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Bob Garvey: There is no profession without research.
Episode 420th February 2023 • ONCoaching • Zoltán Csigás
00:00:00 01:07:14

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Professor Robert – Bob – Garvey PhD, FHEA, FRSA, is one of Europe's leading academic practitioners of coaching and mentoring and an experienced coach/mentor. A prolific writer with a number of books under his belt, one of the original founders of EMCC, the European Mentoring and Coaching Council and an exceptional researcher. He was the MBA director at Durham University, Director of the Coaching and Mentoring Research Unit at Sheffield Hallam University. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and of the Royal Society of Arts… and even more.

In this episode we cover a wide range of topics, including ideas around the dimensions of contracts in coaching, the concept of the “skilled coachee” to start with. Further key points are the “truth positions in research” and the discourses regarding the coaching profession that provide a rich opportunity of reflection for practitioners and researchers alike.


Zoltán Csigás:

Hello, my name is authentic ash. And this is authentic focused on coaching. In the series, I'm talking with internationally renowned coaching scientists and coaches. We explore their personal and professional insights on the science of coaching, and on the helping professions. Are you interested in how they got close to his profession? Are you curious about the new frontiers they are exploring right now? Join me and listen to the conversation, inspiration, and some fun is ahead. Welcome, I'm very happy to have you here. And my guest for today's session is Bob Garvey, a professor emeritus, one of the founders of EMC see an author with a number of books out there. I'm happy to have you, Bob.


Thank you. It's very nice to be here as lovely, thank you. Thank you for asking me. It's good. Yep. And

Zoltán Csigás:

our aim with this podcast with this series is to take a sneak peek behind the scenes of coaching, research, what is going on, in the places where all the science is broken up? That's why I invited you and thank you, again, for being here with us. Take your opinion on what's going on in the world of coaching or mentoring science? What are the research trends here. And I'm happy to have all of your insights here. And we can get into the middle of it. I would love to have a few words about you. And I think if I have missed from the quick introduction, what should we know about you that others may not be aware of


I live in the city of York in the north east of the UK. And it's a very historic city. And if you've never been here, visiting, you should, because most people who come to the UK, go to London, then they get on the train and go to Edinburgh, and New York is exactly halfway. And very few people stop. And yet it's the most beautiful city very historic. It's got an ancient wall that still goes all the way around. And it's very nice. And I've lived here for about 30 years, I'm obsessed with coaching and mentoring. Many years ago, I did a PhD on mentoring, it was called mentoring in the marketplace studies of learning at work. I got very interested in that and got very interested in the coaching world at the same time and have been involved in kind of ever since I read about it, I write about it, I talk about it, I have it done to me, I do it to people, I research it. And actually seriously, it's a way of life for me, really. So I see coaching and mentoring as a way of relating, rather than a set of tools in a toolbox. And I hate that expression. It's a tool, I can't I just won't use it because tools sound like you do something to somebody and you don't really you engage in a conversation. That's me. And I live in the city of New York with my cat called Fergus, who's very nice like it,

Zoltán Csigás:

and what brought you to the topic of coaching and mentoring. So what initiated your PhD research,


right have to go back a long way. In a former life, I was a school teacher, early years, children, young children fact I was the only male teacher of five year olds in London at the time, I got asked to go on a course. This course was about science education for young children. What I learned fundamentally on that course, was a completely different approach to education, which was not about teaching stuff, but about engaging in what they called at the time process of inquiry. And that meant that what you did is you asked questions of for an example, young kids bring things into school that they find that they think you're interested in, and they kind of give it to the teacher, don't they? So they might come in with a stick, you know, I found this stick, sir. And you go, well, that's a lovely stick. Now, in the old days, you'd go That's a lovely stick, go and put it on the nature table. But what I used to do was that's really interesting stick, where did you find it? What else was around it? What color would you call it? What do you notice about the pattern or the shape of the buds? What are they doing? Are they opposite each other? Or are they doing something else? What are the colors of them? And you would start asking questions like that to encourage the children to observe. Then you might set up science terms what you would call a fair test, to test something about this thing or you might put it in water to see whether it grows and various things like that. So I learned this on this course. That's the way I started to work with children. inquiry based and I carried on doing that. Eventually I became what's called an advisory teacher For science education for the whole of London, and I joined the team of people who taught me the course. And I was out going and doing all this work with teachers and children in schools. It sort of grew from there. Eventually, I left teaching, because I could see what was happening with government interference in the education system, which was to create this thing called the national curriculum, where it started to become specified what you would teach children, and I couldn't bear that idea.

