23Aug/120

Being Grateful – An Essential Perspective of Any Practitioner Researcher, by Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis

By Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis

So far in these columns we have discussed mainly methodological issues in research such as identifying your own perspective and engaging your community. While musing this week on where to go next, I found myself faced with a number of my own research challenges and realized that all of them revolved around research ethics. So I thought it was high time we opened up that can of worms!

As practitioners, we all aspire to work ethically with our clients. We make ourselves aware of codes of ethics and breathe a sigh of relief that we have a clear framework to steer us out of some of coaching's trickier situations! So, as practitioner researchers, is that enough or do we need a separate ethical framework specific to research?

After all, we do a number of similar things as researchers and as coaches—we uncover an individual's truth through question and challenge, explore meaning through analysis and synthesis, and may even experiment with new behaviors and design alternatives. In short, the initial stages of most coaching models mirror those of the research cycle, and the skills the coach and researcher bring to interventions are very similar. Surely we can use the same ethical framework for research as for coaching!

The answer to my mind is no—we need to go further for a number of reasons. The main one is the care of your participants. When you undertake any research, you are hoping that your participants will give you their time and engagement to provide you with their perspectives, thoughts, and feelings on the research topic. In return, they get the opportunity to have their voice heard. That's it! Nothing more.

So the balance of "gifts" between researcher and participants is rather one-sided. You are getting a wealth of information and knowledge from your participants; they are giving you their hopes, considerations, and reflections. They are prompting your thinking, shining a light on issues hitherto uncovered, and generally exposing their opinions/thoughts/feelings to your scrutiny and trusting you with it all. Your participants are going to provide you with the building blocks of the entire study. You are simply asking the questions. As a researcher I am left feeling profoundly grateful!

I owe my participants a debt: to take care of what they have given me and what I do with it. I need to make sure that it is kept secure and, when reporting my study, I need to keep my participants' safety uppermost in my mind. It is not just putting a tick in a box, but a sincere undertaking that acknowledges the debt of gratitude I owe to my participants, placing the burden of care squarely on my shoulders as the researcher.

Poorly run practitioner research can have devastating effects if we do not keep to a tight ethical framework. One veterinary surgeon I knew, interested in the development of diagnostic skills in young practitioners, designed an inquiry that would have resulted in his sharing his opinion of the skills of a small group of four vets with their boss. It would have been interesting to see who would have been the first vet to sue after being dismissed from their post. A quick rugby tackle by his research supervisor (me!) stopped that design going live, but it threw light on how ethical dilemmas emerge as soon as we start looking.

But it is not all bad news—there is a range of research ethical codes available from the major professional bodies. Best practice, such as a clear contract between you and your participants at the beginning, is also out there in the many books on research practice. But we also need to develop good internal ethical awareness, as no standardized code will cover all eventualities.

One rule of thumb that helps inform me is to consider the information given by a participant (in whatever form) as remaining their property. It is not something the researcher can use as he or she sees fit, but is, instead, a prized possession such as a work of art. An artist remains the spiritual owner of his/her art and the collector simply a custodian of the work. Its value comes from who created it. In a similar way, the participants continue to "own" their data and must give their permission for whatever happens to it. This will mean that we need to check back with our participants to ensure that we are correct in what we have heard from them, that they are amenable to their information being included, and that they give us explicit permission when we want to use quotes from them—even when these are unattributed.

This stance also stops us "giving" our data away to others, even fellow researchers, and this is not a bad thing. Data is bespoke to the study within which it was collected—a product of the question, design, methodology, and instrument used. Rarely is it transferable in its raw form. The outputs of the data analysis can be transferable and of general use, but not the raw data itself.

So keep ethically aware and you are not only taking your participants' gifts to you seriously, but you are taking your own research and work seriously!

Worth a Look

The British Psychological Society code of research ethics.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 2). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
9Aug/120

Coaching Models for Business Success: The Nested-Levels Model

By Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron

Coaching as an Experiential Learning Conversation

One of the core areas where coaches work with clients is that of learning. However, the conversation with your client centers on what is meaningful to them. If significance and relevance are to emerge from the coaching conversation, it doesn't matter what is relevant to you; it matters what is relevant to them. It is therefore important to be aware of your own assumptions about what the client needs.

