Ethics in coaching

Lidia D. Czarkowska, Bożena Wujec, Warszawa, Leadership Coaching jako odpowiedź na wyzwania współczesnego świata, lipiec 2012

Summary: The article describes the significance of coaching in management sciences in connection with current ethical issues. Initially, the authors outline the origins and philosophical foundations of coaching, as well as the present condition of coaching ethics research in literature.

They follow with a description of telic and autotelic values concept in coaching and its core philosophical and ethical principles. In subsequent part of the article, the authors consider the position of coaching as reflected in the changes of social awareness on the basis of a number of own models, as well as those already existing in literature. Finally, they describe the idea of leadership coaching followed by conclusions and suggestions for further research.

Keywords: Ethics in coaching, values in coaching, axiological foundations of coaching, transformation of social consciousness, leadership coaching.

Axiological foundations supporting intrapersonal change (internal) and behavioural (external) processes in course of coaching in connection with changes in social consciousness.

The origins and philosophical foundations of coaching

Coaching is a relatively new phenomenon in management which has been gaining in importance in recent years. In principle, it is a process of support of another person in realizing their primary objectives. This takes place by means of a methodologically conducted conversation whose distinctive features are the exceptionality of rapport, appropriate questions and feedback.

The literature defines coaching in various ways. What is being repeatedly emphasizes its voluntary and short-term nature, goal orientation, as well as tangibility of results. For the purposes of this article, three particular approaches towards coaching will be discussed, namely:

  1. Process of assisting another person which aims at intensification of their development and reaching peak performance. (Parsloe, Wray 2003; Kilburg 2000; Grant 2004)
  2. Partnership relationwhich aims at bringing out client’s resources during their development process (ICF; Downey 1999).
  3. A conversation or series of conversations regarding issues relevant to the client (Starr 2003).

Coaching remains an interdisciplinary area of science. Its roots can be traced to some of the theories from the field of psychology (humanistic, cognitive, social), as well as management. Philosophy of coaching is based on pragmatism, praxeology, and its methodology has roots in andragogy. What remains particularly noteworthy within the scope of sciences dealing with organizations and marketing are well-documented in the history of science experiments conducted by Elton Mayo, Douglas’s McGregor’s and William Ouchi’s X/Y/Z theory, Frederick Herzberg’s concept of motivators and hygiene factors, Abraham Maslow’s model of hierarchy of needsand others. Generally speaking, the above approaches can be described as ones taking into consideration a humanistic, i.e. non-deterministic human resources management dimension, which can be referred to as coaching (Czarkowska 2010a; Rosinski 2011b).

The concept of coaching dates back to 1830, and in Oxford University slang it amounted to having a tutor, who assisted the student in completing exams. Coaching in business took shape towards the end of the third decade of the previous century. In the 1960’s the term was often associated with confidential psychological help for managers, or the position of an in-company consultant. (Tobias 1996; Kilburg 2000). Coaching assumed its present form in the end of 1970’s, when it entered business as a specific type of autonomous intervention and gained acclaim as a specific method that fostered prompt achievement of intended objectives (Judge, Cowell 1997).

From the 1980’s dual specialization of coaching in its two main trends could be observed – business and personal. Coaching in business, due to the scope of implementations, underwent a division into professional coaching, executive coaching, leadership coaching, whereas coaching in private and personal areas split into personal coaching, life coaching, health coaching and such like. Business coaching relates to the managerial competence development, vital to the achievement of goals set by the company. Personal coaching, on the other hand, is connected with assistance in achieving personal goals, which might be dependent on professional ones. The above applies to such spheres of personal life as relations, health, intellectual development, finances, and spirituality. Since the personal and professional spheres are intertwined, coaching might also concern both these areas, such as the balance between professional role and family, cohesion of individual values and corporate culture, and the like.

With the development of globalization in the 1990’s, a new phenomenon in the scope of coaching implementations emerged – business multiculturalism (Mangala 2005). Corporations began to virtually reach the farthest corners of the world. A single project team suddenly consisted of people with diverse cultural backgrounds, different styles of work and life philosophies (Leduchowska, Wujec 2012). Global development of business provided coaches with new challenges – assisting clients in reaching their goals which are dependent on cultural context (Rosinski 2011a). Therefore multicultural coaching appeared, which demands on the part of the coach not only the ability to understand his/her own and client’s culture, but additionally the culture that the client’s company originates from (Rosinski 2011a; Pasmore 2009; Abbott 2006).

Diversity coaching is now a new dimension of coaching (Pasmore, 2009). Such diversity does no longer exclusively entail cultural varieties, but also those connected with gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, and world outlook (Mangala 2005). Four decades of experience have taught coaches that each individual group of clients has its own specific nature. Co-operation with women and men of alpha type differ from each other. The specificity of transitional life coaching is also dissimilar to the one conducted among ethnic environments and diasporas (Pasmore 2009), both in the context of international and multicultural organizations.

