#Coach2Career Twitter Q & A hosted by SACAP

twitterEarlier today, we participated in a Twitter Q & A session on the topic of careers in coaching and how the coaching profession has progressed in terms of career offerings.  The following is the questions and my answers (which you can also find on my Twitter handle @StoutRostron, following the hashtag #Coach2Career):

Q1 Life coach; executive coach; relationship coach – many different specialisations, but what is a coach?

What you do as a coach is to help coachees to reconstruct client thoughts and feelings to gain perspective and become self-directed learners.  The coach is a thinking and feeling partner because executives no longer have time to think.  The role of the coach is to get leaders into a learning mindset.

A coach’s job isn’t to fix clients, , or to give answers that the coachee and team need to find for themselves.  A coach’s job is to challenge the coachee’s thinking, to make observations on their behaviour and the way they engage with the world.

Coaches observe how others experience their coachee and the coachee begins to notice how others are experiencing them out in the world.  Robert Hargrove (2003) says a coach is something that you “be” – meaning that coaches need to work more with the tacit dimension.  The tacit dimension focuses on how to be in the relationship – rather than referring to the skills and competences of you as coach – or even what you do in the coaching conversation.

Q2 What are the many different career opportunities for coaches?

There is a vast array – one possibility is to consult externally to organisations/institutions:

  • Working as an internal coach in an organisation with a deep understanding of the organisational culture.
  • Being trained as a feedback coach in an organisation for those who are new to the profession.
  • Becoming a coach researcher – and helping to develop the knowledge base for coaches.
  • Working as staff for one of the professional bodies of coaching round the world.
  • Working as a part-time coach in a professional suite of coaches – the agency finds you the work.
  • Running your own business as an external coach.
  • Teaching on one of the many master’s and certification education programmes for coaches in South Africa.
  • If you are employed, developing a coaching approach to your managerial style.

Q3 How does the coaching approach differ from the counselling approach?

Therapy and counselling are about healing – and coaching is about learning from your experience.  The coaching conversation is about learning from your own experience and finding your own inner wisdom.

A coach often acts as a sounding board, using question frameworks and coaching models to help the leader work out solutions to specific issues.  Coach and client reflect on the client’s experience and behaviours, devising new thinking, feeling, behaviours and actions.

Counselling is a form of help and support for people troubled by emotional trauma or other personal challenges.  Counselling involves sympathetic listening and a modicum of advice, usually on a short-term basis, typically in response to a particular event or concern.  Counselling generally deals with the personal side of a leader’s life, including such issues as bereavement, divorce, substance abuse or dependence.

Q4 What is on the horizon for the profession of coaching? (future trends)

For the foreseeable future, it looks as if coaching will continue to “professionalize”.  There are five core areas for the future of business coaching.  They are: professionalisationmastery of practiceeducation and development of coachescoaching research; and coaching and society.

The role of research is to determine the competences necessary to educate and develop coaches.  Most importantly to create a definition of coaching that the global coaching community will accept.  The new and innovative context worldwide is not just for academic researchers to contribute to relevant evidence-based practice, but also for coach practitioners and leaders within organisations to contribute to the development of self-reflective practice and practitioner research.

Q5 How can coaching help South Africans embrace diversity?

Diversity generally refers to policies and practices that seek to include people who are considered, in some way, different from traditional members.  More centrally, diversity aims to create an inclusive culture that values and uses the talents of all would-be members.  It has become critically important for business coaches to understand the impact of diversity on team performance, co-operation and conflict.  A key question is how diversity within groups/teams can be developed as a ‘productive asset rather than becoming a source of conflict and prejudice’. This is where the coach has a role to play.

There has been a rethink of the language defining diversity, where the word ‘diversity’ is being replaced with the term ‘inclusion’.  The concept of inclusion means removing barriers that prevent employees from using their full range of skills and competencies at work.  Inclusion is ‘the extent to which individuals can access information and resources, are involved in workgroups, and have ability to influence decision-making.

Some organizations now develop programmes and initiatives which include employee participation, communication strategies, and community relations.  Research into workgroup performance suggests that ‘mixed-composition workgroups can improve group performance.  This is by providing a wider range of perspectives and a broader skills base.

Q6 How is technology changing careers in coaching?

Many coaches now facilitate the coaching conversation using Skype or something similar. This enables coaches to work with coachees round the globe.  Therefore many coaches are qualifying as coaches who will never see a client face to face!  Also some coaches work simply by email and answer their clients questions via email.

There is no research yet to show whether this is beneficial or detrimental to the coachee.  However, due to research into texting and emails, they are the least valuable form of communication.  We need to research the impact on the depth of coaching via technology.

Q7 How does training of coaches have to adapt to accommodate new and future coaching careers?

In developing their own integrative approaches to coaching, coaches should consider their own experience and training based on career trends.  It would be useful to choose theoretical models that will suit a wide range of clients.  We will always need to prepare future generations to take on leadership roles, training supervisors and managers to move up the corporate ladder.

We need to help executives to do more with less resources, time and skills, engaging their employees to create a trusting and transparent workplace culture.  We always need to harness the “systemic” issues or “systemic” trends that are emerging so that “silo” coaching does not become the norm.


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Webinar: The Tacit Dimension – Developing Self as Coach in the 21st Century

Sunny recently led a webinar for the Institute of Coaching , an affiliate of McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School on 17th February 2016.  The topic deals practically with some of the areas that coaches and leaders need to focus and reflect on, to develop their abilities, including accessing a learning mindset, deepening self-reflective practice, looking at how you are “being” a coach in the coaching relationship (the tacit dimension), and what are the shifts in ourselves that we need to make to create shift in our clients.

In the fast paced, VUCA world of the new century, the need to develop strong, capable leaders remains constant. Leadership and business coaches have a critical part to play. Sunny explores the core development challenges for leaders and coaches in the 21st century. She also focuses on the Tacit Dimension – examining how you ‘be’ in the coaching relationship versus your skills, competencies and expertise. This webinar is practical and experiential, working with us to create the conditions for high quality coaching conversations and deepening our own self-reflective practice. She covers:

  • Learn or Die – Getting Leaders into a Learning Mind-set
  • What it Means to be a Leader and a Coach in a VUCA World
  • Six Defining Traits of the 21st Century Organisation
  • Working with the Tacit Dimension – How Are You Being in the Coaching Relationship?
  • Deepening Self-reflective practice – What should you be doing?

– See more at: http://www.instituteofcoaching.org/resources/webinar-tacit-dimension-developing-self-coach-21st-century-resource#sthash.G86VkRb6.dpuf

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Working with Coaching Models: The U-Process

By Dr. Sunny Stout-Rostron

The U-process

The U-process is sometimes known as the process of transition, and in the field of coaching this U-process is typically represented in Scharmer’s model of change. In the process of transition, the client can move from anxiety, through happiness, fear, threat, guilt, denial, disillusionment, depression, gradual acceptance and hostility to moving forward.

