By Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis
When we last met I was walking off into a rather damp and grey Norfolk sunset with my soapbox tucked neatly under my arm. Well, it wasn't long before I was packing my bag and taking the train to Heathrow Airport. What adventure could possibly persuade me to board an airplane and face my flying phobia for 11 solid hours? Well, kind reader, you will not be surprised to learn it was to work with nearly 30 coaching practitioners eager to engage in practitioner research for the good of their community! How could I refuse!
It all started with a call from Sunny Stout Rostron from South Africa who had volunteered to host the 2010 Global Coaching Convention, which they have designed under the title the Rainbow Convention. A central core of the convention program will be the outputs of groups (or pods) of coaches coming together to actively research a shared passion or concern. They had a year to do it and wanted support in setting up their activities.
The trip showed just what can happen when a community works together. Annual leave granted from my company, the Professional Development Foundation, flights paid for by donated air miles, kind hospitality at homes instead of hotels, and people giving their time and energy pro bono allowed three two-day workshops to be run in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town for the smallest fee to the participants.
I had designed the workshop to enable the coaches to "work" their research from initial idea straight through to proposal. We shared a lot of hard work, laughter (and chocolate) and I was truly impressed at the innovation that was brought into the room. I would like to take this space to share my reflections upon those fabulous days spent in such excellent company.
Everyone has a passion: All of us have a question that current books and journals can't answer but is important to us. We research because we care. We care about getting the very best for our clients; we care about our colleagues and our profession. We are blessed to be at the beginning of the profession with such opportunities for enquiry and discovery.
Everyone has a unique perspective: This perspective is akin to a spotlight that reveals a dark corner that no one else has seen. An area of coaching I thought reasonably well described would suddenly come alive as a research topic when coaches revealed just what was still missing for them and their clients.
Everyone is researching already: When we shared our experience, every person in the room was undertaking research in some form during their normal work. Coaches read, reflect, and experiment with new approaches and tools. They share best practice with each other and are constantly on the hunt for better understanding of the coaching intervention.
Everyone knew what they wanted and needed to produce: One of the real discriminators of practitioner research is the focus on an output that has a direct benefit to real practice. These outputs ranged from new models and workshops to toolkits and evaluation criteria.
Everyone wanted to share their knowledge: Researchers and coaches share many similarities and one of the most important is the joy in sharing their discoveries and seeking feedback from their peers. We all need to protect our intellectual property, but there are ways of sharing that that reduce the risk of theft.
Everyone can contribute to research: All of the practitioners are full-time working professionals, but their passion and their research are part of the day job. They are bringing them real market edge and also providing their clients answers to the questions they have today. Whether their contribution is as a leader of a pod or as a critical friend, their work will impact the final output.
The range of research people are doing is really breathtaking. We discussed coaching within townships to achieve sustainable change and how work with other vulnerable groups in Europe and America could inform this type of coaching and how to research it.
We looked at the dominant coaching agendas in the public sector and I realized how much coaches I know in Local Authorities in the UK shared similar concerns. Coaching in education was a hot topic, as it is in the UK, and dialogue with others globally will add value here. Although the issues are larger in South Africa, the commitment of the people and their vocation are shared. We looked at evaluation in the private sector and this research will really add to our global conversation of how context impacts delivery.
This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.
By Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron
I have recently experienced some of the gifts offered to coaches worldwide to enable them to develop their discipline. These include practitioner research, international conferences, and research grants. This article discusses the importance of these gifts and how we can make good use of them.
Practitioner Research and Reflective Practice
What do we really know about how coaching works, exactly how well it works, and when it works best? In essence, not much. Our "knowledge" is based mainly on what coaches say they do, or on what they think makes sense-rather than on observation of what they really do, or on research into coaching outcomes experienced by individuals, teams, and organizations. As a coaching practitioner, it is essential to continually research your own practice, ultimately developing your own professional competence through reflective practice.
David Peterson (2009) suggests simple ways to do this. For example, try different techniques in your coaching, i.e., with alternate clients do a background interview that is only one third of your normal interview; see what happens and take notes on what you observe. Secondly, you can generate a list of experimental ideas for your coaching from reading about new techniques, new types of questions, or new processes. Try one new thing every coaching session and record your findings. Thirdly, you can ask your coaching participants what was the most effective thing you (as coach) did in the session, and why was it helpful.
