Coaches, Becoming – CCG authors reflect … together.

This remarkable collection captures reflections on the becoming process for twelve CCG members who have extended the CCG ‘becoming’ action research project into written form. it has proved a delight to birth this anthology – bravo to all who write her and to all who read her. Please dip in. Any small profits will be reinvested in the continuation of this writerly project.

The Ascent and Fragmentation of Professional Coaching Associations – the book.

Dr Daniel Doherty has been working on the development of this theme for quite some time – and now it is published and out there in the world, or at least on Amazon

This book focuses on the ascent then fragmentation of professional coaching associations over the past thirty years. It makes fleeting reference to the proliferation of ‘life coaching,’ which has exploded across the Western world, and the influence of life coaching’s central focus on positive psychology upon the development of professional coaching. However, the main focus is on the practice of coaches working with clients situated within organisational settings, and of the professional associations that seek to serve them. This book adopts a critical perspective that challenges the foundation narratives of professional coaching associations, mostly told by the associations themselves, whose unsurprising tendency is to valorise their own ascension and their worthy passage thereafter in pursuit of raising standards of performance and ensuring ethicality.

It describes a generalised stage model of associations’ progression through a predictable life cycle. This life cycle moves from early emancipatory beginnings, through a bureaucratic middle passage, towards the adoption of many of the characteristics of an aristocracy in its later stages. The book comments on usurpers who enter the market to challenge this decline stage, but nevertheless find themselves pursuing a trajectory through the life stages of organization development not dissimilar to that of their predecessors. The general nature of this stage model means that it does not apply to all associations in all instances. Not all case studies supporting the robustness of the model, given the shortness of the book, can be cited. Specific cases are available on request, subject to confidentiality. Apologies to associations who do not recognise themselves within this model.

this publication will feature in the following CCG conference

07 12 2023Dr Daniel Dohertylife cycle of professional coaching associations Join Zoom Meeting

History of CCG Becoming Project and next steps 2023 / 24.

A CCG inquiry into coaches’ transitions as they experience ‘becoming.’

Background to this inquiry

the theme of ‘coach maturity’ within the CCG, the precursor to what we now term coaching ‘becoming’, can be traced back to 2011, when it was first posited by Professor David Megginson, on one of his frequent visits to Bristol. this notion of maturity also aligned with ideas at that time as the coach as ‘elder.’

Megginson and Clutterbuck’s work on ‘coach maturity is outlined in the article below.

Re-attiring – the Radio Play

After a period of quietude, a revival of this theme reoccurred at an early 2021 CCG conference on ‘coaching at a later age,’ based around Daniel Doherty’s radio play ‘Re-Attiring.’

it is perhaps little surprise that interest in pursuing this theme has grown as we, the participants, have ourselves aged, moved on in career stage, and have developed our practice to allow engagement with clients who are also advancing through career stages towards maturity in their respective professions.

Association for Coaching ‘Cliff’ project.

There was appetite at the time to take this inquiry within the CCG further, which, after a pause, we pursued more strongly in 2022. Sometimes projects on maturity take a while in maturation, to compost. This enterprise was accelerated by a February 2022 seminar on ‘coach identity,’ convened by the Association for Coaching Research Special Interest Group, and led by CCG members Roger Bretherton and Adrienne Rosen, who encouraged several of us to share our personal and professional ‘cliffs’ or transitions as later stage coaches in the form of writing and in conversation during these SIG meetings.

Contemporaneous with this nascent inquiry was the research into ‘on the becoming of a coach’ – s study concerning ‘coach maturity,’ led by Bob Garvey of CCG, the findings from which we at CCG have explored in depth with Bob `Garvey during several of our 2022 and 2023 during online and in-the-room CCG gatherings. This research paper is attached below.  

