Making sense of what I do, how my coaching practice is taking shape by Yvonne Thackray

My coaching practice has evolved over time to focus on working directly with coaching practitioners: 

  1. Who are engaged in continually building and developing their own personal knowledge base that’s integral to their business practice by understanding what it is they’re delivering to their clients (with a level of certainty), and
  2. Who are interested in contributing their personal knowledge to a growing body of practitioner knowledge in the field of coaching for their communities, and society, more generally. 

My assumptions and outline of an approach

To make sense of what I do and how it’s evolved, I have developed my understanding by inverting the best practices used to report on research (commonly used across all disciplines) which can be described as follows,

  • Making sense of the outcomes from my practice (the impact), which
  • Draws upon my own experiences as a practitioner (the results/data), and
  • Checking out my experiences, and influences, with others (literature &/peer review), that leads to
  • Understanding how I’ve gone about doing what I do (the methodology), to then
  • Make adjustments/refinements within my practice and see whether the outcomes are aligned with those changes, and then the cycle begins again. 

I’m still in the early stages of this process because there are insufficient, as well as inadequate, frameworks readily available in our field (compared to other established disciplines and professions). Any information that is currently available rests on very narrowly defined boundaries and conditions, which has been extrapolated beyond its useful limits as a form of explanation that could then work across a multitude of contexts and scenarios. In my opinion, there is still so much to learn, experience and understand. And as a field, we’re still developing a language, let alone an agreed one with definitions, that gets to a level of understanding and detail of what’s really happening that consistently delivers robust results. 

Importantly, it’s the practitioner who has continuously found ways to deliver their approach to coaching to their market (which even academics/researchers have difficulties accessing), and have a business that’s ultimately being validated by the market by its longevity. They are the real researchers, and my practice revolves around understanding how they realize their practice by helping them share their experiences, their patterns of behaviours, and their approaches in their natural language. The impact of my approach can be seen by both the quantity, and quality (see criteria), of blog-articles published on the good coach (a repository) that respects individual differences (diversity) in such an inclusive field. 

For me, this is what practitioner research is, and should represent. Eventually these reports (blog-articles shared from practitioner experiences) can then help inform and build consensus towards best-practice (standards), even principles (ethics), which has been proven to work across a multitude of situations and contexts (profession) and better supports practitioners professionally. This is the desired future … meanwhile, let me share how I want to contribute to this.

Making sense of how I have been shaping my practice

Without a familiar and recognisable structure, it can be challenging to see what my practice is, especially when it is generally interpreted to mean how I practice my business rather than how I practice coaching. Both are important because they are strongly linked; they represent the necessary cycles of understanding between the market opportunities for the service provided (the impact) and the robustness of the service delivered (the how) that can then lead to further market opportunities. 

How I shape my practice, the way I’m using it here, can currently be described as working at two levels. At one level (external), it’s more around how observers see what it is I am doing which has some recognisable outlines that forms a shape that makes sense to them. The other level (internal) is more personal because it is how I access data, process it, and then make decisions i.e. cognitive patterns which shape my actions. And what I have learnt so far is how my coaching is being shaped through the decisions I made as part of my business practice (that included many peer conversations) which is beginning to be recognised by others.

What I share next are my top three drivers that have consistently been shaping my practice,  

  1. A conscious choice was made early on in my practice to choose to work with clients with whom I could deliver my best services to and not to be a one-size fits all type of practitioner. I realised quickly on, at the beginning of my practice which I call the testing phase, that I work better with independent, mature healthy individuals who are already mapping out their journey to live a more successful and fulfilling life, however they choose to define and measure it. I also understood my limitations, and wouldn’t be able to work with everyone on anything because it wouldn’t be fulfilling or making the best use of my strengths. 
  2. I have a personal preference to continue my learning whilst working with clients, which helps me to continuously engage in my research enquiry around the field for coaching. And my clients have also decided for themselves how my coaching approach will help them to support them in the myriad ways they go about creating their future. This may never be fully articulated, more an implicit awareness and understanding, yet quality partnerships are being developed in which all parties involved are receiving value from realising this potential in different ways with growing confidence and clarity.
  3. My practice has also been driven around my curiosity for understanding how the standards purported in coaching haven’t evolved or developed since the inception of self-appointed bodies and their related training schools. There is a real gap between what I understood to be a professional used in other functional disciplines like engineering, law, medicine, compared to how it’s currently being used in coaching. 
    •    Being a professional invokes degrees of trustworthiness that any ‘registered practitioner’ will deliver best practices to their clients packaged in the wor¬¬ks contracted for ethically. They should regularly demonstrate, evidence and self-report to agreed standards and criteria in their accumulated working experience, periodic training and relevant academic education in order to maintain their recognised standing in society for the profession they represent. 
    •    These standards and criteria have been extracted from the current body of knowledge from which other professions rely on and confidently refers to because it has been rigorously tested and proven in various scenarios and contexts to reliably provide consistent results. 

