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If leaders need to have the skill of reparenting themselves then, arguably, that also applies to coaches. This is for several reasons :

a)   Leaders often have a coaching role; this indeed may increasingly be the case.

b)   Coaches may be supporting leaders in reparenting themselves ; for example supporting them in reviewing the quality of their support network; reviewing their fundamental beliefs about themselves and their business.( see the earlier blog).

Clearly internal coaches, whether as leaders, peer coaches, coaching specialists or a blend of all of these, may well be subject to the same inconsistent, even fragmented parenting as their clients. They may also  portray or embody elements of that inconsistent parenting. Hence the importance of external sanity checks. One source of such sanity checks may be supervision ; however, it is not always given the priority it deserves. ( see Katharine St-John Brooks’ brilliant book, ‘ Internal Coaching, The Inside Story’, Karnac, 2013).

I am also aware that sometimes those institutions responsible for the training and development of coaches, consultants and other ‘helper roles’ may themselves be sources of inconsistent, perhaps on occasion, toxic parenting. Quite regularly I hear stories where :

a)   Trainees, often having paid significant fees, are not in any way treated like customers. Sometimes those who pluck up the courage to complain are humiliated in front of their fellow students. Or a sympathetic member of the academic staff offers some superficial support but is, perhaps understandably, unwilling to challenge her more senior colleagues.

b)   A consultancy intervention that ends up simply reinforcing the client organisation’s ‘stuckness’; for example, an initiative to introduce a coaching culture in the organisation in order to improve flexibility founders because the consultancy is addicted to its own definitions and its own self-serving bureaucracy.

c)   Trainees are pressured into compliance ( in the language of transactional analysis language, the negative Adapted Child ego state), whilst being told that the coaching relationship is about building commitment ( the positive aspects of all the ego states, Parent, Adult and Child). For example, a transactional, rigid and superficial assessment process contradicts the supposed emphasis on shared learning, the transformative and the collaborative.

The trainee’s sense of anger, frustration and sadness may be even more intense because of his expectations about what life would be like in this institution which portrayed itself as a learning and perhaps even loving and healing community. So the inconsistent parenting may take place in terms of :

a)   The contrast between the public and private faces of the institution. Clearly there are potential parallels with, for example, the father who seeks to show the world his virtue and may even declare his profound belief in encouraging the self-confidence of children, but can then be cruelly sarcastic towards his son in private.

b)   The mismatch between ‘espoused values’ and ‘values in action’, as declared and demonstrated internally; stakeholder engagement is supposedly valued, but somehow the means and the opportunity to feedback on the learning and assessment process are scarcely adequate.

c)   The various parents choosing to keep quiet; as did the more junior member of the academic staff in the example above.

The trainees may respond in a variety of ways:

a)   Decide to leave, despite the expense.

b)   Keep quiet and ‘play the game’ until she has her qualification and is free.

c)   Keep quiet and play the game, perhaps to the point where he allows himself to be inducted into the world of hypocrisy, even becoming in time a valued member of the academic staff who perpetuates the tradition of inconsistent parenting. Similar perhaps to the leader who decides to enter the world of political intrigue.      ( see the earlier blog).

d)   Blame themselves and turn their anger inwards ; ‘ I should have done more research before signing up’……… ‘I am just a novice in this field; perhaps I am misunderstanding the true nature and purpose of the training…….especially since, it would seem, there are so many happy to go along with it’.

Against  this backdrop reparenting self will, at least in part be about using the positive Critical Parent ego state  and positive Nurturing Parent ego state to support the Child ego state; for example, finding a safe place ( Positive Critical Parent/ Protection) where one can give oneself Permission ( positive Nurturing Parent) to express the anger, frustration and sadness referred to above.

In all this, as touched on, coaching supervisors  have a role to play. However, sometimes they have a strong investment in their relationship with the training institution. They may indeed be a ‘preferred supplier’, whether formally or informally. It may even be that there is an unspoken psychological contract, even outside awareness, that the toxic shadow of the institution should be ignored or minimised. ‘All of us in the community know that X’s Dad is truly a lovely man. These rumours that he is a bully at home are purely malicious’. So when the trainee expresses concern in her supervision session about some aspects of the training, the impact on the supervisor can be quite profound ; it has resonances with that which may be buried within his soul ; that is in the depths of his Child ego state; the source of profound wisdom and imperviousness…..the strands often being intertwined. Such resonances can be challenging for the supervisor seeking to maintain an appropriate professional and personal balance in being both a part of and apart from his supervisee’s world.


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