On becoming a coach: Narratives of learning and development

D. Rajasinghe, B. Garvey, W.A. Smith, S. Burt, A. Barosa-Pereira, D. Clutterbuck & Z. Csigas

Coach maturation: understanding the why, what and how has the potential to influence the coaching profession in its own journey of professionalisation. This paper seeks to provide some insight into how experienced coaches understand their own development processes. With a few exceptions, little has been published on coach development and the literature evidences its strong emphasis on client development leaving a vital knowledge gap in coaches’ learning and development. This study aims to address this void by exploring experienced coaches’ experience of their developmental journeys by employing Interpretative Phenomenological analysis (IPA) as a research methodology

June 2022 – first in-person meeting since lockdown

This meeting was important in terms of signifying the first in-person meeting to share heartfelt gratitude that we had all lived to tell the tale. And to congratulate ourselves on the success of our Zoom-based conferences that kept the momentum flowing. It was at this meeting that heard of Bob’s becoming project and revived our interest in picking up on our own project that was picking up steam during covid.

Formalising the Becoming Project: scope and purpose

 At this point in late 2022, this episodic inquiry became formalised. We adopted the term ‘becoming’ with regard to the emergent nature of what we are inquiring into. A principal purpose of this inquiry is to help participants discover something that we each know and cherish about ourselves that we didn’t know before. This inquiry goes beyond the confines of professional coaching roles, to address the whole person in relationship to the individual’s lived life, including their relationship to coaching

The project is primarily for the benefit of the inquirers, in line with fundamental  ‘action research’ principles. It does not plan to feature classical research outcomes such as peer-reviewed papers or material for conferences that, at times, enhance the researcher above the researched. The primary reason for engaging in action research is ‘to assist the actor in improving or refining his or her actions.’

CCG Becoming Project Framework

This early project formation birthed four regional groups who each set their individual direction, within some broad guidelines and shared time frames. These four groups, based in London, Bristol, Sheffield, and Devon, have met in person, but also online and in a combination of pairs and trios to progress the work.  The plan was for each regional grouping to generate their own ‘makings,’ including, but not limited to, writing, drawings, diagrams, objects of inspiration, photos, voice recordings, and snatches of jazz, to be collectively shared at the 9 October gathering.

An early prompt question was, ‘how would you describe a pivotal/seminal moment in your passage towards coaching becoming’

The Bristol group followed a pattern of pairs and trio activities designed to generate makings. These participants then came together on 8th June at Arnos Manor to share collective makings, and to refine their collective making – a series of collages to take forward to the CCG-wide gathering on 9 October 2023. The London group met twice, sharing written makings, and supporting each other in their inquiries offline. The Sheffield meeting was confounded by snow, but have coalesced around Bob Garvey’s continuing inquiry. The Devon group has met once.  It was anticipated that considerable personal and professional development will accrue from participation in this project – and that bonds and networks will be deepened and strengthened. This outcome has eventuated in abundance as the project has progressed. 

The methodology. 

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 on Interpretative Phenomenology and Hermeneutics as it concerns an inquiry into lived experience, and the process of sense-making from the same inquiry. We have chosen the term ‘becoming’ with regard to the emergent nature of what we are inquiring into, which is about what we are ‘becoming,’ and also considers ‘how we are becoming.’ The first in-person meeting in Bristol reinforced the notion that a principal purpose of this inquiry is to help participants to discover something that we each now know and cherish about ourselves that we didn’t know before. 

The project is primarily for the benefit of the inquirers, in line with essential action research principles. It does not have to feature classical research outcomes such as peer-reviewed papers or material for conferences that, at times, enhance the researcher above the researched. A driving force behind this inquiry has been an urge to return to the CCG roots as a space for deep inquiry that illumines the field.

September 2023 curation of individual articles for Special Edition of the AMED journal ‘e-Organisations and People’

Bob Garvey, when working on the publication of pieces falling out of the major Rajasinghe et al project, discovered an opportunity for individual writers within the CCG ‘becoming’ groups to contribute short 1500-word pieces reflecting on their individual becoming journeys, the deadline for end September being met by seven contributors. This activity is now in the hands of Bob and the AMED editor Pauline Willis, who will progress this in due course. If nothing else, this invitation has prompted a decided acceleration in the production and sharing of written pieces.

October 9th 2023 CCG Becoming Gathering at Arnos Manor   

This meeting was designed to pull together all of the various makings from the various regional becoming meetings. This sharing resulted in the identification of 16 broad themes. These themes are now being further worked up by participants to a point of agreement, at which point the group will decide where these themes go from here. A summary of this gathering is attached.