Zoltán Csigás:

Maybe we have one interesting discourses around that here in Hungary. Yeah, I couldn't bear


that. Because one of the great things about the education system that I grew up in was the ability that teachers had to express their personalities and judgment. And if you weren't suddenly turning it into what I called a content based education, where you taught things, then you lost that opportunity to kind of express yourself, I thought, and exercise judgment set forward, an inquiry based education system. And I remember just before I left, a school inspector came into my classroom. And he stood at the door, and he watched, and they were children, with strings going across the classroom with paper airplanes, zooming along the strings, there were kids making things out of wood, there were children writing, there were children reading, there was some children doing something with something else in the corner, there were children looking out the window. And I thought, I wonder what he's gonna make of this. And he just stood there for a while. And then he walked around. And he started asking the children questions. And I thought, oh, what's going to happen here? And he came up to me, and he said, for the first time in my career as an inspector, I'm in a classroom where real education is taking place.

Zoltán Csigás:

A wonderful compliment.


So what I learned later, was the course that approach Well, yes, it was a VAT approach to learning and education is what we might call coaching and mentoring. That ability of setting up some kind of investigation or inquiry or discussion, by the use of open questions to stimulate curiosity that carried with me, always, that's kind of how I got into it, really. But also, I was working in management development for a commercial company, and I was development programs. And that's the way I did those. I used to organize these management development programs on the basis of a series of questions. I'd get everybody to kind of discuss them and work with them. We didn't turn up with all the materials and, and the flip chart, overhead transparencies as they were in those days, I used to run a whole two day course on the basis of question, I used to do it like that. And then an opportunity came for me to do a PhD. And I thought, well, I'll have to look at look at mentoring and look at this thing about asking questions and how it might work. So that's how I got there. Really.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you. And I love the aspect that it that your career covered everyone from small kids, to leader to management people. Yeah. Which is a big breath of experience in applying what catches my attention is that you use coaching and mentoring in parallel. Yes, I would be curious on on your distinction between the two of them? Is there a difference between the two of them? In your perspective?


at went on around the kind of:

Zoltán Csigás:

talk about? So you were strong in contracting?


Yeah. Oh, very, very, very strong? Yes, I think it's vital. It was the subject of my PhD, actually.

Zoltán Csigás:

What was the main result of your PhD?


Well, it was what was called the dimensions framework. And it's looking at the dimensions that go on in in a mentoring relationship, but you could equally apply it to coaching, I identified a number of dimensions, and one was called the content dimension, which was to do with how open or closed is the conversation that you're having. So open might be very free rating and involving personal things, professional things kind of anything's on the table, and close might be focused on something quite specific part of the negotiation is to get an understanding about what that might be. What does that person want to talk about? And expect to talk about? I call that the content line? And then I have, then the other line was the public, private? So that's to do with confidentiality? Who knows about it? Who needs to know about it? What is it they need to know about it? How public is this relationship? How private is this? So that was also discussed? The other was about activity? Or who does what, as a result of this relationship? What are my expectations as a coach or a mentor? Of the person I'm working with? What are their expectations of me? What are their expectations of themselves? How active how passive are they going to be? Or how am I going to be? Then there's the what I call the administration line. And I call that how formal or informal is this relationship? So formality would be dates in the diary, booking things in advance, taking notes, perhaps sharing those notes, agreeing what time you meet, how long you meet for what you do, if you want to change the meeting, how do you agree on meeting in between meetings, things like that. I always work towards the formal end always, because I find that if it's too informal, it often falls apart, I tried to work out the formula. And the final dimension I called the stable unstable line. And it has to do with being consistent in your practice with people and that if you're going to change the way you work, changed the process you were going to use, then you needed to talk about it. Otherwise, it could make the relationship unstable. And there was a recognition that all those dimensions can possibly change as the relationship progresses. So you have to have a regular review of those.

Zoltán Csigás:

Where my leg is that I wrote my master's degree thesis on psychological contract, and all these diamonds into one thing I can find some of them in, in my in the series that I've been engaged with. I'm like, Whoa, come on brown. A number of things caught my attention in what you were saying. And one of them was that your questions must be coming from somewhere. Let me jump back to that point. And some of the coaches that I speak with see that their questions come from their knowledge of content, which is a separate profession, which has nothing to do with the knowledge base of the client, which has nothing to do with the end. History or the environment, it is just about coaching the knowledge about humans and change. How would you reflect on


that? Sometimes that's the case. I think, sometimes that is the case that there are certain things that you might know in terms of your skill set that come from ways of phrasing questions that you could say, well, that's a coaching type question. On the other hand, I think it's more than that. Because there is something very important about being genuine and authentic and kind of meaning it when you're working with people, and I think there's a risk that if you just technique somebody, then I don't think it works very well. You know, and you have to kind of believe in it really, I'm also of the view that sometimes it really doesn't matter how you phrase the question, because your client will turn it into whatever they wanted to. And I often say this, the people that I work with your learning coaching, don't worry too much about the question you ask if it's clumsy, or if it's a closed one, and he meant it to be an open one, because there's a good chance your client will turn it into what they want it to be. So you can't ignore the skill and abilities of the client you're working with. And a lot of coaching research, coaching books, ignore the fact that the client might be very skilled at answering their own questions. They're too busy focused on what the coach does. Yeah. What was the coachability?