The U-process is considered a mid-range change theory with a sense of an emerging future. Scharmer’s process moves the client through different levels of perception and change, with differing levels of action which follow. The three main elements are sensing, presencing and realizing. These represent the three basic aspects of the U (Figure 1).

Figure 1    Scharmer’s U-Process Model

Scharmer's U-Process

Source:       Adapted from Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski and Flowers (2005:88)

This process helps the client to work at different levels of perception and change, and allows different levels of actions to follow. All three are extensions of the learning process. As the coach and client move into the U, sensing is about observing and becoming one with the world; presencing, moving to the bottom of the U, is about retreating and reflecting and allowing an inner knowing to emerge, and realizing as you move out of the “U”, is about acting swiftly and with a natural flow from the knowledge and understanding that has emerged.

Time for ChangeThe U-theory suggests co-creation between the individual and the collective – i.e. the larger world. It is about the interconnection or integration of the self with the world. At the bottom of the U, as described by Scharmer, is the “inner gate” where we drop the baggage of our journey, going through a threshold. The metaphor used here is that of “death of the old self”, and “rebirth of the new self”, the client emerges with a different sense of self. On the Web is a lovely dialogue between Wilber and Scharmer where they discuss the seven states and the three movements in this one process (Scharmer, 2003).

Superficial learning and change processes are shorter versions of the U-movement. In using this as a coaching process, the client moves downwards into the base of the U, moving from acting, to thinking, to feeling, to will. This is to help the client to download with the coach, to let go and discover who they really are, to see from the deepest part of themselves, developing an awareness that is expanded with a shift in intention.

Otto Scharmer, in an executive summary of his new book, Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges, describes the U-process as five movements: co-initiating, co-sensing, presencing, co-creating and co-evolving (Scharmer, 2007:5–8). Scharmer describes this as moving “first into intimate connection with the world and to a place of inner knowing that can emerge from within, followed by bringing forth the new, which entails discovering the future by doing” (Scharmer, 2007:6). The following case study demonstrates the five-step process.

Figure 2    U-process case study

Scharmer's U-Process Example

Source:       Scharmer (2007:6)

Case study: The Global Convention on Coaching (GCC)

From July 2007 until July 2008, I played a role as Chair of the GCC Working Group: Research Agenda for Development of the Field, and Carol Kauffman took the part of Facilitator. The GCC was originally established to create a collaborative dialogue for all stakeholders in coaching worldwide, with the ultimate aim of professionalizing the industry. Nine initial working groups were formed by the GCC’s Steering Committee to discuss critical issues related to the professionalization of coaching, producing “white papers” on the current realities and possible future scenarios of these issues. These white papers were presented at the GCC’s Dublin convention in July 2008. Using the U-process model, this case study summarises the working group process of the research agenda, which comprised a 12-month online dialogue process, with the addition of monthly telephone conversations, during 2007–2008. The white papers for all nine working groups (plus the new tenth group, Coaching and Society) are available at www.coachingconvention.org.

1. Co-initiation

Co-initiating is about building common intent, stopping and listening to others and to what life calls you to do. In the Working Group for the Research Agenda, the group built common intent by first setting up the group, defining their purpose and beginning to discuss the process that they wanted to use for their dialogue. It was agreed that the chair and facilitator would invite specific individuals to join the Working Group, and those members would suggest other individuals who might have a key interest in the research agenda for the field (i.e. the emerging coaching profession). The group began their online dialogue, once all had accepted the invitation and received instructions on how to use the online GCC web forum. It was agreed that there would be three communities working together: the Working Group and the Consultative Body for the Research Agenda, and the Steering Committee who were responsible for the leadership and management of the other groups.

2. Co-sensing

EyeObserve, Observe, Observe. Go to the places of most potential and listen with your mind and heart wide open. The chair and the facilitator of the Working Group had to learn to co-facilitate, observing each other’s skill and competence. They had to be willing to listen to each other, observing each other’s style in facilitating an online dialogue. They needed to create the group, and to facilitate the way forward with the group, learning to take constructive criticism and appreciation from each other, guiding the group forward without being prescriptive. Both chair and facilitator agreed to co-chair the process, remaining mentally and emotionally open to each other’s divergent opinions, ways of being and styles of interpersonal communication, whether working with the group online or by phone.

3. Presencing

Connect to the source of inspiration, and will. Go to the place of silence and Young Woman Meditating on the Floorallow the inner knowing to emerge. Each individual in the process reflected and regularly added their thoughts and feelings to the online forum. Debate, conflict and agreement emerged – with chair and facilitator taking responsibility to keep the group on track without being prescriptive. The chair and facilitator had to connect, each one to their own individual source of inspiration and to bring that together as one voice to guide the group.

4. Co-creating

Prototype the new. In living examples to explore the future by doing. This entailed harnessing the energy of the Working Group to draft a current reality document of their online and tele-conference dialogues; this document was revised four times. They brought in a facilitator for a second, Consultative Body who entered the Consultative Body dialogue at stage 1 (co-initiating), but who, at the same time, entered the Working Group dialogue at stage 3 (presencing). Trying to move forward with their own Working Group process, yet move the Consultative Body from stage 1 to stage 2 (co-initiation to co-sensing) was a complex, parallel process. The chair and facilitator enlisted the help of an editor, Nick Wilkins, to manage the writing process of the white paper during the Working Group’s co-creation (or stage 4).

5. Co-evolving

Embody the new in ecosystems that facilitate seeing and acting from the whole. The final stage of the process was the physical gathering at the Dublin convention. This took place in three stages: pre-convention, convention and post-convention (post-convention work has just begun). Several months prior to the convention, all nine working groups began to work together online and by telephone to share their own varied stages in the U-process; in this way they learned from each other as they gathered momentum moving towards Dublin which was to be the culmination of their year-long project. Some groups had lost participants during the 12 months through disagreement; others managed to harness the energy to move through each of the stages together. The three processes were:

  • Pre-convention: Preparation for the presentation of a white paper by nine committees; this was for their committee’s current global reality and future possible scenarios for their topic, with the addition of a tenth committee four months prior to Dublin.
  • Convention: Physical presence, dialogue and debate in Dublin with each of the working groups. This was paralleled with virtual online feedback on a daily basis from those not able to attend the convention (however, there were difficulties with this process which frustrated some who could not access the virtual dialogue during that week).
  • Post-convention: Continuation of the process with a new format. The work was to take place in diverse groups regionally and nation-wide, to proceed to the next step building the emerging profession of coaching. Post-convention, a Global Steering Group began work to harness the energy of those wishing to continue. The GCC saw its role as an organic one, continuing to facilitate a global dialogue, rather than forming another coaching organization. A post-GCC International Coaching Summit is to now take place in July 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.