In coaching it seems that ‘being a professional’ refers more to the business models used to meet populist market trends because we lack a coherent and robust body of knowledge from which any practitioner’s practice can both build upon and contribute to that meets a fundamentally growing societal need in the market place. 

Assessing the wider coaching market as part of my practice

My interest in the field and market, and how I choose to practice, has stemmed from one simple yet open-ended question, ‘What is coaching?’ It seemed natural that the first port of call to find answers to my questions was by attending institutions that were deemed to be reputable in delivering the requisite programmes, with the added bonus that after completing their program work would be available (once you have worked out your niche). 

I attended a handful of institutions in different parts of the world in the hope of finding the answer; it was quite an initial investment that I thankfully recouped through alternative means. Over and over in my investigations, each of the coaching organisations (training schools, academic institutions, and conference providers) provided a general description of coaching that fitted the skills training model they were delivering. That model is fundamental to all the different stages of individual development in how to use it, and furthermore it can easily be adapted to various market opportunities because it operates at a level of generality.

A useful (and seemingly expensive) starting point to understand where the market is reported to being, is that coaching is the sum of your experiences of using proprietary coaching models!   
More recently, in some of the latest publications for e.g. ‘The Sage Handbook of Coaching’ – the proposed ‘go-to academic resource’ - the editors shared some of their opinions in their Introduction of where they see the field heading,

“… the demand for coaching services may continue to be strong for a very long time to come, albeit perhaps with more individualistic, industrialised societies where traditional social structures are less evident. Whatever the case, the ability of practitioners to deliver valued services will rest upon the existence of a rich and texted knowledge base that can provide good and relevant guidance for practitioners.” (pg 4)

“... it should be noted that this book is nor primarily focused on advancing the professionalization of coaching. Rather its primary aim is to stimulate the development of the knowledge base for coaching, thereby making a contribution to further establishing coaching as an applied discipline. As such, this Handbook requires no unified definition of coaching, irrespective of how desirable that might be in principle [it provides readers (usually practitioners) with an early indication of the author’s view on the fundamental question: What is coaching?]” (pg 5)

“…the intention of this Handbook is to provide graduate students, scholars, and researchers with a premier point of contact with the current theoretical and empirical knowledge base [through the use of rigorous scientific methods] along with many of the established and emerging debates in the scholarly literature.” (pg 1)

“Despite the explicit academic orientation of this book (concerned with mapping the field and critiquing the knowledge base), many authors seemed to be naturally orientated towards addressing the needs of practitioners, through recommendations for practice, rather than stimulating the creation of knowledge through thoughtful analysis of the literature and recommendations for future research.” (pg 18)

 “Until a reasonable way of conceptualising coaching is proposed, the onus will continue to fall to researchers to provide clear descriptions of the coaching intervention they study, in order for their findings to be comparable to others.” (pg 7)

The conclusions shared so far didn’t satisfy my curiosity; however they do provide a map of, a vision even, of where these experts see the field moving towards. Also, my list of questions kept growing and seemed to be outpacing the information that was being shared. The questions I’m currently holding is more focussed on how coaching is really being addressed in the market, for example, 