Also ask what was the least effective thing, and why was it not helpful? Record your feedback, looking for patterns, and substitute new processes for the least effective things. Think about participating in coaching research studies, or finding clients from your own practice to participate in such studies. Most importantly, think critically about and read current coaching research, trying to incorporate findings into your own practice.The general characteristics of practitioner research are that (Fillery-Travis, 2009):
- The research questions, aims, and outcomes are determined by the practitioners themselves;
- The research is usually designed to have an immediate and direct benefit or impact;
- The focus is on the practitioner's own practice and/or that of their immediate peers;
- The research or enquiry is small scale and short term;
- The process may be evaluative, descriptive, developmental, or analytical.
Coaching in Medicine and Leadership
In late September 2009, I attended and spoke at the second International Harvard Coaching Conference on Coaching in Medicine and Leadership. Coaching has emerged as a competency dedicated to helping individuals grow, develop, and meet personal and professional goals while at the same time building personal and professional capacity and resilience. Although every year coaches are servicing a US$1.5 billion market, the most developed market segment is leadership coaching in organizations-less than 20 percent of professional coaches are from the mental health or medical fields. The Harvard conference was therefore a groundbreaking event, with lectures and workshops by world leaders in coaching and coaching research. There were three tracks: Overcoming the Immunity to Change; Coaching in Leadership-Theory and Practice; and Coaching in Health Care-Research and Application.
ICRF2 London: Measuring Results
In November I participated in the second International Coaching Research Forum (ICRF2) held in London, sponsored by the IES (UK Institute for Employment Studies) and the International Coaching Research Forum (ICRF). ICRF2: Measure for Measure looked specifically at how to design coaching measures and instruments, with the ultimate aim of discovering what makes coaching effective. Researchers from around the world met to discuss three major topic groups: process measures, outcome measures for executive/leadership coaching, and outcome measures for health, wellness, and life coaching. The format for each discussion was:
- Discussion of what inputs should be measured;
- Identification of aspects of the coaching process to be measured
- Identification of outcomes to measure, based on coaching purpose;
- Specific suggestions on how best to measure areas of greatest interest.
Critical issues in measurement and methodology were discussed, the biggest concerns relating to:
- How do we evaluate instruments and measures? What are the important considerations, such as reliability, validity (quantitative research), and trustworthiness (qualitative research)?
- How can we incorporate measures into our research? What are the issues and considerations in research design and methodology for incorporating measures and interpreting results?
- What qualitative research issues have arisen in recent coaching research?
- What are some of the most compelling coaching topics and challenges and how can they be measured?
A final report will be made available on the websites of both the International Coaching Research Forum and COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors of South Africa) early next year. All of the group forums were recorded, and key points from each discussion will be included in the final report.
GCC Rainbow Convention-Cape Town 2010
These recent conferences have implications for all coaches worldwide, and particularly for the work being carried out by the Global Coaching Community (GCC), an international dialogue aimed at furthering the development of coaching. The GCC's last convention took place in Ireland in July 2008 and produced the momentous Dublin Declaration on Coaching. The declaration was supported by recommendations from the GCC's ten working groups, and has been endorsed by organizations and individuals representing over 15,000 coaches around the world.
It is now South Africa's turn to host this pivotal event and help take the dialogue forward, and so the GCC Rainbow Convention will be held in Cape Town during 10-16 October 2010. The convention will showcase the results of pioneering practitioner research being undertaken by "pods" of coaches around South Africa. It will also continue the development work undertaken by the GCC's ten working groups, as well as host specialist workshops on aspects of coaching practice.
Grants from the Institute of Coaching
Another boost to the professional development of coaching practitioners is an endowment of US$2,000,000 from the Harnisch Foundation to the Institute of Coaching based at Harvard Medical School/McLean Hospital. The Institute is able to translate this generous endowment into grants totaling US$100,000 per year to fund rigorous research into coaching, thereby helping develop the scientific foundation and professional knowledge base of the field.The Institute offers four types of grant, with deadlines for applications on the first day of February, May, August, and November each year:
- Graduate student fellowships of up to US$10,000 for high-quality research projects. To qualify, applicants must be Masters or Doctoral candidates looking for financial support for dissertation research on coaching.
