Reader response spot

Here readers voice their views on articles published in Training & Coaching Today or on training and coaching issues generally. This month: differences between life and executive coaching

Coaching distinctions need more care

Eileen Avery’s distinction between a life coach, focusing on the whole person, and an executive coach, focusing on coaching in the workplace (‘Get a life coach’, Training & Coaching Today, October) implied that an employee must leave a part of themselves behind as they cross the threshold into their organisations.

The nature of work may make this a truism for many, but it is often this fragmentation which produces anxiety, stress and poor performance. Suggesting that a defining characteristic of executive coaching is the requirement to put aside the whole person, dismisses the core of what can often bring someone into coaching: the very personal challenge, sometimes discomfort, sometimes excitement, accompanying workplace demands, and how these demands fit with their sense of themselves and of what is important to them.

I suspect, or at least hope, it is a distinction more honoured in the breach than in the observance, in the real-world experience of coaching relationships.

I acknowledge that the question of regulation remains as yet unresolved, and the reasonable expectation that a coach working in an organisational setting must have an informed curiosity appropriate to that context. But Avery’s distinction between life and executive coaches denies the power and importance of coaching in what is, for me, a crucial part of it: assisting the client to build a renewed understanding of their relationship with their organisation, while achieving a resolution of whatever fragmentation within themselves they experience through their work.

Doing this is ultimately a matter of competence and intention. Life and executive coach are, in any case, labels which many feel are inadequate in conveying the essence of what they do, and why they do it.

Ken Smith,
Head of learning and development,
Department for Culture Media & Sport


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