  • I realised that I am better working with certain individuals at different stages of their learning and development than with everyone. Why isn’t this addressed in any of the training or published media? How does andragogy and stages of development fit in with coaching? How do you know when to pass clients onto other coaches who would be better suited working with them? How do coaches talk more confidently about what it is they are doing? How do you appreciate individual differences and learn to access the client’s world through their use of language to explain what it means in their everyday context? 
  • Accepting my services is one of the many contributions that is part of the clients’ schema. Is there a bias/overconfidence in how significant the coach’s contribution has been to the client in reaching their solution? When is it appropriate to be using ROI? How are those contributions really being measured? How do coaches more accurately talk about their contributions? How much do coaches understand regarding their clients’ real intentions for coaching? How often are coaches recontracting? Does age matter? How do coaches talk about the quality of coaching they deliver as the sum total of all of their learnt experiences to date?
  • It’s my responsibility to create and sustain the conditions for building the trust and rapport at the level of the readiness of the client, the real contracting. How is this really being measured? How aware is the coach of their behaviours and reactions to what’s been shared and impacts on how the client responds? How do we assess the level of readiness of the client to participate in coaching? How reliable are chemistry meetings? How much should be disclosed as part of creating the conditions for engagement? How much working knowledge of the client’s context is important in getting access to them? What’s the real ‘power’ dynamics in any coaching conversation? How do you decipher and select the right phrases and words to unlock further meaning behind the client’s context? How do you make those connections that are most meaningful in their context that lets the client know that you’re listening? 

The real knowledge, a term itself that needs to be debated in our field, should contribute to, and be, a two-way street to learning and development that inspires dialogue, critical thinking and meaningful action that impacts and influences an individual’s confidence, maturity and independence to practice coaching. Nevertheless, there are different developmental stages to learning and hence each of these organisations do fulfill a service for different segments of society. 

Overall, it would seem that the key contributors have reached a plateau in terms of their real contributions to the field, and carving out where authority, or guidance, should lie in ensuring practitioners deliver good practice. For example, I have had to look elsewhere for answers and I completed a Masters in Social Anthropology to investigate coaching identity.

How my coaching practice is taking shape

I’ve developed and grown my specialism (or niche if you prefer) in, and around, coaching. The real knowledge lies with the real experts, the practitioners, 

  • who are doing it day in day out (regardless of whether they call it coaching or not), 
  • in their chosen practice to supports others, and themselves, 
  • to be better at what it is they want to continue achieving even more confidently whether in their professional and/or personal lives. 

It’s quite radical, and still a long way to go for it to be acknowledged as the norm, for individuals to request professional help that focuses on improving the quality of life - living to our potential both personally and professionally. In addition, having access to considered written material that is readily available to those who are interested or curious about what is coaching, is limited with the current politicking in our field. 

My role as a coach is to help access those experiences (whether through conversations, writing or in combination) and help make them more readily available. Hence the nature and the shape of my practice, where my target audience (as the lingo goes) is mature practitioners of coaching, who can recognise the benefits of honestly reporting on their experiences and sharing their learning for both themselves and with other stakeholders including but not limited to other practitioners, peers, communities, the coaching field, curious individuals, and society itself. 

Mutual benefits are being shared through this contract, and what I have learnt so far coaching coaches, or applying my coaching approach working with practitioners, include:

1. Understanding further the contexts and cognitive patterns of each practitioner. 

Each of the practitioners I work with have their own unique styles and ways of operating in their practice, and it is important that I do not make assumptions of what it is they are saying, that may or may not match their actions or behaviour, without any clear reference points or facts. Otherwise, this results in inferring what’s being said rather than understanding what is actually being shared in their context. 

That is why when I participate in any conversation, verbally or as part of the writing process, I feel fortunate to be a part of their learning process because they are sharing their cognitive patterns of how they make sense of what it is they are doing within their practice. My approach to coaching, in both cases, begins with,

  • Appreciating their level of readiness, and
  • Where they want to take the conversation/theme that supports them in their practice. 

These are some of my indicators for what I perceive to be of maturity and independence exhibited within a coaching practitioner. They have decided what they want to focus on and carry through onto paper that explains in various detail, and breadth, their practice. And with every iteration of working with each practitioner, there is measured growth and development and this is observed in the number of ways each practitioner then uses their blog-articles as part of their business development. 