This U-process is applicable to large innovation projects where the unfolding takes place over a long time; a year in this instance. The team composition in such projects as this will change and adapt to some degree after each movement: in the GCC process the working group for the Research Agenda had lost and added new members, whereas the consultative body was a looser entity with only certain members playing a strong role. This was a process of discovery, exploring the future by doing, thinking and reflecting. As Scharmer explains, it facilitates an opening. Facilitating an opening process involves “the tuning of three instruments: the open mind, the open heart, and the open will” (Scharmer, 2007:8–9).

At any one time there were three U-process coaching journeys taking place for the Research Agenda: within the working group, the working group interacting with the consultative body, and the working group interacting with the steering committee.

In Conclusion

Models offer a great sense of structure yet flexibility for the coach practitioner, but remember that simplicity is a prerequisite. I explore models from an experiential learning premise as the client always brings their experience into the coaching conversation. The client’s experience is underpinned by a range of factors, including gender, race, culture, education, life experience and personality.

This article is adapted from Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice, Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching, (2009, Johannesburg: Knowledge Resources) and was originally printed in the WABC e-zine: Business Coaching Worldwide, Volume 5, and subsequently in ETD Online, July 2009.

Coach’s library

Global Convention on Coaching (GCC). (2008g). Dublin Declaration on Coaching Including Appendices. Global Convention on Coaching. Dublin, August. Webpage: http://www.coachingconvention.org.

Scharmer, O. (2003). Mapping the Integral U: A conversation between Ken Wilber and Otto Scharmer, Denver, CO, 17 September. Dialog on Leadership. Webpage: http://www.dialogonleadership.org/interviews/Wilber.html.

Scharmer, C. O. (2007). Addressing the Blind Spot of Our Time: An Executive Summary of the New Book by Otto Scharmer: Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges. Theoryu.com. Webpage: http://www.theoryu.com/execsummary.html.

Senge, P., Scharmer, C. O., Jaworski, J., and Flowers, B. S. (2005). Presence: Exploring Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society. London: Nicholas Brealey.

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

Stout-Rostron, S. (2009b). Working with Coaching Models: The U-Process. Human Capital Review, September. Webpage: http://www.humancapitalreview.org/content/default.­asp?Article_ID=625.

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The Scientist Practitioner Model

By Dr. Sunny Stout-Rostron

Working with Coaching Models

The main purpose of this article is to introduce you to the Scientist Practitioner model. Although it is essential to adopt a structured approach to your coaching conversation, this does not mean that you cannot let the conversation grow and be explorative. I talk about structure in a big-picture way. The beauty of any model is to have the freedom to explore within each part of the model.

Purpose, Perspectives, Process

The Scientist Practitioner model (see Figure 1) was developed by David Lane of the Professional Development Foundation (PDF) and the Work-Based Learning Unit at London’s Middlesex University (Lane and Corrie, 2006).

Figure 1    Purpose, Perspectives, Process

Lane & Corrie

 Source:       Lane and Corrie (2006)

Purpose (Where Are We Going and Why?)blank signs

What is your purpose in working with the client? Where are you going with this client? What does the client want to achieve? Where do they want to go in their overall journey with you as their coach?

For example, one client working in the telecoms industry said in our first session together, “I need your help because everybody in the organisation distrusts me and I’m in a pretty senior position. What can I do about it? I’m highly respected by those subordinate to me in position and disliked and mistrusted by those superior or equal to me in position.” As coach, your questions will relate to the client’s purpose, i.e. “Where are we going, and what’s the reason for going there?” “What” questions help to create a bigger picture of the journey and create perspective. This client’s purpose was to “build alliances and trust with peers, colleagues and superiors throughout the organisation”.

Perspectives (What Will Inform Our Journey?)

What are the perspectives that inform the journey for both coach and client? Each comes in with individual backgrounds, experience, expertise, culture, values, motivations and assumptions that drive behaviour.

I recently had a call from a potential client within the energy industry; he was a general manager. We chatted about his perspective on his background, career and current job. We discussed his perspective in terms of his position within the organisation, his style of leading and managing his team of people, the impact and influence of his age on his career prospects, and finally he said, “I have got as far as I can get with what I know now–and I need to know more, somehow”.

We then discussed the coach’s perspective, i.e. what informs the way I work with clients, what informs my experience and expertise and, based on our mutual perspectives, he asked, “Would we have some kind of synchronicity or a match in order to work together?” He wanted to understand what models, tools and techniques I used as he wanted to create his own leadership development toolbox to coach his senior managers. He also wanted to understand how to handle mistakes: did I make them and what would my education, training and work experience bring to our conversation? In this first contracting conversation, we worked through the model beginning with perspectives:

Perspectives: How we might bring our two worlds together?

Purpose: What did he ultimately want from the coaching experience?

Process: How we would work together to achieve his outcomes?

Process (How Will We Get There?)

Using this model helped me to begin to understand the above client’s needs, to develop rapport, and to identify not just his overall outcomes but to find a way to work together. At this stage of the model we contracted, set boundaries, agreed confidentiality matters, outlining the fee paying process and the development of a leadership development plan. We also agreed on timing (how often we would see each other and the individual client’s line manager). What assessments would be useful for the individual client to complete? How would we debrief those profiles? We discussed potential coaching assignments and timing for the overall contract (including termination and exit possibilities if either party was unhappy) and explored how to obtain line manager approval. Finally, we set up a separate meeting to agree the process with the line manager and the Group HR Director.

How Can This Model Help You?

This model can help you in three ways: to contract with the client, to structure the entire coaching journey and to guide your coaching conversation. Out of this specific conversation emerged the client’s purpose, the way our perspectives fit together to help him to achieve his purpose, and the process within which we would work to achieve the outcomes desired.

This model can be used for the regular coaching conversations you have with your individual clients. The client brings to the conversation a possible “menu” of topics to be discussed, or even just one particular topic. One of my clients in the media came to me one day saying, “My purpose today is to understand why I am sabotaging my best efforts to delegate to my senior managers” (purpose). As the coach, I wanted to understand all of the perspectives underlying the client’s aim for this conversation (perspectives), as well as identifying the various tools or techniques that could be used in the process.

In conclusion, coach practitioners have a great deal of flexibility when working with Flexiibilitycoaching models. Stretch yourself as a practitioner and learn one or two new models to expand your practice.

*(Adapted from Business Coaching Wisdom and Experience, Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching, published 2009/2012 by Knowledge Resources and Karnac.)

