Shared Voices

In the last in our three-part series of articles exploring the role of coaching and mentoring in addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century, we hear from professional coaching and mentoring bodies in a unique ‘dialogue’.

Part three: The professional bodies in conversation

In the last in our three-part series of articles exploring the role of coaching and mentoring in addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century, we hear from professional coaching and mentoring bodies in a unique ‘dialogue’.
“We can change the world. We have a responsibility to influence, impact, reach out and get people to question how they can live their lives better. It’s not about be the change, or lead the change – it’s about lead the charge” Darren Robson

Following an intense two months of conversations with representatives of professional coaching bodies, a number of themes have emerged around the topic of what we can do to meet the challenges of our times.

  • This is still a young profession, building its foundations, but maturing rapidly as it evolves and explores what it is here to do in response to the needs of its practitioners.
  • Any ‘jostling for position’ is rapidly giving way to collaboration on issues of shared interest to create maximum impact.
  • Organisations’ views on this subject are still forming. There’s consensus on making things ‘better’, but variety in detail, clarity and strength of feeling.
  • There’s a real desire from many to ‘play big’, but there are also some hesitancies about the safety in coming out and saying this.
  • From some organisations, a clear message is coming through: if you care greatly about issues such as these, it can be right, and indeed an ethical responsibility, to discuss them as part of agreeing the agenda with the client. And some evidence is coming forward of the commercial benefits of declaring what you care about. For others, there is a strong view that it is not up to an organisation to dictate agendas to members, nor for coaches to dictate them to clients.

Our approach
There were many stances and angles that came through in the conversations we had. Instead of siding with any single one, we have opted simply to share these voices.

We have woven snippets of conversations into common themes, but have tried to remain true to the intent and integrity of people’s words.

What emerges is a unique conversation, and a rare opportunity to hear some of the thoughts and views of all the bodies in one place.

The voices

Janet M Harvey (JH)

president, International Coaching Federation (ICF Global)

John Leary-Joyce (J L-J)

president, European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) UK

Lise Lewis (LL)

president, EMCC (international)

Deborah Price (DP)

immediate past president, UK ICF

Darren Robson (DR)

director of strategy, innovation and partnerships (international), Association for Coaching

Mary Watts (MW)

chair, British Psychological Society Special Group in Coaching Psychology

With additional contribution for specific EMCC UK activity from David Clutterbuck (DC), EMCC ambassador. The Association for Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision (APECS) asked for its comments not to be included in this article.

  • These are important times

JH “This is a decisive decade. We will see collapse, expansion and re-imagination.”

LL “There is a social movement towards a better world. Coaching and mentoring enables people to be more engaged with each other.”

  • Should a coach make the social, environmental and economic an explicit part of the conversation?

DR “We need to be challenging mindsets. We have a responsibility to push agendas.”

J L-J “It is important to be explicit upfront: who you are, what do you bring, what is your signature presence. I remember Erik de Haan sharing, ‘Coaches who have a strong, principled position do better’. ”

DP “I believe that we have a moral obligation to embody authenticity and bring all of ourselves to the coaching table. Coaches and mentors need to feel free to air their thoughts and directly communicate that to the client as part of their co-created dialogue.

“We partner upfront in establishing the coaching agreement to discuss such topics to establish if the relationship between coach and client is the right fit. Clients ultimately make choices – well-informed – that they may not otherwise have taken if it were not for the time to explore and debate the wider aspects of their challenges and successes.

“It’s being fully present and having the client’s explicit permission as part of this relationship. How would a coach feel if they failed to address key issues affecting our global society – what would it take to suppress that part of a coach who is a parent, child, brother, sister, colleague, neighbour … and is living through, and with, generations of ‘turning a blind eye’? Knowing what we now know, can we really afford not to dive in with devil’s (and angel’s) advocate questions?”

  • Should a coaching/mentoring body take a stand on this?

MW “Coaching psychology and coaching can help to make the world a better place – for individuals, families and organisations. But ‘better’ can only be defined in terms of what is considered better by the individuals and groups involved…  .

“A universal view of what is ‘good’ or ‘better’ would be dangerous. My hope is that as coaching psychologists and coaches, we strive to help individuals and groups reach personal goals that, for them, make their world a better place.”

DR “Addressing the social, economic and environmental issues of our time is a core principle. It should be a foundation for coaches and the coaching bodies. As the AC Purpose describes:
‘To inspire and champion coaching excellence, by being pro-active, collaborative and purposeful, so that we advance the coaching profession  and make a positive and lasting difference in the world’ (2010).”