2. Delivering my actions with care and consideration to build both respect and trust. 

Once I begin to grasp their language and meaning making that they are sharing through their words and approach to structuring, I begin to hypothesise further their motivations and intention. What it is they are looking to share in their latest piece, and I begin to ask more succinct and hopefully poignant questions (whilst also sharing where I’ve come from to make such a question) that helps them to consider and clarify that what they have said is actually what it is they are wanting to share. 

3. Appreciating different topics of interest, commitments and their motivation to find ways to continue their learning and development.

No one practice is the same because we are each working at different leading edges. Spending the time to talk and write about what is currently most important to them in their practice, and that they then continue to share in those pieces on a more regular basis informs me that this approach to coaching is working for them.

This is really an important part of, the ongoing contracting I have with them. Importantly, they are continuing to find novel ways to challenge themselves in how they want to talk about their experiences and share their learnings from their practice, and that I can continue to add value too. After all, coaching is a two-way street. 

4. Learning from others - mapping out the diversity. 

Having this opportunity to both work and learn from others has allowed me to continue my broader research topic of ‘what is coaching?’ I am just one practitioner amongst many, and I’m certain that I’ll never have the same exact experiences as others, but situations might occur where similarities may emerge and so we can learn from others.

I have also expanded on my own vocabulary.  It also allows for a more collective voice to be shared, as evidenced in various publications, that begins to extend in detail and expand in scope a more inclusive and sophisticated mapping of diverse coaching practices. 

Where next?

As I shared and outlined at the start of my piece, I am still at the beginning of understanding what my coaching practice is really about. I am more comfortable and focussed in exploring, and comparing, in more detail the first three parts (impact, results, literature & peer review) in making sense of how my practice is forming its shape against other known parameters.

I’m continually dipping in and out of building, deepening and, even in many cases acknowledging, those awareness’s and learning how to talk about it more explicitly as part of my practice. Reflecting on where next,

  • I am still developing my explanations of what it is I am doing in my practice, and what I’ve shared here are really the outlines and key themes of my practice which can be expanded on, for sure, more considerably. I have written elsewhere some pieces on these themes as part of my learning and development, and only now starting to integrate those thoughts of how it influences my approach to practice. 
  • I’d probably say that what I’ve shared is still quite general i.e. it doesn’t have that specificity that allows others to reproduce what it is that I’m doing in their own way. As I shared earlier, I currently have simple metrics that informs me that what I am doing currently works, and I feel that it is through collaboration with peers that I’ll be able to begin to become more explicit in what I’m doing. 
  • I’ll still continue reading, and learning from others how their thoughts and explanations compare to my experiences. This is how I learn and adapt what has worked for others and bring it into my approach because it lends itself to my practice. Working with peers, whether in a team and/or as individuals, will continue to help me better articulate my methodology which in turns help me better serve my clients. 

I appreciate that what I’ve shared will make sense to some, more than others, and for sure this is just one of the many ways to talk about the shape of our practice. I’ve covered some core principles and key learnings that mark the foundation of my practice, and how it’s perceived to be recognisable in a normal market place. Furthermore, I continue to enjoy recognising how my identity is intertwined with what I do in coaching, and how important it is to acknowledge those biases as part of my sharing (rather than leaving them out).

I’m curious, “How would you begin describing the shape of your practice?”

To connect with Yvonne Thackray

Bachkirova, T., Spence, G. and Drake, D. (2017) The SAGE Handbook of Coaching. 1 Edition. SAGE Publications Ltd. ( ) 

Giving a Shape to Coaching Practice – my identity and my ‘Home’ for work! by Jeremy Ridge

People often refer to having a ‘coaching practice’, but my curiosity is frequently aroused by what this practice may mean at a practical, and meaningful, level. 

I think Bill Green has put together a useful perspective on this term, Practice, and writes: “it is a term that circulates incessantly, and seems constantly and sometimes even compulsively in use, without always meaning much at all. Rather, it seems to float across the surface of our conversations and our debates, never really thematised and indeed basically unproblematised, a “stop-word” par excellence. [1]

So – what is practice for me? 