Zoltán Csigás:

You just had this reaction


that Yeah, well, I think everybody has the potential to be coached. And I think Coach ability is another kind of made up expression, really. And a lot depends on that person's orientation, the need at any particular time, and they're likely to be more receptive or not. But I made a piece of research that I supervised fairly not that long ago, with a colleague of mine who did a PhD, was called the skilled coachee. And he identified a number of characteristics of a skilled coachee in their ability to deflect questions, turn them into a joke, not answer them change the subject, all sorts of thing. Now, you could put that under coachability. But you could also say they're being quite skilled, and engaging in this kind of social conversational process.

Zoltán Csigás:

Ya know, as you just brought these examples, I was thinking about self defense mechanisms. Oh, yeah. uncoachable at,


yes. People can control the agenda as the coachee. If they want to, I think they don't want to go there. They won't go there. They do want to go there. They will. I mean, I've seen it myself. When I've been coached. There are times when I've, I call it I just throw a bone out and see what comes back. And I know very well, I'm being a bit flippant, and I like to see how the coach is gonna deal with it.

Zoltán Csigás:

I get it. It's it's part of the relationship building when we are just testing the limits of the other person. Exactly. reacting to what is going on between the two of us. Yes, LEGO games.


Yes, exactly. Yeah, exactly. games get played? They certainly do. Sometimes. Yeah, there

Zoltán Csigás:

is usually a bit of a flexing in the beginning of a coaching relationship. So that's my experience that if we just play out, we just contract informally, sometimes unconsciously, on what what will happen? Or what could happen between the two of us?


Sure, it's a dynamic process. And so it's likely to change. And both parties have to kind of adapt and change as it goes along. And be aware of it. Again, one of the things I know from research into mentoring is one of the key things in the success of mentoring relationships, is that both parties pay attention to the relationship and regularly discuss it. They're aware about what's going on.

Zoltán Csigás:

As we are talking and you mentioned the dynamic nature of these conversations. What I'm thinking about is how can research follow or SS such a dynamic thing as a coaching and mentoring relationship, which may change from minute to minute or from second to second of the year? Because it seems to be a big challenge. For


me. It is indeed and and I think it firstly, I think it's recognizing that coaching is a social process. And social processes are dynamic they move. It is sometimes like trying to grab a bar soap in the shower just slips out of your head. But I think what you can do with research is you can get glimpses you can get snapshots you can build patterns sometimes depends on the questions that you ask the way in which you interpret them. And often the results of the research are inevitably going to be He, in this particular case, in this particular instance, this is what we found. Now, there may be transferability into other settings, but it doesn't necessarily prove anything. But it just sheds light, it gets the torch and it shines it on it and says, let's think about this. And think about how it shows up. If you take the subject of the skilled co G, for example, that research shone a big light on it, and said, Let's start thinking about it, and what that might mean. And you could see that contributing to the development of the coach's abilities in working with different groups of people.

Zoltán Csigás:

There's so many different ways, different methodologies of research out there. What's your experience? Are any of them more favorable? Are any of them more capable of grasping these complexities that are in coaching and mentoring? Or do you have a favorite?


Yeah, okay. I think it all depends on how you answer the question. What is truth in research, and

Zoltán Csigás:



oes cause and effect research:

Zoltán Csigás:

We're glad that you brought this in. Because for a number of practitioners, I've talked to research is mostly about the statistics, what it is how we are a number of us grasp the methodology questions survey, yes. And these fall through suppositions that can give us a springboard for thinking about other kinds of resources. And that we can we can take all of these different types of methodologies, different types of research is seriously. Yeah, absolutely. And my position is that we are at the kind of beginning of understanding how this whole helping activities work, at least give you a counter argument, if you think we are somewhere else. Yes, bringing in as many types of researches as many different angles or different torches that you have mentioned. Yes, to be very valuable for the whole profession.


I think it's been very unhelpful, because there have been a number of voices, particularly in the coaching world, which talks about the control group study as the only piece of research worth doing. Well, I've always thought that was utter nonsense. And I would also say that that's the only sort of research because there are many others. And control groups will tell you something, of course it will. But it won't necessarily tell you everything. So I think about a whole variety of different approaches, is likely to build a much richer picture of what's going on. And each will serve different kinds of purposes. And I think it's important to understand that that's what research does. All of them are scientific.