Coaching considerably varies from other similar interventions such as training, mentoring, counselling, or therapy (Czarkowska 2008). What seems to be a novelty here is a particular development process which aims at assisting the client in overcoming their own limitations with simultaneous seeking and utilizing their strong points. Partnership relation, friendly atmosphere of coaching, conversation focused on precise goals, establishing development tasksand feedback are additional factors of considerable importance.

Two fundamental dimensions are worthy of consideration here: the course of competence development process based on a more or less directiveapproach and the primary aim of the process: from furtherance in situations requiring correction to the development of the potential (see diagram 1).

Diagram 1: Types of methods of fostering employee development highlighted due to their course and the type of relation – own analysis (compare Czarkowska, 2008).

The distinctive feature of coaching is its process based on methodology of particular steps and sequences. Various authors emphasize numerous elements of this process (Whitmore 1997; Czarkowska, Wujec 2011), but certain elements seem to possess common traits:

  1. Building rapportwith the client, which entails good emotional, intellectual and physical shape,
  2. Determining the framework contract, trust and confidentiality,
  3. Determining challenges and goals to be realized,
  4. Discovering potential resources and obstacles,
  5. Planning the manner of realization, successive steps, schedule of activities,
  6. Establishing internal motivation, strength and courage to realize objectives,
  7. Monitoring activities, setting own coaching tasks and celebrating success.

In modern organizations coaching remains one of the methods of human potential development. At times it is being included into the area of knowledge management (it derives its resources from the wisdom of managers – tacit knowledge). The importance of coaching is signified by its high profitability. The investment calculated in ROI brings at least fivefold return from the investment in coaching (McGovern 2006; Stajszczak, Wujec 2012) and this is why the interest in this form of the development of senior management potential is very high.

Coaching as a profession generates enormous interest. Newly established international professional organizations gather coaches and make initial attempts at regulating it, such as the introduction of the code of ethics, regulating accessibility of the profession (chiefly within European Union), educating coaches and accreditation. Leading universities provide MA studies in this field (Australia), post-graduate studies (Poland) and even specialized PhD studies (USA, Brazil). The process of professionalization in coach profession advances gradually in order to create precise principles and maintain high standards of coaching services (Czarkowska 2010a).

Ethics in coaching literature

This article aims at the exploration of ethics in coaching. Since the interest in coaching ethics goes back to the establishment of professional associations, the initial attention towards coaching ethics was devoted to codes of ethics, then to moral dilemmas connected with supporting ethically questionable decisions of managers, and finally, to ethics in the context of cultural differences.

The comparable analysis of the existing codes of ethics of the major professional coaching associations such as International Coach Federation (ICF), European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC), European Coaching Institute (ECI) or International Association of Coaching (IAC) to some extent form an outer layer of ethical disputes in coaching and has been the most extensively explored topic in coaching ethics literature (ICF 2011).

The second topic, which has been increasingly touched upon, particularly during coaching supervision, is the attention to who is being helped by the coach and for what purpose. Business coaching is based on a clearly defined philosophy of profit and provides a series of techniques which help the manager and their organization accumulate the above profit. Disputes of moral nature arise: Is assisting the managers in maximizing business results of armaments companies, or ones with questionable social reputation ethical (Passmore 2009). Another frequently discussed issue is the way the manager should behave in case of the conflict between economic interest of the coaching company (the sponsor) and the interest which results from broadly understood well-being in private life of immediate client (the manager) of the coaching process (Czarkowska, Wujec 2011).

Ethical problems in coaching which stem from cultural diversity generate considerable controversy. An ethical and desirable human behaviour in one culture might prove to be the opposite in another. The question of determining competence gaps of senior manager or the openness in sharing feedback triggers serious controversy even among some of the Polish companies, let alone Asian countries where such practice is considered tactless. To avoid ethical matters disrupting coaching process, such issues – particularly of confidentiality and reporting, should be explicitly defined at the beginning of initial sessions (Rosinski 2011a; Wujec 2011).

Although the above three areas require further scientific exploration, in this article we would like to devote attention to deeper aspects of ethics, namely axiological foundations in coaching in the view of changes taking place in social awareness. These changes affect leadership styles, the manner of training leaders and their self-improvement, in which coaching increasingly participates.

Telic and autotelic values in coaching

Coaching can be described on various planes – from the definitions that stress its most external, immediately observable effects, which result in perceiving it as a set of tools necessary for the successful realization of goals, to a deep reflection on fundamental, internal beliefs concerning the nature of a human as an entity equipped with an inner development potential and freedom.

