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Diversity in Coaching & Mentoring?

During March I’m running a series of guest posts on “Diverse Coaching & Mentoring” – you can read more here. My aim is to create a space to explore, challenge, celebrate and raise awareness of diverse perspectives and applications of coaching & mentoring.

This next guest post comes from Rob Kemp, co-director at Purple Patch Coaching & Training who you can find on Twitter at @PurplePatchInfo. As a fellow coach, I first met Rob at a research day at Sheffield Hallam University. Rob has that rare gift of intelligently posing the question that no-one else is asking that shifts dialogue to a new level. His guest post does not disappoint!

Diversity in Coaching & Mentoring?

So – diversity is the subject, and as I cast my thoughts around on the topic of diversity in coaching and mentoring my mind did a mental flip.

Rather than thinking about the potential impacts of coaching / mentoring on ‘diversity’, I started to think about the diversity of offering which we as coaches and mentors represent to our clients. If we are not clear about what it is that we are offering, what we represent, and what we do with clients – then it is not all together surprising that there is a general confusion and a lack of clarity not only in potential consumers of coaching, but between populations of coaches themselves (what is the collective noun for a population of coaches – a ‘shamble’ perhaps?)

So let us think about the diversity of offerings out there. There are those who operate under the banner of coaching who would simply ‘tell’ and direct. There are also the (often) highly branded, marketing heavy type organisations who seem to provide a mix of consult and coach (though heavy on the consult / advise side in my view), those who favour more of a non-directional approach, and those who are completely opposed to any kind of direction giving (though the extent to which this is possible remains highly debated). This is representative of the whole of the ‘ask-tell’ continuum – a wide and ‘diverse’ set of offerings all branded as coaching. It would be interesting to know your views on this spectrum – both where you feel you sit, and what you feel about those who occupy a different place.

Within this diversity of offers – how can we as an industry embrace diversity (as each of these applications may well be fit for specific purpose) and yet provide clarity for consumers of coaching, sponsors of coaching schemes, payers of coaching – of what they are actually getting?

I’m not sure that this is the entire answer – or indeed if there is an entire answer – but I am surprised how often there is a lack of transparency around the theoretical approach, or genre of the coaching being provided. For instance, could you articulate – without too much pause – where your coaching philosophy comes from and which genre it most closely represents? I admit that I can only do this after a wise and gentle challenge from a well known coaching teacher who asked me ‘what kind of a coach are you?’ – surprised by my own lack of ability to articulate clearly my ‘kind of coaching’ I started a journey of self understanding and knowledge acquisition which allows me to make a pretty good stab at an answer which may be meaningful to most.

So, whilst I have probably turned the subject on its head a little I would like to pose this question:

Do you believe our strength is in our diversity of offerings – or is diversity the very thing that is holding back clarity?

Whether you are a coach, or a client – let’s have the debate.


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