you may remember that we have had a few efforts to get this project off the ground – one limitation has been having an example of one to follow – here we go with my starter for ten, to see what follows
you may remember that we have had a few efforts to get this project off the ground – one limitation has been having an example of one to follow – here we go with my starter for ten, to see what follows
i mentioned at our meeting this week that it would seem that many among us do write about coaching practice, their own and others. The problem is that much of this writing never sees the light of day, for whole variety of reasons, but not least because the whole process of getting published is so labyrinthine.
I would really encourage you to send anything you would like to have published or reviewed here to me at email@example.com. I would happily review and then publish on this site.
I suggested a while ago that we might want to create a Bio’s domain on this site for CCRG members, in order that we might learn a little more of each other; and that others might learn of us. If you are interested, then let me see a short bio and i will paste it in.
post to firstname.lastname@example.org
Down Among the Leavers, post-Brexit: An exercise in listening against resistance
Friday evening 24th June 2016
I asked you all on social media what can I do? A friend said keep writing. The activist in me said get downtown and see what my town has to say. Meet a friend in a pub. We agree on everything while half watching the cricket, as England crush the former colony Ceylon. I feel uneasy, move naturally towards the underdog, the dispossessed .Better watching this unfair match-up than media congratulating themselves on capturing ( but never predicting) this generational turning point on the other screen. i move away from my friend, as consensus will never do in my search for local vox pop. At the back of the pub the Pilot ( please steer me safe to shore) a young crowd chaperoned by two old boys are volubly watching the Super14 French rugby final. Rugby i know about that. Safe ground. They were drinking Belgian Stella not Doom Bar ..
The leader of this delightful young group of muscle and aftershave asked me directly how i voted. He is well spoken and probably a graduate, even possibly from nearby Exeter, a major player in the Euro economy. I say i voted Remain, thinking they had too. NO they all voted leave. They are young, surely they and me are suffering some crazy voting inversion? I asked why Leave? . I said i respected their decision but hoped it was not racism or xenophobia. They said no their reasons were purely economic. I asked about the economic arguments, but not much was said in reply to that. I asked about their puzzling passion for French rugby, two millionaire owned clubs stocked by global superstars slugging it out in obscurity. On Euro soil, in Spain. They love it cos the best in the world are free to live and earn a pension in French rugby, beyond their glory days. They said they supported Toulon at the beginning until their Australian star cheated and now they support Racing (Paris. ) Great; so British support of the underdog, one of our values. Mine too. i suggested ‘so you change your mind on a whim – like you might do over stay or go, on an impulse?’
We discuss the ‘fact’ that Scots hate all English. I say no not true. I am born in Scotland. They say they all hate ‘us’. they say they would not be welcome in Glasgow. I suggest that Glasgow is one of the friendlest places on earth. They say no. Then they turn to cheer the rugby underdog. But not the Scots underdog. I could go on but it was really absorbing and i was pleased to keep leaning in. The elder chaperones were really wary of me and getting more so, so I left. Dead pool ball bounce. The underdog won the game, led by a New Zealand superstar.
Saturday 25th June
With encouragement from far away by Stephen Taberner, I continue my one person probe into the minds and hearts of Leavers here in Devon. Yesterday my inquiry got quite ugly, but nonetheless illuminating. A bloke in a local pub was holding forth on the ‘fact’ that if the Scottish People had known the vote would have gone to Leave, then they would have voted leave too; but now they do not know what to do. He also helped us understand that there was no more oil in the North Sea. When i challenged all of this he said ‘I know it is true cos I heard it on Radio Four.’ Turns out his interpretation of this authority was highly selective (I had heard the same programme and let him know that). Somewhat subdued, he nevertheless continued in his post- factual way on his theme that Scots and Scotland would wreck themselves. Where does this demonisation of the country of my birth come from? I felt a tremor of being ‘othered,’ not sure whether to declare my origins or not.
