated into the core coaching approach. Again a useful thought provoking and practical article.

Then there are more creative approaches I really liked, such as “SEASIDE COACHING – After the Storm”, a descriptive narrative of how the natural environment, in this case the shoreline and sea, can support deeper coaching conversations.

The final chapter points to the future, including an article assessing the challenges facing the coaching world going forwards and suggesting potential areas for attention, and the role of coaching in managing risk in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. Finally there are a couple of articles on the benefits to practitioners in writing and sharing these sort of articles/blogs on their practice. I can see that ‘the good coach’ sees this as a powerful form of practitioner research, of benefit to both individual practitioners as an activity of personal CPD, and to the broader coaching world as a contribution to the larger body of knowledge on coaching.

The editor and the good coach editorial team clearly hope to stimulate wider interest in this form of practitioner writing. On the basis of this, I hope they succeed and that there will be more to come.

To connect with Isobel Gray - email her at isobeligray@gmail.com

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Isobel is an OD Consultant and Executive Coach. She writes poetry in her spare time. “I started writing poetry about 5 years ago. My first poem was a spontaneous outpouring of thoughts and feelings the day we chose to have our beloved cat put to sleep when the vet discovered that she had advanced stages of cancer. And it grew from there, so she left me a very special legacy. I write poems on a range of themes - nature, people, and Life, including organisational life, which my work provides very privileged access to. I find it an earthing and liberating form of creative expression”