CCG book – a collection of becoming accounts, to be published in late 2023.

Daniel Doherty has agreed to curate and take to publication a collection of becoming accounts, for which high appetite was expressed, particularly among those who have part completed their work.

To move this along, I suggest a word limit of 1500 – 4500 words, though it could be at either end of the scale.

It would be really helpful if submissions were proofed for typos and grammticos – otherwise I may have to charge a small fee for so doing.

CCG Graphics collection

In addition to the Book collection, it was suggested by Mary that we might also pull together visual representations, including collages, Venn diagrams etc,  for sharing and distribution, online or in book form.

25th April 2024 – in-person gathering to continue Becoming work.

16 / 17th October In person – just for us.

9th October Emergent Themes

  1. The nature of wisdom – and how that shows up in our work
  • The search for personal truth
  • The use of powerful  personal  accidents, ricochets, and interruptions to  deepen our interventions
  • Curiosity as a driving force – nosiness
  • Revealing vulnerabilities – self and clients
  • Shame
  • Being on the outside, becoming on the outside  
  • Personal origin stories, foundation stories, the weaving of narrative
  • The resistance to name or categorise our practice
  1. Is coaching a bullshit job – pure social construction
  1. Stripped back – what is at the heart of coaching practice – that never goes away
  1. Pervasive ambiguity, ambivalences, paradox, and a sense it will never be finished
  1. Is this CCG group at beyond conventional coaching in our career stage?
  1. Is coaching as a profession moving towards peak coaching
  1. Transitions – at a personal level but also at the macro level for the profession – and client perceptions of what it is – and whether it is needed
  1. Writing as a sense-making practice

What happens after coaching?

what comes after coaching? we considered a number of levels eg what comes after coaching for the client, for the coaching, what comes after coaching for the coaching profession, and what happens for the coach when the economic need for coaching goes?

This theme will continue to emerge

Daniel Doherty on discovering the CCG ‘becoming’ process.  

Daniel Doherty on discovering the ‘becoming’ process.  

Following the two days we spent together on 9th October 2023 exploring the becoming theme,  I sent out a summary of the day and my understanding of the next steps. I also put together a narrative regarding the genesis of the Becoming project. The latter part caused me to reflect on just how long this ‘becoming’ project has been bumping around in its various forms both within the CCG as well as in my and others’ minds, including `David Megginson, Kerry Phillips, Bob Garvey, and others.

One reflection is that – whilst we were pushing for some kind of outcome from our time together to progress and distil the ‘becoming’ work – it was said by a number of people, particularly those who were joining us in person for the first time, that much of the power of the day lay in us being together, physically, breathing the same air while in conversation with each other. For those participants, something shifted in the process that was an outcome in itself. That is true not only for newcomers but also for us veterans who recognise afresh the power of us being, thinking and feeling together

If action research is for the benefit of the participant researchers and the generation of their insights, then all the evidence would suggest that the CCG delivers this handsomely.

This latest search for our ‘becoming’ made me curious to delve more deeply into CCG history. In doing so, I discovered that there is a remarkable consistency, over that history, of participants valuing the connection of being there together and all that that brings, as much as any tangible outcomes such as research papers or findings that may result from our musings. Judy Madavo, who has been with the CCG for quite a while, but who was visiting us in person for the first time, from South Africa, noted, at one point, ‘This is different from networking, isn’t it?’ I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment. We are not a Round Table Business Breakfast Club. We exchange far more than business cards, without future transactional benefits in view.

The power of being together online is strong but is immeasurably deepened by being together in person. So many commented on how it was to meet, face to face, someone that they’ve got to know only over Zoom; and in that momentary encounter discover fresh dimensions of that person as they meet them naturally in a real-life setting. This would argue strongly for us to maintain the mix of in-person and online to really deepen our joint discoveries and our relationships.

