Definitions by the truckload

October 8, 2006

Since I divide my time between teaching and coaching, I would like to add an executive coaching blog to my teaching blog. Check it out if you are so inclined.

Here are a few definitions – pretending that this were a YASA [Yet Another Scientific Activity] … google yields (among a lot of obvious bullshit) these nine definitions that someone has collected. Most coaching sites are not of the FAQ- but of the Ad-type, so it is very difficult for clients to distinguish information with from information without an agenda. Not that I believe for a minute that there was such information – but the better sites are upfront about it.

There seems to be a different set of foci in these “definitions” (remember from philosophy 101 that definitions have no inherent truth value):

  • the relationship between coach and coachee
  • the process of coaching

A number of definitions stress “professonality”, others stress the contractual nature of the relationship. A few definitions appeal to non-corporate values (feeling etc.). The spectrum of definitions is amazing, some call it worrying – when looked at with paradigmatic lenses, one sees a field growing organically, like a jungle, in all directions.

What does Internet-Man have to say about executive coaching? Let us look at the Wikipedia entry – an excerpt from the longer article:

Executive coaching is a hands-on, one-on-one process between an executive and an external coach.

It is interesting that this definition excludes executive coaching in teams and groups – IMO among the most effective modes of delivery. Also, the coach must be external (i.e. to the company). The process ought to be “hands-on” – not very specific. As a Freudian slip, this betrays the assumption that coaching is even less about the body than therapy. on the conscious level, this underlines the pragmatic nature of coaching, which is expected to lead to (positive) practical consequences for the coachee.

Now, “process” also is a bit of a cop-out: relationships are not production, and human processes are notorious for being complex (in a technical sense), non-routine and messy. Hence, the exact opposite of factory processes.

Despite these difficulties, it might be interesting to come up with a better definition.

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