Executive coaching as the differentiating patterning of power
Executive Coaching is now widely applied in organisations to bring about improvements in performance through individual focussed development. Coaches work with their clients to agree outcomes for their work together and then use their skills in a structured conversation to bring about change. The change they write of is an unfolding of the limitless human potential that resides within each of us, which is accessed by removing obstacles or interferences. The view that I present in this portfolio is significantly different to this predominant thinking and makes an important contribution to the practice of coaching, as a coach, client or line manager. I see the change that can happen in coaching, or indeed in any conversation, as occurring as movements of power. Patterns of power-relating, I argue, differentiate individual and collective identities. Coaching then, is the patterning of power-relating that has the potential for further differentiating and so transforming the identities of all those involved in the coaching process. I perceive power as ongoing patterns that paradoxically form and are formed by the processes of relating between human bodies. I argue that the complex patterning of power, that enables and constrains the actions of each person, creates identity. Identity is therefore a socially created phenomenon, simultaneously forming and being formed by the processes of relating. The differentiating patterning of power transforms identity through changes in our experience of inclusion and exclusion. From this perspective, the change that occurs in coaching assumes transformative causality instead of the dual rationalist and formative causalities that underpin the predominant approaches to executive coaching. This portfolio explores the nature of change in organisations, focussing more intensely, in each paper, on conversations as organisational change, culminating in the exploration of executive coaching as conversations initiated to create change. Through the methodology of participative inquiry, this research provides a way of understanding executive coaching that is informed by the concept of complex responsive processes and the sociology of Norbert Elias rather that the humanistic and cognitive psychologies that are at the root of the work of most executive coaching.