Making Sense of Coaching

Human Resource Management International Digest

ISSN: 0967-0734

Article publication date: 8 July 2014


Rao, M.S. (2014), "Making Sense of Coaching", Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 22 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Making Sense of Coaching

Article Type: Suggested reading From: Human Resource Management International Digest, Volume 22, Issue 5

Angelique Du Toit, Sage Publications, 2014, ISBN 9780857025616

Angelique Du Toit’s Making Sense of Coaching goes beyond the techniques and goals explored in most coaching texts to examine the process of coaching and the importance of sense-making for creating meaning and encouraging self-reflection.

The coaching experience emerges as a type of transformational learning, in which the individual is guided through a journey of discovery and revelation. Theories are drawn together in an original way which will cause readers to question how coaching should be defined and practiced.

The author explains that coaching addresses the world view of the individual and his or her place in that world. Coaching offers the mechanism through which to challenge the narratives that come to dominate an organization and, by default, the behaviors of those within it. Coaching is a didactic relationship entered into by the coach and person being coached for the purpose of developing the personal performance of the client.

Coaching has attracted people from a wide variety of disciplines, as well as sub-disciplines such as counseling and therapy. On the one hand are those who suggest that the absence of a common definition of coaching is damaging to the professionalism of coaching. On the other are people who insist that coaching should not be judged on a common definition, but that the outcome of the intervention is most important.

Coaching is increasingly used as a management-development tool. It may, therefore, be used in the pursuit of self-interest and the exploitation of others, even when there is no conscious decision to do so.

The role of a coach is to enable the individual to gain self-knowledge with the assumption that this will lead to a more fulfilled personal and professional life.

The author explains that emotions are a powerful and significant part of storytelling, as it is through the communication of emotions that we engage in the process of constructing our identity. Emotions permeate daily life. They are embedded in our thoughts, communications and behaviors and fuel our motivations. We learn at an early age to control and censor our emotions and reveal only the emotions that are perceived as acceptable or appropriate in a given situation.

Stories strengthen the culture of the organization by revealing its values and beliefs and what it perceives its strengths to be. History is peppered with examples of leaders who have wielded the power of storytelling. The late Steve Jobs, co-founder, chief executive and chairman of Apple, was an example of a business leader who had the ability to build an iconic brand through persuasion and storytelling.

Stories are valuable tools that will allow the person being coached to rehearse possible scenarios related to a situation they may want to change or influence. This is particularly powerful in shifting the dynamics, as well as the responses and interactions in interpersonal relationships. The use of stories helps the person being coached to identify, in particular, the complexities and dynamics of relationships in an organization. These may include power, political gaming and interpersonal conflicts.

Coaching has become a significant part of learning and development and, as the author points out, the process of knowledge construction in the coaching community is now under way.

The special nature of the relationship between the coach and person being coached is often marked by unique shared moments. It is not intimate, but it is a special relationship which is identified by those shared moments that potentially could not be understood nor shared by others. People may never have the conversations they have with their coaches that they have with anyone else, yet the coach is a stranger who may never be seen again after the conclusion of the coaching intervention.

Most barriers are self-made. There are external barriers, but they are only impenetrable because you look at them from one particular way. You need help to see that there is another equally valuable way of looking at it, which may initially cut across what you think is right or wrong or more valuable. When you keep probing, supported by coaching, you recognize that there may be another way forward.

The language of that deeper level, as soon as you go beyond behaviors, is perhaps not words, which is why we find it so difficult to articulate that it really is a different type of communication. Intuition is important in terms of sensing things, so it is almost as though one needs a different form of communication that goes beyond behaviors.

Making Sense of Coaching is a widely researched book containing lots of references, examples, illustrations and anecdotes. It outlines in-depth knowledge on coaching with coaching jargon and vignettes. It is useful for researchers, scholars, practitioners, consultants, coaches and leaders.

Reviewed by Professor M.S. Rao, international leadership guru. E-mail: