Three minutes to midnight

A series of columns on our role in tackling the complicated economic, environmental and social challenges we face. It is a place to question, offer, share, explore, challenge, dissent, celebrate, reflect, learn and enjoy

At the recent UK International Coach Federation (ICF) event on 19 May ‘Inspiring Coaching – The Next 20 Years’, Matthew Taylor, CEO of the Royal Society of Arts offered his view:What does the future hold for coaching? There are many ways to explore this. Some are about being self-determinant: What do we want to have happen? Some are about service: What do our stakeholders want of us? Some are responsive: What’s happening in the world that will affect us? A systemic approach invites us to embrace all these and more.
And for some, the key is in getting back to the essence: ‘Why are we here?’, the answer to which can enlighten all choices.

“Coaching is about three things. The individual leading a fuller life. Then, as coaches in organisations, to help leaders help everyone lead fuller lives. Finally, to ask the question: How is this organisation seeing its role in the world?”

A contrasting energy is from the emerging group, Collaborating for the Future of the Coaching Profession, with consultancies, universities and the professional coaching bodies coming together “to help develop coaching as an industry” as “part of a general shift in focus towards internal coaching and organisational needs” (Coaching at Work, vol 10, issue 3).

These views highlight one of several emerging schisms facing the profession:
Are we about serving people or organisations? Each ought to be beneficial to the other, but corporate and human agendas can often clash. For some, this schism can emerge as a practical question: ‘Who is the client: the organisation or the person in front of me?’

At the ICF Conference in Long Beach, California in 2007, Julio Olalla went for the ‘why are we here?’ approach. He asked: “Why did we invent a new practice in the domain of learning when we already had so many; counselling, teaching, training, advising?” After all: “Societies do not invent new practices unless old practices are not addressing emerging concerns.”

For Julio, the emerging concern is people’s yearning to reconnect and rebalance the inner (human, soulful, spiritual, emotional, conscious and unconscious) and the outer (scientific, technological, intellectual, objective, matter) aspects of ‘knowing’ so that we, and our
sense of the world and our place in it, may be ‘whole’ again.

Reconnecting sides that are often presented in opposition, thereby enabling the rebalancing, certainly seems a wise way forward. Client topics are often about things that have become separated, isolated or in opposition: people, resources, ideals, actions and purposes and more. As Alan Seale ( powerfully asks: “How are you a bridge for those you serve?”

Perhaps our future is all about building bridges: new spaces for conversations that are good for organisations AND the people they serve AND all those their operations impact upon AND the person in front of you; people AND profit AND purpose, heads AND hearts, work and life, inner and outer, now AND in the future.


Dr Alister Scott and Neil Scotton of The One Leadership Project are helping those leading their organisations to ‘Think Beyond’ and ‘Act as One’.
Alister Scott:

Neil Scotton: