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CHAPTER THREE The complexity of theory

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CHAPTER THREE

The complexity of theory

S

ince 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,

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Chapter Seven - The Coaching Relationship

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The coaching relationship constitutes the centre of the coaching axis, and is its core. This dimension brings the individual and the environment into dialogue in a way that promotes alignment, integration, and improved performance. As Oliver (2010) explains: “A systemic orientation to coaching highlights the detail of coach/client conversation as a core site of interest and as the place for analysis and the beginnings of change” (p. 108).

In the metaphor of the tree, the trunk, which connects the roots with the branches and leaves, symbolises the coaching relationship. This is used to reflect the idea of an “axis” where the continual focus is relationship between the parts—the individual (roots) and the environment (branches and leaves). A tree trunk channels nourishment in both directions, first, facilitating energy from photosynthesis in the leaves down to the roots and, second, channelling nourishment from the soil through the roots up into the branches and leaves (Evans, 2000). Similarly, the coaching relationship facilitates a conversation between the reality of the environment and the reality of the individual with the aim of potentiating a mutually constructed and shared reality that facilitates the success of both. And it does this through the coaching relationship. At one level, this is about the exchange and brokering of needs, but at a more profound level this is about creating a shared, inter-subjective, narrative that potentiates success holistically and systemically. In other words, the roots have their story and so do the branches and leaves, but the real story is the story of the tree as a whole which creates the realisation of potential for both, and in so doing the entire tree enjoys success. In this sense, it may be helpful to look at the trunk as being both part of the branches and the roots. The roots merge into the trunk, and the trunk merges with the branches. From the point of view of the coaching relationship, this reflects the notion that the organisation and the individual are not perfectly distinct; there is level at which the organisation is as much part of the individual as the individual is part of the organisation.

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Chapter Two - The Complexity of Culture

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The 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 FOUR Introduction to the Coaching on the Axis framework

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CHAPTER FOUR

Introduction to the Coaching on the Axis framework

C

oaching on the Axis (Kahn, 2011) is a systemic and integrative framework for business coaching that aligns the practice with marketplace reality and organisational culture. It is offered as an overarching approach that helps orientate coaches to the challenge of business coaching. Therefore, coaches may use whichever coaching models and techniques they like, as long as they are orientated within the axial framework.

This overarching approach positions coaching in a way that promotes success of an organisation as a whole, as opposed to just that of the individual being coached. It does this by systemically bringing personal, interpersonal, and organisational realities into an improved state of relationship through the coaching dialogue.

These relationships are articulated on an axis that stretches across two dimensions: the environment (incorporating the organisation) and the individual. At the centre of this axis sits the coaching relationship, which constitutes as the narrative bridge between the two and forms the third

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CHAPTER FIVE The environmental dimension

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CHAPTER FIVE

The environmental dimension

T

he 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

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