The strength of these in-person relationships has been built not only through our meetings in Bristol but also through the regional meetings that we have convened throughout the year. These regional gatherings are clearly easier to set up and have the same wonderful tangible benefits of in-person connection on a smaller scale. Furthermore, the assembly in Bristol of regional groupings who had already laid down strong bonds with each other has helped accelerate the building of trust and openness across the wider group.

I’ve had some really gratifying emails back from a number of you reinforcing the power of us being together in person as being a primary benefit of the CCG for them, beyond the ephemeral but nonetheless tantalising goal of crystalising what we understand becoming to be. One person said that she was looking forward to next October’s meeting for more of the same – and I share her anticipation.

It has been fascinating to go down the rabbit hole of the history of ‘becoming’ research within the CCG, reminding me of several rather obvious things that we have nevertheless failed to mention of late, but which you need to hear. One is that conventional coach training and accreditation, regardless of how powerful it is, typically terminates at a point of attaining  ‘mastery,’ or whatever the point is at which candidates are fully credentialed. What follows from that formal recognition is a scattering of CPD activities that they may or may not take up to fulfill ‘renewal’ criteria.  

Since the inception of CCG in 2006, we have discovered within our CCG members a restlessness to continuously learn that goes beyond conventionally prescribed boundaries of attainment. Indeed, it was the felt need to fill this gap that caused the CCG to come into being in the first place. And that is one function that CCG continues to serve; to be a place for seasoned practitioners – who are well developed in their practice – to reflect with fellow travelers as to where they have arrived, and where they might take their journey next. Feedback from this week reinforces that CCG continues to provide this purpose just by virtue of us getting together almost regardless of whatever the particular theme in hand might be for each particular gathering – although the focus on ‘becoming’ has proved an enduring focus, circling back into our conversations in various forms over the past 18 years.

I am also reminded, as I reflect, that, three years ago, part of the impetus for this ‘maturity’ focus was that we were aware of a growing demand for coaching services from clients who are approaching their ‘third age’ or later career stage. What we discovered to be common across such clients was that, within their particular professions, there was no defined developmental passageway beyond that which they had already achieved perhaps even 20 or 30 years ago. What these clients were seeking was support from a ‘soul guide’ as much as a performance coach to help them work through their transition through this phase of their lives. And it transpires that their preference in seeking such support was to turn towards a coach who has done the ‘becoming’ work for themselves and were somewhat advanced in years. It seems clear that such clients are likely to recognise authentic ‘becomers’ over those following some hand-me-down becoming formula or toolkit that they are invited to follow.

At a personal level, I notice that those clients or colleagues coming towards me for coaching nowadays are those facing major becoming or unbecoming transitions at a later stage in their lives. Not only are they coming to me. I’m moving towards them as well, instinctively. It could well be that, if this is our coaching demography, then the more we understand about becoming, the better enabled we are to assist clients in navigating around their becoming’s twists and turns.

While I fully acknowledge that being together is an end in itself, it is also deeply gratifying to know that we are embarking once more into an action research process. Looking back over our history, our foundation story was the development of just such action research projects and inquiries, based upon deep participation by the CCG members themselves. It may be that we have drifted some way away from that of late. We have not lost the benefits that accrue from us being together as being valuable in its own right. And we have been enriched by hearing from outside speakers on the discoveries they have made from their own research out in the world. But for me, that does not beat all of us being actively engaged in action research and discovering what that might mean, and how it lifts their insights and understanding.

People over the two days asked me how this research fits with the next stages in Bob Garvey’s ‘becoming’ research. It is a good question, but not one to which I have a definite answer. The best I say is that both of these inquiries run in parallel. And it may well be that at some point next year, we can begin to look at how the findings might speak one to another. Bob is still very much a part of our group and is also playing this role of getting some of our becoming writing out into the academic milieu, so the connection with that will not be lost.

One thing I would say is that our research methods are different in kind. Not that one is better than the other, but they’re different. If you remember Bob’s study relied upon a number of academic inquirers interviewing later-stage coaches in great depth; and then bringing together their findings to coalesce the four or five key themes that emerged. In that sense, the findings were mediated. What we’re embarking on does not have that mediation. Instead, we are doing our best to make sense, jointly, of experiences that we’re having commonly or differently, then attempting to draw some thematic findings and conclusions from that. It will be fascinating to see how these findings chime with those coming out of Bob’s study.