Zoltán Csigás:

Take a look at the current status of coaching research, what we know about how this whole relationship works. Let me use just coaching instead of coaching flush mentor, yes, yeah. And considering where we are, you know, this failed. We have published a number of books, supervised the number of researches, what is the most interesting field or aspect of coaching and mentoring for you?


It's all interesting. I told you, it was a way of life, Salih, it's a way of life. I'm currently involved in through PhD supervision. Okay. Oh, I can tell you quite a lot. One piece of research, this person has just passed their PhD. And they were looking at Kochi centered coaching, specifically with an understanding of how different learning theories might play out in the coaching, the argument that understanding learning theory, and the context in which the coaching takes place, becomes very important. And this kind of challenges the idea that the coach is this kind of neutral person who doesn't understand the context. And this research sheds a bit of light on that, it also sheds a bit of light on the fact that current competencies from two of the main professional bodies aren't really adequate in terms of how they deal with learning theories, and how they deal with contexts in which these things happen. That was that piece of research really interesting. As I said, he's just past that was interesting. I've got somebody of probably the most difficult and challenging piece of research that I'm supervising at the moment, is from a PhD student, and this person is so intelligent is frightening. They are looking at meaning in coaching conversations, meaning

Zoltán Csigás:

and they could think we could have a long conversation of meaning itself.


This is exactly the point where we are with issues rising up at the moment where we are is that it's fragments. And meaning isn't necessarily shared between two people. But meaning is, sometimes there is often fragments, and they might get pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. But sometimes they disappear, you might lose a piece on the floor. She says it's a bit like archaeology where you kind of scrape away the soil and find things. She says it's also a bit like a bar of soap in the shower, which I mentioned earlier, that it kind of slips and moves and changes around. One of her conclusions is meaning is not a thing. It is not an object. It is sometimes highly complex, emotional, full of feelings. Often it's fleeting and it moves

Zoltán Csigás:

along we have what would be the practical relevance of such a study for the practitioners. So if I get the feedback and i i read this fantastic research from a frighteningly intelligent person, which says that the end well meaning is fragmented something and you are lucky if you are connected to your client at some times, and you are even more lucky, if you don't lose parts of the puzzle, then what can I take away from that as a practitioner? How can I do what could inspire me? And I know they just answered it, well, that's my meaning. So go and find my meaning in that,


I would say it might say, to those that think in a particular way, or have a particular truth position, there's an alternative to this. So stop trying to see coaching as something that's going to improve performance, or it's got some kind of pragmatic outcome or whatever. But sometimes there is value in just having the conversation and the meaning that somebody takes from it is the meaning they take from it and stop worrying about,

Zoltán Csigás:

it could could lead me to do a whole area of measuring coaching outcomes.


While exactly her research, she's saying, Why do that? I know that in business contexts, management are completely obsessed with that sort of thing. And her position is, well, it's a bit of a waste of time actually, to do that. What is important is if somebody thinks that they are getting something useful from it, well, that's fair enough. So

Zoltán Csigás:

that's an argument that I would take to, to my clients who are interested in return on investment numbers, then


I'll tell you something else, which is something that I've done some work with, is that reversing to numbers is a sign of very poor leadership. Because numbers have nothing to do with human beings, people behave in all sorts of ways and numbers can often get in the way. And we forget that a number is not necessarily a fact, a number is something which is interpreted just as a word is interpreted. So you can look at a word or a number and think, oh, what does that mean, within this particular context, and it could mean a number of things, and so could a word. So this kind of total reliance on numbers is a bit of a fallacy. I think it's a falsehood, it worries me,

Zoltán Csigás:

I will be curious on what you think on the on the trend of HR analytics, that seems to be topping a number of charts recently, seeming to be the most important thing of challenge for HR leaders say, I cannot call the research that came up with this. But I clearly remember seeing a number of these surveys that making meaning they're more ethical data gathering and stuff like that for our on the challenge list of HR people,


or you can becomes a slave to themselves, doesn't it self fulfilling if you like, I've worked in management development for a while, I think I mentioned that earlier. And my boss was probably the best boss I've ever had. And he said, I was a very successful business, he was a director of this company. And he said to me, in this company, we don't have targets. And I'll tell you why we don't have targets, we don't have targets because it will distort your behavior. What I'm interested in is what do you do to get business? That was his question, what do you do to get business. And if we're not focusing on that, we're not going to get the business that we want. If all we're doing is focusing on the numbers, it will distort behavior, and it won't allow you to pursue your interests. So how do you go about getting business he used to say always used to say all the time, and he used to have to sit and talk about how you made relationships with clients, etc, etc, etc. Not I achieved so many sales this week. He wasn't interested in it.

