Coaching as Social Capital

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Rob Thompson
Coach, United Kingdom

Coaching as Social Capital

I have always been fascinated by the references in the literatures and in coaching trainings to the coach-client relationship. Clearly the relationship is important, but is it anymore important in other related fields such as mentoring or psychotherapy? I use these seemingly disparate examples because they often raise the coaching purist's hackles or serve to prod the reader's 'coaching meaning' sensors. "Coaching is not mentoring; coaching is not psychotherapy" I hear some of you cry but the reality is that there are many related fields which may describe coaching as a hybridised model of human interaction that takes its many characteristics from across a range of related disciplines such as consultancy, counselling, human relations, androgogy, communication and neuroscience (Bachkirova, 2016). This is surely one of the reasons why coaching remains difficult to define it defies definition because it is not a clearly definable entity, its roots are spread across multiple fields.

I mentioned in an earlier article that coaching 'emanates' from the context in which it is applied, rather than is something which is applied to a context. I am suggesting that relationships are therefore even more important; that coaching, even in the one to one moment, is constantly referencing relationships across the organisation. We should view the coach-client relationship as being the relationality associated with the coach-coachee. That is, how each individual influences the other in the contexts of their relationships with the organisation, hierarchies, power relationships, self-concepts and autonomy etc. The coach-coachee relationship in itself is a microcosm of relationality with the wider system (Cushion, 2007).

So, whilst the coach-coachee dyad is important, it is the situatedness and relationality of those relationships that are critical actors in the success of the coaching event but that this should also be seen in the context of time i.e. coaching affects or effects do not just happen in the one to one situation. The continued thinking, reflection and reflexivities of coachees happens before, during and after coaching one to one 'events'. Such temporal development includes both inner 'self-talk' as well as wider interdependence with others. The degree to which we facilitate this whole 'system' is as important as the one to one event.

Pierre Bourdieu's concept of 'social capital' now becomes a focal point for any coaching development. Putnam (1995) referred to social capital as "features of social organisations such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit".
This supports the view that we each develop narratives about ourselves in the world which we live/work in. This is how we derive meaning from coaching since it helps us to create new narratives that move us on in a positive way. Coaching then becomes a "community psychological intervention" as we allow our stories to unfold and evolve meaning through social interactions, but also by reflecting upon our lifeworlds (Stelter, Nielsen and Wikman, 2011). Durable social networks thereby become a critical characteristic of coaching development and are seen as part of the relationality associated with the coach-coachee dyad.

⇨ How important do you think is social capital when considering coaching relationships?

Refs:
Bachkirova, T. (2016), 'The self of the coach: Conceptualization, issues, and opportunities for practitioner development.', Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 68(2), pp. 143156. Doi: 10.1037/cpb0000055.
Cushion, C. (2007), 'Modelling the Complexity of the Coaching Process: A Commentary', International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 2(4), pp. 403426. Doi: 10.1260/174795407783359768.
Putnam, R. D. (1995), 'Bowling Alone', Journal of Democracy, (1), pp. 6578.
Stelter, R., Nielsen, G. and Wikman, J. M. (2011) 'Narrative-collaborative group coaching develops social capital - A randomised control trial and further implications of the social impact of the intervention'. DOI: 10.1080/17521882.2011.598654

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