It is marvelous to have among us still CCG members who are still deeply immersed in formal academic studies. This brings a different rigour and theoretical framework to our deliberations as we continue to divine our experiential and reflective findings.

Going through the CCG history has been both fascinating and moving. So many names have come and gone, while many are still with us. And there are ghosts. I don’t often use the term ‘proud’ but when I think of and read off again the contributions that David Megginson and Kerry Phillips, now gone, have made have made to our understanding of our world, placing at it a moral centre, then I feel that, from afar, they would be proud of the extent of which we have continued this critical and moral tradition in our work. To progress and deepen and honour the work that matters in the face of so many commercial and ego-based distractions that could have driven our work to a different place.

Emerging from the rabbit hole, I looked again at the listing of themes, and the scattered quotes that I have assembled under each theme. At first, that idea of clustering was making sense in my mind; but then it all began to break down. I needed to ask, what were these themes that we were clustering? Were they characteristics of becomers? Or developmental pathways that becomers had to follow to emerge – only to unbecome, then become once more, on the road to ephemeral wisdom?  Or was there something else beneath all of that that we only dimly perceive?

As I began to construct sentences out of the various thematic quotes, then the difficulties inherent in coherently clustering and expression became increasingly apparent. I was well aware that my interpretation could be quite distinct from another’s who was in the room that day in Bristol. I was also aware of the dangers of reducing our sense-making beyond meaning, through forced generalisation and connection. Reductio ad absurdum.

This impasse drove me to ponder as to whether it is actually possible to break down these stories into themes, without doing damage to the original narratives. Perhaps the power lies in the telling of the unique story alone, where the power lies in the parable and whatever it is that the listener may take from that parable. And if the various parables that we have collected dance together, that is fine, if not then we leave them as they are.

The CCG history tells me that we have been here before, at the door of seeking a synthesis of our becoming, then backing off, lest we damage what we have tenderly unearthed. It is tempting, when looking at the sequence of earlier forays into becoming, to suggest that there is a convergent process that we have progressively refined, towards yielding a terminal point, especially where it might join with contemporary findings such as those of Bob’s study, which for now terminate in peer-reviewed journals.

To suggest that there is no endpoint is not to counsel futility. If we keep returning to the same place, if we accept that becoming is a perpetual process, that it is never static; and that there are layers and levels of knowing that it is fascinating to return to, then our time is not wasted. If there are landings along the way, then these are temporary landings, because the innate restlessness or a provocation or interruption from outside will start the process all over again. There is a provisionally, a temporariness, a circularity that we need to accept as an intrinsic part of this becoming work. Looking at our history is rather like reading back through old personal journals and discovering the same questions, the same dilemmas recurring time after time after time, in cursive fashion, just strongly as before. Just when we thought we had moved on from being driven by such dilemmas, we discover them all over again. These questions are part of us.

If we cannot generalise about becoming, take it to a still point, then what can we do? Well, we can further refine our personal stories, to enable us to get in touch with our own becoming process and discover what blocks it. We may even decide to land for a while and see what happens on that plateau, at that place of rest, for a while. But in the knowledge that we are likely to move on.

Does knowledge of our becoming better enable us to work with other’s becoming, as their coach or guide? Perhaps it does. The evidence would suggest it does, when clients say in different ways, ‘you know what I am facing.’ Or perhaps it’s just us being nosy again, unable to stop ourselves from poking around in other people’s stories. Even the attraction of this collective becoming inquiry could be a proxy, yet another opportunity to poke around in the stories of others, on the pretext of seeing what we can jointly make of them.

This becoming is a journey without a terminus, and I think we all know that. And it could be that the CCG is the living embodiment of coach maturity, informed by an awareness of the underlying becoming and unbecoming processes in life, to which are becoming increasingly attenuated. The more we know our own journey into becoming, the better able we are to support each other in their journey too, within the CCG and without. And we know this is tough work to do alone – the deepest self-development requires the presence of others.  