Zoltán Csigás:

So I can see some people I know who would immediately reply with Yeah, that's why we have goals to distort your behavior towards getting more business.


Yes, yes, please that ethical, is that ethical to do that? You know, surely, surely ethical practice is not threatening somebody with numbers and piling pressure on them to achieve more and more and more. Surely, it's engaging with them as human beings and working out what their interest is and why they do their job, and learning how to do that job better, rather than chase a number

Zoltán Csigás:

in mind, and then I'm really curious, in your opinion about setting goals in coaching, because a number of coaching processes don't start with 360 surveys, you need to improve at least two points in your peer review about conflict management. So


it's, I call them funny numbers, who makes the decision that that person is rated for, and they've got to be six by the end of the who makes that decision. It's a human being. It's a subjective judgment being exercised with the pretense So it's objective. And it's not it's subjective. Goals sometimes are appropriate, because it's important to remember that some people relate to goals. On the other hand, it's also important to recognize that some people don't relate to goals. And I'm somebody who doesn't relate to goals, which is why I loved working for my management development company, I made them loads of money, because they just let me do what I like to do. And off, I went did it to the best of my ability, and it generated income for them. Lots of it.

Zoltán Csigás:

But at the end of the day, they they got their goals met, of


hat pair fine, big fine, like:

Zoltán Csigás:

I see where the conversation is going.


But you see, you see, targets can sometimes mislead and they can they can be destructive of people. Because people will find ways of manipulating them to suit their own ends. And this is exactly what my manager's point was, is we don't want to play games and manipulate numbers. We want to talk about how we work, how we get business, how we relate to people, how do we do that?

Zoltán Csigás:

And we are talking about this? I have to admit to all of our listeners that we have previous conversation, that too. You know, one of our previous conversations, you mentioned an altar who was speaking about different friends or discourses around coaching research, or is around the interpretation of the of the development of the professional, let's call it Yes, right. Yeah. And this is when this previous conversation comes to my mind. That's perhaps some of the things that we really want to understand. So research, like, effect of goals, or whatever else they may be out of the scope of research is a tool. And I will be just interested in that. I would like to ask you to bring in that those discourses that you have mentioned previously.


Yeah, this, I think this is very important. Because the idea of discourse is that it's a way in which people talk. It's to do with the language that they use, and what that means. So I mean, for example, to illustrate, I sometimes if I'm speaking at a conference or whatever, I will sometimes look at the group of people that I'm working with, and I say, how many women in this room have ever been called bossy? And a lot of women will put their hands up and say, yes, I've been called bossy in my time. And then you say, how many men in the room have ever been called bossy? And sometimes a few men will put their hands up but not many. And I say well, okay, that is a what I would call an example of a gendered discourse, which is women are bossy. Men are good leaders. Yep, or men are assertive women are bossy. It's a language which goes through societies. And it shapes, opinions, viewpoints and behaviors. And it's often based on an interpretation. So I mean, another good example, some people may be familiar with a very famous English novel by George Orwell called Animal Farm. And in Animal Farm, the animals take over the farm. And the pigs become in charge, and they issue slogans. And one of the first slogans is four legs good two legs bad. And that's one of the first slogans or to support the animals, although the chickens are very happy about that. Anyway. So story goes on, those slogans change, and it starts to become different, and they alter so that there's a different discourse emerging. So that's what discourses are about, they're very important, we can't underestimate the power of them. And politicians know about discourses and they use them all the time, to shape public opinion about things. So Simon Weston, who published a book called coaching and mentoring a critical something or another, a critical review or something like that, in that book, he identified four main discourses, which can be found within the coaching in particular, and to some extent the mentoring world. One discourse he called the saya expert discourse, which is the discourse which is influenced by psychology, particularly in the coaching world, that will be very much surrounding cause and effect thinking, it will very often have a performative element to it. And the discourse would say, performance is the product of people who don't perform have got some kind of psychological interference going on. And the coach's job is to want to identify the interference, deal with it, and then they'll perform. That's the logic, the survey. Yeah. All the all the site expert discourse would introduce psychometric analysis of things, your 360 degree, it's about, it's underpinned by psychological ideas. Okay? So another discourse that Western identified as he called it, managerialist discourse is very much what you would hear in organizations, which is measurement, return on investment, it would be keep things simple, don't complicate them. And he argued that managerialist discourse was very much about coaching the person in role rather than coaching the person. So you're working with the person within that particular context, if you like. And he argued that the psi expert and the managerialist had certain similarities to each other in terms of the understanding of cause and effect, thinking, if you like. But the two other discourse identified are the other one was called the soul guide. And the soul guide discourse is, sometimes I don't know, if you've experienced this, I'm sure you have, because most coaches have when you talk to them, is when you're working with a manager or an executive or whatever. And they start raising questions about the meaning of life, about what am I doing? What am I doing here, doing this job? And what else could I do in life? You know, and that's quite a common experience and Western called this the soul guide approach. And it's where the coach would work with people's understanding and sense of who they are, and their meanings in life. I experienced that quite often. Perhaps it's something about me, but it often appears in our conversation as well. Yeah, I'm sure. And then the fourth discourse he talked about was called the network guide. And this, he argued was, and I think this is really interesting, because he was arguing this nearly 10 years ago. This is where this book came out nearly 10 years ago. And he called it the network guide. And I think what's happened as a result of COVID is that this has come true is that we are now all of us. I mean, you're sitting somewhere in Hungary, I'm sitting somewhere in the UK, we are connected, and you'd be connected with people in different parts of the world. I get on the thing that we're on now zoom, day in, day out and I speak to people all over the world and that really had taken off before But what Western said almost as a kind of prophecy is that there's a new form of business coming, which is called the networked organization where people interact with all sorts of different people. And the coach is function is to help people understand that system, that they're part of that network that they're part of, and learn the differences and the challenges of interacting within that different kind of network. And I think that's quite an interesting, interesting idea. So I mean, a lot of coaches are very likely to recognize that in the work that they do now, I would think, particularly if they've lived, they've moved online in the way many of us have. I think that those four ideas show up in terms of what people think about coaching, and also how professional bodies organize themselves. And I think I would argue that professional bodies organize themselves mainly around the managerialist and site expert discourses, because that's where the business comes from. Having said that, a coach who is able to work with their clients in a variety of ways, which we talked about earlier, might indeed find themselves engaging in the other discourses, and having some kind of understanding of that could be useful