As we talk of other aspects of the referendum he declares that ‘Anyone who voted remain should be ‘thoroughly ashamed of themselves.’ I said ‘Oh well i voted remain and i do not feel at all ashamed.’ He was taken aback, assuming from my age and my being in ‘his’ pub that I was a Leaver. Gathering himself he said ‘Yes, you should be ashamed. A whole generation fought and died in two wars for this country, and you dishonour them by voting to stay with the EU.’ This was vehemently delivered, shouted. Not backing off i suggested that maybe they also fought to defeat tyranny and fascism, to stop deracination of an entire continent. His anger rose to such a red-faced peak that he was shouting in my face. He called me ‘A traitor,’ that I was letting down all my parent’s generation had fought for. The landlord intervened and separated us, dragging him off, where he muttered alone to the pool cues. All this helped me understand though how strongly leaving was conflated with honouring the past, not creating a viable future for our children.
Sunday 26th June
Down among the Leavers #3 Who is pulling the leavers? My inquiry continued Sunday but this time across the estuary, looking to put some water between my questions and the incendiary reaction they provoked on Saturday. First stop to park the bicycle was an old coaching inn famous for its Sunday morning gathering of the monied and chattering classes. No signs of panic here over the cappuccinos and over-stuffed sandwiches. In fact I detected a self- satisfied purring, though it was hard to know what was behind that. This age group was relentlessly over 60 and well heeled, in an understated way. As copies of the Mail on Sunday were unfurled on the semi-circular table beneath the main bow window looking out on the street, I joined the edge of the table to generally insert myself into the proceedings. The main topic was the future leadership of the Tory party. When i asked if Labour were to be a party to whatever might unfold there was low grade sniggering. One man said he had heard that ‘Corbyn was resigning today.’ Someone else said he may as well, as all his troops have left him. This topic of possible left wing opposition now disregarded, we returned to the question of the new tory leader. This discussion was led by a woman reading out commentary on the runners and riders from page 3 of the Mail. No one demurred at these pen portraits. Some were easily dismissed without discussion; ‘can’t stand the woman, end of’ etc. Boris’s roguish ways continue to earn admiration, even though they agreed that he had been mendacious over his campaign. When pushed on this, they said that nevertheless, he was a strong character and would pull the people behind him. The conversation then turned to the impact of the markets on their holiday money. I was getting nowhere so I was soon back in the saddle.
Further down the river the story was the same, and again newspaper led. Individual thinking seemed to have been suspended, as was any concern for the longer term generational issues. Needing some edge to my meandering, I returned to the scene of yesterday’s histrionics, to discover that the word in the pub was out that I was leading some kind of investigation, which was interesting in itself. Far from hostility, the Sunday crowd were keen to know what this was about, this ‘survey’ of mine. I explained that i was genuinely interested to know what was in the minds of leavers. Soon there was a small queue. Someone asked if this survey would be published. I said perhaps.
The richest conversation was with a couple, both running small businesses, who voted leave as a protest against big business and big brother politics pushing them around and telling them what was best. They were emphatic in their distancing of themselves from ‘bigotry and xenophobia,’ and I believed them. They were fearful, though, at the way things were unfolding, and that the same elite would be moving the pieces around in the same old way. They were more than interested in why I thought remain a good idea, from a personal as much from any ideological perspective. They were utterly dismissive of the idea of any second referendum. On the TV, a French second goal sent the Irish to their knees. Time to go after this really rewarding and sane exchange.
Where were all the coaches when Brexit went down?
