An inquiry into mature coaches’ transitions into their later decades – The Cliff Project 2023
This enterprise was inspired by a recent session on ‘coach identity,’ convened by the Association for Coaching Research Special Interest Group, which led to several us sharing our personal and professional ‘cliffs’ in the form of writing and in conversation.
The themes emerging from these dialogues chimed strongly with the 2021 CCG conference on ‘coaching at a later age,’ based around my radio play ‘Re-Attiring.’ There was appetite at the time to take this inquiry within the CCG further, which, after a pause, we pursue now. Sometimes projects on maturity take a while in maturation, to compost.
I am aware of a profound connection between this nascent inquiry and the well-developed ‘on the becoming of a coach’ study concerning ‘coach maturity,’ led by Bob Garvey, the understanding of which we at CCG will explore in depth with Bob during 2023 during in-the-room sessions.
What I feel we have stumbled across here is a high potential action research project concerning coach maturity, which falls into a number of phases.
- Creation of personal ‘cliff’ narratives. These creations can be assisted by the posing of an over-arching research question, and associated prompts relating to the development and maturation process.
- I have now completed my own ‘cliff’ narrative which I share as an exemplar
- Sharing of narratives in pairs – individuals may be involved in a number of pairings
- Coming together as a group virtually, and in person, to reflect on themes and patterns that emerge with regard to coach development at later career stage – coach maturity
- This could then provide a basis to think about how our findings might best play for the creation of mature coach offerings and developmental pathways.
This methodology has been naturalistically driven, and emergent to date. At its heart lies an action research / narrative inquiry / writing-as-inquiry / action learning approach. In spirit it shares common cause of with the ‘on the becoming of a coach’ project in being philosophically based in Phenomenology and Hermeneutics as it concerns an inquiry into lived experience, and the process of sense making from the same inquiry.
Daniel takes leadership of most aspects of this project during its earlier stages, as form emerges
- it will be based on individuals lived experiences, rather than chosen on institutional cohorts; though invites may be extended to institutions such as AC of HEIs once the shape and findings are more fully formed.
- Daniel will do most of the negotiation of selecting of candidates in the early stages – clearly recommendations of possible participants from those already inside the circle will welcome
- the extent of the take up will be known soon enough – want it contained at this stage to say numbering at twenty.
- invitees will be drawn primarily from CCG, AC, survivors of AC Crafting your Coaching Narrative Programme 2021; though I can see argument for wider engagement with Art of Management conference, SW writers group, song writers and choir leaders.
- if this sounds over controlling, then it driven by an acknowledgment that sensitive material is being worked with here – and often in writing, so we need to be cautious of our boundaries around vulnerability and disclosure.
- Daniel will provide guidelines and prompts for production of personal ‘products.’ these may well be represented in writing, but not everyone is disposed to prose, so other media – including simply verbalising will work also.
- in the early stages, individuals will work in pairs to explore edges and dilemmas – this is not interviewing in the classical sense but co-development
- The work itself will be a mix of individual reflection (written and other) together with CCG in-person groups in Bristol, London, Sheffield, Devon meetings in first half 2023; and online pairs work and group work.
- I am not really wanting to predict how meaning-making and products from this eventually emerge, but anticipate that it result in themes to work with.
- It is anticipated that considerable personal and professional development will accrue from participation in this project – and that bonds and networks will be deepened and strengthened.
‘how would you describe a pivotal / seminal passage in your passage towards coaching maturity?’
The themes that might emerge from these accounts include, but are not restricted to
- Personal interior experience of ageing
- Others’ external perceptions of one’s physical and cognitive ageing
- Memory loss, relative cognitive decline
- Gains to be had from declining memory
- Letting go – including of models, tools techniques
- Challenging the promotion of new offerings of tools or concepts
- Accretion of wisdom – external experience and valuing of the same
- Wisdom – interior sense of this – or discounting of the same
- Relationship between wisdom and maturity
- Physical slowing – illness, medical interventions and their effects and attendant fears – including death of contemporaries, and foreshadowing of death itself
- performativity v authenticity tensions
- letting go – letting come balance
- Impact of ‘life events’ illness, losses on coaching or development practice
- Mapping one’s path beyond retirement – retreat to castle or stay out in battlefield
- Paid work and volunteering – what drives need for paid work still?
- Does relaxing of payment transaction lead to greater authenticity?
- Professional volunteering and social volunteering
- Continued activism? Channelling cynicism – or getting out of the way
- Challenging the status quo, whistleblowing – or leave that to next generation
- Support groups, development groups beyond retirement, work related and beyond – art groups, walking, yoga, choirs, etc
- Tension between boomers and next generation radicals and thinkers
- Impacts of Covid Interruptions and aftermath from the same
- Living online – loss of personal connection and the analogue life
- Dealing with transactional bias in coaching over relational
- Benefits of writing it all down – journaling alone – and collaborative writing
- Emergent reflective practice approaches beyond writing
Should you be of an age where you stand at a personal or professional cliff – how might these themes play for you? Which would be top of mind and which would not apply? Which do you anticipate coming into play in the future