Professor Roger Steare's Ethicability
Leaders breaking hierarchical norms

Philosophy and coaching

 Went on a LinkedIn discussion group today and contributed to a discussion about whether philosophical thinking helps improve coaching approaches and outcomes. The answer has to be 'yes', I think, because how can analytic thinking not help any approach, process or outcome? Once upon a time the catchphrase – word – of IBM was 'Think'. Just do that and perhaps all the questions of the world may be soluble. May be.

However, when you add the word 'philosophical' to the word 'thinking', then I guess we all sense a deeper sense to the concept of thinking; this is thinking at the root level, about all the fundamental and ultimate questions. Philosophy, unfortunately, in the Twentieth Century was hijacked by very narrow sects like Logical Positivism which claimed reason and logic to extirpate the larger domain of philosophy (as Plato, say, would have understood it); of course, they claimed that logic did this, but in reality their views were acts of faith.

Again, unfortunately, the aridity of this approach was met not by common sense but by sects that took the opposite view: namely, like Existentialism, where logic and reason have nothing to do with 'it', and we go on affirming ourselves through authentic actions. Hmm, right: do and be damned. Ethics and morality were curiously skewed in all this humbug that bedevils us even now.

Thus, my contribution to today's debate has focused on extending philosophy to include the spiritual, because here at least we can be sure that the big questions get looked at.

I love this observation from GK Chesterton, a writer I am currently re-visiting: "Spiritual doctrines do not actually limit the mind as do materialistic denials. Even if I believe in immortality I need not think about it. But if I disbelieve in immortality I must not think about it." So, as I went on to say: I like my mind to be unlimited and I think my clients do too!

The essence of what we do in helping the client find answers to pressing business or personal issues is not the only part of the process: we also in doing reveal our being – and being is the most powerful form of role modelling. The worst thing is to pay 500 Euros to get a coaching 'qualification' - a set of questions, smart techniques - and not have any beliefs about human nature, the meaning of life, and the invisible world: in short, to run on empty. But to get such beliefs requires the philosophical and theological enquiry that is the essence of what Socrates might have called the 'examined' life.

There is a strange paradox at the heart of this which may be portrayed in the following way: the state of our being is complete in itself and we don't have to have or do anything, for having or doing anything affects not one whit who we are - who we are is complete in itself; yet, simultaneously with this being state, the being needs to become, the acorn will be an oak, so how is this possible if what we are is sufficient?

Edouard Stacke ( from France chipped into this debate and raised the interesting spectres that so afflict our life: “Unfortunately the being is hidden by ego behaviour, social masks, conscious and unconscious power games which are polluting oneself life and humans interactions all the time. There is a lot to achieve to allow oneself to be naked, powerless, stop playing games, in order to be.”

Well said! This is what I describe as the false self-image; in another theology it is called the devil - the father of all lies and the murderer from the beginning. The myths, of course, are true. So philosophy comes full circle to theology and mythology.

We can even lie when we are coaching – not in the misleading sense to a client, but in the sense we are playing that role, doing that game, and the situation is not one of authentic interaction. So the philosophic quest is on – while we do our work – to find ourselves.


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