Reflections on the Enterprise Coaching Conference
The Enterprise Coaching conference held in Derby yesterday got me reflecting again on what I have learned from 20 years experience in working with enterprise coaches and people looking to make progress in their lives. It also prompted me to re-read Ernesto Sirolli’s PhD thesis – available on the web here (PDF).
He suggests that 4 key principles should underpin the work of the enterprise coach (Sirolli calls them Enterprise Facilitators™ – a term on which he claims a trademark). These principles are:
- Only work with individuals or communities that invite you.
- Never motivate individuals to do anything they do not wish to do.
- Trust that they are naturally drawn towards self-improvement.
- Have faith in community and the higher social needs that bond it together.
Each of these principles stems from an approach to providing help that is genuinely person centred and responsive rather than interventions designed to achieve the policy objectives of the state.
Sirolli argues compellingly that any violation of these 4 principles may lead to a self satisfying and self serving illusion of help but will in practice inhibit the long term development of an enterprise culture in the community.
Each of these 4 principles is worth significant reflection and its implications for our practice as coaches, and perhaps more importantly service designers and managers should be careful considered.
Here are a few questions to prompt the process:
- What would you and your service need to be like so that the people that you wish to support w0uld actively and willingly seek out your support? What would you have achieved? What would your reputation be like? Would you use offers of money or marketing campaigns to win attention in the community? If you only worked where people really invited you, would you have any work? What would you have to do in order to start ‘winning invitations’?
- If we do not motivate people then how can we help them to change? Do they need our encouragement and motivation to pursue objectives that are in their own self interest? What are the risks of motivating and initiating?
- What would happen if we just trusted people to move in a direction that leads to self improvement? If we rely on the development of a natural human instinct rather than imposing an external perspective of what constitutes progress will ANY of our clients move forward? What might happen to our performance metrics if we really worked at the natural pace of the client? What might happen in the long term to our effectiveness and impact – if we survive the short term problems? What is the role of the enterprise coach in working with clients whose natural inclination to self improvement has been somehow stalled?
- Is it sufficient to just have ‘faith’ in the ‘higher social needs’ that bind community together or does our work require a more practical approach to developing the role of the community in supporting individuals who are looking to make progress?
Our work needs to be grounded on principles if it is to be effective. It is not just about the techniques of coaching versus advising, mentoring or counselling. It is not just about managerial pragmatism in pursuit of the narrowly economic objectives of most funders and policy makers.
It is about our role in engaging with individuals and communities on the agendas that matter most to them.
It is about how best we can help people to engage in the rich infrastructure of services and support that is already out there if they wish to use it.
It is about how we can influence the design and delivery of these services (including mainstream business support) to ensure that they are both cost effective and relevant.
But most importantly it is about how can provide consistent and long term relationships that people can trust enough to help them as they confront the risks and challenges that come with stepping outside of the comfort zone and continuing the journey of self improvement.
Encouraging people to start on these journeys with promises of help and support, and then withdrawing that help and support when funders and policy makers shift their priorities not only destroys trust in us but also leaves our clients high and dry. If current funders are not willing or able to honour the long term commitments that serious endeavours to change the enterprise culture in communities requires then we perhaps need to find some new investors.
As George Derbyshire said – perhaps it is time to ‘Sack the Boss’.