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Introducing the “Tree of Executive Coaching” By Elaine Patterson

Introducing the “Tree of Executive Coaching”

..An Organic Framework For Enabling Inspired Coaching Conversations…


Elaine Patterson

I qualified as an Executive Coach with The OCM in 2006, went on to qualifiy as a Coach Supervisor with the Coaching Supervision Academy in 2009, and became accredited as an EMCC Master Practitioner in 2010. But my journey has never been about external labels but about finding a definition of coaching and a framework for coaching which expressed me, who I am and what I want my practice to offer my clients.

My wake up call came in 2008 when I was finally challenged by my supervisor who said “.. and so Elaine .. what is your model of practice? ” .. and looking around I found that my library yielded some clues but not my whole picture.

And so I realised I needed to get out of my head and into my heart with what inspired and motivated me……. and looking up from my Studio window I discovered that it was actually my oak tree at the bottom of our garden which had always energised and guided me whenever I needed to re – connect with my presence, spaciousness and inspiration, with potential and possibility both my own and the people I was working with.

Grabbing my sketch book I then started to design my own Tree of Practice with

  • my own roots which is the anchoring and grounding of my practice;
  • my trunk which holds my practice


  • the branches which is my coaching toolkit

which captured for me the essence of my work which is “helping people to become all of who they are” by working from our common and shared humanity, what it is to be human and what it is to work alongside another human being helping them to become their best. See inset 1. Copy from pg 8 of the attached reference document.

I then started to populate the roots, trunks and branches with the following core elements with for example

  • the roots – that which feeds, nourishes and sustains the tree with for example finding our own centre, being fully present, being mindfully aware, being authentic, clarifying intentions and knowing ourselves
  • the trunk – which holds our practice – which enables the tree to stand.. conduit for nourishment, water and nutrients from soil & roots and includes for example our Code of Ethics; Contracting & Accountabilities; Process Tools; Competencies; Self Assessment, Feedback & Evaluation; Learning Logs & Reflective Practice; CPD & Supervision; Qualifications & Accreditations; and Membership of professional organisations
  • and the branches which are our tools, processes and approaches which give shelter and structure to our work and include for example Fundamentals of Coaching; Systemic Coaching; Psychological Mindedness;Theories of Change;Theories of Learning; and Creative approaches

And then I started to see beyond this to the potential which the framework could offer me in helping me to sense and understand what was actually happening in my coaching conversations and locate where I was working from; and then stepping back helping me to design my own CPD. I have since gone to to play with the framework as my defining approach to coaching supervision and leadership development.

A google search then made me appreciate the extent to which the tree is an an ancient universal image of growth, strength and connectedness across many traditions where trees are seen in varous ways of  linking heaven & earth; of providing shelter; reaching to the sky and the earth; losing leaves and bearing fruit; enriching the air we breathe; provide for the vital exchange and flow of water, nutrients and gases; symbolises wisdom, protection, bounty, beauty, creator & redemption; and are seen as gifts for generations to come.

The distinctive features of the framework are as follows:

  1. It is a holistic, flexible, multi dimensional model which is rooted in shared humanity and the philosophy of “who we are is how we coach”
  2. It provides a way of helping coaches to explore inter-relationships between all the different elements of our practice and helps coaches to forge their won signature styles
  3. It respects and makes possible the integration of all the different different schools and approaches to coaching
  4. It embraces both ancient traditions and new thinking
  5. It provides a route map for understanding the coaching conversation
  6. It offers the practitioner a framework for the practitioner to reflect in action & on action
  7. It offer the practitioner a route map for  Chapter on presence from AC’s book on Coachng Supervision: coach training, coach development and CPD; and possibly also accreditation
  8. It offers frameworks which with some adaption can be extented into the worlds of coaching supervision, reflective learning  & leadership development.

I offer it to help practitioners to explore their own practice; to design their own trees or to discover new and different metaphors which expresses them and their practice.

The original Thought Piece plus a Workbook and a Resource Book are available and can be downloaded from; and I hope that the “Tree” inspires you in some way. I would love to hear your thoughts, reflections and stories from reading this article and the associated resources .

I have since gone on to adapt and develop the “Tree” for the worlds of coaching supervision, leadership development and reflecitve learning.

And a final thought to leave you with which is an extract from Marinoff (2004)

“A tree: It is unique, fractal, solid, flexible and very much alive. It has no prejudices or opinions. It knows no terror.

It takes root and holds down the very soil. It draws water from the earth. It fashions a leafy canopy, sun drenched above and shady below. It breathes. It is wondrous to behold. It harbours and shelters many life forms. Its sap flows. It bears fruit in it season.

After benefiting its environment it returns silently to the soilto its origins. Can any human aspire to more….?”


Marinoff, L. (2004) The Big Questions: How Philosophy Can Change Your Life Page 203: Bloomsbury, London.