Zoltán Csigás:

for what is really inspiring for me from the research perspective that I can easily imagine the first two discourses to be to be addressed with the tools of scientific measurement. Yes, but the third one is a way of, you know, what was your analogy of a soap in the shower? Yes. Like addressing the meaning of life or spirituality? Yes, have something that can be out of the scope of research or coaching research? Yeah. And probably in the whole networked organization thing is a bit more systematic. Yes. Listening to it is not just about the coach coachy relationship, but it's more about the system whole system. Yes. In which they are working together? Yeah, exactly. They again, be a challenge for being for research. And yes, the typical tools, or methodologies that we as researchers are using,


well, some people have moved in that direction. And there is a tool in sociology called network analysis, which helps people to understand the networks they're part of and where the political influences were, where the power is, where the dynamics are, where the knowledge is held, all those sorts of things. And network analysis is a particular research tool, which I've supervised some research, using it a few times that it's very, very interesting, because it can explain a lot about organizational life by analyzing the networks that people are attached to or not. And what's interesting is senior managers have very rarely well connected to the network. And the people who are connected to the network and middle managers always

Zoltán Csigás:

are your area of research, or any studies that examined the third discourse, so meaning of spirituality, to study the theory that you would consider to be precise or thorough enough to be cold research.


Yeah, my good friend who sadly died last year, his own PhD was on spirit within organization. What is the human spirit within organizations and how does it work? So it had kind of leanings towards culture, but there was spirituality within that, not necessarily religious belief, but the idea of a kind of spiritual being and harmony, and that sort of thing. There was a book published a long time ago, which I reviewed once called the soul at work. And it was about our very humanity, which can get driven out in organizations organizations can be quite brutal places to be. And yet we're human beings. And we have souls or whatever else we like to call them. And so, yes, that exists

Zoltán Csigás:

way. The question is, sometimes they do harsh distinction or some boundary between people who have an openness towards spirituality, or who are strong believers and how they approach or how they receive ideas from the researcher. So I could call these two kinds of people I know I'm, I'm strongly boxing people here. Rational and believer kinds of people. And I'm sorry for boxing. And why I'm glad to hear about these freaks. He's got these projects is that there can be a bridge there. Yeah, we can bring spirituality or are there more subjective subject under the length of research, we can connect different words, different discourses different understandings Yes, of how we are living or who we are working as professionals.


I refer sometimes to some of the people in ancient Greece who had great wisdom. And one of them being Aristotle, or Aristotle, described as the last man on earth, who knew everything there was to know about everything in the known world. So good old Aristotle. And he said, It's the sign of an educated person who can entertain them consider an opposite point of view without agreeing with it. And I think that's really interesting. Because I think there's far too much polarity, which goes on in our world of opposites. And I think very often trying to understand, and I think this is one of the challenges of humankind is trying to understand somebody else's point of view without necessarily agreeing with it. And it's very hard. It's very hard to do that. And yet, Aristotle was talking about it a very, very long time ago. And that seems to me to be very wise.