In all of this, there is a deep sense of unknowing that requires embracing if we are to eventually make anything of this at all. I have pushed on to interpret the clusters – and would be most interested to hear what you think this rendition might represent.

Becoming themes

Our session on 9th October revealed the following provisional description of becoming themes – these are the themes we will continue to work on through 2024.

Becoming themes for CCG 09 10 23

Becomers are well aware of the need to attend to their ‘becoming,’in addition to their unbecoming, a process through which they let go of one state to allow another transitional stage, to emerge. Becomers are wary of wisdom being conferred upon them, and they certainly would never seek the wise appellation. They are well aware that being perceived as wise by one client does not necessarily mean that this manifestation of wisdom will prove true in all instances.

They are aware that aspects of their personal ‘truth’ shifts over time, while aspects remain constant as core beliefs.  To that end, becomers stay true to the foundation story they tell, and work not to embellish that origin narrative retrospectively.  Becomers are fully aware of the power of narrative as it shapes their own and their clients’ worlds. They know that life stories rarely run along straight lines but are interrupted and diverted by forces from within and without. They are fully aware that individual lives are full of tensions and paradoxes, which require courage if one is to journey into unknowing.

Part of the journey is to face exploring vulnerabilities and allowing their expression.

The nature of wisdom, and how that shows up in our work.

Mary Oliver reminds us that, ‘I’m not trying to be wise, that’s foolish.’

And so, we ask ourselves, when do pretensions towards wisdom, and self-conscious projections of wisdom, look like foolishness?

And when can foolishness serve as a proxy for wisdom? We do not need to look much further than the archetype of the jester, the magician, the clown, to understand just how many different ways wisdom can be served.

One thing for sure is that attempts to confer wisdom upon ourselves rarely work;  or, even if they work for a while, they are rarely sustainable. All too soon it is obvious to all the self-styled wise person has feet made of clay, that the emperor is manifestly unclad. We may give permission to others to be wise, we may defer to hierarchical or positional wisdom, while knowing that what we seem to be marching in lockstep with has little lasting power once the hierarchical positioning has been removed.

We know that true wisdom can be conferred only by others. Wisdom it’s bigger than us. It cannot be claimed by an individual. It can only be named by someone else, if indeed it is explicitly announced at all. It can only be known when they are in receipt of it or witnessing it.

Can we consciously try to become wise? It is unlikely. Becoming wise is not a conscious or deliberate becoming. Is wisdom possessed within the person innately, and if so is it unchangeable?

Is wisdom beyond self-consciousness, fully out of our awareness? Does it emerge through a process of assimilation? Is there some osmotic process whereby we become wise? And, once wisdom lands, does that mean we possess wisdom forever? Or can wisdom be corrupted, to be replaced by other less sanitary characteristics that nonetheless present themselves in the name of wisdom?

Is wisdom synonymous with ageing? In some societies wisdom is automatically conferred upon the elder; although this deference may be lip service only, doing little harm until what comes out of the elder’s mouth is folly to those around them. Some coaches, as they age, promote elderhood for themselves. Titular eldership brings many problems with it.

We can of course turn to Blake to understand the price of experience; and also perhaps to chime with his finding that wisdom his seldom a market where no one wants to buy.

The search for the personal truth or being true.

Our deliberations regarding truth centred on the question of personal truth. There is the question of being true or being true to a sense of truthfulness if that makes any sense

At a personal level, it presents itself as a number of questions. These would include, ‘What truth do I make up and stick to regardless?’ This is not quite the same thing as lying, but maybe it’s close enough to the line between lying and not lying.

‘So how do I stop telling ‘my truth’ when I know it’s untrue.’

‘If I’m persisting with the telling of truth that I know to be verifiably untrue, then I have to ask what these truths are protecting me from?’

‘And I need to ask whether I’d be better served to move towards a process of letting go? or of retelling of a truth in a different way that better resembles my reality and the reality of those around them.’

‘I need to ask myself the question how much is the telling of my truth serving me, and how do I know it is not.’

Perhaps the answer is that, if our truths are no longer honouring our essence, then we need to move beyond that truth; abandon it altogether or find a way to reframe it.

