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CHAPTER SIX The individual dimension

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CHAPTER SIX

The individual dimension

T

he individual dimension refers to the personal psychology, competence, experience, and professional history the person being coached brings into relationship with their environment; their personal reality.

People bring their personality and psychosocial history to bear on much of what they do, often referring to this as their “mindset” or

“personal make-up”. And these are formed from the influences they have had throughout their life, both positive and negative. In the Coaching on the Axis tree (Figure 3), the roots represent the individual dimension because they reflect a person’s roots in the sense of: “My roots tell you where I come from and describe the influences that made me who

I am.” Roots are also underground and therefore less visible, as is often the case with people and their roots—not obviously visible and sometimes requiring some sensitive digging for them to be exposed.

The individual below and above the surface

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Chapter Three - The Complexity of Theory

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Since the 1990s, an enormous range of theories has been used to support coaching as a service, mostly from the field of psychology. These include humanistic or person-centred theory, behaviourism, cognitive psychology, neuro-linguistic programming and psychodynamics through to narrative psychology, Gestalt theory, positive psychology, systems theory and more recently the field of neuroscience, and there are many others (Kahn, 2011; Page & Rock, 2009; Palmer & Whybrow, 2007; Passmore et al., 2013; Stout-Rostron, 2009).

This chapter considers the theoretical orientation that best suits the culture of business, and therefore business coaching practice. It does this by exposing and comparing the underlying theoretical basis for decision-making in business with that of human science. From this, the chapter shows how an integrative and eclectic theoretical orientation is most aligned with the world of work's decision-making culture. Finally, it offers the notion of the modern scientist-practitioner (Lane & Corrie, 2006) as a bridge to help coaches draw on both the objective power of science and the subjective freedom of business and remain aligned to marketplace reality.

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Chapter Five - The Environmental Dimension

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The environment reflects the systemic reality within which the individual being coached operates. This is characterised by the company's organisational culture which, as explained in Chapter Two, not only refers to its mission and values but includes phenomena such as its business model, strategy, structure, systems, history, rituals, myths and symbols, and importantly, the basic assumptions that underlie them. The environment also includes the market supra-system that mediates the company's survival. All these elements are seminal in appreciating the context within which the individual being coached is required to succeed.

In the visual metaphor of a tree (Figure 3), the environmental dimension is located in the leaves, branches and atmosphere. The physics of photosynthesis (Bidlack et al., 2003) is useful here in reflecting the chemistry between the individual and his or her environment. In the same way that the leaves of a tree convert light from the environment into chemical energy which nourishes the tree, facilitating its growth, individuals take up roles in an organisation to convert market energy into profit, facilitating economic growth. In this metaphor, the individual is not the leaf, the role is the leaf, and the individual is required to take up the role to facilitate interaction with the market. The various roles in a company are like different leaves, and the branches are like departments that channel energy through the system in an integrating way. Some organisations, as with some flora, have only a handful of leaves and branches that do this, whereas others have thousands that work together growing larger or smaller organisations. And as a tree depends on its position in relation to other plants competing for the same sunlight and environmental nutrients, so does an organisation compete with other organisations for market share.

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CHAPTER TWO The complexity of culture

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CHAPTER TWO

The complexity of culture

T

he previous chapter introduced the notion that business exists within a unique and distinct cultural context characterised by marketplace forces. It further suggested that business coaches should begin with this cultural context as a starting point, informed by other fields, rather than the other way around. In order to do so, an understanding of the phenomenon of culture, and particularly corporate or organisational culture, is required.

Edgar Schein, MIT professor emeritus and early pioneer of the notion of corporate culture, explains that although culture is an abstraction, the social forces derived from culture are enormously powerful in influencing behaviour, and failure to understand the operation of these forces can result in people becoming victims to them. “Cultural forces are powerful because they operate outside of our awareness.

We need to understand them not only because of their power but also because they help to explain many of our puzzling and frustrating experiences in social and organisational life. Most importantly, understanding cultural forces enables us to understand ourselves better” (Schein, 2010, p. 7).

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Chapter One - The Complexity of Client

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Who is the client?

Many authors (e.g., Brunning, 2006; Cavanagh, 2006; De Haan, 2008; Huffington, 2006; Kahn, 2011; Kemp, 2008; Kets de Vries et al., 2007; Passmore, 2007) have established the theoretical and practical foundations for a relational approach to business coaching in which success derives from the quality of the coaching relationship and the degree to which it aligns with the sponsoring organisation. In this view, business coaching is an engagement of relatedness more so than any one particular method or skill.

Central to this relational perspective of business coaching is the fact that both the organisation and the individual being coached are clients. Business coaching has the challenge of “always having two clients to serve: the individual or team that they are directly engaging with, and the organisation that is employing them to do the work” (Hawkins & Schwenk, 2010, p. 204), and each may differ in their expectations of the coaching. Coaches therefore need to attend to both of these client requirements as well as the relationship between them at the same time. Huffington (2006) puts it that in business coaching “there is always an implicit external context in view, [which is] the organisation from which the client comes, in which she or he works, and which pays for the coaching” (p. 41). She calls for business coaches to engage in dual listening to both “the individual in the organisation” and “the organisation in the individual” (ibid., p. 44), and Kahn (2011) concludes that “successful approaches to business coaching incorporate significant consideration of the relational dynamics between the triad of coach, individual client and organisation, and focus on the coaching relationship and its systemic interface with the business environment” (p. 194).

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