Launching the Critical Coaching Blog

I guess there must come a time in every twenty-first century network’s life when the need for a blog becomes an inevitability, and not only for fashionable reasons. Launching this CCG blog feels kind of grown-up somehow, but it also feels down-with-the-kids. What the creation of this blog does reflect is the fact that the horrors of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have driven the CCG from being an in-person gathering to a becoming an online phenomenon. I am at this point resisting the urge to post up a screenshot of all our tiled faces on Zoom, just to prove it is true. But it is. 

I have to say that when lockdown descended on us in March 2020, I had to scrap all forward conference room bookings at our much loved Arnos Manor hotel, and ask booked speakers if they would mind doing their thing on line. This sudden switching of arrangements made me fearful, as I felt then that much of the value of our regular meetings lay in the opportunity to meet face-to-face, share chip sandwiches and flaccid salad, and munch over what provocations our visiting speakers had planted. I did not think that our members would take easily to this transition to a two-dimensional digital experience; nor did I think that the CCG would remain a priority on their minds, given all else that had been disrupted by the pandemic. 

I need not have worried. Far from the need for us to gather together going away, it became apparent that in the face of all of the challenges posed to our personal and professional lives, the wish to to get huddle in any form remained as strong as ever. In fact the move to online, in liberating the CCG from the geographical constraints posed by being locked into the Bristol location, has allowed us to draw upon a far wider range of speakers from across the world. And has attracted in new members who are more than happy to become a part of our group, without having to commit to making the far-flung trip to the South West of England, which as we all know is a two-days stage-coach ride away from London. And a one day ride from Exeter. 

At first, old stagers said that they were prepared to live with online presence as a somewhat second-best interim solution, while the lockdowns blew over and normal in-house services could resume. However, as our Zoom years have progressed, the nostalgic cries for a prelapsarian return to the container that is the Gallery Room have muted, replaced instead by an excitement at the new horizons online has revealed. For our new members who have known nothing else, then they have been happy enough with the online experience not only to sign-up for more of the same through to next year, but to invite their colleagues at similar career stages to come along too. I must say that it is most gratifying to learn that the culture of open inquiry and challenge while being supportive of each other has persisted into this new format. 

I anticipate, then, that as we progress into 2021 and beyond, that we will move towards a hybrid configuration, where regular monthly meetings will be augmented by a number of in-person gatherings a year to allow us to breathe the same air once more, and merrily kick over coffee cups strewn across the open-U circle of rickety chairs. But meanwhile I am delighted at the uptake of speaker invites from all over the world – my, how I am resisting with all my might and main the temptation to use that much-abused term ‘global’- and look forward to a rich and relational year together. 

So where does this blog fit in? Well, it is early days, but in addition to serving as a container for updates such as this current rambling, this blog also offers opportunities for the curating of offerings from members and speakers that they feel will be of interest to our members. These offerings are likely to be in written form, but could also be imagistic, in audio or video form, or free-form interpretative jazz. It is really up to you. Let me know if there is something you wish to post, great or small, and I will ensure that it gets up there. Looking forward to it. And welcome to the CCG Blog. 

The Charlatan’s Law

The Charlatan’s Law
I was, to my great surprise, invited to the EMCC Global Conference last week, nestled  in on Zoom among over 500 eager beaming others. My main reason for being there was  to join a session on ‘Regulation,’ a choice which will come as no particular surprise to those that know me, as I have a number specific regulatory axes to sharpen with ‘professional’ bodies (or trade associations, as my wife Louise calls them.)

 In order to get into that juicy conversation, I was prepared to patiently sit on my hands through an opening presentation on ‘departures in regulation in Hungary,’ unfairly expecting to have to endure a glorious tale of awakening and inclusion by the Hungarian government of the coaches among them, affording them licence and legitimation on a hitherto unprecedented basis – perhaps just to show the rest of us?

How wrong could I have been? Far from learning of the permissive issuing of licences to operate on a universal scale, I heard instead of an opposite trajectory. I heard of a shocking State Directive entitled ‘The Charlatan’s Law.’  This law stated  that no-one other than those with state approved ‘talking therapy’ qualifications, gained though a recognised Hungarian university, could put any professional designation after their names save the state approved ones. Nor could they practice in any form, or run a coach training school under threat that they would inevitably be discovered. And the penalty for violating either of these injunctions against designation or practice? One year in prison. No grace period was permitted on the enacting of this law, and no discussion allowed.

As you might imagine, alarm bells rang throughout the coaching and therapeutic communities in Hungary, who were forced into all sorts of defensive manoeuvres to tackle this draconian move, some of which have proven marginally successful.

I am not writing here to go any further into this case study, compassionately though I feel for our Hungarian comrades . Amid all the sharp intakes of breath evoked by this saga, I was left hypothesising how it might be if, by some mighty global swing of a regulatory axe, all talking therapy were forbidden across the entire planet until they could prove their efficacy.  The problem of charlatans proliferating through the pandemic and through digitisation would be dealt with in a heartbeat, as would the problematic task of deciding who is worthy and who is not. ‘Professional bodies’ and their parasitic adjunct colleges would exist no longer, unless they were rebuilt from the ground up on the soundest of theoretical bases, and taught and assessed by those who could be trusted to do the same, unencumbered by commercial imperatives. Underground coaching resistance cells might form, tunnels dug, pamphlets stuck under doors, secretive one-on-ones in public toilet blocks …

The possibilities continue to intrigue me.  I day-dream of LinkedIn coaching communities being subject to such scorched-earth treatment. Whole categories of practice stripped bare of most of their content, obliterated at a stroke. All post-nominals strung after their name now gone. Only birth names visible, now that the professionalising tide has gone out, with many left shivering-cold and exposed, leaving only those with legitimate doctoral and masters designations, and other stringent practice requirements standing proudly on the beach, while others retreat, cowering with fear. 