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Key questions on coaching supervision

By Dr Sunny Stout-Rostron

At the Rainbow Convention of the Global Coaching Community (question mark 1GCC) in Cape Town a few years ago, I facilitated a dialogue session on coaching supervision around the question “Should qualifications or the market place decide on who supervises?” This article outlines some answers to the following key questions raised by participants during the session:

  1. Definition: What is supervision, and what is it not? What is its intent and purpose?
  2. Benefits: What are the benefits and outcomes of supervision? How can these be measured?
  3. Types: What are the differing supervision needs of coaches? Should there be different types of supervision for these different needs?
  4. Organisational context: How should the organisational context of business coaching influence the type(s) and content of supervision received by business coaches?
  5. Supervisor selection: What or who should determine who supervises – the coach, or the supervisor’s competences?

1.      What is supervision?

The role of the supervisor is to support the development of the coach practitioner and to assess their competence. The term “supervision” describes the process by which the work of the practitioner is overseen and guidance is sought. What coaching supervision refers to is not the inspection of the coach’s work within a hierarchical power relationship, as in managerial supervision, but rather consultation arising out of the needs of the coach and their individual and organisational clients (Stout-Rostron, 2009:275, 277).

The purpose of supervision is to ensure that the coach maintains the highest standards of competence, best serves the needs of the client; is professionally trained and skilled in the practice of coaching; and is committed to a programme of continuing professional development throughout the years of their practice. The importance of coaching supervision is to ensure that the coach understands what the client goes through, and more importantly, to work through their own issues so that they do not become entangled with client concerns (Stout-Rostron, 2009:275–276).

A key component of a coach’s personal and professional approach to their coaching practice is to work on a regular basis with a supervising coach, counsellor or therapist. The purpose of this is three-fold: first, and crucially, to deal with any unresolved issues of their own (an ongoing process for any coach), and specifically to learn not to bring personal concerns to the coaching conversation; second, to benefit from invaluable and ongoing supervision for the individual’s coaching practice; and third, the supervision process provides the coach with an invaluable tool to understand the client/practitioner process from another perspective, i.e. from the client perspective rather than from the perspective of the practitioner. It provides an excellent alternate perspective on the coaching intervention (Stout-Rostron, 2006:14).

The origin of supervision within health and social care originates in psychological mental health care fields. The development of counselling has had a formative impact on the creation of a supervision model, and in occupational therapy, supervision has been in practice since the 1970s. The UK Department of Health defines clinical supervision as “a formal process of professional support and learning which enables the individual practitioner to develop knowledge and competence, assume responsibility for their own practice and enhance consumer protection and safety of care in complex clinical situations” (Jones and Jenkins, 2006:26).

The supervision process in coaching may differ in significant ways from that in other professions, such as psychotherapy and counselling. Usually, both coach practitioner and supervisor will be bound by the Code of Ethics of their professional body (Stout-Rostron, 2009:275).

Close-up of magnifying glass focusing on two people2.      What are the benefits of supervision?

Supervision helps practitioners to grow their skills and competence whether they are supervised individually or in groups. The capacity of the coaches to facilitate learning for their clients is also significantly increased. Other benefits are:

  • ensuring that the client organisation is getting a good return on investment (ROI) for their business;
  • ensuring that a high value is placed on truly understanding clients;
  • ensuring that the coach is as likely to enhance and develop self-awareness as the client; and
  • the creation of a safe space to explore the heart of the practitioner’s coaching practice (Stout-Rostron, 2009:281).

Group coaching supervision will observe the developmental stages of the practitioners within their group forum. This type of supervision is more collegial and consultative, encouraging the practice of self-supervision. The lead coach or supervisor also needs to take note of their own developmental stages in the profession as they gain in expertise (Stout-Rostron, 2009:282).

For the moment, there are no international guidelines to measure the positive impact of supervision for clients and coach practitioners. This is certainly a topic worthy of future practitioner research (Stout-Rostron, 2009:282).

3.      What types of supervision are appropriate?

Kadushin (1976) describes the three main functions of supervision as educative, supportive and managerial. He describes these functions as formative (namely educational), normative (which focuses on policies, organisation and evaluation), and restorative (including a debriefing of both positive and negative feedback on practice).

In organisations and coach training institutions today, there are several ways to access supervision. There is one-on-one supervision, peer supervision, team supervision and group supervision. Many coach training institutes set up a peer supervision process for senior and junior graduates to work together in the supervision process, either individual, peer or group. Following Kadushin (1976), we can define the four specific types of supervision as educational, administrative, supportive and managerial (Stout-Rostron, 2009:283).

Typically, in the South African marketplace, educational supervision is used to assess the skills and needs and to facilitate the learning for practitioner coaches. Administrative supervision is to monitor the workload of the coaches within the group or the organisation, ensuring that the purpose, vision and goals of the organisation are met. Supportive supervision is to provide an environment for practitioners where their emotional needs are met, and where they are able to build skills and competence, whether in a one-on-one or group forum. Managerial supervision is to ensure that individual client, coach and line manager meet regularly to ensure that the client is on track to meet the objectives set out for the coaching intervention (Stout-Rostron, 2009:283–284).

Pampallis Paisley (2006:108–110) considered the nature of working within different contexts in her supervision research, while working with a group of coaches from widely diverse backgrounds:

All may be utilising different models and frameworks, and have varying levels of competences, training and consciousness, which impacts on what is brought into the supervisory room. Unlike therapeutic supervision for example, where an object relations therapist would work with a supervisor who is skilled in object relations theory and practice, this in-depth but narrow band – or what I call “vertical depth of field” of specialisation may not be the domain of the coaching supervisor.

There may be specialist areas that would require a mentoring process. With regards to the supervision of coaches working with leadership in complex organisations, coaching supervisors would need to have a broader focus, or what I call a “horizontal depth of field”. It follows then that the supervision of coaching is in itself a complex discipline – one that requires levels of understanding and a comprehensive framework of knowledge and skills which cover both the horizontal planes and vertical depths that coaching encompasses.

There are multiple benefits for the individual coach in supervision, as well as for the individual or team being coached, and the client organisation. The coach practitioners have a chance to meet, with the supervising coach ensuring that all practitioners have a sound understanding of the organisational systems at play. Coaching supervision is an important regular meeting where the coaches can connect with each other, and can begin to understand the connections between their clients. It is an important meeting where the individuals in the group facilitate learning from each other (Stout-Rostron, 2009:280).

4.      How important is the organisational context of supervision?

Huge investment is often made in executive development programmes, sending executives off to expensive business schools who are often unsure of what they need to develop as leaders. On their return to the organisation, however, the environment is not supportive enough to allow them to nurture any new-found or critical leadership capabilities. In addition, coaches often work in isolation with their executives, not aware of the systemic issues within an organisation, eventually becoming another “cog” in blocking systemic change due to their own lack of systemic knowledge. This is why supervision of coaches is crucial within any systemic change process which involves coaching (Stout-Rostron, 2011).