Back in 2009, Blakey & Day asked the provocative question ‘Where Were All The Coaches When The Banks Went Down?’ (Blakey & Day). In my memory this question stirred significant interest among coaches and coaching bodies at the time. Sadly though, having asked the question, the authors put their initial provocation aside in favour of marketing an alternative coaching solution to dealing with crisis. Garvey (2011) commented that he ’thought it (this book) would raise issues of practice and ethics and discuss collusion and relationship power dynamics. It did not.’ Garvey (2011) also called into question Blakey’s assertion that coaching’s adoption of their alternative model ‘could have helped us avoid the crisis or at least have stopped it happening again.’ (4)
So now the fall-out of Brexit is among us. As I witness the political and economic crises that have ensued across a continent, I find resonance with the 2009 challenge, asking myself ‘Where were all the coaches when Brexit went down?’ If that question were asked of me in two years time, I would need to consult my journal to find out what was going on for me at the moment when the referendum result was announced This is what future me would have found. They say in trauma counselling that it best to coax the patient to back to the moment before the original hurtful episode, rather than to immediately ask the patient to go directly to the moment of shock and hurt, for fear of traumatic re-stimulation. In line with that approach, if I were asked what I was up to in the days immediately before Brexit, then I would report that I was happily finishing writing-up a number of research papers into coaching practice that I had been neglecting for long months, in truth probably years. I was expecting the vote to go to Remain and I assumed that my work would get back on track after the referendum hiatus. But then the shock waves of the eventual exit result hit home. I was transfixed to the television and radio, to newspapers, to blogs, to social media, trying to absorb what this disruption might mean for me, for my closest, for my practice, for our collective practice, for us all. Though it seemed a distraction on the day the poll was announced, I was committed to spending time with a group of NHS managers sharing the results of their research into change projects they were involved with. In doing so, I was able listen to their reception to the news, fascinating as this was, given that promises to the NHS were at the centre of the Leave proposition. One of the managers said ‘You will always remember that you were at our hospital today, the day that the news of Brexit first broke.’
The following day I tried to force myself to return to my writing projects, only to find that nothing would flow at all. This writing now seemed utterly futile, irrelevant. I was equally stuck on progressing plans for a research conference that we at the university were organising. The theme that we were previously so excited about suddenly did not seem to fit with what was going down in the wider world. I speculated that we should change the name of the conference to focus on coaching through major disruptions, then let that idea slide. Feeling at a total impasse, I got on my bike and went out and about around local cafes and pubs, mixing among ‘leavers’ and conversing with them as to why it was that they voted the way they did, while sharing my the reasons behind my choice to remain. Returning home, I committed to writing up these encounters, then sharing them on my blog. The responses to this sharing, and the ensuing dialogue, proved therapeutic, helping me along the road towards making sense of the collapse of this house of cards.
After a while, though, the benign effects of writing to each other on social media, ventilating feelings at each Machiavellian twist and turn, became subject to diminishing returns. While media commentators referred repeatedly to the nation being in ‘existential crisis,’ I was suffering an existential crisis all of my own. MY dreams were vivid and my sleep short. At the point of thinking that my writing about coaching and its relevance at this time would be of no possible interest to anyone, even to me, I nevertheless needed to leave the house to do some coaching with a new client for a first up session that had been repeatedly postponed. I was aware of my resistance to doing this session, wondering how recent events might overshadow the career coaching work to the point of rendering the discovery of possible career options of the client incalculable. Of course the session began with a Brexit conversation, as indeed every encounter these days seems to. However, slowly but surely we found our way into the session, allowing the emergence of some alternative career options in this changing context. At the end of long morning, the client was relieved and energised; while I noticed that my existential crisis had shifted too. I felt lightened, believing that this coaching work does some good in a changing world after all, and there is an underlying purpose to it. Perhaps we had both found a passage through uncertain dread that day.
So that is what I would have recorded in my account of my early post-Brexit days. I cannot answer to what fellow coaches were up to. I feel sure that many were working with clients on contingencies, perhaps providing support just to keep the show on the road while possibly assisting clients with mapping out potential exit plans. Maybe some found sessions postponed while other priorities pressed their clients. Some may have been paralyzed by the enormity of it, and by the threats implicit to their own business of endemic upheaval. And of course there were those that seeked to capitalise on the moment. I did receive an email from an opportunistic service provider offering ‘to help me become more resilient through Brexit’, if only I signed up for their seminars for a special early bird rate.
As I thumbed though the Guardian online for inspiration I came across a thought-piece by Professor Andre Spicer of Cass Business School , who reflected
‘Clearly Brexit shouldn’t be ranked alongside world wars. But it still provokes profound soul-searching. Perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves now is how our Brexistential crisis can become a source of energy for creating new forms of social, economic and cultural life.’ Spicer 01 07 2016).