- Research project grants of up to US$40,000 annually for individuals who would like to conduct empirical research in coaching.
- Research publication grants of up to US$5,000 to assist with the writing, editing, and publication of coaching research in peer-reviewed journals.
- Travel awards to cover travel expenses related to presenting coaching research at the annual Harvard Coaching Conference.
Please visit http://www.instituteofcoaching.org/ to learn more about the Institute's various grants, membership programs, current research, and publications and for information on the recent Harvard Conference. As a Founding Fellow of the Institute of Coaching and a member of its Research Advisory Board, I am keen that all practitioner researchers in coaching are aware of these research grants. It is crucial that we begin to build the body of knowledge on what is working and what still needs work within the discipline of business coaching worldwide.
How Can You Play a Part in the Development of the Field?
Our goal in developing reflective research and enquiry is to make a substantial contribution to the emerging practice of coaching worldwide (Stout Rostron, 2009). Your gift to our emerging discipline is to play a practical part. For example, you can:
- Participate in WABC activities to develop the field;
- Offer to participate in coaching research studies (see box below);
- Continue to develop your own reflective practice;
- Write up your own cases studies for coaching journals;
- Apply for a research grant for one of your studies through the Institute of Coaching;
- Attend conferences and stay abreast of current research practice.
This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.
Fillery-Travis, A. (2009). Practitioner Research Workshop, GCC Rainbow Convention, notes.Peterson, D. (In press). "Executive Coaching: A Critical Review and Recommendation for Advancing the Practice." In Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, edited by S. Zedeck. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Stout Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching. Johannesburg: Knowledge Resources. Available from http://www.kr.co.za/.Wilkins, N. (2009). "Countdown to the GCC Rainbow Convention!"COMENSAnews, November. Available from http://www.comensa.org.za/.
1Hawkins, P. and Shohet, R. (2007) Supervision in the Helping Professions.United Kingdom: Open University Press.
Power, Responsibility, and Wisdom: Exploring the Issues at the Core of Ethical Decision Making and Leadership.
By Dr. Bruce Lloyd 1
The objective is simple: Better decision making. The only issue is that there are so many different views on what we mean by "better." At the core of all decision making is the need to balance power with responsibility as the vehicle for resolving the ‘better' question. This article explores why that is so difficult. It also argues that exploring the concept of wisdom can provide invaluable insights into how to achieve the most effective balance between power and responsibility, which is central to what our values mean in practice, as well as about how we incorporate ethics into our decision making.
Wise decision making, inevitably, involves moral/ethical choices. It is not surprising that comments we might define as wisdom are essentially comments about the relationship between people, or their relationship with society and the universe as a whole. These statements are generally globally recognized as relatively timeless and are insights that help us provide meaning to the world about us. Yet how often do they seem to be almost totally ignored in futurist, strategy, knowledge management, coaching, and even ethics literature? We appear to spend more and more time focused on learning knowledge, or facts—which have a relatively short shelf life-and less and less time on knowledge that overlaps with wisdom, which has a long shelf life. Why is that? What can we do about it?
Western sociological and management/leadership literature is full of references to power. How to get it? How to keep it? And how to prevent it being taken away? In parallel, but rarely in the same studies, there is also an enormous amount of literature on the concept of responsibility.
While power is the ability to make things happen, responsibility is driven by attempting to answer the question: In whose interest is the power being used? Yet the two concepts of power and responsibility are simply different sides of the same coin; they are the yin and yang of our behavior; they are how we balance our relations with ourselves with the interests of others, which is at the core of what we mean by our values. Power makes things happen, but it is the exercise of an appropriate balance between power and responsibility that helps ensure that as many ‘good' things happen as possible.
Leadership is nothing more than the well-informed, responsible use of power. The more that leadership-related decisions are responsibility-driven (i.e., the more they are genuinely concerned with the wider interest), not only will they be better informed decisions, but the results are much more likely to genuinely reflect the long-term interests of all concerned, which also happens to be a sound foundation for improving their ethical quality and sustainability.
In essence, the above leadership definition is exactly what could also be called ‘Wise Leadership.' In this context, the concepts of leader, leading, and leadership are used interchangeably, although it could be argued that ‘leaders' are individuals (including their intentions, beliefs, assumptions, etc.), while ‘leading' entails their actions in relation to others, and ‘leadership' is the whole system of individual and social relationships that result in efforts to create change/progress. However, the above definition can be used to cover the integrated interrelationship of those three dimensions.