Supervision in business coaching is useful as it ensures that the coach works to the executive’s agenda, not to the coach’s agenda (Stout-Rostron, 2009:278). However, without lead coaches/supervisors overseeing the entire coaching intervention within an organisation, there is no way of harnessing the “systemic” issues or “systemic” trends that are emerging; “silo” coaching has become the norm (Stout-Rostron, 2011).

There are multiple benefits of group supervision for the individual coaches involved, as well as for the coaching team as a whole and the client organisation. The coach practitioners have a chance to meet with the supervising coach, ensuring that all practitioners have a sound understanding of the organisational systems at play. Coaching supervision is an important regular meeting where the coaches can connect with each other, and can begin to understand the connections between their individual clients, particularly if they are working within one organisation. It is an important meeting where the individuals in the group learn from each other (Stout-Rostron, 2009:289).

There are some disadvantages to group supervision, and practitioners need to be particularly careful when managing client confidentiality. The advantages are the observations that the group can make when observing each other. The 1:1 supervision encompasses more intimate learning on the part of the individual coach with the time to go into depth about the client situation and one’s own individual issues or concerns as a coach. It is almost inevitable that the coach can become enmeshed in some of the organisation’s systemic dynamics. It is helpful to have an observant supervisor who can help the coach to step into a bigger picture position, looking at the client-coach-system dynamics from a fresh perspective (Stout-Rostron, 2009:281–282).

Some of the main themes that have arisen from research into executive coaching supervision are (Pampallis Paisley, 2006):

  • boundary management;
  • whether supervision interventions need to have a client-centred or coach-centred focus, or both;
  • how to cope with the complexity of the supervisory system in which client, coach and organisation are represented – the triangulations;
  • the depth to which one should go in the coaching relationship; and
  • the importance of creating a space to think.

5.      Who should supervise?hire me

The question is far from resolved whether market supply and demand, or qualifications and competence, should determine who acts as a coaching supervisor. In the meantime, professional associations such as COMENSA do not prescribe rigid requirements for practice as a coach supervisor, but simply recommend guidelines that coaches should follow.

When hiring a supervisor, a coach should look for someone who:

  • has knowledge of ethical, legal and regulatory aspects of the helping professions;
  • is able to form a peer/collegial relationship as a supervising consultant;
  • is sensitive to diversity issues of culture, ethnicity, gender, age, socio-economic and educational background;
  • has knowledge of current research in the coaching supervision field;
  • has competence and expertise as an executive/business coach; and
  • has training in supervision (Stout-Rostron, 2009:283).


Hawkins, P., and Shohet, R. (2000). Supervision in the Helping Professions. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Jones, R., and Jenkins, F. (Eds.). (2006). Developing the Allied Health Professions. Oxford: Radcliffe.

Kadushin, A. (1976). Supervision in Social Work. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Pampallis Paisley, P. (2006). Towards a Theory of Supervision for Executive Coaching: An integral vision. Unpublished DProf dissertation. London: Middlesex University.

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

Stout-Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the secrets of business coaching. Randburg: Knowres Publishing.

Stout-Rostron, S. (2011). How is coaching impacting systemic and cultural change within organizations? International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, forthcoming.

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A Time-Tested Way To Help Leaders Thrive

What’s the best way to motivate high performance in yourself and others? Human motivation is an evergreen topic, with new ideas regularly offered by management and psychology theorists. Search on Google and you’ll find over 4 million results, over 1,200 books on Amazon. One perspective that’s stood the test of time is Self-Determination Theory (SDT).

Source: A Time-Tested Way To Help Leaders Thrive

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Podcast: Conversation on Liminalities, with Burgert Kirsten and Dr Sunny Stout-Rostron

Enjoy this fascinating conversation on liminalities within the coaching environment in which Sunny and Burgert Kirsten discuss the liminal space in a coaching intervention.

Liminality, in Sunny’s words, is “about rights of passage, thresholds”.  She goes on to say that: “in the work that we (coaches) do, it’s the possibility of new perspectives from learning.”  Sunny talked about three stages in the liminal process:

  • Separation from how you were before, or how you’ve always behaved;
  • Being open to learning and developing some new insights, or looking with new perspectives;
  • Moving into a new or different space – who you are now.
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Gender issues in business coaching

diversity (2)Co-authored by Dr Sunny Stout-Rostron and Nick Wilkins

Business organisations operate in increasingly diverse and inter-related environments around the globe. While gender diversity already encompasses a wide range of theory and research, as an issue in business coaching it is relatively new.

Understanding diversity, power, culture and gender

People often assume that diversity is only about race and gender, but it covers a much wider scope. It encompasses assumptions based on race, gender, language, faith, education, class, nationality and tribe, that often limit people according to their group identities and the places allocated them in social and workplace hierarchies. Diversity is ultimately about who has power and who doesn’t – and any form of power exacerbates difference and influences how we perceive and react to another’s behaviour (Stout-Rostron, 2009:175-179).

Gender, of course, refers to both men and women, and covers how men and women are socialised, and the impact of organisational culture (predominantly male in most institutions) on the development of both women and men in the workplace. It is important not to assume that women represent the only gender concerns, but to broaden the discussion to include men. Men also suffer from negative self-images on an individual and collective level, depending on the culture and country within which they live and work. It is often the case in Western countries, for example, that understanding regarding “men of colour is limited to negative stereotypes related to sexist behaviour” (De La Cancela, Jenkins and Chin, 1993:9).

Gender in corporate leadership

As Bruce PeltiMale and female symbol intertwineder notes in his seminal book The Psychology of Executive Coaching (2001:190), “Women have arrived in all arenas of the workplace and they are not going back home”. Peltier’s view is that coaches need to understand how women function within an organisation – the reverse of the standard approach to coaching women, which suggests they need help in finding a way to fit into organisational culture. Peltier mentions the “glass ceiling” that still prevents women from progressing too high in US organisations; and the “glass walls” that keep women in “pink collar” jobs such as human resources, organisational development and marketing (Peltier, 2001:193).

