Exciting or disturbing?

Are you ready for the coaching and mentoring challenges ahead?

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Pauline Willis

Welcome to Part 1 of our two part special issue of e-O&P on the future of coaching and mentoring.

We invite you to reflect on and consider your own future as a coach, a mentor, or whatever connects you with this exciting and dynamic community.

Anna Britnor Guest

We also hope you will join the conversation online and come to our post publication events. 

Why now?

Why have a conversation about the future now? In 2014 we celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of the launch of The Coaching and Mentoring Network (CMN) website www.coachingnetwork.org.uk, and   Oxford Brookes Coaching and Mentoring Society (OBCAMS) invited us to create a small event to celebrate the last 15 years and share plans for the future. This event was timely, sparking off new conversations and opportunities for re-connection and collaboration between the CMN, the Association for Management Education and Development (AMED) and the OBCAMS networks. There is renewed energy for this conversation at a time when the business world and wider society continue to face uncertain prospects.

In putting together these special issues of e-Organisations and People (e-O&P), we have sourced contributions spanning a wide range of perspectives. Part 1 introduces some of the wider trends which the authors predict will influence coaching and mentoring in the future. Part 2, to appear in Spring 2015, dives deeper into the practices, models and tools which may form the coach’s or mentor’s modus operandi over the coming years. Whether you are invested in coaching and mentoring as activities, approaches, techniques or the promise of a new profession, the undercurrents of change are at work. And the forces of change that enabled the emergence of ‘coaching and mentoring’ in their current forms are carrying us forward in ways that may excite and disturb you in equal measure.

Part 1 – Global trends, exploring the big picture

Predicting the future is, of course, a risky affair. In Coaching in an uncertain and complex future Kim Stephenson eloquently and engagingly describes just why forecasting the future is so problematic.  He writes: “…as a scientist, knowing that it’s impossible to predict the future, I’m on a hiding to nothing.  If I get it wrong, I prove that I’m human and can’t predict (no news there) and if I get it right, (a) who will remember and (b) how do I prove it’s not a fluke?” But that doesn’t stop him from proceeding to hazard four challenging predictions!

As you will see, none of our contributors has flinched from accepting the challenge, sounding some clear alarm bells in the process, and calling for radical change. These calls serve as a rallying cry for everyone who has a stake in the future of coaching and mentoring. Whether you see coaching and mentoring as a set of activities or approaches, as a lucrative marketplace or as an emergent profession, authors from a diverse range of perspectives ask us to acknowledge and rise to the challenges ahead.

The global banking crisis

The global banking crisis serves as the starting point for the following three articles, each of which sets its stall firmly in the context of today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. Each contributor takes our exploration in different directions as they consider key issues.

In New coaches needed: evidence of vertical learning required Sol Davidson looks to the future by taking us back over 40 years to share some of his early career disillusionment at the greed and corruption he witnessed in the corporate world. Sol has decades of experience and proposes the type of ‘post conventional leadership’ that he feels organisations need in order to meet the unprecedented business and societal challenges ahead.

Peter Hawkins explores The challenge for coaching in the 21st century and makes the case for moving away from individualist leader development towards a systemic approach to team coaching and a focus on leadership. Peter contends that ‘what got us here won’t get us there’ and that the future of executive coaching will not be based on its past merits. He challenges us to ask “Who or what does Coaching serve?”

In A brave new world for coaching and mentoring? Lawrence White and Bill Osmond argue that coaching and mentoring do not have the luxury of time to evolve gradually. They set out that coaching and mentoring, however defined, sit within the wider context of the learning and development function. From this viewpoint, change needs to happen fast and be responsive to the broader trends impacting Learning & Development.

Trends towards compliance, control and diversity?

If you want to know what relevance both medieval Barons controlling their fiefdoms and the lawless wild west have for coaching and mentoring in the 21st Century, turn to the article by Bob Garvey, Professor of Management at York St John University, as he explores  Neo-feudalism and surveillance in coaching and mentoring? Calling for radical new ways of thinking about the future of supervision and the nature of ‘profession’, this viewpoint reveals the dangers for coaching and mentoring if traditional approaches to professionalisation become increasingly embedded.

In Working with the board in the 21st century, David Doughty picks up on the opportunities for coaching and mentoring to revolutionise corporate governance and the effectiveness of the board. With coaching and mentoring roles integral to the non-executive director role, and a growing demand for diversity on boards, what does this mean for the future of the external consultant/coach/mentor? And what opportunities might this present for accelerating the modernisation of our boards?

Possible futures for coaching and mentoring

Closing this edition is a story from the future. In Future presents – an Elysian tale, Dave Loewy brings us the imagined story of a coach’s personal and professional journey, looking back from the vantage point of 2029. How might the future look through the eyes of a coach fifteen years from now?   Something to ponder as we take stock and prepare for the New Year.

