From the President

by Bob Tschannen-Moran, IAC-CC

The IAC: Bringing Coaching to Society

On March 19, 2011, I had the opportunity to give the keynote address at a coaching conference co-sponsored by the Chinese Professional Coach Development Association and the International Association of Coaching in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. More than 100 people were in attendance and there was great enthusiasm—not only for coaching but for the vision of coaching professionalism, values, and certification put forward by the IAC.

Below is an edited version of the speech I gave, which was presented in both English and Mandarin Chinese through an interpreter. I hope it gives you a glimpse of that vision and a sense of what people got so excited about.

First I want to acknowledge and thank the many people who have made it possible for me to be here today: The Chinese Professional Coach Development Association, especially thank those members who worked so hard to coordinate everything with me ahead of time, Edward Chen, Jinny Wang and Shunyi Lee. Without them, this Forum would not be happening and I would not be here. Thanks for your great work and generous hospitality!

I have been asked to talk today about “Bringing Coaching to Society.” That’s a big topic! To gain perspective, let’s make sure we understand what we mean by “coaching.” In one sense, coaching does not have to be brought to society. It has always been in society! Since the beginning of time, each generation and each family and each person has sought to help others find their way. Without coaching there would be no society. It is how we learn and how we get things done.

Consider the descriptions of coaching taken from the recently-completed IAC strategic plan. We use terms like “a powerful, co-creative process,” a “well-accepted, recognized and necessary intervention,” an “approach that is complimentary to many disciplines and professions,” a “required module of the curricula for those disciplines,” as well as a “powerful, viral process.”

To what end, then, does coaching work in society? Our strategic plan uses words like “achievement,” “growth,” “development,” “problem solving,” “paradigm shift,” “learning,” “respect for humanity,” “awareness” and “evolution.” My favorite word, however, comes from the definition of coaching that appears on our website: “transformation.”

Coaching in society is not a paper tiger. It is a real threat to the status quo, because coaching is all about change in the direction of life-giving values. Those values, also identified in the IAC strategic plan, include “openness,” “transparency,” “trust,” “sustainability,” “responsibility,” “integrity,” “diversity,” “inclusiveness,” “partnership,” “caring,” “abundance thinking” and “inner peace.”

I know of no other coaching association that has identified such a clear set of revolutionary values. Whether we name them or not, all coaching embodies and generates values. We think of coaching as being client-centered and client-driven, but that is only part of the story. The relationships that we form, the listening that we do, the empathy that we offer, the questions that we ask, the possibilities that we consider, and the designs that we co-construct are all value-centered and value-driven. In the case of the IAC, we are clear as to where we come from and the kind of impact we hope coaching will have on society.

And coaching IS revolutionary, on all levels of society. It is not possible to increase the awareness and responsibility of individual actors without having a destabilizing influence on the powers that be. When the locus of control shifts from extrinsic to intrinsic frames, when people become more aware of their own needs and take more responsibility for meeting those needs, when people stop waiting for permission and start doing things in the service of those life-enhancing values, then coaching has truly become a profound and helpful catalyst for transformational change.

Seth Godin, marketing guru and thought leader extraordinaire, refers to the effect of coaching in terms of initiative. Seth writes:

"Who is in charge of motivation at the average company? Who is in charge of starting stuff? Who is in charge of taking initiative? Who is in charge of poking around, taking risks, testing assumptions, playing with variables, and discovering what happens? Who is in charge of saying, 'Yes, let’s try a different approach!'"? (Seth Godin, 2011, Poke the Box)

His point, of course, is that we are all in charge of that. Anyone, at any level, in any organization or setting in life, can decide to take initiative. We don’t have to have a brilliant idea; we just have to have an idea and we have to do something about it. Babies do this naturally. They see something they don’t know anything about and they immediately stick it in their mouths. They touch it, play with it, explore it, and try to figure out what happens when they do this or that. Sometimes they get burned, of course, figuratively and/or literally. But the next day, they are back at it again. Little children are naturally curious and motivated to take action. They are moving all the time, conducting experiments and learning the ropes as they go.

Somehow, through communication and consequence, that natural curiosity and motivation gets beaten out of people as we get older. We get criticized or burned one too many times and we decide, “I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not going to try that again. I’m not going to set things in motion. I’m not going to put myself or my ideas out there. I’m just going to keep my head down and play it safe. No more initiative for me.”

Fortunately, holding back and self-censoring is not the whole story. We all have special moments of letting go and self-expression. Finding and fanning the flames of such moments is what coaching is all about. Coaches empower people to find and raise their voices; to take initiative and to instigate the things that would make life more wonderful for both themselves and others.

That is what the IAC hopes coaching will elicit as people begin to perceive their potential (IAC Coaching Mastery #2), process in the present (Mastery #4), explore possibilities (Mastery #5), and build supportive environments (Mastery #9).

Coaching in society is a revolutionary activity, at least when it’s done in the IAC way. If all of the activity taking place in the name of coaching were to be practiced in alignment with the values and Masteries® of the IAC, then surely coaching would be a powerful and progressive movement for change in the modern world. That is one reason I have given so much of myself and my own leadership to the IAC. And that is also why I am so thrilled to be part of this Coaching Forum here today.

Asia rising is not just about software, call centers, and manufacturing. It is about coaching in the best sense of the word. It is about taking the lead in human development so that our planet becomes ever more open, transparent, trustworthy, sustainable, inclusive, collaborative, caring, generous, and peaceful. It is about building social capital by increasing self-awareness and self-responsibility for life.

May you be filled with goodness, peace and joy,

Bob Tschannen-Moran, IAC-CC, is CEO & Co-Founder of the Center for School Transformation and President of LifeTrek Coaching International. Bob has co-authored a new book, titled Evocative Coaching, which incorporates the IAC Coaching Masteries® in a coaching model designed for leaders and coaches in K-12 schools.

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