Volume II Issue 2, 12/2004
Welcome to the third edition of The International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching.
The journal has two main sections: Academic Section and Professional Section.
The Academic Section has three categories:
And the Practitioner Section also has three:
The academic section rigorously follows the conventions of all academic journals in the form of double blind peer review from an internationally recognised panel of reviewers. The Professional Section is subject to rigorous editorial review. Both section provide good quality writing and interesting comment.
We also welcome book reviews.
In this, our 3rd edition, we have focussed on one subject – Evaluation. The papers come from a range of international contributors and EMCC members. We also have a couple of book reviews.
The IJMC welcomes papers from all fields of mentoring and coaching and aims to be truly representative of the wider mentoring and coaching community. We believe that this is important because it can be only too easy to focus on one particular sector and therefore miss out on the rich learning that can be gained from other sectors.
We have two academic papers this time. D E Gray of the School of Management, University of Surrey looks at Principles and processes in coaching evaluation while Samantha Coe of the Newcastle Business School argues the case for insider accounts as a valid form of evaluation of mentoring and coaching.
In the Professional Section, Jan Sherwood presents a case study that asks a pretty fundamental question for all of us: does coaching actually work? Meanwhile Geoffery Ahern looks at the complexities of how to evaluate coaching effectiveness, and Sabine Dembkowski and Fiona Eldridge examine a study that set out to identify success factors in individual executive coaching.
Also in this edition, Te Ruru reviews Mastering Mentoring and Coaching with Emotional Intelligence by Patrick E. Merlevede & Denis C. Bridoux, and David Megginson looks at The Wise Fool’s Guide to Leadership: Short Spiritual Stories for Organisational and Personal Change by Peter Hawkins
First, let us put our cards on the table. Mentoring and coaching is fundamentally linked to the human ‘generativity’. (See E. Erikson, Childhood and Society, 1950) motive and is therefore, we argue, essential for human progress in any context. It is therefore a worthwhile activity for any person in any context. We really do believe that ‘everyone needs a mentor (coach)’!
As mentoring and coaching activity develops in a wide range of sectors, for example:
the subject of evaluation is becoming increasingly important. This is for a number of reasons.
One reason is that, as yet, coaching and mentoring is an unregulated profession and user organisations want to be assured of the effectiveness of mentoring and coaching activity on behaviour, performance and the emotional well being of those being coached or mentored. Organisations, whatever the sector, are interested in value for money, impact, performance, change and development. They are also interested in comparing one to one interventions with other, more traditional approaches to development.
As can be seen from the articles in this edition of IJMC, the issue of evaluation is not straightforward. As Einstein pointed out ‘not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts’. In the very human activity of coaching and mentoring this is a great truism. Clearly, there are elements that can be counted in a direct way:
However, measurement can become a controlling device that may distort social and work-based activities. It is well understood that whatever gets measured in an organisational context, happens. However, this is not necessarily in the way or in the spirit it is intended. Take Enron, for example. Here the directors clearly achieved their targets but at the expense of the organisation. Measurement can give a false impression of success or failure. On the positive side, it can also contribute to our understanding of work-based and social activity.
The key to evaluation is the appropriateness of the measuring instrument. Sometimes the desire to count means that what ‘counts’ is missed. It can be like trying to measure the temperature of a room with a ruler. Obviously, this is wholly inappropriate. Measurement can help to elaborate on how or why mentoring and coaching relationships are effective. It can provide support for the relationship, it can also undermine. Measurement can also facilitate reflection about the relationship. This is particularly the case when attempting to contextualise or develop a sense of meaning from a particular measure.
‘Hard’ data is useful and gives clues about mentoring and coaching activity within a particular setting but it can only give a partial picture. Performance indicators, such as:
(to mention a few)
… are much more important but are often only attributable to mentoring and coaching by association rather than with ‘straight numerical lines’. Consequently, qualitative indicators such as:
…contribute to our understanding of mentoring and coaching as a natural and very human activity.
And then there are methodological issues. In this edition, some contributors discuss these. Evaluation methodology is important because the quality of the any evaluation is only as good as the methodological rigour employed.
In short, there are two main and opposing assumptions in evaluation. One is that human behaviour is deterministic and can be generalised and the other that human behaviour is voluntaristic and therefore cannot be generalised.
There are claims that coaching and mentoring does improve sales, the bottom line and other such ‘hard’ measurement. However, it is important to consider such ‘facts’ as part of a whole. There are many factors that contribute to improved sales figures and mentoring and coaching may be just one of them. This is not to reduce the impact of such claims, but to suggest that human learning and development can be reduced to a single point of measurement is a bold claim indeed!
We have to ask – what is the purpose of evaluation. Our answer is, ‘to improve the mentoring or coaching process for the benefit of all stakeholders’. Consequently, it is our belief that mentoring and coaching activity in any context is part of a complex social system and any social system is dynamic and constantly changing. Therefore, an evaluation that attempts to capture the social system under investigation as if it were a fixed point for measurement or an objective reality can only yield limited understanding and limited change. As a result, little meaningful action follows and any that does is often lacking in commitment. At their worst, social evaluations of this type can simply create antagonism and resentment among the stakeholders and fail to have anything other than a negative effect on those involved.
Alternatively, evaluations, if conducted with the full involvement of the stakeholders, can engage the participants in a process of change and development through learning. This leads to high levels of ownership in the evaluation and furthers a continuous improvement process. It is our experience, that the system under evaluation often evolves and changes as the parties involved engage in dialogue about their practice. This has the affect of developing the issue under investigation and producing best practice outcomes during the evaluation itself. In short, the evaluation has the potential to enhance the practice of the subjects under investigation while they are being evaluated. This is particularly the case with mentoring and coaching evaluations. Evaluation in this way becomes constant and meaningful and contributes to the learning process.
So, in our view, multiple methods, both numerical and descriptive, of measuring or evaluating mentoring and coaching offer the most potential for understanding the impact or affects of mentoring and coaching in various contexts.
The challenge to any organisation wishing to encourage mentoring and coaching activity is to:
Ultimately, it is important to be aware of what really ‘counts’ in human development.
Please do email us and say what you think about this third edition of the e-journal. We will be really pleased if you think it’s great but we’ll be equally pleased if you write and explain why you didn’t like something or disagree with someone. Even better, why not write an article for the journal yourself and start a debate.
Bob Garvey and Alison Carter
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