What heritage are you contributing to, for the future?

The concept of Heritage can be both deceptively simple and incredibly complex. It can also be narrowed to the practices, traditions, beliefs in a society but there is also the added dimension of time – that the practices, traditions, beliefs happen over a period of time.

It is our humanness that shapes our Heritage. I would argue that as coaches we can contribute in a meaningful way, in evoking awareness with our clients (human beings) in shaping practices, traditions and beliefs which contribute to the heritage of the future. As coaches we are in effect – Helping the client to identify factors that influence current and future patterns of behaviour, thinking or emotion. Shifting from human being to human becoming or just simply, doing human better.

Our thoughts and actions are shaping the conversations we are having and directing the course of who we are individually and collectively as a society and as nations, in the world. Whilst we can spend some time reflecting on what heritage means let us not lose focus of the fact that what we are  doing right now is shaping how heritage will be viewed in the future. So, if we are having conversations which do not include women in all decisions at the table – our heritage will reflect that we did not give women an equal voice. If we treat one another as “other” – then our heritage will reflect our “othering” behaviour.

A client recalled their family tradition of preparing fish by first chopping off the head and tail of the fish before putting it in the pan to cook. When asked why they did this? He explained that it was the tradition handed down from his mother on how to cook fish. When he subsequently asked his mother why she did this, his mother told him that it was because the pan they had was too small. So, the client went and bought a bigger pan.

In the same vein we need to ask what some of the practices, traditions and beliefs are that are  contributing to our perspectives about women. We need only be reminded of the words of the inspiring US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that “ Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception”.

The International Coaching Federation recently released their findings from the 2020 ICF Global Coaching Study which was undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers. 22,457 responses where received from 161 countries and territories. The executive summary of the study is available here.

From the Executive Summary of the findings, there are many useful analysis and findings, but for the purposes of exploring the shaping of the heritage of the future, the mix of clients served by coach practitioners remained broadly unchanged since 2015, with the spread of managers and executives at 27% and 25% respectively.

If we use that data as a current reflection of coaching as a practice, we can conclude that coaches are able to influence 52% of clients representing management and executives and ask questions of these clients about their thinking, values, needs, wants and beliefs and help them influence their current and future patterns of behaviour, thinking or emotion. If these managers and executives are the current leaders making decisions about future leaders, as coaches we  are partnering with them in imagining that future heritage.

Richard Rohr in his book Just This said “We can only recognize our own privileged position, our preferred identity, when we try to live without it somehow. Those of us who are privileged in any way, must take the initiative here”. For coach and client, coaching invites us to recognizing our privileged positions and learn to do human better and in doing so our humanity shifts and our heritage is a reflection of this over time.

Perhaps a question to ask not only of ourselves as coaches, but to our clients – is “what heritage are you contributing to in the future?”.

Are we curious and courageous enough to have this conversation?

Evoke Awareness

Definition: Facilitates client insight and learning by using tools and techniques such as powerful questioning, silence, metaphor or analogy.

  1. Considers client experience when deciding what might be most useful
  2. Challenges the client as a way to evoke awareness or insight
  3. Asks questions about the client, such as their way of thinking, values, needs, wants and beliefs
  4. Asks questions that help the client explore beyond current thinking
  5. Invites the client to share more about their experience in the moment
  6. Notices what is working to enhance client progress
  7. Adjusts the coaching approach in response to the client’s needs
  8. Helps the client identify factors that influence current and future patterns of behaviour, thinking or emotion
  9. Invites the client to generate ideas about how they can move forward and what they are willing or able to do
  10. Supports the client in reframing perspectives
  11. Shares observations, insights and feelings, without attachment, that have the potential to create new learning for the client

Article first published on sacoachingnews.co.za