This article chimed with my thought that what has been stirred by this pofound interruption should not be wasted on the distraction of party-political leadership psychodramas . I believe that there is an invitation within this disruption for us to coach at a deeper level, to seek meaning within our own and our clients dilemmas, rather than simply to weather the storm while we seek the restoration of some form of the old balance. I am reminded of the work we have been doing over the past few years at the ‘critical coaching research group’ in Bristol, where we have been examining themes of betrayal, of vulnerability, of exploring client narratives, of the power of network coaching, and of the totalising effect of the neoliberal discourse on the professionalisation of coaching practice. We have glimpsed through these vaious windows and seen our world in different ways. Perhaps now is the time to take our practice to a deeper level altogether, as well as to use our supervision to look differently at our individual and collective contribution and moral purpose.
I have now shared here my recent journey to date through Brexit. I make no assumptions as to what fellow coaches have been thinking, feeling, doing though this Brexit passage – and would love to know.
If you feel so impelled, then please send me any notes or thoughts you may have about you own most recent experiences, then I would happy to pull ou various contributions together and share with you all. Our findings / makings might even form the agenda for a productive day together where we would speak to the question I ask from two years out. If you wish to share, then please write to email@example.com.
Blakey , Day I (2009) Where were the coaches when the Banks went down?
Garvey, R. (2011). A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about coaching and mentoring. London: Sage.
please find herein a hopefully explanatory version of this work-in-progress which you would warmly invited to contribute towards in any way you so should – those prompts and suggestions are contained within the paper. all responses please to
Dr Daniel Doherty – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Critical Coaching Research Group UK – a Member Survey
This innovative coaching research group is now in its tenth year and going from strength to strength. Over this period a core group of experienced coaches and scholar- practitioners have in the course of dialogue together progressively deepened their understanding of themes that ask critical questions of coaching practice. These explorations concentrate on the unpicking and examining of conventional coaching wisdom – especially those ideas that represent prevailing fads and fashions. The purpose of this inquiry is to improve and refine practice, not to pour scorn upon it. CCRG was born of scepticism regarding many of the claims made by coaches and by coaching service providers; and by tales of abuse of an apparently benign humanistic coaching process that was being put to manipulative or even malevolent use.
At the core of CCRG rests a cadre of highly experienced coaches, academics and commissioners of coaching who are prepared to explore sometimes uncomfortable issues within the ‘safety’ that this group affords. An important element is that in the often isolated and lonely profession that is coaching the CCRG meets a heartfelt need for seasoned professionals to meet together face to face for a concentrated period of shared deep reflection, at regular times throughout the year. The allowance of hesitation and general breathing space has grown a culture not only of challenge but of nurture in the face of an often forbidding commercial context.
It has evolved towards a subscription membership where annual fees sustain the fielding of three or four one day long conferences per year. While a core membership has sustained over ten years, membership is renewed through recommendation or invitation by new members. Each session combines a piece by an established academic in the coaching field, together with a contribution from an early researcher delivering findings from Doctoral or Masters research as well as hearing from practitioners on breakthrough applications of theory to their work – or uncovering challenges to established theory. Although independent of specific academic affiliation, CCRG members and contributors are drawn from most major universities specialising in coaching research and education, including Bristol, Sheffield Hallam, Oxford Brookes, Henley, Bath, York St John, Middlesex and Cardiff.
After ten years of life thought it might be an idea to survey members to divine what might be our core identity – and what it might be that keeps members coming back. The following indicates the questions asked, alongside of CCRG members responses.
What initially attracted members to CCRG?
The initial prompt was recommendation by someone they trusted, a recommendation which occurred at a pivotal personal developmental stage when they were seeking something beyond the usual coaching development offerings. The main draw seemed to be a curiosity regarding the adopting a critical perspective, a perspective which would be explored with like-minded experienced coaches and academics reflecting thoughtfully on developments and research into coaching. The diverse background of fellow members was a significant attractor also. A common source of hesitation in taking the leap to join up was a concern that the academic / research nature of the event would not be for them, either for fear that it may not be of relevance or that it would be beyond their understanding. It would seem that this fear was unfounded once the initial step had been taken. Members said they ‘looked forward to engagement with a ‘grown up’ discourse’; and that they ‘felt excitement about joining a new network of professionals with similar interest … to learn more about where and the different ways our craft is practiced.’
