Still fit for purpose?

By Liz Hall,


A group of coaching experts and buyers from diverse industries is exploring the possibility that in the three decades of workplace coaching practice in the UK, the world of business has changed drastically but the basic forms of coaching have not.


The inquiry was the brainchild of Relume, which carries out research and consulting on challenger leadership. Partner Claire Genkai said,

“I know very few people who are driving around in vintage cars on today’s roads yet we seem to persist with models of coaching that are basically a conflation of a traditional therapeutic structure of regular meetings at four to six weekly intervals with an emphasis on goals for performance from the sports world.”

“This was all well and good when the pace of work was both slower and frankly more linear, and the people we were working with had very little understanding of themselves, as occupational psychology was still a relatively new field in executive and leadership terms.”


The three-stage inquiry was attended by senior HR and coaching executives from the pharmaceutical, media, telecoms, chemicals and financial sectors. Those attending included Ann Paul, organisation development director, human resources at News UK, and Debbie Maitland, global talent manager at Lubrizol. Bringing experiences and questions to the table in a safe space for exploration, the group has been building a positioning paper and will be gathering again early next year to deepen its ideas. It has already sparked some fresh thinking and experiments but more than that it has been a wake-up call, said Genkai.


“We took three basic inquiries together which started with a question we entitled ‘how did we get here?’ Sometimes if you want to understand your present predicament it helps to know the history! We went on to look at all the changes in underpinning assumptions and unconscious biases about work, learning and individual development. We seem to have been on a trajectory I would encapsulate as ‘It, I, Us’, by that I mean that the world is becoming more connected and hierarchical corporate cultures are breaking down in the face of so much complexity and velocity. The emphasis on individual coaching in linear goal oriented ways is simply too little, too simple and too late.”


The final inquiry focussed on coach development in the face of these challenges and asked the question, are we accrediting for the past or the future?


Find out more from Claire Genkai a partner at Relume Ltd

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