My Practice seems quite like a reflection of me. It is something like an identity. As well as being something like how I choose to live – as evidenced by the ‘ home ‘ I live in.  And the detail and shape of how we set up our domestic home is always unique – just like the detail of each Coach’s practice.

Practice seems to be an idea that has emerged from the evolution of speciality services also often linked to being professional. However, the term professional can be used very differently. Some people refer to being professional because they earn their living by providing these services. Others refer to professional because they go further, and are a member of a professional community which identifies the shape and substance (types of relevant knowledge) and their boundaries, of practice, as well as accountability.

SHAPE, for me, is like a map which identifies substance and boundaries between different elements - such as land and sea. There is still a considerable diversity in views about the substance of Coaching. However, when someone talks about a coaching practice this suggests that there is some form of shape or recognisable shape. 

There are indeed established shapes in other professional practices; for example, in the medical profession.  One easy form of shape, for me, arises in the stages of evolution of my Coaching Practice. This also builds further on previous blog/articles for the good coach ( )

PART 1. Preparing the ground for shaping Coaching Practice

Even starting with simple ideas such as shape still raises some other questions, for example, about the sort of substance, and boundaries, involved in approaching creating a meaningful picture of Practice. Five themes come to mind from my experience of how we are making more sense of Coaching.

1.1 The Sources of Knowledge required

Knowledge is traditionally assumed to be understanding that is reasonably stable and reliable. Definition is agreed and meaningful.

Conventional science leads the way in this. Albeit limited to whatever methods are available, which can then limit the knowledge however. Statistical significance is still a form of value judgement, as with probability estimates, for example. Another example, the current approach to much research in coaching may not best be the simple extension of many current practices in fields like psychology, economics or other social sciences because of the changed boundary conditions and the nature of the knowledge involved.

It seems to me that the greatest knowledge about how coaching works lives in the heads of practitioners. This experience form of research is a form of knowledge with evidence of achieving results, for the practitioner, (and others they are working with,) compared to traditional approaches to evidence in academic journals, (or books.)

In Coaching, Practitioners seem to operate from a book (of knowledge) they have learned personally, of their own that becomes the Home they operate from. This still doesn’t yet get well researched or reported. 

In effect as Yvonne Thackray [2] concluded from her formal research of Constructing [Coach’s] identity:

“ A coach’s identity is sutured (as in the medical use of the term) from a plurality of identities and periods in their life history, becomes more closely aligned with the self".

1.2 The nature of identity

Many forms of identity still seem to be adopted from social contexts; (e.g. I am told I am English!). These can be expectations for living up to the identity I am expected to conform to.  Increasingly however, people are making choices that may still link to context, but become more personally derived, and unique to them, choices in the formation of their identity; and more internally than just externally derived.

This choice of more personally derived identity can then become an important basis for Practice. It is the reality of how a particular person creates patterns/shapes in their living. In Coaching, one unique person meets another unique person, and a unique exchange happens between them. Events, when described at a general level, might have similarities between different people. But the approach to dealing them will be unique…. And that’s the real essence and importance of coaching…creating the conditions for those involved to get to them.

This makes using conventional scientific approaches very difficult to apply to what is always unique as events, rather than reliably common!

1.3 Experience is the research that can matter most

Application of knowledge to a practical context; (e.g. the term technology – in the sense of inventing useful things or to solve practical problems) ideally requires perfect knowledge of the context! However, the context can also frequently be too complex to reduce to a simple framework. 

The continuous learning through trial and error, through experience, is the reality – even with mature professional practice models. For example, Kahn even goes so far as to suggest that real mastery in mature professions, such as Medicine, are also based on intuition, not just knowledge, due to the complexity of contexts, in practice. And that intuition is still something mainly learned through experience.

 Table 1. Attributes of levels of performance in the context of healthcare – modified from professional standards for conservation, Institute of Conservation (London) 2003, web source (accessed March 2012). (3)

Table 1. Attributes of levels of performance in the context of healthcare – modified from professional standards for conservation, Institute of Conservation (London) 2003, web source (accessed March 2012). (3)

1.4 Coaching Knowledge (the how) and Coaching Operations (the what)

There is an important relationship between Coaching Knowledge, and Coaching Operations. I am always conscious of marketing what I do in an operational way,

  • that makes sense to what the user/buyer is looking for through the lenses of the words they use; and
  • for what is often involved as ‘the what’ as an ‘output’/ results focus,  e.g. improving leadership development. 

How to get to operational output has to be derived from the Knowledge about how to stimulate the coachee, as a person, in the Coaching situation, and is often separate and distinct from the knowledge of the market.

The knowledge that drive a coaching conversation are not always present in the conversation itself. For example, empathy is an important function in coaching, but the term is rarely used in the coaching dialogue itself. You do it, not talk about it!  The knowledge involved is often still poorly reported, and may be invisible in its real form even to the Coach involved. 

A meaningful picture of Coaching Practice has to cover this Knowledge Base – not just the Operational, or Business Model.

1.5 Patterns in Coaching Practice always continue to develop

There is some assumption that knowledge is stable. However, even in medicine, as knowledge grows, so a practice also has to continuously evolve – hence the requirement for formal continued professional development of many professional bodies.

This reality is even more the case with Coaching. Each new person I work with adds immensely to my appreciation, and knowledge about how others live. 

Overall, It still seems there are few conventions for reporting on the full detail of practice. However I want to make a start, and the most immediate way for this seems to me to start with more of an overview of important features of my Practice and how it has developed – through what can seem to me to be stages.

PART 2. Stages in my Coaching Practice

The choice for my level of description, here, hinges on more of a macro (and longitudinal study of self), than a micro view (of individual events). Within each pattern of each stage there are many other stages and patterns!

The stages I have identified are:

2.1    Building Knowledge during the Early learning focus
2.2    Making contemporary sense of the early learning Knowledge base
2.3    Researching the context - Organisations, and opportunities
2.4    Realisation of the Practice in particular operational terms - commercial
2.5    Scaling Practice to other operational  areas – coaching communities  

2.1 Building Knowledge during the Early learning focus

Main influence on Practice:  Collecting raw data on multiple similarities and differences between myself and other people.

My start was very formative. To be honest, I can remember, still, a lot about childhood, and the experiences of gradually building, through noticing similarities and differences with other people; as well as ways one builds in patterns of my own behaviours, and the consequences. This was the personal knowledge base I was starting to build. Choice happens, even in childhood.

The learning that emerged has been central to forming my approach to coaching that emerged. 

Summary of outcomes:

  1. Detached curiosity.  For me, curiosity is a major ‘emotional’ type driver. In the sense of a strong internal driving force that influences much of my life. It involves the study of my reactions, compared to how others react to the same circumstances – even how circumstances are perceived differently!
  2. Follow the system: society has set up a range of opportunities / channels for those who want to enquire in the early stages of life –one universal structure everyone was expected to pass through is the education system. This became my fascination. Friends settled down. My curiosity took me on, and on, through its various stages.
  3. Not finding a place in the system. I passed exam after exam. But was still searching for how my identity fitted the social context. This stage was completed with a first academic degree in economics. This syllabus still did not enable me to settle on a clear direction, however.

2.2 Making contemporary sense of the early learning Knowledge Base

Main influence on Practice:  Enabled me to establish a clearer foundation and focus for what I could bring to (coaching) practice from other established bases

I had a lot of data, but I was still searching to make sense of it in the wider social context. I was still looking for a direction. It was time to start to appreciate how people choose a direction more formally!

I was fortunate (or made a choice without realising it!) to have ended up at a university that was interested more in practical knowledge, as well as academic knowledge. I was invited to combine disciplines, to extend my interests by combining Economics and Psychology, because Economics was seen to be part of a wider whole of the social sciences. In particular, reference to Psychology enabled an appreciation of the major field of Individual Differences, in organisational settings. This added important perspectives on the basics of knowledge available in the wider field.

I started with a Master’s degree, in Applied Psychology This enabled a first work at adding the Knowledge to a practical context [3] and then ventured to a cross disciplinary Doctoral study [4].

Summary of outcomes:

  1. Links to current Knowledge: This enabled me to get at the current frontiers of where knowledge about the wider social sciences was up to. 
  2. Rigorous Study and progressive testing of the use of my Knowledge both formal as well as learned, (in a Doctorate) in a practical, operational, context 
  3. Forming an articulate (to me anyway) basis for the knowledge – both personal as well as formal - to form a basis for my Practice.

2.3 Researching the context - organisations, and opportunities

Main influence on Practice:  This entailed a focus on a particular context – the knowledge for how to approach the structures and language often involved in organisations on a wider basis (moving beyond the start provided from my Doctoral research) to both test and refine my strengths in practice.

The ultimate achievement involved in practice is the positive reaction created by circumstances I can create.  The complexity of the context often involves important learning about the context, as you become involved ( a form of careful research.) This also hinges on the positive readiness of the other people who might be involved to be able to be attracted to opportunities rather than being unable to progress with where they had got to with the opportunities they saw – hence why Coaching is attractive, rather than the more clinical, problem oriented approaches.

Summary of outcomes:

  1. Finding how others in the field go about similar activities in application: in effect trying out various routes to contracting to add value (e.g. through commercial approaches). Employment in a role following my initial research/ expanding to different organisations (management consultancy)/work at established business schools.
  2. Test and build methods for my preferred way to go about it: I found that my learning about the foundations of practice added to what was being done by others. As well as learning where other approaches worked best compared to my own emerging preferred approaches
  3. Researching how practice partnerships were important in providing more powerful approaches: E.g. Working as a Practice Team, in team coaching, where my persona and knowledge could work well with some people, while other colleagues’ personas were also more appropriate to others. It enabled an effective team approach.

2.4 Realisation of the practice in particular operational terms - commercial

Main influence on Practice:  Once the learning about the context is tested and proved, my approach can be put to use – completing a cycle/cycles of combining Knowledge and Context knowledge from experience, to different operational contexts that met market demands.

This lead to the implementation of a more market oriented programme. I may present the product in a way that the client wants to hear. However, to me, I am still doing what I do no matter how it is called!

Summary of outcomes:

  1. Identifying, setting up and marketing set products based on Coaching.  For example, a particular approach to a Development Centre (compared to traditional Assessment Centres ), which is similar to coaching, is enabling participants to lead and appreciate their own perspectives in/amongst a mix of colleagues/peers as well as adding, where relevant, structures from other sources – e.g. on individual differences to increase awareness. Forming a coaching relationship with each participant separately and then integratively with others involved ( eg in team-working ). 
  2. Forming and scaling up teams to enable delivery of formally structured products based on Coaching.  E.g. Running programmes of Development Centres across large sections of organisations
  3. Scaling of organisational interventions: Seeing how formal structure for interventions created many other less formal opportunities for making contributions requiring essential Coaching skills. (How Coaching can contribute significantly to Mediation by Jeremy Ridge)

2.5 Scaling Practice to other operational areas – coaching communities 

Main influence on Practice:  My curiosity, and experience of working with what others also bring,  then took me on to another Knowledge, and operational, context - connecting to others involved in similar operations of establishing this general practice of coaching for members of communities.

This involved getting further appreciation of how others worked in the field; and how the idea of community was evolving. There are still a wide range of forms of communities with Coaching in their title and focus. Likewise, the real challenge is the appreciation of the realities of practice that individual Practitioners really use – in practice. It is still a challenge to fit this all together.

Summary of outcomes:

  1. Researching a sample of various relevant communities. I had joined as a member a range of bodies – even establishing myself as a ‘Chartered Psychologist’.  I took on a series of roles across different bodies as they clearly had different positions in the field which provided some mapping of the issues involved in getting greater connectedness between them.

    For example: Executive roles in a sample of relevant membership/aspiring professional bodies linked to getting the best out of people through particular attention in relationship behaviour: The ABP (Association of Business Psychologists), BPS SGCP (British Psychological Society Special Group in Coaching Psychology), APECS (Association for Executive Coaching and Supervision). In some cases I was a founder member (ABP and APECS) and even with the BPS SGCP it was still in very early years.
  2. Testing various initiatives within these communities. Executive roles can be primarily administrative, rather than leadership. There were still opportunities for leadership through launching a range of projects, and initiatives within these bodies. For example, with the approach to accreditation used in APECS.
  3. Scaling this understanding into my Practice in what I saw were priority areas - the good coach! the good coach provides a clean opportunity to re-cast the approach to appreciating the realities of Coaching Practice, and create a different form of system for its clarification.

PART 3. Conclusions and next steps

I stated in Part 1, above, that this exercise was a start. And Part 2 lays down some foundations, consistent patterns, about the identity, or shape of the home that is my practice in Coaching.

Practitioner Research:  Practice never stops learning and developing. It is the very nature of human life. In effect this is a form of research. There is also the need to appreciate the context for any learning. It cannot take place in a vacuum. Research into one’s practice, as practitioner research, can cover a wide subject area.

Identity, and my home, as well as my practice is a summation of my experience – reflecting its limitations, as well as its extent. It creates a shape, along with boundaries, that helps me, and others, become more aware of where we each stand, and operate.

Coaching embraces a considerable complexity of what can be involved. I have found the opportunity of the good coach a good opportunity to try some sampling of bits of this complexity, and it has been valuable to have this opportunity to approach a next level of overall perspective. This is by no means final, however!

The intuition referred to in Kahn’s table, above, is also, I believe something that can be researched and understood more explicitly for what it is, and what it involves. This piece has helped give more overt shape. There is still more intuition to explore!

For example:

  1. The bigger picture perspective used here. This is more like the current shape of the continents in the global picture! A lot more detail could be added to the level of shape chosen here. 

    However it is also possible to get lost in the detail – not seeing the wood for the trees. This perspective, here, gives me a more connected view than the hectic pace of every day Practice can sometimes demand.
  2. The Evidence base involved in this perspective: What matters in this approach to reporting is the sense making it offers to me. I have plenty of more detailed evidence, in mind. It is another matter altogether to produce this in the still early forms available of formal evidence presentation.

    I’m mindful that the level of evidence presented here lacks some standards required in research elsewhere. However, research, in the more academic sense, can also lack the methodologies for creating practical meaning.
  3. Finding the elusive Patterns of Practice can still be difficult for some. I am aware how difficult it can be for many in the Coaching field to find patterns in their practice. This does not mean they are not there – rather it can be difficult to see that wood from the trees. This exercise has been useful to demonstrate some ways it may be possible.
  4. Knowledge v’s Operational aspects of Practice: The distinction between Knowledge, and Operational aspects of Practice are a critical feature.

    The approach developed during the Doctoral Research, establishing confidence about the nature of the essential [personal] Knowledge Base, was designed well enough to enable a longer term basis for Practice that has worked throughout.
  5. The opportunities for establishing this idea of Community of Practice in Coaching: I have found the good coach a very useful way of getting focus on some of the current dilemmas for establishing Coaching to be as effective as it can be. 

    It is more than reporting the wider picture of what others are doing – in practice.  It is the way I believe we can extend what we are personally doing – a real approach to researching oneself with a degree of rigour that becomes instinctively more attractive to others when they see the chance to better meet the real person – or the real Coach!

Question to consider: Can you see the value of sharing more of how you practice at a level of detail that speaks to your identity?

To connect with Jeremy Ridge

2    Thackray, Y. (2014) Building towards an Anthropology of Coaching: Constructing Identity, Masters in Social and Cultural Anthropology, University College London (Available to download)
3   Green, B. (ed) (2009) Understanding and researching professional practice, Sense Publishers
4    Conceptual framework for performance assessment: Competency, competence and performance in the context of assessments in healthcare – Deciphering the terminology    Kamran Khan & Sankaranarayanan Ramachandran     Medical Teacher Vol. 34 , Iss. 11,2012
5    Ridge, J. (1970) The Role of Experience in Management Decision Making, MSc in Applied Psychology, The University of Aston (Available to download)
6    Ridge, J. (1975) The Development and Operation of the Effective Interpersonal Relationship Skills relevant to Career Development Problems from Staff Assessment at an Industrial Research Laboratory, PhD, The University of Aston (Available to download)