There are some challenging – even contentious – ideas here if we care to think deeply about it. There are many significant trends that have not yet been outlined, or that have so far been touched on only lightly, as we open up this conversation about the future.  What roles will coaching and mentoring play? Will external coaching and mentoring providers cease to exist as these functions become integrated into the roles of leader, colleague, board member, parent or spiritual director? Will coaching and mentoring become (over-)regulated, and what might be the impact if so? Is emergence into a profession a real option for coaching and mentoring, when the essence of these activities has existed as far back as anyone can trace?

Where the future takes us, none of us can confidently predict. Contributions to this first issue highlight some key themes, building on trends that can already be seen and felt. In the Spring 2015 edition of e-O&P (Part 2) and in another post-publication gathering, possibly in May, we will explore these issues further by looking in more detail at their implications for coaching and mentoring methods, models and practice.

Have your say – how to get involved

This is an open conversation and we want to hear your views. The journey ahead is going to be full of choices. Where do you think we’re heading? What big picture trends and themes do you think will influence the journey?

The conversation is being held across a number of formats and media, and for those of us who value the opportunity to engage in the conversation face-to-face, there are two post publication events you can join (see below). The global coaching and mentoring community is vast, and we hope that you will share your own learning from and contribution to this conversation with your own communities and colleagues, wherever they may be.  Insights and understanding, developed through this process, will inform the next round of updates to information resources, which are shared free of charge for the benefit of the wider community at www.coachingnetwork.org.uk

Options available to you include:

  • Join the conversation in our discussion forum
  • Write a blog
  • Come to a post-publication event


As guest editors of this edition, we’d like to thank a number of people. Bob MacKenzie and David McAra of AMED were instrumental in inviting us to edit this special edition, and offered their guidance, help and support throughout the process, from commissioning to post-publication. Elaine Cox at Oxford Brookes invited us to make the initial presentation to the OBCAMS team from which this whole venture was launched.  She is also hosting and supporting the follow-up event in March 2015, and we are grateful for her long-standing support for the Coaching & Mentoring Network’s initiatives. Acknowledgements are also due to all the authors who appear in this publication, to their critical friends and to everyone who has already started to engage in online and offline discussions. Finally, in anticipation, we’d like to thank you, our readers and prospective contributors to the ensuing discussion.  Do let us know what you think.

Front cover: The Owl of Wisdom and Athena.

The earliest Greek coins were impressed with the owl of wisdom on one side and Athena’s profile on the other, resplendent in her battle helmet. The photo we have used for our cover shows a modern medallion cast in brass and made to look ancient. We selected this image of Athena as she is often associated with the origins of Mentoring, appearing in Homer’s Iliad through Mentor, the male tutor to whom Odysseus had entrusted the guidance and protection of his son Telemachus. To the ancient Greeks, Athena was goddess of war as well as wisdom, the arts, industry and skill. This suggests a more complex picture than the idealised, somewhat narrow, role of simply wise counsel and friend. Athena looked after many occupations of men as well as women and, depending on which sources you read, was attributed with the provision of practical inventions as well as strategies for success within various forms of work.  As a goddess of war, she represented military strategy as well as advanced battlefield skills and technologies. However, she did not represent the bloodlust or chaos of battle.  Going back to those early origins as symbolised by this image seemed a fitting starting point for our conversation about the future of coaching and mentoring within the modern world.  Click on the following link for more about Athena.

About the guest editors

Pauline Willis and Anna Britnor Guest co-founded and have jointly led the Coaching and Mentoring Network (CMN) website which has been a key resource since 1999. In demand as speakers and in the press, both have worked to promote good practice, communication and inclusiveness. Anna moved on from her formal role and co-ownership of the CMN in March. Co-editing this publication is a fitting way to reflect on the past and create new forms of collaboration for the future.

In addition to the CMN, Pauline has held a number of high profile roles which include founding executive board member of the EMCC and 2nd Chair of the SGCP. As an internationally recognised organisational /occupational (business) and coaching psychologist, she is a strong advocate of integrated, systemic approaches to assessment, development and evaluation. She provides commercially focused strategic consultancy as well as coaching/mentoring services for clients across a range of industries and sectors.

Contact: paulinew@coachingnetwork.org.uk, +44 (0)1865 784388, http://uk.linkedin.com/in/paulinewillis.

A consultant and non-executive director, Anna is passionate about helping businesses achieve their goals. With a strong international and commercial background, she supports clients to create sustainable and responsible growth. She is working with several leading technology vendors on the future of work and, with a trade publisher, exploring the implications on business of the changing customer-supplier landscape.

Contact: annabg@leadingedgecoaching.co.uk, +44 (0)1488 638119, uk.linkedin.com/in/annabritnorguest 

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