29Nov/120

Everyone Has a Passion

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.

  Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis is a senior researcher and education coach with the Professional Development Foundation. The author of more than 60 research articles and studies, her recent book The Case for Coaching, presenting a literature review with research case studies and interviews from over 20 organizations on coaching efficacy, was published in 2006 by CIPD, UK. ContactAnnette.

 

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.
11Aug/110

Where’s the Evidence? First Steps into the Literature (and Research) By Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis

In my writing so far, I hope I have whetted your appetite for coaching research and put a convincing argument that it cannot be left as an "academic" pastime, but should be part of every practitioner's arsenal.

Most of us do not have the time to carry out research per se, but given that our profession is in its infancy, there is much to discover in the literature about the true potential of what we can offer as coaches and how this can impact upon our clients and their organizations! We can contribute to the growing body of knowledge ourselves by delving into journals and articles, discussing "hot topics" within our networks and generally making our literature our own. As practitioners we contribute a valuable perspective when we talk with our peers and to academic researchers.

Over the last year I have been contributing to a working group on research as part of the Global Coaching Convention. This convention was established to create a collaborative framework of stakeholders in coaching with the aim of professionalizing the industry. Quite a job and at times I think the size and complexity of the aim has daunted even the hardiest souls. As in any undertaking of this size, there has been a debate about the value of such an initiative. Detractors say that the coaching community has grown organically so far and it should be left to continue doing so. Others say that the convention is taking on too big a job, and with so many diverse agendas on the table, there is little hope of getting collaboration or consensus so people are wasting their time. I will not go further into the debates other than to mention that if any of our clients came out with such a view, we might well consider challenging it! But enough of my soap box, as a good researcher I shall admit my bias and point everyone in the direction of the GCC's website for the latest news and events.

Sunny Stout Rostron and Carol Kauffman chaired and facilitated the research working group and they did a grand job in challenging our process and thinking as well as generally bringing the project home. The core piece of work was a review of where we are, as a community, in terms of our research. Sunny and Carol will be publishing the full piece in the near future, but I would like to share with you some of the thinking it sparked with me.

First and foremost, we agreed that if we are thinking of moving to becoming a profession then we have to define what our body of knowledge is—what is it that makes our offer different to that of occupational psychologists, management consultants or other related fields? Research is the route to defining our knowledge. Even if we are simply looking at, and comparing, each other's practice we are engaging in research.

The second point that struck a real note with me was our discussion around whether we should define what is "good" and what is "bad" research. This question and its real depth gets in the way of many of us entering the world of research. It throws up all kinds of questions about what is the "correct" way of doing it, reporting it or even defining it.

Let us first consider our purpose in doing research. For me and many others it is to find something out or to learn, and the best evidence of learning is to change behaviors. So we are effectively saying to our colleagues:

"Trust me—I have looked at this issue and found XYZ. You can now take my findings and apply them directly to your practice."

That is quite a thing to say. We are suggesting people change their practice and behaviors because of what we have found out. To do this (and still sleep at night) we need to know that we are right (or valid) and not leading people down the garden path on a scenic route to nowhere. Some researchers have taken the easy route out of this dilemma and stuck to one way of doing research, irrespective of the question they are asking. Usually the method of choice is a controlled experimental study where one group gets coaching and one group doesn't, and at the end there is some measure of impact on behaviors (with everyone hoping there is a positive effect on those who have been coached)!

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief as they are doing a scientific study and don't have to justify themselves any further. Oh if only life was that easy! As we have discussed before, what you research and how you do it is determined by the question you are asking NOT the other way around. A controlled experiment would be terribly complicated and confusing if we wanted to explore how and what elements of the coaching engagement are of most value to a diverse range of clients. Trying to control for all the factors that would be different between groups would make it untenable (and unusable).

Identifying the research method used as the main differentiator between good and bad research is therefore not a sensible path and will only lead to restricting the type of research question we will be able to ask (and answer). Our criteria for whether an inquiry is "good" research must be: Is there coherence between the question, the method used to research it and the analysis undertaken, and has everything been done to the standards of good practice? Let us leave the question of what is good practice to one side for another day and take that as read; we can then be happy to consider good research to include any method or even mix of methods that makes sense for the question we are asking.

The same thinking should be brought to bear on the question: What is the best research to do? Everyone wants to do research that will set the world alight, but choosing a topic isn't easy. Governments have been engaged in foresight exercises for many years trying to second guess the research investment they should make to enable them to meet the challenges for the future. They have invested a significant amount of money, but it has resulted in quite a lot of what has been described as crystal gazing.

Experience has shown that such exercises are useful for mapping current drivers for research, but usually fail to foresee the big issues for the future, e.g., the exponential rise in the use of the mobile phone and the personal computer. If we cannot see what will be the main issue for the future then the best research to do is the research that speaks to you and your practice, i.e., the research that follows your passion. Chances are that your passion will be shared by others—go ahead and ask them—and if that is the case then you can be confident that there will be an audience for your work.

Worth Reading:

As an introduction to how people are thinking about research for the future, have a look at these two papers. If you do not have access to these journals through a library or database, then just go to the website of the journal and order the download direct to your computer.

Linley, Alex P. 2006. "Coaching Research: Who? What? Where? When? Why?" International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring Vol. 4, No. 2 (Autumn): 1

Bennett, J.L. 2006. "An Agenda for Coaching-Related Research: A Challenge for Researchers." Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research Vol. 58, Part 4: 240-249

Find out more about the Global Coaching Convention.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (October 2008, Volume 4, Issue 3). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

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