Zoltán Csigás:

I agree. And for me, in my reading, that is one of the one of the central points of our profession, of being able to help someone with whom we don't agree with.


Exactly, exactly, exactly. And I think you can say, That's largely the case with lots of helping professions. I just give an extreme example, my sister used to work in, I don't know if you use the same word in your country, but she worked in the probation service, which is the criminal justice system. And her job was to visit prisoners in prison, also to help to keep them out of prison once they've been released. You know, that's what she did. And she said that in her office, nobody ever wanted to work with a sex offender. Somebody had to, and they had to find a way of engaging with these people. And I thought, Wow, that's quite powerful, extremely challenging, and very, very difficult. And that's what she used to have to do. Or a murderer. Even just

Zoltán Csigás:

imagining these situations is somebody


has to engage with them. Yeah. And my sister said, and that was me.

Zoltán Csigás:

Biggest pet?


Yeah. Yeah. challenging, very challenging, very difficult.

Zoltán Csigás:

As we raised this bridge, or I have this image of having bridges, or a capability to consider Opposing Viewpoints, at the same time, linking them together, I frequently hear the about the opposition of research and practice researchers and practitioners in the coaching and mentoring world. What's your advice? How could we bridge the gap? Right?


I'm going to quote something now. There is nothing as practical as a good theory. And the reason why, and I'll give you an example, this actually happened to me a few years ago, I was at a trade fair, you know, an exhibition. I was wandering around, and there was a guy standing at one of the stores there. And he had, he had a sign above his store, which said, theory freezone. Okay. So I went up to him and said, Ohio once is really interesting, what do you do? And he said, I work with small businesses in helping them with finance and cash flow and those sorts of things. And I said, Oh, okay, on what basis? Do you work with him? And he said, Well, I have this framework. And what I do is this, this and this, and I discussed this with him and so on, and it helps them think about these things. So I said, looked at him, and I said, so how is that not a theory? And he went, what do you do? I said, I'm an academic. And he said, I thought so. But it's true. He had a model or a framework of working with people. That was his theory. You can't live a life without one. What underpins what it is that you talk about what you do. You know, you're a coach, what underpins what you do. It's not nothing because if it were you can't be doing anything. So you must have some framework frame of reference that you work to and you can call that a theory

Zoltán Csigás:

a very much agree and then in another conversation with someone else, Well, my partner came up with the idea of practitioner researcher hybrid, or Hybrid Identities. And he said that every practitioner is a researcher, because with all the conversations they are having they, they are at least unconsciously collecting information they are made, they are proving their theory, if it works or not,


yes. Well, they could be. They are I don't think they aren't necessarily. I don't think they are. I think what is key between a practitioner and a practitioner who is working with the idea of research is that they subject their work to critical thought. And you think about it, and you reflect on it, and you generate some kind of understanding as a result of doing that. And some practitioners do that. But I don't think all practitioners do. I think some practitioners just exist, don't necessarily reflect on what they do. Very straightforward

Zoltán Csigás:

question, but not for you is that how could we promote these critical thoughts or critical thinking on the frameworks we are using? And how could we integrate that into professional training. So


there's a research methodology, which came out of education, it would be teachers who would do this kind of research, and it's called action research. And this is the kind of research that practitioners in coaching might find interesting and useful. And what action research is, is about examining and looking at your own practice. And a lot of teachers research is about looking at how they teach, and what seems to work and what doesn't seem to work. So it's quite pragmatic and practical, but it's focused on their own practice. And I think that's something that coaches could learn to do. And yeah, it's got a name, there's all sorts of Research Action research is what it's called, engaging in looking at that, I think could be very useful for people.

Zoltán Csigás:

And it sounds like supervision. i This may be a big, big leap here. But that's my fantasy that's that well, being in proper supervision, should bring similar results, because supervision should be about structure revision of my practice, or the things I'm doing in my practice. I think


that supervision is a good thing. I think it is, it can be very useful for people. I think that the way it's positioned in some of the professional bodies shows that they don't completely understand what it's about. And I've challenged that in the past. But the idea that somebody in some way or another. And it can take lots of forms, it doesn't have to take one particular form, it can take lots of forms. But somebody who is practicing this thing we call coaching, spends time talking about it with other people who do it and considering their own behaviors in relation to that must be a good thing has to be a good thing. It's the way in which practice gets developed and shared. So I think it's important, I think where I have a problem is that sometimes supervision can be positioned as a normative process. And that's, and it's also kind of promoted and advertised as a quality assurance thing. And I think that means that you have to comply with the rules of the professional body. And therefore, supervision could be a form of surveillance, in order to get people to do what they're supposed to do. And I think that's not how I see it as a learning and development process, or action research, if you like, where people talk about their practice, and in that way they improve. So in that sense, they could be quality as people improve, but not necessarily quality assurance, which has to do with compliance. I think it's a subtle difference.

