Coaching through the Ages

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Etymology of the word "Coach"

The term Anglo-Saxon "coach" , derived from the French word "cocher", the latter itself from the word "Kocsi" meaning diligence. 

The "cocher" led travelers to their destination. Coaching responds to a need for support and self-learning. Today's coaches conduct individuals being coached to the concrete realization of their projects, this achievement being identified as a destination to be reached.

 

Coaching practices, imported from the United States, appeared in France in the 80s and 90s, drawn on the major concepts of Social Sciences.

Social context of the emergence of Coaching

The term "coach" is initially used in the last century in the theater, opera and film businesses. It defines the notion of accompanying artists. It was then used in the field of sports training, aiming to prepare and motivate athletes or teams to improve their performance. Later on, it was adapted to the business world (individuals or teams coaching) and to individuals from any professional context (Life-Coaching).

In the context of the business world, theories of organizations defined by Henri Fayol (1916) and Frederick Taylor (1911) – respectively hierarchical and functional approaches – were later disputed by the experiments of Elton Mayo (1930 ). The latter favored the psychological climate as a trigger for workers' performance. We can cite Hawthorne sociological experience, demonstrating that increased productivity of workers wasn't dependent on working conditions but on interest put on their work, regardless of any improvement in the comfort of work, extensions or reductions in working hours. Therefore, Elton Mayo marked the first break with the Taylorist model and approach to individual interest, promoting teamwork, communication and listening from hierarchy.

Mintzberg (1973) highlighted the power and change management's phenomena in opposition to Fayol demonstrating that the manager must use interpersonal relationships to learn and to act having in mind the fact that within any structure power and politics are in constant evolution.

Coaching, from birth to present day

"Coaching" comes from maieutics defined by Socrates in the fifth-century BC. Socrates said that "the soul of each person is pregnant and wishes to give birth". The term "coaching" can be outlined by the processes of communication and listening that reveal individuals to themselves.

Mentor in Greek mythology educating the son of Ulysses, Aristotle in 322 BC tutor of Alexander the Great, the mad lords and scribes in the Middle Ages, all these people approached the role of "coach" to empower others.

In the years 1950 to 1960, the "counselors and mentors" of American stars are the pioneer coaches like sport coaches who focused on improving the performance of their players or teams, realizing the impact of this work on minds. Timothy Gallwey asserted that the main opponent was none other than the athlete himself.

Since 1980, coaches moved into the business world, addressing the issues faced by senior managers and executives. In the late 80s, Vincent Lenhardt imported the concepts of team building and executive coaching in France. Since 1990, the coaching extended and  opened to individuals outside the context of companies (Life-Coaching).

Extract from "Apports de l’intelligence émotionnelle sur la motivation d'équipe", Laubie, R. (2008). Mémoire de DESU Pratiques du Coaching, Paris VIII, supervised by Michel Moral. 

 

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