We may even need to make amends for the damage our untruth has inflicted.

Behind all of this lies a wish to protect what is sacred to us. To protect that part of ourselves that speaks to a sense of our humanness, it speaks to a gap or an absence. Or speaks to the recall of a distance relationship, where listening is needed. Personal truth may well reside in humanity. Truth and humanity could be different notes in a piece of music, representing the diversity of voices in the room

Personal origin stories, foundation stories, and the weaving of narrative

This process of weaving a personal origin story is almost akin to creating a word map. This map may look something like a web of connections in terms of events and relationships. The mapping pays attention to what we notice, and how the relationship between things and people is formed. In pursuit of this, it may be best to deploy systems thinking, which helps create a sense of space speaking to our place in outer space while relating to life experience

In the creation of our origin stories, we need to make connections between our past and current stories. We need to look at the stories behind the stories, the double narrative, and try to understand how these narratives shift over time. Storytelling and repeated storytelling can help bring to awareness this sense of shift.

There’s a relationship between the reciting of personal narratives and revealing our vulnerabilities.

We need to look at what is OK and safe to share, to know what it is that we can bring up in coaching conversations and what it is not safe to do so. We need to notice what in our client work is shaping their story. What are the thoughts and feelings revealed – and how do clients make sense through patterns of connection that lead to insight

And there needs to be the intersection on the `Venn diagram that speaks to the relationship between stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves; stories we tell others about ourselves; and stories others tell about us, when we are out of the room.

Being on the outside becoming on the outside

To some extent, all we change interventionists are on the outside. We ask ourselves questions such as,

‘how does it feel to occupy conventional and unconventional spaces and places at the same time?’

‘What tactics do we deploy to be outside of convention in our practice and yet to be working within the conventional session setting?’

‘What do we have to draw upon to be able to manage that tension? and what anchors do we have?’

‘What are the stories that support that positioning of yourself on the edge when you work at the centre of a structured world

Pervasive ambiguity, ambivalences tensions paradox, and a sense that will never be finished

There is the need in this work, in part to stay sane, to describe tensions in the work and in ourselves. To seek out transitional spaces to work the liminal, even to physically coach in transitional spaces such as train stations.

Much of our work is a dance between choice and ambiguity. We need to be OK with not knowing, patient with waiting for something to emerge

An important part of this is to discover the tensions in play as we intervene, not only tensions in the diad but the tensions within ourselves between unbecoming and unbecoming, between learning and unlearning.

As coaches, we often occupy A liminal space that can be dark vulnerable uncertain, full of opportunities both exciting and lonely

The resistance to being named as a ‘coach’ or as any other alternative designation may well be reflective of this embracing of ambiguity.

The power of powerful personal accidents, ricochets, or interruptions to deepen our interventions

‘Have I become anything? And if so has this been by intention or is life a series of accidents that we ricochet off?’

 And do we in the ricochet head towards a cliff where we fall? And if so, is there at the bottom of the cliff a trampoline to rescue us or do we crash to our doom?

Taliesin – a forgotten story about a female deity?

The witch called Ceridwen – Taliesin stirred the magic cauldron of wisdom and sucked his thumb. But it’s not about a witch and cauldron as wisdom has to be incubated. Wisdom arises but needs to be noticed and incubated (suck your thumb).

What we cannot assume is that our suffering will automatically make us wise. Our suffering is not immediately transferable to someone undergoing an apparently similar suffering.

 Yet we do know that interruptions that have been served upon us in an unwelcome way have in the end made us stronger.

 How do we work with others who are suffering interruptions? and how do we find a way to get into the flow?

And then there’s the working with chance, and there is taking a chance.  

Revealing vulnerabilities, our own vulnerabilities, and those of our clients

There is bravery in throwing all the balls of one’s life up into the air and waiting for them to fall. For this to happen best there is a sense of wanting them to be thrown, of wanting to explore where they land, and know what is becoming in the pattern that they form

There is little doubt that the use of imagery and dreams helps us to know this edge better. It’s good to ask what it feels like at the edge of questioning. dreams can be used to inform our daily lives

And there are times when actual stories about cliffs and discoveries can actually help metaphorise less tangible choices that face us.

