Coaching: a vocation for our times

By Martin Vogel

Coaches follow in the tradition of shamans.

Book review: Coaching and Mentoring: A Critical Text, by Simon Western

Simon Western seeks to challenge and expand our view about what constitutes coaching but, in so doing, he also challenges and expands received wisdom on what it means to be a leader in today’s complex and fast-moving organisations.

Coaching is a young practice, scarcely a profession. On the one hand, it has an inferiority complex in relation to other helping professions, particularly psychotherapy from which it takes much of its sense of good practice. On the other, it is rapidly being colonised by big management consultancies and business schools who recognise coaching’s threat to their turf. Talk of codifying what coaching should be through accreditation and even regulation is a sure sign of vested interests attempting to appropriate ground for themselves.

Western’s book, Coaching and Mentoring: A Critical Text, investigates coaching as it is practised rather than how it is conceptualised in the literature. The strength of this approach is that it resists the tendency to reduce and constrain how coaching is defined. Instead, Western celebrates its diversity – from new age influenced life coaching through to corporate coaching interventions with their solutions-focussed processes and returns on investment.

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Corporations as a force for good? Could do better.

By Martin Vogel

Supplying a force for good?
Supplying a force for good?

“Corporations as a force for good” was the optimistic title of a talk given by the London Business School academic, Lynda Gratton, at the Royal Society of Arts today. Her thesis was more a paean to than a critique of corporations. On the evidence she presented, I found her optimism a little premature. Corporations can be great conduits for the creativity and fulfilment of employees and the fulfilment of societal needs at massive scale. But they are vessels for trapping employees in alienating conditions, exploiting their consumers and society at large and they often ask too few questions about their supply chains. “Could do better” would be a more appropriate assessment of the current contribution of corporations.

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Renewing corporate culture one soul at a time

By Martin Vogel

Gary Hamel wants business to embrace timeless human values

Book review: What Matters Now: How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation by Gary Hamel.

What Matters Now by Gary Hamel is a critique by a renowned management thinker of the apparent collapse in moral values in big business that was revealed by the financial crisis. It’s a startling read because, while being a contribution to the airport news-stand canon of management literature, it uses language and imagery which is alien to the corporate world – precisely to question their absence. Hamel offers an impassioned call for a more compassionate and ethically-grounded capitalism which puts value rather than cost at the centre of its concerns.

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