Gatrell and Swan (2008) note that the literature on gender in management in the UK has expanded considerably, particularly due to changes in legislation and policy focusing on equality of opportunity and diversity. The authors discuss the persistence of the “glass ceiling” limiting the progress of women executives, and also refer to the “concrete wall” faced by black and minority ethnic women, meaning that “wherever they turn their career progress is limited, and they are prevented by organisational practices and processes from even seeing the top of the career ladder, never mind climbing it” (Gatrell and Swan, 2008:12). Boardrooms in Britain continue to be afflicted by the “pale male” syndrome, and there is little sign or promise of change. In addition, women continue to be segregated into the “velvet ghetto” (positions considered to be “gendered” such as human resources, public relations and marketing) (Gatrell and Swan, 2008:11–12).Alpha male and alpha female

In her book, The Argument Culture (1999), Deborah Tannen picks up on the appetite in our contemporary world for conflict, debate and argument – rather than dialogue. Corporations also often operate on an adversarial approach to business, “settling disputes in litigation” (Tannen, 1999:4). The tendency to polarise and win the argument is essentially the nature of business. Tannen, whose earlier (1995) work explored the differences in communication styles between men and women, has helped practitioners to understand how the “argument culture” impacts the workplace. She draws attention to military and war metaphors which pervade managerial and board room language, affecting behaviour and thinking. Tannen’s research has shown how deeply entrenched is the language divide between male and female ways of thinking and speaking. Her work is a useful input for coaches helping men and women resolve differences in their approach to professional and to personal life.

Corporate conflict is where the role of the “Alpha Male”, the dominant white male executive, plays a strong part. Peltier notes that business organisations are typically male-led and dominated by male culture and male assumptions, and calls it the “Testosterone Culture” (Peltier, 2001:192). Like Tannen, Peltier finds that metaphors from war and sports are typical in the standard business environment – almost as if men are continuing to play children’s fighting games, keeping score with “clear winners and losers” (Peltier, 2001:192).

Kate Ludeman and Eddie Erlandson (2004) dazzled leaders and academics with their Harvard Business Review article “Coaching the Alpha Male”. Defining the alpha male as “highly intelligent, confident, and successful”, and claiming that they represent “about 70 per cent of all senior executives”, Ludeman and Erlandson depicted alpha males as “people who aren’t happy unless they’re the top dogs”. In their research, they claimed to have rarely found successful female leaders with equally strong personalities, or to find women who matched the “complete alpha profile”. Alpha males are described as natural leaders who get stressed only “when tough decisions don’t rest in their capable hands” (Ludeman and Erlandson, 2004).

When asked why so many “alphas” need executive coaches, Ludeman and Erlandson explain that their “strengths are also what make them so challenging, and often frustrating, to work with; independent and action-oriented, alphas take extraordinarily high levels of performance for granted, both in themselves and in others”. However, alpha males have “little or no natural curiosity about people or feelings” – they “rely on exhaustive data to reach business conclusions but often make snap judgments about other people, which they hold on to tenaciously. Because they believe that paying attention to feelings, even their own, detracts from getting the job done, they’re surprisingly oblivious to the effect they have on others. They’re judgmental of colleagues who can’t control emotions yet often fail to notice how they vent their own anger and frustration” (Ludeman and Erlandson, 2004).

Ludeman and Erlandson claim that alphas make perfect mid-level managers whose primary role is to oversee processes. Unfortunately, in the CEO role they don’t necessarily become inspirational people managers. If the organisation can’t help their alphas to make the required transition, this is where a skilled and competent business coach is needed. However, alphas aren’t necessarily good at asking for help, and can be “typically stubborn and resistant to feedback”. Ludeman and Erlandson (2004) therefore suggest that coaches shouldn’t undermine the alpha’s focus on results, but should improve the process for achieving them.

Gender and executive coping strategies

Research by Leimon, Moscovici and Goodier (2011:40–41) identified the main barriers to women’s advancement in organisations – and noted the following eight coping strategies commonly used to overcome these barriers:

  1. Family and career balance.Juggling (2)
  2. Understanding corporate culture.
  3. Systematic investment in career and development.
  4. Confidence.
  5. Knowledge of own strengths.
  6. Networking.
  7. Role models.
  8. Career planning.

A questionnaire survey was then carried out to test the effectiveness of these coping strategies among 125 successful women leaders, including 107 working in a corporate environment. It was found that the women were particularly challenged in five of the eight coping strategies – highlighting areas where coaching would be of particular benefit to many women executives (Leimon, Moscovici and Goodier, 2011:47–49):

  1. Career progression emphasised the need for career planning; being provided with and developing career direction; gaining skills and education to progress career.
  2. Confidence examined a major area for coaching – women’s lack of self-belief. The interviews demonstrated a clear need to overcome personal insecurities and inadequacies, and knowing when to say no to other’s expectations.
  3. Organisational dynamics means developing a sufficient understanding of organisational culture and finding out the rules of the game. Most women leaders showed a deficit in terms of understanding the culture of the organisation in which they work.
  4. Relational support made it clear that women lack an understanding of the critical need for networking to advance their careers, and often start to network at a later age than men. The shortage of women in senior and executive management positions also means a lack of female role models who have “leveraged their strengths as a female rather than diminished them to get on”, and with whom women can work to support their career development.
  5. Work-life balance is not a factor that either men or women often get right. However, women seemed to be at a particular disadvantage in terms of “balancing personal life and career” and “attempting to be all things to all people, i.e. running a home and a career”.

Diversity and gender within a Thinking Environment®

It is vital that the business coach is able to raise corporate leaders’ awareness of crucial diversity issues, both within themselves, their teams, and the culture of their organisation. However, the business coach needs to first become aware of, analyse, challenge and manage their own discriminatory attitudes and behaviours before they can help their clients to manage similar issues. We do this by examining untrue limiting assumptions which society and organisations make about people based on their group identities, in this case gender.

Power ShiftUnconscious attitudes towards others are the privilege of power. While coaching in a major educational institution in South Africa, it became clear that all the senior women academics, managers and administrators were about to quit their jobs. These women were of different ethnic backgrounds, languages and ages; their only common factor was gender. The male culture, which included men previously disadvantaged under apartheid, tolerated an open and aggressive disrespect for women. This was an “unthinking exercise of power”; the men were unconscious until the impact of their behaviour was brought to their attention (Stout-Rostron, 2009:175).

Typically, therefore, it is people’s everyday, unconscious assumptions that undermine others (Kline, 1999). Nancy Kline’s research, referenced in Time to Think (1999) and More Time to Think (2009), emphasises the importance of developing diverse Thinking Environments® within organisations. However, diversity must mean an absolute assumption of equality in the face of difference. Kline’s coaching framework is underpinned by Ten Components or behavioural values (summarised in Table 1), positive philosophical choice, and incisive questions.

From her work and research in organisations round the globe, Nancy Kline has developed an interesting approach to male and female conditioning. Although it looks like the “extreme” of male and female stereotyping, it is useful to discuss and debate and understand how as a coach practitioner you can help your clients to develop more self-awareness of their biases and limiting assumptions about their own identity. According to Kline (1999:87–96):

  • Men are trained to play the role of Thinker but not that of Thinking Partner, and to assume the best help is to give others their ideas — and to do their thinking for them.
  • Limiting messages in men’s culture discourage them from creating a Thinking Environment® for others, and dictate against the Ten Components.
  • Limiting messages are that “real men don’t do feelings; asking questions erodes your power base; criticism is the road to real improvement, and success is defined as winning”.
  • Liberating messages in men’s culture encourage them to create an internal thinking environment for themselves (men’s thinking matters; men should be listened to).