“I have been “coaching” for around 10 years, but had not found a peers with whom I felt able to share, discuss and learn with, in a fun, rigorous and safe setting. We are a very diverse bunch.’
What keeps members coming back?
Quotation of responses to this question probably best speak for themselves ..
‘This group offers something I don’t get elsewhere.’
‘The brilliant speakers – not just because of their positions/knowledge but generally because they have been through the bullshit of academia and come out the other side as human beings…mostly. The members who I respect but more importantly feel safe sharing with exploring/learning together. And Daniel whose Danielness makes for a unique place to be’
‘Topics offer broader relevance and newer thinking than that offered by many coaching groups and L&D journals’,
‘people fully engaged in exploring themes raised’ …. ‘the depth of discussion, willingness to talk things through, the variety of topics..’
‘Daniel Doherty’s warm and welcoming nature, his enthusiasm and curiosity
‘It is an astonishingly good group, and I always come away feeling refreshed and knowing that I have learnt something even if I don’t always know just what that something is.’
‘Research enquiry and shared in-depth reflection with a mix of practitioners, academics, enthusiasts within and beyond the established coaching community.’
‘Opportunity to hear and participate in presentations of published – or near completed – pieces from known sources, and be part of that further evolution towards a new model or frame for thinking and analysis’
‘truly leading edge without pretension and with space for explanation and experimentation in an intimate, welcoming and curious group – beyond a more obvious conference audience so something new for the presenter too’
‘The joy of the above alongside some work that is extremely valuable and less ‘out there’ following eg postgrad research of Joy Harcup, Sally Vanson, and most recently Jane Boston giving a fresh perspective on feedback and its impact on the coaching, which provided a platform to encourage her to write and maybe research further with new support.’
‘Often a day will contain an unexpected gem, in the form of a discussion or chance to ‘play’ eg Ned – something for everyone – no sense of merely filling the day – we are able to co-create an enquiry if a speaker does not show. ‘
‘ Something refreshing about what happens with whom during each day is how it is meant to be and there is learning in everything, even boredom, frustration and tension within the group on rare occasions.
‘I have been sort of yearning to come back but not quite made time till now – feel as though this is a professional community I want to belong to’
‘if this group ceased to be then I would probably co-create something else with trusted peers for reflective practice enquiry though research per se in terms of outputs and publications would not be central to that’
I am ‘looking forward to another year with CCRG, which has always been, to me, about much more than just coaching.’
How does this group compare to other coaching based CPD activities?
‘It’s probably the best quite frankly.’
‘More personal than a conference, more animated than a book or writing individually, goes deeper than local coaching group’
‘It has more rigor, (I run a co-coaching forum, I go to the euro-coach list conference)’
‘I appreciate the longevity of the group, so I enjoy catching up with colleagues and three times a year is also more frequent than other CPD activities I usually get involved with.’
‘Unique – a mix of structure and space and ongoing applied research in the widest sense. Often stimulates follow up with related CPD actions. ‘
‘Prompts me to think more critically of my coaching – helps me avoid ‘coasting’ and becoming stale. The reflective nature of the group also prompts me to reflect on matters in my personal life – often there is an indirect cross-over from the professional learning to broader life learning.’
‘A crucial part of my CPD – no, it’s better than that – keeps me alive and lively.’
‘Provides some real quality of discussion rather than the latest fad being subscribed to’
‘It is a pleasure to belong and have accepted the ebb and flow of my activity, passivity – or active listening. It is OK to be as well as to do in this group and there is a mix of give and gain over time I feel. Encouragement of others to participate is also a contribution, and I know I can ask for the support and challenge I need from the group within its purpose on a day. The mix of familiarity ie continuity of group relationship with new members and without cosiness I hope, and difference within it adds to the potential for creativity and I sense more in depth interaction as the years have progressed, or we are each continuing our journeys to maturity as practitioner-researchers whatever that is!’