It’s clear the bodies want to work together

There were many statements in this vein.

DR “We want to deepen the connection and the commitment.”
LL “There’s a synergy, a coming together of the bodies.”

But what is it they want to do together?


  • Discover

LL “We need to ask collectively: what can we do for the benefit of mankind? What is our social responsibility in making a difference? What other professions can we compare ourselves to? Collectively, we don’t have soundbite answers, but we want to explore the questions with members and between the professional bodies. And we’ve got to convert it into something tangible. This will be an emerging process.”

  • Be a role model for collaboration

DR “As a community, what can we not role model? There’s an old mindset about competition but we can model collaboration.”
JH “It’s collaboration in action.”

  • Combine resources and share stories

JH “There is an overarching principle to co-operate on raising awareness and engaging in projects of mutual interest. There is strong support for combining resources to focus on societal opportunities.”
LL “We need to tell our stories more – with members and between organisations. We need more community conversations. Go across the world. Tell us what you are doing that’s making a difference.”

  • Raise standards, ethics, and professionalism

Doing this (raising standards, ethics and professionalism) “will benefit society” (LL) while “defining, disseminating and facilitating continuous improvement for global standards which equips both coach and clients with a safe framework in which to hold meaningful conversations”…. has “the potential to positively change the world we live in and leave as a legacy to future generations.” (DP)

  • Be different – offer choice

J L-J “As professional bodies we both collaborate and differentiate. To differentiate, a body must be exclusive to some. The AC is known for its environmental interest. It’s not on the EMCC agenda … we have a strong focus on working with organisations and communities.”

MW “The BPS, in particular, is about being a bridge – taking psychological theory and research into new forms of coaching practice. Also very important is the active pursuit of research in its broadest sense and the publication of this.”

  • Think big together

DR “As a coaching community we need to think on a universal level …we can afford to be bolder.”

DP “Collectively, as a profession we should be supporting our coaches and mentors to become bolder
and to step into their potential catalytic power.”

  • Inspire leadership

MW “We are all leaders – even if it is not in our job title. Leadership is about helping people become whatever they can be. Leadership is about inspiring, listening, appreciating and allowing others to grow. We can help people be responsible leaders, and help them buy into the fact that there are always alternative ways to do things. Responsible leadership requires ongoing learning and development on the part of the leader, an awareness of the impact of their approach and a sense of vision and purpose regarding what ‘can be’.”

  • Remember who we represent

LL “In some countries it’s more fundamental – it’s how can we help them build their practice.”

  • Have a voice

JH “Our job is to convene the conversation. We must be a voice. We must be a lead in saying ‘there is another way’.”

  • Give us time

J L-J “We [EMCC UK] are committed to this [addressing financial and social challenges of the 21st century], but first we need to get our own house in order. We seek to help others but not at the expense of ourselves.”
JH “As a coaching body we care very much. But you cannot build a 75 storey tower on wet concrete. We are still building foundations.”

  • The challenges

“I’m so passionate, but hesitate because there are cynical people out there.” (name withheld)

This was not a lone voice. Many were concerned about the space between their personal beliefs and opinions and what they could ‘safely’ say publicly. This echoes thoughts shared from coaches interviewed for the previous article.

LL “When money is tight people look inwards and look after themselves and their families first.”
What next?

AC A ‘Visionary’ series with “inspiring speakers and collaborative conversations” (DR).
ICF The Coaches of Color Consortium (C3): “working to build cultural competence in coaches in collaboration with coach educators and the ICF, and to increase access to coaching by clients of colour to work with coaches of colour”.

And there are two initiatives from the ICF Foundation: a portal to support visibility for coaches who wish to deliver services in the not-for-profit sector alongside visibility of not-for-profit organisations receptive to engaging coaches for the organisation and for the population served.

Also, the Global Summit that will co-create action learning projects lasting one to three years “that will have positive societal impact” (JH).
EMCC Working on a “cross-parliamentary committee to get good practice in mentoring and process management, and to leverage business support in the community” (DC).

Also planning initiatives of EMCC members UK-wide: “sharing good practice, pooling resources and giving community initiatives somewhere to go” (DC).

  • Neil Scotton and Alister Scott are co-founders of the One Leadership Project, dedicated to enabling catalysts and catalytic leadership globally.

They will be presenting at Coaching at Work’s conference on 11 July.

Twitter: OneLeadership