In contrast (Kline, 1999:87–96):

  • Women are socialised to play the role of the Thinking Partner but not that of the Thinker.
  • Limiting messages in women’s culture (defer to others; keep quiet; women are too emotional; men are more important than women) discourage women from playing the Thinker role and from creating an internal thinking environment for themselves.
  • Liberating messages in women’s culture encourage women to develop an external thinking environment for others.
  • The liberating messages in women’s culture prepare them to support all Ten Components of the Thinking Environment®.

Table 1

Comparison between the Ten Components of a Thinking Environment® and typical male and female conditioning

Thinking Environment(c) values –
the Ten Components
Typical male conditioning Typical female conditioning
1.   Attention (listen with interest) Take over and talk Keep quiet, defer
2.   Equality (treat others as peers) Assume superiority Assume inferiority
3.   Ease (offer freedom from rush) Control Rush, give time to others
4.   Appreciation (rather than criticism) Criticise Doubt yourself
5.   Encouragement (move beyond competition) Compete Strive to be accepted
6.   Feelings (allow emotional release to restore thinking) Toughen up You feel feelings because you are weak
7.   Information (supply facts) Lie Soften the truth for others
8.   Diversity (welcome divergence) Deride difference Blend in
9.   Incisive questions (remove limiting assumptions) Know everything Accept your limits
9.   Place (humanise the place) Conquer the place Defer to men’s idea of place
Source:     Adapted from Kline (1999:35–96).

It is important in any working environment that the leaders become aware of and manage their own limiting assumptions on diversity issues before they can begin to lead, manage or coach direct reports on similar issues. In the creation of a Thinking Environment®, Kline has developed a variety of coaching diversity exercises. These explore the roots of discriminatory attitudes and behaviour, and examine untrue limiting assumptions that society and organisations make about people on the basis of their individual and group identities. As practitioner, researcher or leader, these exercises help you to remove limiting assumptions and replace them with true liberating assumptions that free individuals and groups to reclaim their self-esteem and influence.


Parts of this article have been based on excerpts from the chapter “Diversity and gender” by Dr Sunny Stout-Rostron in the forthcoming Handbook of the Psychology of Coaching and Mentoring, edited by Jonathan Passmore, to be published by Wiley-Black.

De La Cancela, V., Jenkins, Y.M., and Chin, J.L. (1993). Chapter one: Diversity in psychotherapy: Examination of racial, ethnic, gender, and political issues. In Chin, J.L., De La Cancela, V., and Jenkins, Y.M. (eds), Diversity in Psychotherapy: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender, (pp.5–16). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Gatrell, C., and Swan, E. (2008). Gender and Diversity in Management: A Concise Introduction. London: Sage.

Kline, N. (1999). Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind. London: Ward Lock.

Kline, N. (2005). The Thinking Partnership Programme: Consultant’s Guide. Wallingford: Time to Think.

Kline, N. (2009). More Time to Think: A Way of Being in the World. London: Ward Lock.

Leimon, A., Moscovici, F. and Goodier, H. (2011). Coaching Women to Lead. New York, NY: Routledge.

Ludeman, K., and Erlandson, E. (2004). Coaching the alpha male. Harvard Business Review, May.

Peltier, B. (2001). The Psychology of Executive Coaching: Theory and Application. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.

Stout-Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching International: Transforming Individuals and Organizations. London: Karnac.

Tannen, D. (1995). The power of talk: Who gets heard and why. Harvard Business Review, September–October.

Tannen, D. (1999). The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words. New York: Ballantine Publishing House, Division of Random House.

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Book Review by Andrew Fiddy on Leadership Coaching For Results, published in Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research & Practice

Coaching-An International Journal on Theory, Research & Practice rcoa20.v008.i02.coverBy Andrew Fiddy
Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), UK
Organisational Behaviour, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK

Coaching is achieving prominence in business as a tool to enable leaders meet the challenges they face as well as changing societal expectations. Mirroring her philosophy of promoting ‘mastery of practice’, Sunny Stout-Rostron, who is an internationally respected coach and writer on the topic offers a definitive, comprehensive, practical, and accessible guide for business executives, their professional advisers, emerging leaders, and coaches of any orientation meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. The book traces the development of leadership neatly and then addresses key topics in business coaching such as how to get the best from your coaching and how to have a business coaching conversation. Briefly touching on coaching models, the book concentrates once again on how one should facilitate the coaching conversation, while reminding the reader of the neuroscience to leadership coaching and other topics such as gender diversity, the complexities of organisational contracting, and how to use team learning to enhance workplace performance. The book concludes by examining the fundamentals of safe and ethical practice, the benefits that coach supervision can have, and valuably five areas that Stout-Rostron believes are key to the future of business coaching.

To outline the content of Leadership Coaching for Results in some more detail, the book begins by asking the reader to critically reflect on the many leadership theories that have focused our thinking over the last 70 years. These theories range from the initial focus on core leader attributes to the emerging concepts of authentic and principle-centred leadership arguably driven by the increasing concerns about the ethical conduct of today’s leaders in the wake of corporate scandals and global recession.

This whistle-stop tour of the latest academic thinking is not only valuable in itself but also sets a firm foundation from which to examine how coaching has emerged as a discipline in its own right and positioned itself for individuals to achieve their true potential. Practically outlining the benefits and the coaching process, whether based around structural, learning psychological and existential frameworks, Stout-Rostron challenges the reader to reflect on the skills necessary to have a coaching conversation, and reminds both the coach and coachee of the intricate dynamics that are involved in operating with conscious intent. It is of note that all chapters are supported by academic referencing reminding all readers of the importance of investing in their own continuous professional development as well as being perceptive to safe and ethical practice. Stout-Rostron does not shy away from the hard questions and bravely delves into areas such as diversity awareness and the different demands that can affect the coach and by extension the coaching process and client, namely the need to probe many things about ourselves including how we think of identity and the requirement to re-evaluate one’s limiting worldviews.

Leadership Coaching for Results concludes by questioning the future of business coaching through five headings: professionalism; education and development of coaches; mastery of practice; coaching research; and coaching and society. Reflecting on the UK’s experience, having demonstrated its potential, coaching has become a significant and influential part of many organisations’ budgets; however, like any profession or skill set, it needs to be supported through professionalisation of training and greater research to ensure high standards are maintained. As is suggested, greater collaboration between academics and practitioners as well as  national/international organisations is a positive step towards ensuring ‘self-reflective’ practice at both the individual and group levels of analysis.

