History of Coaching

The term “coach” originated in the sports field in the late-1880’s, and has been a well-known profession within the sporting arena for years. However it has only been in the last 40 years or so that coaching has emerged as a distinct profession with applications to all walks of life.

1950’s & 1960’s
After the second great depression of the 1930’s and the Second World War in the 1940’s, America entered a period of sustained economic growth, coupled with relative peace and security.  This gave people the space to explore other aspects of their lives apart from their daily subsistence needs.

At the same time, many famous scientists, psychologists, writers, and philosophers from Europe had crossed the Atlantic during and immediately after the war where they were able to collaborate with their American counterparts. In addition, academia and college students were being increasingly exposed to the Hindu, Taoist and Zen philosophies of India, China, and Japan. The air was palpably bursting with fresh ideas.

It was in this concoction of demand and supply that the “human potential movement” took off, especially in California in the 1960s, to explore what humans were really capable of if they lived life to the fullest.

Psychologists such as Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Fritz Perls, singer-songwriters like Joan Baez, writers such as Aldous Huxley and George Leonard, anthropologists like Gregory Bateson, as well as experts in Daoism (Gia Fu Feng), Zen (Alan Watts), and Hinduism (Haridas Chaudhuri), explored this question in great depth and often in close collaboration. This led to a multidisciplinary synthesis, the likes of which had perhaps never been seen before.

In the 1970s, many of these ideas and principles were aggregated, codified, and made available to a much wider audience through self-awareness courses run by highly charismatic trainers. Fernando Flores, with whom Newfield Network founder Julio Olalla worked for many years, was a key architect of these courses.

There was an increasing number of people who had done these self-awareness workshops, but, despite understanding many of the principles on an intellectual level, they were finding it diffictult to apply them pactically to their daily lives in a sustainable way.

This was a problem looking for a solution. This came in 1974 when W.T. Galway, a tennis coach, wrote his famous book, The Inner Game of Tennis. It was based on humanistic and transpersonal principles and the concept that “the opponent within is more formidable than the one outside.” According to many people, this was the first major transition from the sports coaching model of control and teaching to what initial practitioners, such as Julio Olalla and other leading lights, developed and fine-tuned, to what eventually became personal coaching.

Not all coaches were as talented, however. In the 1980s, there was a profusion of people calling themselves “coaches” in this rapidly developing field. But there was no formal training or qualification of coaches. As a result, although there were many excellent coaches, many clients had substandard coaching experiences.

At the turn of the decade, the first widely respected professional coaching schools came into operation. Thomas Leonard (Coach U Inc.), James Flaherty (New Ventures West), Julio Olalla and Rafael Echeverria (the Newfield Group, which preceded the Newfield Network) were among the first to go about turning the “coaching industry” into the “coaching profession.” An increasing number of books started treating coaching as an independent field of study, the first of which was John Whitmore’s Coaching for Performance in 1992.

In 1995 Thomas Leonard formed the International Coach Federation (ICF), which provided a certification for coaches that has become the worldwide standard. This meant that clients could be assured of a high level of competence from coaches, provided the coaches were qualified.

As a result of increasing professionalism, coaching found wider acceptance in the business world. Executive coaching as a discipline that blended personal coaching with organisational behavior and management studies took off.

Famous CEOs and MDs such as Jack Welch (GE), Meg Whitman (eBay), Sam Palmissano (IBM), Alan Mulally (Boeing/Ford), Mark Tercek (Goldman Sachs), and Joe Katzenback (McKinsey) appreciated the value generated from having an executive coach. The latter part of the decade also saw the rise of superstar coaches such as Tony Robbins and Marshall Goldsmith.

Coaching is now a well-established profession in America and Europe. The number of companies employing the services of professional coaches has gone up substantially, not just for their CEOs but also for their high potential managers. Companies regularly employ full time internal coaches. IBM has over 60 of them. Even space exploration organisations like NASA send select employees to Newfield to become certified coaches.

2010s and Beyond
We are already seeing in certain countries a demand for certified coaches that far outstrips supply. Over the next few decades, coaching is likely to be an exciting, fulfilling, and lucrative profession for people who love contributing to others, and who are willing to invest in their own development so that they can do so effectively. These people will become the “brand ambassadors” for the coaching profession and will establish themselves as the “figureheads” and “knowledge experts” of the coaching industry and influence the evolution of the profession.

In the future, executive coaching will reach far more deeply into an organisation than it does now. Already there are companies that send hundreds of their most senior executives for executive coaching. As the number of certified coaches increases, it is likely that companies will hire coaching firms to do much larger interventions. Indeed, the day when companies do a full-scale coaching intervention is not far away.

Progressive companies will build their own in-house coaching knowledge expertise by employing full-time executive coaches or by having handpicked employees trained up as ICF coaches. As a result, they can embed a coaching culture within the organisation in a way that augments and complements existing structures (appraisals, bonuses, development plans, corporate learning web sites, etc.).

For large companies, the CEO is likely to have an external CEO coach as per current practice. However, there will be internal or external coaches coaching a much larger number of managers in the company, and the methods employed will be far more innovative and cost-effective. Traditional coaching will be combined with elements of peer coaching, web based learning, group tele-seminar coaching, etc.

(Source: Newfield Network)

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