If you are guiding, directing, and giving your clients all the information they need, it will be difficult for them to ever be free of you. It is helpful if the client embodies new learning personally and physiologically; you can't do their learning for them. What you do as a coach is to help them reconstruct their own thinking and feeling to gain perspective and become self-directed learners. At the end of each coaching session with my clients, we integrate their learning1 with the goals they have set, confirming what action, if any, they are committed to:

  1. Vision-Refine their vision: where is the client going?
  2. Strategy-Outline the strategy: how is the client going to achieve their vision?
  3. Outcomes-What are the specific outcomes that need to be accomplished in the next few weeks in order to work toward achieving the vision, putting the strategy into action?
  4. Learning-Help the client summarize what was gained from the session in order to help underline self-reflection, continuing to help the client understand that they are responsible for their own thinking, their own doing, and their own being.

Nested-Levels Model

Although models create a system within which coach and client learn, it is essential that models are not experienced as either prescriptive or rigid. If the model is inflexible, it means it is fulfilling the coach's agenda, rather than attempting to understand the client's issues.

This nested-levels model was developed by New Ventures West (Weiss, 2004), and introduces the concept of horizontal and vertical levels in coaching models. The nested model works first at the horizontal level of "doing," eventually moving into deeper "learning" one level down; reflecting about self, others, and experience at a third "ontological" level where new knowledge emerges about oneself and the world (Figure1).

In her article, Pam Weiss talks about the two different camps of coaches. In jest, I call them the New York versus the Los Angeles camp. The New York camp says, "I'm the expert, let me fix you," while the L.A. camp says, "You are perfect and whole and have all of your own answers." Joking aside, each of these camps comes up short, even though coaches often fall into one or the other. The role of coaching is actually about developing human beings. It is not really about "I have the expertise" versus "you already have all your own answers."

The Expert Approach

Contrary to what experts might think, clients are not broken and are not in need of fixing. Clients may be anxious, stressed, nervous, overworked, and even narcissistic—but they don't need fixing. They are mostly healthy human beings going about their jobs and lives, experiencing their own human difficulties. Your job as coach is to help the clients learn for themselves, so that when you are no longer walking alongside them, they have become "self-directed" learners (Harri-Augstein and Thomas, 1991) and do not need you anymore. The second view about "expertise" also has limitations. The role of expertise is that, as coach, you are an expert; but coaching is not about the coach giving all the answers; that tends to be the role of the consultant, i.e., to find solutions for the client.

The "You-Have-All-the-Answers" Approach

The "you have all the answers" assumption is partially true, but there are several limitations. The first one is that we all have blind spots, and it is your job as coach to help the client to identify their blind spots. Secondly, it's perhaps a bit of "mythical" thinking that the client has all of the answers already; the flip side of that argument is that, if it does not work out, the client assumes blame and fault. In other words, "If I have all the answers, I should be able to do it myself without help." If that is not the case, they could feel, "Oh dear, if I am not able to do it myself, then perhaps I'm a failure."

Both of these approaches are "horizontal," i.e., they skim the surface of the work you can do with the client. Both help people to maintain the lives they currently have. The expert "New York" approach helps the client to do it better, faster, and more efficiently, and the "Los Angeles" approach may withhold key insights and observations from the coach that could help build the client's awareness of their blind spots. What is important, rather than "fixing" the client, is the skill of "observation" on the part of the coach. There is no problem in helping the client to do it better, faster, or more efficiently—that is often what the organization hopes for in terms of performance improvement. However, it is important for the client to gain the learning they need to address blind spots and to build their own internal capacity and competence.

Learning Level

If you continue to help people accomplish tasks, achieve goals, and keep on "doing," they risk falling into the trap of being "busy" and possibly overwhelmed. They may not, however, necessarily get the "learning" they need to develop self-awareness and self-management. I know all too well about this trap of being excessively busy. If we keep "doing" without reflection, we eventually burn out. To keep individual executives performing better and better, they need to work at one level lower-at the level of learning. They need to learn how to "do the doing" better. As soon as an executive begins to work with a coach, they begin the possibility of working at one or two levels deeper.

As coach, you will be asking questions to help clients reflect, review, and gain useable knowledge from their experience. In the nested-levels model, the higher levels don't include the lower ones, but the lower levels include the higher ones. So we need to help clients address their purpose one level down, at the level of learning. At this level you may ask questions such as, "How are you doing? What are you doing? What are you feeling? How are your peers/colleagues experiencing you/this? What is and what isn't working? What is useful learning for you here? What needs to change and how?"

Ontological Levels-Being and Becoming

The third and fourth levels of the coaching intervention using this model are that ofwho the client is and who the client wishes to become in terms of thinking, feeling, and being. Your questions move from "what do they need to do" and "how do they need to do it" (doing), to "how does their style of learning impact on how they do what they do; what do they need to learn in order to improve thinking/behavior/feeling/performance/leadership" (learning); to questions about "what do they need to understand and acknowledge about themselves, who are they, how do they be who they are, and what needs to change (being and becoming)?"

So what assists people in getting things done? Above all, it is about clarifying goals, creating action steps, taking responsibility, and being accountable. In order to perform more effectively, we need to help clients shift down a gear to learn how to work with competence (a set of skills) rather than just learning a specific new skill.

Learning

Your job as coach is to help the client be open to possibilities of learning something new, and to help them relate to themselves and others at a deeper level. To use the nested-levels model, you could ask questions such as:

  1. What is it that your client(s) want to do? What is their aim or purpose in working with you?
  2. What do they need to learn in order to make the change? What in their thinking, feeling, and behavior needs to change in order to do the doing better? How can they use their own experience to learn what is needed?
  3. How do, and how will, their thoughts, feelings, and behavior impact on how they "be who they are" and "who is it that they want to become"? In this way, we work at horizontal and vertical levels. At the end of the day, the client's new attitudes, behaviors, motivations, and assumptions begin to impact positively on their own performance and their relationships with others.

Our aim with this model is to shift any limiting sense of who the client is so that they can interact and engage with the world in new ways. As clients begin to shift, it has an impact on others with whom they interact in the workplace. It also means addressing issues systemically, from a holistic perspective, whether those issues revolve around health, stress, anxiety, performance, or relationships with others. Our task as coaches is to widen the circle, enlarge the perspective of the client, and help them learn from their own experience how to reach their potential.

A great way to start any coaching intervention is to ask your clients to tell their life story. The coach begins to understand some of the current issues and presenting challenges, and begins to observe patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior. Because we work with Kolb's theory of "understanding experience in order to transform it into useable knowledge," this model helps us to determine the context in which the client operates, where individual and systemic problems may be occurring, and how organizational values and culture impact on individuals and teams. It is at this level that the coach's ability to observe, challenge, and ask appropriate questions can be most transformational.

In Conclusion

Coaching models help us understand the coaching intervention from a systems perspective, analyzing the "structure" of the interaction between coach and client. This series of articles takes a practical look at how coaching models are constructed, and how they can help you to flexibly structure the overall coaching journey as well as the individual coaching conversation with your business client. In my next article, we will explore the use of the U-process model, sometimes known as the "process of transition," typically represented in Scharmer's U-process.

This article is adapted from Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching (2009, Johannesburg: Knowledge Resources).Business Coaching International will be published mid 2009 by Karnac, London.

Resource Materials

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Stout Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching. Johannesburg: Knowledge Resources.

Stout Rostron, S. (2006). Interventions in the Coaching Conversation: Thinking, Feeling and Behaviour. Unpublished DProf dissertation. London: Middlesex University.

Weiss, P. (2004). "The Three Levels of Coaching." Available at:http://www.newventureswest.com/three_levels.pdf.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 2). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.


1 "Learning conversations" refers to research into learning conversations and self-organized learning, developed by S. Harri-Augstein and L.F. Thomas (1991:24).

Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron, DProf, MA is an executive coach and consultant with a wide range of experience in leadership and management development, business strategy and executive coaching. The author of six books, including Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching(2009), Sunny is Director of the Manthano Institute of Learning (Pty) Ltd and founding president of COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors of South Africa). More about Sunnyin the WABC member directory. Contact Sunny.
If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
28Jun/120

Collaboration and Research—All for One and One for All, By Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis

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!

Worth Reading

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.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
12Apr/120

The Coaching Frontier for Business Coaching, By Robin Linnecar

Posted by Robin Linnecar

Imagine two extremes. On the one hand there is fun, creativity, adventure, ambition, scope and hope—on the other there is lawlessness, every person for him/herself, money stolen and some individuals aiming to impose standards. The Wild West? Well yes. The business coaching market and frontier? Well yes. Let's explore this coaching frontier a little more.

Professionalisation

Unlike accountancy, law and medicine, coaching and certainly business coaching do not have a recognized professional body. Worldwide there is the WABC, the International Coach Federation (ICF), the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and doubtless many more. Within the United Kingdom I can vouch for at least seven different representative bodies all operating in the same coaching market—Association for Coaching, EMCC, ICF, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Association of Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision, British Psychological Society's Special Group in Coaching Psychology, British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy. There may be more for all I know, and I am sure the same is true in other countries.

In the UK we have tried recently to pull all these together under a common banner by issuing a Statement of Shared Values. Even so, there are fundamental disparities on approaches to supervision of coaches, to name but one area where the range is from "no supervision is demanded at all" to "supervision is a fundamental requirement." Supervision means here the supervision of quality and thus more than having merely a mentor for you in your business of coaching.

Standards and Accreditations

What is the calibration between the demands WABC makes for you to be a member, what the ICF requires or what any other body requires? How does an organization decide who the best coaches are in the market? Who does the accreditation and are there benchmark standards?

Confused Buyers

At present there is a situation where global companies from Dell to PepsiCo to Unilever to Zurich Insurance to Citigroup are all setting up their own processes to weed out or select coaches to suit their needs. Assessment Centers for coaches comprising presentations, psychologist interviews and "real live" coaching sessions are occupying the best part of a day. We need benchmarking and standards desperately to prevent this duplication of effort and to unravel the confusion in the minds of the buyers of coaching. The buyer's plea at present is "How can I be sure, and quickly, that I am buying a professional coach?"

Can We Push the Frontier and Turn It into a Border?

Some companies are forcing the issue more than others and leading the field in integrating coaching into their businesses. Diageo is a globally integrated organization famous for Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Guinness, Tanqueray and other well-known drink brands. It has gone public with a year-long scheme for 900 senior managers, which involves two residential events supported by many hours of one-to-one coaching, 360-degree colleague feedback and other interventions. This scheme is central to Diageo's leadership in its business and fundamental to it.

Business coaching is now a global requirement for many, and this push, which is wider (global) and deeper (with keenly articulated standards being developed), will draw the rest of business along in its wake.

Executives find themselves at what we in Praesta call a "faster-faster" world with unrelenting pressure, global travel and high performance expectations—where coaching is uniquely placed as a development intervention.

In our book, Business Coaching—Achieving Practical Results through Effective Engagement, Peter Shaw and I have outlined key developments in coaching good practice for the future:

  • Increased focus on real-time coaching of individuals
  • Coaching more integrated into business development programs and business school courses
  • Greater use of structured internal mentoring relationships for a client alongside an external coach relationship
  • Coaching becoming part of an individual's contractual employment relationship
  • Professional underpinning through the insistence on coaches to undergo effective, quality supervision
  • The oversight of the profession through a professional body covering standards, competence, quality, supervision and continuing professional development.

The Wild West frontier needs to and must become more professional and these developments would certainly help lead us there!

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide ( 2008, Volume 4, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Robin Linnecar is a Master Coach working in Praesta International. A chartered accountant with experience in Arthur Andersen, Shell, KPMG and PWC, his co-authored book is Business Coaching published by Capstone (2007). For more about Robin and Praesta International, please go to www.praesta.com. Learn more about Robin in the WABC Member Directory.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.