Coaches are turning their sights from the economy to personal connection, from out there to in here. And organisations and leaders are feeling it too

 Neil Scotton

 “Looking back, you can usually find the moment of the birth of a new era, whereas, when it happened, it was one day hooked on to the tail of another.” So wrote John Steinbeck back in 1954. Are we witnessing a new era in coaching?

This column first appeared in January 2012, seeking to explore the role of coaching in addressing the big social, economic and environmental issues. In that edition the lead news item was ‘Economic worries dominate readers’ survey’ with readers’ top three priorities being ‘responding to economic challenges’, ‘Roi’, and ‘standards and professionalism’. Team coaching made an appearance at number 4.

In the last edition (March/April), the lead story was on #MeToo. The main feature carried this theme further with Hetty Einzig and ‘This woman’s work’. Two long articles reported on team coaching. There was exploration on integrity, and Lindsay Wittenberg spoke of our ‘pale blue dot’ (Earth) and how it plays a greater emphasis in her role and work.

The shifts are subtle, but important. What was important (economics, returns, standards) is still very relevant and important. But the context, the centre of focus that top coaches are openly talking about, is shifting – from profit and performance to people and planet, from ‘it’s out there’ to ‘it’s right here’, from it’s all about the economy to it’s about connection – with each other, our world, ourselves. We’re seeing the same in people’s LinkedIn postings. We’re not just looking at goals – we’re waking up to how we are playing the existing game is hurting us.

#MeToo might be seen as the moment that defines this new era. It doesn’t sit in isolation. Many forces such as HeForShe, SheDecides, #Blacklivesmatter and others have been in the ‘we need to talk about this’ mix. Brexit, Trump, popularism have been wake-up calls for recognising the bubbles we live in, that lives and perspectives differ greatly, and also to not take anything for granted – if you care about something, you need to tell people.

Above all, it’s coming home. The big picture issues are right in front of us. Next time you sit with a client it may be worth considering:

  • If they are human, it’s almost certain they will have an unconscious bias against women.2
  • One in six will have experienced a common mental health problem in the last week.3 Nearly half will have thought they have had a diagnosable mental health condition at some time and a fifth of men and a third of women will have had that confirmed by a medical professional.3
  • If they are within the groups covered by the Home Office ‘Hate Crime’ statistics (Race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, transgender) the likelihood that they will have been a victim of reported hate crime will have doubled since 2012/13.4
  • If they like nature, they may be aware that 15% of UK wildlife is extinct or critically endangered.5


Organisations and leaders are waking up. Alister recently presented at a Planet Mark event on applying UN Sustainable Development Goals as good business strategy. Big names from across the economy were there as well as passionate and pioneering smaller organisations. When I asked people “What’s helping you and your cause?” a recurring comment was “Blue Planet. The boss wants to know what we can do.”

There’s a moment in the growth of movements when if you’re not on board quick, you’ll look like the one left behind.



1 John Steinbeck, Sweet Thursday, 1954






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