Western institutions produce the bulk of coaching research. As the field grows globally, international scholars will lead the way in shaping contextually relevant coaching practices.
The Future of Coaching goes beyond Western lenses
Throughout all three days of the Convening, Wisdom Weavers emphasized that coaching research and practice are positioned for exponential growth in the coming years. One central area for development is understanding what is universal about coaching and what is context-specific. Around the globe, coaches have a unique opportunity to contribute to a greater understanding of how coaching competencies and skills can be further developed to be culturally specific.
Coaching is already a global discipline. In 2020, the International Coaching Federation estimated that there were over 70,000 coaches around the world. Other regional coaching bodies include the African Executive Coaching Council, European Mentoring and Coaching Council, and Associazione Italiana Coach Professionisti. However, the models that guide coaching practice are less diverse. Jonathan Passmore explains:
“[Research] has been very much concentrated in maybe WEIRD samples, so we are focused on white, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic societies. How do we start to as researchers begin to engage in other societies where the samples are different from these; are the answers going to be the same?… how do we begin to think about engaging in a way that doesn’t simply assume that the McDonalds-ization of coaching, the model that we’ve created in our own experiences in the UK or in the US, the hamburger version of coaching, is equally delicious in Nigeria or in Korea or in Indonesia?”
If coaches outside of these “WEIRD” contexts use predominantly Western models, they may be under-equipped to serve their clients effectively. On Day Two of the Convening, Christian van Nieuwerburgh explained how he worked with executive coach Raja’a Yousif Allaho to develop a framework for coaching in Islamic cultures. Without creating a new framework and language to explain coaching in the Middle East, Christian explains that the Western model can sometimes compete with the values of his clients. Organizations in Southeast Asia have also been working to create unique ways of coaching that work for Asian professionals, athletes, and organizations.
Reflecting on his work with the International Coaching Federation, Morel Fourman emphasizes that inviting diverse voices to develop an international view of coaching takes intentional effort:
“It’s not about including them in our conversation. It’s with humility, listening out to different cultures’ mindsets, populations, language, groups, and listening to what the same pattern of one human being creating a conversation with another, which adds value to one or both. Then we might get a glimpse of what the cutting edge might be… we want to listen into different coaching cultures.”
Institutions must invest in international research, beyond Western societies
Research must ultimately guide changes in practice. Ellen Van Oosten reflects, “[the] Anglo-Saxon perspective, the US-based kind of influence around how we might study coaching [is] insufficient, and we need to really incorporate a much broader kind of cultural lens.”
Similarly, Jonathan Passmore lists multiculturalism in coaching as a major priority for the future of the field. In his talk on Day One of the 2021 Future of Coaching Convening, he posed the question, “how do we begin to think about amplifying African and Asian models of coaching, how do we begin to think about researching those with samples that are different to those that we’ve used before?”
Elevating new or unconventional voices requires training, resources, and time. If institutions are not able or willing to tangibly invest in the development of international scholars or research in minority contexts, progress will be slow. Discussing other gaps in coaching research, Wisdom Weavers lamented that recruiting large and diverse sample sizes is costly and challenging for all researchers. They suggest collaborating both within and outside the field of coaching to pool resources for heightened impact. In the end, investing in diverse research gives coaches in any context a greater understanding of how to serve clients from different cultures and how adapting their methods can enhance the coaching relationship and outcomes.
Coaching associations and accrediting bodies can also support international development in coaching. Beyond translating coaching knowledge into multiple languages, associations can invite non-traditional voices to share their expertise even when it contradicts current practice. As Morel Fourman notes, “we can’t just export coaching, we have to become learners from different cultures of coaching, and then we might deserve the role of being a vehicle for coaching and a voice for coaching in the world.”
Coaching and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Coaches are uniquely equipped to guide individuals, organizations, communities, and policymakers to enhance mutual understanding. Coaches who serve their clients using culturally relevant frameworks and tools can more effectively support United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 10 to reduce inequalities. Institutions and sponsors can further promote culturally adaptive coaching research and practice by supporting new voices in the field.
About this Convening
Forty-one Wisdom Weavers from across the globe gathered to share their thoughts and observations on Shaping the Future of Coaching across three separate Future of Coaching Convenings in September 2021. Learn more about the participants and topics covered in this Convening.
For the complete report and research recommendations, see Boyatzis, R.E., Hullinger, A., Ehasz, S.F., Harvey, J., Tassarotti, S., Gallotti, A., & Penafort, F. (2022). The grand challenge for research on the future of coaching. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. DOI: 10.1177/00218863221079937