Briefly, wisdom can be considered as: "Making the best use of knowledge...by exercising good judgment...the capacity to realize what is of value in life for oneself and others...." Or as "the end point of a process that encompasses the idea of making sound judgments in the face of uncertainty."2
Of course, wisdom is one thing and ‘being wise' is quite another. Being wise is certainly more than the ability to recycle wisdom. In essence, ‘being wise' involves the ability to apply wisdom effectively in practice.
Wisdom is by far the most sustainable dimension of the information/knowledge industry. But is it teachable? It is learned somehow, and as far as I know, there is no values/wisdom gene. Consequently, there are things that we can all do to help manage the learning processes more effectively, although detailed consideration of these are outside the scope of this article.
In the end, the quality of our decisions depends on the quality of our conversations/dialogue; not only dialogue about information but, perhaps even more important, about the best way to use that information. In other words, it is about how our values influence the decision-making process. Dialogue both facilitates the transfer of technical knowledge and is an invaluable part of personal development. Having a quality dialogue about values is not only the most important issue we need to address, but it is often the most difficult.
We need to recognize that the more change that is going on in society, the more important it is that we make sure that our learning is as effective as possible. That is the only way we have any chance of being able to equate change with progress. If we want to have a better future, the first—and most important—thing that we have to do is improve the quality and effectiveness of our learning.
In recent years we have seen considerable effort to move people from the idea of 'working harder' to 'working smarter.' But what is really needed is to move beyond 'working smarter' to 'working wiser.' We need to move from being the ‘Knowledge Society' to the ‘Wise Society.' And, the more we move along that progression, the more we need to recognize that we are moving to a situation where the important issues primarily reflect the quality of our values rather than the quantity of our physical effort. If we want to improve the quality of our decision making, the focus needs not only to be on the quality of our information but, even more importantly, on the ‘right' use of that information; hence the importance of improving the dialogue-related issues mentioned earlier.
Why are we interested in ethics and the future? The answer is, simply, that we are concerned with trying to make the world a ‘better' place. But for whom? And how? To answer both questions we need to re-ask fundamental questions: Why do we not spend more time to ensure that the important messages that we have learned in the past ('wisdom') can be passed on to future generations? How do we ensure these messages are learned more effectively? These are critical strategy questions, and lie at the very foundation of anything we might want to call the ‘Knowledge Economy,' although what is really needed is to focus on trying to move toward a concept closer to the ‘Wise Economy.' This focus naturally overlaps with the greater attention now being given to values and ethical-related issues and ‘the search for meaning' in management/leadership literature.
Overall, wisdom is a very practical body of sustainable knowledge (/information) that has an incredibly useful contribution to our understanding of our world. Such an approach would enable us all to make ‘better' (wiser) decisions, lead ‘better' lives, and experience wiser leadership, particularly in areas that involve (either explicit or implicit) ethics- and values-related issues. This is also closely linked to establishing more appropriate relationships between power and responsibility.
If we cannot take wisdom seriously, we will pay a very high price for this neglect. We need to foster greater respect for other people, particularly those who have views or reflect values that we do not agree with. This requires us to develop our capacity to have constructive conversations about the issues that divide us; that, in itself, would go a long way toward ensuring that we improve the quality of our decision making for the benefit of all in the long term. So help us move toward a ‘Wiser Society.'
This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (February Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 2). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.
1 A longer version of this article can be found in Integral Leadership Review, 2008, Vol. VIII, No. 5, October.
Dr Bruce Lloyd is Emeritus Professor of Strategic Management at London South Bank University.
A student once asked me why she should do a literature review and my answer was "...to engage in a dialogue with your community and find out what they have uncovered. Once you have done your research, tell them what you have found." Dialogue and collaboration can extend throughout your research life into your practice, and I have been particularly struck by this over the last few months.
It began with the Global Coaching Convention (GCC) in the summer of 2008. The GCC provided us the opportunity to connect with a global community and test our ideas with each other about what was important and why. Then in October 2008, the Foundation of Coaching brought together coaching researchers from around the world as part of the International Coaching Research Forum. This event was generously sponsored by the Harnisch Foundation, and personally attended by its president Ruth Ann Harnisch. Carol Kauffman and Mary Wayne Bush co-chaired the two-day event. Sunny Stout Rostron facilitated a structured workshop to produce 100 research proposals for sharing within the coaching community.
