Back in the dim and distant past (the 1990’s) there was a TV show called the X Files. Each week an investigative duo would look in to unexplained phenomena and go on to battle the FBI and a whole host of government agencies in order to get to “The Truth”. As a series the plotlines ranged from the supernatural to alien abduction via a whole variety of fakes and mystics. There was always the idea that there could be a definitive truth in each situation.
Fast forward to 2013 where I’ve been thinking a lot on the nature of truth and its relevance in coaching. I guess some of this thought is prompted by my recent interest in Narrative Coaching and also in the fact that last month I talked openly about my mental health for the first time. Additionally I have given a lot of thought to forgotten truths and the idea that skills and knowledge are lost to the world as we become a more homogenised culture, with languages and local customs dying out. Perhaps prompted by reading I have been doing around Shamanic practice and how it varies (yet is remarkably similar) across the globe.
So what is the truth in coaching? After all, as a profession it struggles to settle on one single definition with multiple trade bodies and no universal structure. There are countless models, approaches and styles. It’s probably fair to say that no two coaches work exactly the same way, we all bring our own bias, our predilections and blind spots.
Spare a thought too for the clients. They have many and varied needs. Maybe their organisation has sent them to be coached for development, perhaps they are a personal client with deep rooted fears to come across. All that of course before we even begin to look at what they believe to be true in the world e.g. My boss hates me, I’m a terrible parent. Layers and layers of beliefs that we hold to be truths.
Except they aren’t truths. They are generally a construct, a collection of ideas and narratives which we cling to make sense of the world – and you know what? That’s fine. As coaches we need to be able to work with multiple truths, some of them will even be contradictory at first but work with them we must.
So, to the title of this post, which, long before it was an album by the Manic Street Preachers was a quote from the politician Aneurin Bevan, the architect of the National Health Service in the UK. When asked to back up his assertions around social deprivation and welfare he would use this phrase along with a few carefully chosen statistics. Now we all know that statistics can be shaped and interpreted but I feel his intent was a good one.
Bevan would talk about how the reality of a situation appeared to him and invite the speaker to tell him their viewpoint. When you think about it, that’s quite a good model for coaching, allowing multiple versions of the truth to be discussed and considered before the client decides on a way forward. It does away with the need for a rigid view of the world and allows both coach and client to create a space where more choice is available. Always a good thing!
I’m still thinking about this subject so I expect there will be more to follow, please check in via the comments below or find me on twitter @projectlibero