Vulnerability is never far away and is easier to avoid it than to talk about it or to reveal it. But taking a risk of disclosure through writing, through dialogue is an important step in understanding the power of directly addressing vulnerability. The more that the coach has explored and grown comfortable with their own vulnerability, the more able they are to assist a client who is also in an approach: avoid cycle with their own vulnerability.


One part of revealing vulnerability is to reflect upon shaming experiences or actions that are disturbing either in the recent present or in the past. The need here is to explore what causes discomfort, what carries dissonance, and to begin to ask how that might be addressed

There is a relationship between guilt and shame that needs to be unpacked.

Curiosity as a driving force and the power of nosiness

Are coaches simply nosy people who are looking to commodify the nosiness, to make a virtue out of it in their work? It is certainly true that without curiosity it is unlikely that coaches will be able to serve others and anyway

We are all built of layers in our lives, bearing stratifications of the earth.

If you’re looking for water; then if you go deep enough you will find what you’re looking for

Writing as a sense-making practice

‘The writing process has opened the door for me and my fear of writing about myself has been overcome.’

‘Is there a need for everything to be marked confidential or can I go beyond that and put stuff out in the world?

The more we think about the ephemerality of writing we are reminded that it is all en passant.

What happens to our writing after we have died? is it simply cleared out like Keri’s study?

Is death the ultimate unbecoming?

Coach ‘Becoming’ Research Project 2023

The Bristol Becoming Group at the fabled Arnos Manor Hotel.

An inquiry into coaches’ transitions as they experience ‘becoming.’

We have chosen this term ‘becoming’ with regard to the emergent nature of what we are inquiring into. The essence of this research concerns what we are ‘becoming,’ and also considers ‘how we are becoming.’ Our recent meeting in Bristol  reinforced the notion that a principal purpose of this inquiry is to help participants discover something that we each know and cherish about ourselves that we didn’t know before.  This inquiry goes beyond the confines of professional coaching roles, to address the whole person in relationship to the individual’s lived life, including their relationship to coaching 

The project is primarily for the benefit of the inquirers,  in line with essential action research principles. It does not plan to feature classical research outcomes such as peer reviewed papers or material for conferences that, at times, enhance the researcher above the researched. 

CCG Becoming Project Framework

There are now four regional grouping who are setting their own direction within some broad guidelines and shared time frames: London, Bristol, Sheffield, Devon. It is preferable for these groups to meet in person, but not essential.  The good news to date is that most have been strongly attended, which gives us a clue to the seriousness with which this work is regarded.  

Each regional grouping will generate their own ‘makings,’ which will include, but not limited to, writing, drawings, diagrams, objects of inspiration, photos, voice recordings,  snatches of jazz. 

The Bristol group is following the pattern of pairs activities designed to generate makings. These pairs will then come together on 8th June at Arnos Manor to share collective makings, and to discover whether or not there is a collective making to take forward to the CCG wide gathering on 9 October 2023. 

These makings will then shared in a whole CCG celebration planned for 9th October 2023 at Arnos Manor, where Leslie Goldenberg will  once again join us from California.  We plan that at least one representative, preferably more,  from each regional group with be there to share their makings.

background to this research.

Background to this inquiry

This inquiry can be traced back to the 2021 CCG conference on ‘coaching at a later age,’ based around Daniel Doherty’s 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. This enterprise was accelerated by a recent session on ‘coach identity,’ convened by the Association for Coaching Research Special Interest Group, and led by CCG members Roger Bretherton and Adrienne Rosen, which led to several us sharing our personal and professional ‘cliffs’ or transitions in the form of writing and in conversation. 

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 have explore in depth with Bob during several of our 2023 during in-the-room sessions.  

Project method

  1. 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.  
  2. Sharing of narratives in pairs – individuals may be involved in a number of pairings 
  3. Coming together as a group virtually, and in person, to reflect on themes and patterns that emerge with regard to coach becoming and coach maturity 

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. 

Prompt question: 

‘how would you describe a pivotal / seminal passage in your passage towards coaching becoming?

The methodology. 

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.