At the Forum, we exchanged ideas, co-created research designs and collaborated, culminating in the creation of an excellent resource for any of us who are thinking of doing research and want some guidance on what to research and how to do it. Each proposal has an aim, identification of a possible methodology and potential outcomes. They are freely available on the Coaching Commons—the web-hub for the Foundation. Have a look, find something you want to do and go ahead with all our blessings (just let us know what you find out!).
Clearly, 100 research proposals do not represent a comprehensive research strategy for the field. This work will need to be done in the future, so that those interested in doing and/or funding research (organizations, professional bodies and individuals) will know what could provide the most impact without duplicating previous efforts.
All other disciplines and professions have research priorities that highlight their real needs from multiple perspectives. Let's take the coaching profession seriously and initiate a collaboration between professional bodies, major buyers and national/internal bodies on this task that would have real value for everyone.
While at the Forum, I was struck by the number of proposals that dealt with coaching within the organizational context, specifically, with the development of coaching cultures. In the UK, the coaching capability of organizations is a "hot topic." I can see evidence that it is also on the agenda in Europe and the US. The rise has been organic, as Frisch identifies in his pivotal work about "the emerging role of the internal coach,"1 and it is obvious, but not expected.
In the postmodern world, just-in-time learning, self-direction, self-efficacy and flexibility are prized capabilities and coaching is seen as an effective method of developing them. The question is: How do we embed coaching within organizations in a way that fits their culture, context and needs and achieves all (or most) of the benefits?
This is not a trivial question. Do we have information on best practice yet? How generic is it? What factors (training, support, buy-in, etc.) are critical, and which are merely nice to have? Does it matter which sector you are in? The list of questions seems endless and we need answers yesterday!
In my own work,2 I have mapped out some of the field through case studies. The biggest surprise was the use of coaching within manufacturing industries (in this case, a diesel-engine manufacturer). In recent years, the market shift in these industries has been so dramatic that the admonition "We cannot afford not to coach" rings especially true.
I was delighted to read the recent research coming out of the Ashridge Centre for Coaching and also sponsored by the Chartered Institute of Personal Development in the UK.3 They looked at ways coaching had been embedded in a range of organizations and identified three basic modes. I will leave you to delve into exactly what they were; however, I wanted to highlight the methodology they used. As we said last time, the controlled experimental trial cannot answer some of the more complex research questions. This is a case in point.
There was no hypothesis here to be tested, but an exploration or "finding out" that needed to happen. There were a range of perspectives at play from the internal coaches, finance directors and managers as well as employees, all of whom had a tale to tell that had to be respected. The researchers were also "in the thick of it," not disinterested observers, and the research process itself needed to be flexible as information came to light. Finally, the researchers were actively seeking to bring about change and wanted to be influenced by the results.
The methodology they chose was collaborative inquiry (akin to action research), in which the organizations being studied actively participate in the research and the resulting change. A multitude of instruments was used (questionnaires, case studies and literature review) to get a rich picture of what was happening within the organizations. This cooperative engagement meant that the results have a resonance with anyone in the field and a practicality that makes the research highly accessible and useful. In short, the research had impact upon practice even before it was fully reported.
So do not be a solitary researcher, but enjoy your inquiry by collaborating till you drop!
Definitely have a look at the coaching section on the CIPD website—there is a great deal offered from this research sponsor!
This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (February Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.
1 Fisch, M.H. 2001. "The Emerging Role of the Internal Coach." Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. 53, 4: 240-250.
2 Jarvis, J., D. Lane, and A. Fillery-Travis. 2006. The Case for Coaching: Making Evidence-based Decisions on Coaching. London: CIPD.
3 Knights, A. and A. Poppleton. 2008. Developing Coaching Capability in Organisations. London: CIPD.
Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis is Director of Programmes MProf/DProf at Middlesex University and a senior researcher and education coach with the Professional Development Foundation. The author of more than 60 research articles and studies, her book The Case for Coaching, presenting a literature review with research case studies and interviews from over 20 organizations on coaching efficacy, was published by CIPD, UK. Contact Annette.