Zoltán Csigás:

And I wanted to mention is that I, I really liked the system's level two level system level reflection you are making as we are having this conversation. One of the themes I'm hearing from practitioners is that besides the conferences and besides being a member of one body or another, then that coaching is, is a lonely profession. However, as we are having this conversation, I see more and more systemic aspects of being in the profession. And yes, and I'm happy that these came out, because I do think that we should all consider us as members of the system of the coaching world, not just as as members there but from a research perspective as well that I think all coaching research in one way Earning the other should consider the system or the wider environment.


Without research, there can't be a profession. That's a great state. That's a big statement. Because unless there's research informing what good professional practice is, it can't develop and it can't progress. And therein lies a bit of a challenge, I think for professional bodies, unless they regularly and consistently review their own practices in the light of research, and I think there's the challenge is they stay stagnant. They get stagnant, they don't move, and they simply become kind of controllers. So I have a big question for professional bodies currently, how seriously? Do you take research? And are you running a business? Or are you wanting something which is useful for the coaching profession? And I think that's funny. It's very serious question. A very serious question.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thanks for the invite is our next guest. Question. So that's an important question they, I can hear the wait to fit. Yes. And since it is a former VP of research for emcc. I do sense the weight of this question.


It's a big question, as a big question. And research has to be taken seriously. And looked at, and practice has to be reviewed in the light of it. And I think there's a big risk in professional bodies of putting something out there that they've developed from conversations with practitioners. And they're calling it research. They're putting it out there and they live by it. Instead of saying, actually, it's time to review it in light of new research.

Zoltán Csigás:

But this is a learning curve. For everybody involved, both for practitioners, both for academics, both for organizations, yeah,


absolutely, absolutely. Felt lots of people and people will be in different places, different positions about these things. When I was doing management consultancy, I once got involved in trying to facilitate a merger. I don't know how I got involved in it, I just said yes. And it was a nightmare. I can remember the big boss saying to me at the end of the work that I'd done, he said, Those that were anti, have become skeptics. Those that have were skeptics have become quite enthusiastic, and those who were enthusiastic and become even more enthusiastic. But some new people who don't believe have joined in at the bottom now. And I thought what an interesting way of thinking about how different people are in different places. It's like a kind of movement that goes on. And actually, the kind of vision that you would hope to see in a in a professional body is in the way that we treat coaching as a kind of exploration, when you get in the coaching room with somebody which is going to last a period of time, running a professional body needs to be an exploration of what that means it's to update itself in the light of new evidence. And there's a challenge, there's a challenge.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you. And amazed by how quickly time flies actually have hundreds of other questions. That was just two words. So one is, is there a piece of research anything either done by you or by others that you would love that everyone out in the field would have read it? So is there something that you would like everyone to read? And to No?


Oh, I think for me, one of the most significance is the skilled coachee. I think that's something which needs to be looked at. And if people want to read it, they can find it in a chapter in my book. It's a chapter in there called the skilled coachee. It's the product of that research, which looked at it. And I think it's worth worth looking at worth reading. Because I think it can change the way in which you might view your practice. And I think that's important. But I think there are other pieces of research like learning theory informed could influence your practice, as well. Many other people have called for this coach needs to understand learning theories. I think that's important. context becomes important. I mean, there's lots of things that people could read, but I think trying to recognize that your coach is very skilled at being a coachee is quite important, I think to understand what that's about.

Zoltán Csigás:

Do I have a final question which can be as long as you would like? Is there anything else that you would like to share with you, if you would like to speak up for


me, I'll go back to the beginning. I just say, for me coaching as a way of life, it is not a box of tools. It's a way in which we can relate with people and make a serious difference. coachings applications can provide good for wider society. And I'll just say that one of the organizations that I'm involved in, in the UK provides what we call community coaching. And what that's about is you become a member, you pay your fee to become a member, and you donate free time to coach people in the community, on all sorts of things, but we've had various pieces of work on hate crime on dysfunctional families, various things like that litter in the city, and we've employed coaching to help us do that kind of work, and we don't get paid for it. It's a condition of your membership, that you donate your time for free. And I think that that's important to recognize that there's lots of applications. And sometimes working in that kind of way can provide insights into your commercial side of coaching which you never even dreamed of. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Sally. Good to see you too.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you for the conversation. Hope to talk to you very soon again. Thank you for listening to on coaching podcast, where I have curious conversations with virginal coaches and researchers. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to rate us and subscribe. I also invite you to visit Zoltan where you can access more resources regarding the coaching industry. We will




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