Where would prospective clients turn from now on, if indeed they were inclined to turn anywhere at all? Would clients themselves be imprisoned for being so perverse as to be prepared to pay for help?  How would coaches explain this draconian turn to themselves and to their families, with all work gone and all those years of investment in training courses and supervisions proven utterly worthless? What if family and friends said to these beleaguered souls, ‘I told you, I told you .. I saw this coming along but you wouldn’t listen.’

Might world governments set up gulag prisons for transgressive executive coaches, where they would be required to stamp number plates rather than CPD certificates?  Would these sorry souls be stopped from tapping out professional acronyms to each other on the prison pipework? Might families smuggle in the URLs of self-improvement Youtube sites, or even microchipped competency frameworks?  Would we find, in the face of all this, that the culture of the prisoners association slumps from aspirations towards community actualisation to the bottom end of the hierarchy of needs in about three days flat, as they each scramble to gain purchase on the last scrap of  stale crust?
Time to stop, but this sad volte-passe has exercised me mightly, not least in reminding me how fragile the whole stage-set of coaching practice is. Oh, and I met a celebrity coach who is a self-proclaimed millionaire. 

Summiting – the coaching heights – an audio

Summiting, The Celebrity Coaches’ Way: A Letter from America. 

Daniel Doherty 

April 2021

Peter Doig

While absent-mindedly browsing Linkedin recently – in my ongoing pursuit of examples of the credential claims made by coaches – I stumbled across an invite to a WBCS webinar entitled, ‘“Reimagine the Future of Coaching” … with four thought leaders’. Keen to learn some things – including as to how coaching might have been ‘imagined’ in the first place – I thought it might be worthwhile dropping by this piece of theatre; while at the same time checking out the credentials of these thought leaders on Linkedin. I felt sure, at the back of my mind, that I had heard of WBCS before – ‘World Executive Business Coaches Summit’ – but it was hard to locate it among the blizzard of coaching bodies and networks that clamour for attention in my ageing memory. This acronym triggered an association with the WBC – the World Boxing Council – whose forlorn job it is to unify the various boxing bodies. In mirroring the acronym of this older WBC, it might well be that the WBCS is subconsciously admitting to the impossibility of coaching ever unifying its constituent bodies either. While aspiring towards a summit. 

This audio podcast thing captures the whole Letter from America

Coaching for the third age -the Re-attiring play of voices

Jen Gash

At our last meeting in April we explored the subject of coaching those in the third age – at the point of elderdom – or whatever we might call it. This followed a different route from the usual, with my offering up myself as a client to the group – and offering an audio play / drama for participants to deal with as they wished.

What i heard from you at the close of the session was that the play served as a very different type of device to carry the inquiry and the learning – and that it was good to have some thoughtful pre work of a different kind. They said that my stepping into a vulnerable space, and offering myself up as client  provided an opportunity to work with a living case study, with the client present.

The spilling out of ‘confessions’ into the play had an unexpectedly  cathartic effect for me – and also had the same effect for some others who were coat tailing on the stories, and parallel processing.   It was clear that my issues and challenges not unique to me, but true for others not just in third age but also others in transition or who have clients in transition.  

We all felt that there was enough juice in this session to warrant a further session on the same subject, not just as a contribution to ‘help the aged’ but also for others facing similar life and career transitions.

some of the provocations that arose from this session included

Provocations and challenges 

  • Letting go – is more complex than it seems
  • Addressing underlying melancholy – which is of course human and allowable 
  • Okay to stay with the trouble 
  • Allow the song in your heart to be out there in the world  
  • Allow the need for mourning 
  • The psychodynamics of grieving, and of survival and adaption – and the need for courage in the face of that. 
  • The inevitable reaching back to youth.
  • Making peace, seeking a place of peace  
  • Is there a slowing .. but is that not a good byproduct of ageing? 
  • Cloaks and gowns are fine and grand but they can also hide things. Are robes about power and control? 
  •  End of career? Or is that word a bedfellow of the R WORD – indicating a finite termination.
  • Is retirement a construct that we could retire?  There are at least five ages, and we can work until 100 should we wish 
here is the play itself in all its glory – I am told that playing it while cleaning behind the fridge works well

Daniel Doherty on Simon Western’s ‘Edgy Ideas.’

In this episode Daniel shares his research and experience of credentialing and accreditation in coaching.  His findings ask many questions about the credibility of practices, often delivered by self-appointed regulation bodies, some that make a lot of money from the process.  Daniel identifies eight consumer types of coaches in relation to accreditation and credentialing:  The Enthusiast, Complier, Susceptible, Pragmatist, Procrastinator, Agnostic, Ideologue and Inquirer; each seeking or resisting accreditation and credential for different reasons.  Daniel and Simon discuss the importance of critical thinking to question these credentialing norms, and how the practice of attaining accreditation is often a process more aligned with audit culture and collecting a number of hours in training and practice with very little quality control on what happens in those hours.  An important podcast for coaches, trainers and HR and managers purchasing coaching.  Bio After thirty years experience of coaching and business consulting that became increasingly  globalised in nature, Daniel returned to the UK from South Africa in 2005, to complete a PhD and to teach and research in a variety of Higher Education Institutions.  In 2006 Daniel founded the Critical Coaching Research Group, which he continues to lead to this day. His preferred research idiom is narrative practice; in the past two years he has authored two satirical novels set in the coaching world, and is in the process of writing a series of ‘plays for voices.’