The broad focus and readability of the book is attractive to both academics and practitioners which inevitably contributes to its appeal. Mindful that the book is meant to be accessible for the lay reader as well as experienced coaches, the book’s generalisability is perhaps at the expense of more expansive academic rigour. This shortcoming, however, is tackled by the recommended reading lists that refer readers to many well-respected texts with few exceptions. The personal case studies contained within Chapter 14 provide a fresh perspective on how coaching can be used for change to mirroring the superb reflective exercises that entice the reader further.

Stout-Rostron has reminded me of the importance of being aware of one’s limiting paradigms and how critically important it is to reflect on how we think about thinking. I wholeheartedly recommend this text for anyone wanting to know more about the powerful role that coaching can have to achieve a new leadership in a new world.

Source: Andrew Fiddy (2015) “Leadership coaching for results” published in Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, Vol. 8, No. 2, 181-182 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17521882.2015.1054850

To learn more about Leadership Coaching for Results, by Sunny Stout-Rostron, click here: E-version | Hardcopy.

Alternatively, you can contact Sunny Stout-Rostron, DProf, MA directly:

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The development of corporate management

Co-authored by Nick Wilkins and Sunny Stout-Rostron

How do corporate leaders develop the competences they need? And how should they be supported in their development?

These are important questions, because the answers determine the precise forms of support executives and managers will need at particular stages in their professional development. This article briefly reviews the various forms of developmental support available to corporate management, outlining their appropriate applications, and highlighting key issues concerning the most suitable roles for coaching.


Training methodology has evolved considerably over the past century. In essence, however, training can be defined as the communication of information to someone in a systematic way to achieve the knowledge and understanding required for the development of a specific competence. Training is necessary for young people entering the job market to attain the necessary technical and professional skills they will need in their vocations.

Can corporate leaders be trained? In the basic principles of management, certainly. However, one of the hallmarks of a good leader is the wisdom to always know exactly what to do next. And managerial wisdom is difficult to teach – it develops through the use of all four phases of Kolb’s (1984:68–69) experiential learning cycle (concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation, active experimentation). In one key respect, leading and managing is similar to driving a car or flying an aircraft – the only really effective way of learning is by doing.


A mentor’s role is to directly share their experience, expertise, advice and wisdom with the “mentee”. In contrast to the broad definition of best-practice coaching that is steadily gaining ground, it is arguable that being “directive” and giving advice is the function of a mentor, rather than a coach (Stout-Rostron, 2009:16).

When combined with appropriate training programmes or qualifications in specialised competences, mentoring can be a particularly useful form of support for younger managers learning the ropes. To be fully effective, however, the role of mentor usually needs to be fulfilled by an older person with greater experience in the same industry and job type as the younger mentee. Domain-specific expertise and experience therefore need to be carefully matched between the two parties if mentoring is to work – in addition to compatibility or “chemistry”, mutual respect and trust on a personal level.


When things go wrong in life, managers invariably benefit from competent counselling, whether professional or non-professional. Counselling is a form of help and support for people troubled by emotional trauma or other personal challenges, involving sympathetic listening and a modicum of (often commonsense) advice, usually on a short-term basis, typically in response to a particular event or concern.

Counselling generally deals with the personal side of a corporate leader’s life, including such issues as bereavement, divorce or dependence issues. Mentoring, in contrast, would focus on the leader’s working life. Counsellors (and mentors) need to be able to refer the person involved to an appropriate professional (such as a psychotherapist) for help with more intractable challenges, such as clinical or personality disorders.


kolbA business coach uses question frameworks and coaching models to help the corporate
leader work out solutions to specific issues (Stout-Rostron, 2009:16). Or, to put it even more simply, “Coaches help someone to think clearly about something” (Wilkins and Stout-Rostron, 2010:3). The role of coaching in Kolb’s experiential learning cycle is to help leaders and managers to reflect on their corporate experience, so that they work out how to address critical issues facing them. “Coach and client reflect the client’s experience and behaviours, devising new thinking, feeling, behaviours and actions” (Stout-Rostron, 2009:118).

The issues identified by managers as important topics for coaching sessions could include:

  • developing their leadership competences;
  • developing, motivating and managing the performance of their teams;
  • addressing issues around diversity and corporate culture;
  • dealing with workplace conflict and managing difficult people and situations;
  • gaining insight into their own personal and professional motivators or drivers;
  • coping with high stress levels; and
  • balancing business and personal life demands.

There are many different types of business coaching, including:

  • performance coaching, particularly useful for enhancing the competence of line managers and other mid-level corporate leaders;
  • team coaching, helpful in boosting the cohesion and effectiveness of functional teams within companies; and
  • peer coaching, usually between people at similar levels and in similar jobs within the organisation.

And there are many different coaching models and frameworks to apply within each of the various types of coaching. These models need to be carefully chosen to fit the specific corporate context, and the particular needs of the corporate leaders being coached.

For example, the Thinking Partnership® framework developed by Nancy Kline (1999) as part of the Thinking Environment® model is arguably the purest and most high-level form of coaching, because it is completely and absolutely non-directive. In most forms of best-practice coaching, the coach will directly intervene in the coaching conversation to help catalyse the manager’s thinking, by asking a carefully considered and appropriate question that will “unlock” any confusion or blockages. In contrast, a Thinking Partner does not intervene directly in the coaching conversation at all – in fact, they ask only a limited and carefully-defined range of absolutely neutral and non-directive questions. Because the key principle underpinning the Thinking Environment(c) model is that the thinker is fully capable of thinking through the issue and working out the solution themselves. The critical role of the Thinking Partner is simply to provide a supportive “thinking environment” within which the thinker is entirely free to think for themselves, without interruption, or prompting, or “help”.

Managers are likely to reap greater benefit from coaching (as opposed to training and mentoring) once they are experienced enough to identify and prioritise the issues they need to be coached on. Similarly, corporate leaders are likely to reap the greatest benefit from the Thinking Partnership® once they have achieved the further experience necessary to develop their self-confidence as entirely free and unfettered thinkers and visionaries.


Corporate leaders and managers need different forms of support at different stages in HandHammer - keattikorntheir career development, and different forms of support to meet particular challenges within each stage. This means that business coaches need to be careful not to oversell the usefulness of their craft – coaching is not a corporate panacea. As Maslow (1966:15) famously remarked, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Good business coaches should know better than that!


Kline, N. (1999). Time to Think: Listening with the Human Mind. London: Ward Lock.

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

Maslow, A.H. (1966). The Psychology of Science: A reconnaissance. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Stout-Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: unlocking the secrets of business coaching. Randburg: Knowres Publishing.

Wilkins, N. and Stout-Rostron, S. (2010). Business coaching: going beyond the balls. COMENSAnews, July. http://www.comensa.co.za/language/en-ZA/NEWSLETTERS/COMENSANews_July_2010.aspx.

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