‘Variety of format, pace and space is important for my learning and enjoyment.’
‘I can’t tell when, where or how they will manifest in my thinking, but I can’t unlearn them and they will therefore become in some way part of how I think in certain situations that I hope will be useful to someone.’
‘ I would say that being a poor reader and finding books a difficult source of learning, that is was incredibly helpful to have access to new content that comes from the author, all presented in an hour in a way that I could engage with and make sense of. This is my idea of accelerated learning!
‘I can see that it makes a link between all forms of development and has an ethos of sharing that promotes many best practices from the leadership and learning worlds’
‘In my “home” profession, I have always been involved in someway or another in research. I am a closet geek, underneath my cloak “Jen”. I love exploring concepts and ideas. As I trained in coaching through a practical route and didn’t run off and do an MA or PhD, I hadn’t had access to the growing knowledge base of coaching and I needed to know that was present.’
What does the term ‘critical’ with reference to coaching research mean to you?
‘No subject is beyond challenge and there is a collective mind set that is intent on exploring, gathering and examining data, and expanding established wisdom’
‘Challenging the power structures – both in companies and in the coaching profession’
Analytic, reflective, evidence based, measuring against articulated criteria, having the intention of finding out what works’
‘Not taking things at face value and believing the bullshit that people write down and expect us to blandly believe’
What would you say to a colleague by way of recommendation to this group?
‘The group comprises a set of highly qualified and experienced individuals who work and research in the field of coaching – and the vast majority find the time 2/3 times a year to meet. Regularly I hear members comment that the meetings give them valuable ‘space’ to reflect and work through issues in an environment that is both challenging and supportive.’
‘Don’t be deterred by the name, if you want to hear about some up to date cutting edge stuff then get yourself along!
‘It’s stimulating, fun, thoughtful, keeps you on your toes and gives insights into what’s going on in research into coaching’
‘ It is a great way to feel connected to others, learn about new ways of working, to hear about important research they might otherwise be unaware of, I would also suggest they need to come to more than one session to see if it is for them,- as like anything some speakers/topics feel more relevant than others depending on your area of expertise/interest.’
‘If you want some real stimulation that has breadth and depth, fun and insight this is where you should go’
‘Unique – as above – a mix of structure and space and ongoing applied research in the widest sense. Often stimulates follow up with related CPD actions.
‘It is a great way to feel connected to others, learn about new ways of working,hear about important research they might otherwise be unaware of, I would also suggest they need to come to more than one session to see if it is for them,- as like anything some speakers/topics feel more relevent than others depending on your area of expertise/interest.’
Summary of survey feedback
It would seem obvious that what is presented here represents an appreciative inquiry into what it is that members value regarding this group that is not satisfied in other ways in their professional lives. To present the original data as it stands leaves me a little uncomfortable, as it could read as fulsome ‘advertorial’ rather than at some level a critical perspective on a critical group. Somewhat stymied on what meaning might be read into this, I asked Jen Gash who helped out with an instant four-point summary that really caught my eye.
Jen Gash Summary
1) that coaching L and D needs a serious rethink as clearly the offerings elswehere are inadequate
2) that people want something with more grit but also more humanity
3)that less is more, in that space is vital to explore/embed develop
4) that the needs of coaches are changing (this is regarding CCRG)
5) that coaches’ internal needs and shadow stuff is keenly requiring attention yet is so often ignored
She also echoed a connection I made that this survey chimes stongly with the ‘coaching credentials’ research that I am bringing to the point of publication.
Please respond with your own thoughts of what this survey might be saying of us and of our wider context
It would be marvellous to put this second order sense- making together to gain an idea of what this group might variously be representing.
Connection to Credentials survey
There remain strong parallels between rhe findings from this survey and what came to light through the credentials survey which at long last I am pulling together. I may well be that the two of these run together as some sort of joint publication or presentation.