Similar considerations regarding ethics in coaching can be reduced to an outer layer, namely the comparable analysis of the existing ethical codes of the major professional coaching associations. We can reach a lot deeper and conduct an analysis of axiological foundations which have not always been formulated explicitly, but possess fundamental significance in the process of internal (intrapersonal, in the scope of self-awareness), as well as external (behavioural and relational) changes that take place during coaching. Both these changes should lead to the increase of personal integrity, the increased cohesion between human attitude and behaviour, which in turn contributes to more effective revaluation of the potential and more successful realization of goals.

These foundations at times are not formulated explicitly, but if adopted by the coach, can help him/her ensure an easier and more efficient process of internal (conscious) and external (behavioural) transformation of the client, with full respect towards his/her exceptionality, individuality and his independent choices he/she makes.

In this journey, the coach is not the guide but rather the companion, or – to be more precise – the witness of the occurring change. He/She might, in a non-evaluating manner, became a mirror reflection of what he/she perceives due to his/her attentive presence, thus becoming an indispensable source of feedback, which allows the client to connect with his/her internal and external truth (compare Czarkowska, 2011). Having such clean mirror provides the client with the sense of clarity and allows him/her to follow the chosen path with greater certainty.

The above paragraph is already teaming with axiologicalfoundations which function within the framework of approach of coaching towards work with the client. Some of them appeal to autotelic values in coaching and give meaning to its existence, while others are of telic, utilitarian nature since their purpose is to realize the aforementioned values. We do not claim the right to draw the final description of all values present in coaching since every arbitrary approach of this type is bound to fail. We only wish to invite the reader to reflect on some of them. Ultimately, the criteria of choosing the above values are subjective and result from the knowledge of various schools (approaches) that function within the framework of coaching and emphasize its numerous, differently achieved goals, as well as from our coaching practice with clients.

Autotelic values in coaching, which remain goals in themselves being considered as positive by nature, are:

  1. freedom of choice – extending client’s autonomy through searching for new possibilities in the scope of decision-making and action, as well as methods of eliminating the existing limitations,
  2. self-awareness – deepening client’s understanding of their own conditioning reflected in behaviour; specifying their identity, personal values, motivators, beliefs and strengths (talents and competences), as well as further areas of development,
  3. integrity –developing greater internal coherence between identity, values and beliefs, and actions of the client (integrity within the framework of attitudes as well as between attitudes and actions),
  4. effectiveness – seeking effective methods of realizing declared objectives, reinforcing consequences and perseverance in realizing goals, and the client’s ultimate sense of causative power,
  5. responsibility – to stress etymology: supporting ‘the ability to give answers’ which show the ability as well as readiness to link intentions, declarations and promises with particular behaviour and willingness to accept the consequences of own decisions and actions,
  6. Self-realization – recognition and actualization of client’s development potential through goals of greatest importance at a certain stage of client’s life,
  7. Self-transcendence – perceived as overcoming one’s limitations, service to supreme ideals achieved by giving transpersonal meaning to one’s existence.

The above values surface while answering the questions: ‘Why does coaching actually exist? Where does it lead? What is its ultimate objective?’ If at the end of the coaching process the client possesses a higher level of the realization of these values (even if on subjective comparable scale), the coaching process might be considered successful.

Once the fundamental values through ultimate goals hale been established, what arises is the question of the criteria of choosing methods and their realization. Consequently, when the nature of coaching has been specified, additional questions emerge: ‘How to achieve it? How to realize it? What are the effective methods that guarantee the security of those autotelic values?’ Such formulated questions result in the emergence of another set of values of telic nature that will serve to realize the previously mentioned values. The above values simultaneously describe the attitude of the coach and remain as follows:

  1. acceptance – manifested in the attitude of openness and following the client – a non-evaluating, fully open and receptive attitude of the coach towards client’s personal choices and decisions,
  2. awareness – extending the range of client’s self-awareness by the coach through noticing and mirroring what exists in the inner resources (talents and experiences) of the client and what is reflected in their behaviour,
  3. veracity– providing the client with true, clear, honest and understandable feedback,
  4. accuracy – the choice of means adequate for the realization of the goals chosen by the client and building the strategy of change on the basis of achieved results,
  5. partnership – building an equal coaching relation with clear division of the range of coach’s and client’s responsibilities,
  6. trust – coach’s belief in client’s potential for intellectual, emotional and volitional development,
  7. respect – coach’s respect towards client’s discovery of life mission and vision during coaching process, as well as having common identity and the then emerging hierarchy of values.

Quite significantly, the order of these values is not accidental. The seven consecutive values correspond with seven autotelic values, although all of them form a specific system being interrelated in a manner in which each affect another and all influence each other. Autotelic values with the corresponding telic values which particularly condition the farmer are presented in table 1.

Table 1Telic and autotelic values in coaching- own analysis

Through his/her own attitude in relations with the client, the coach becomes a tool that ensures the achievement of what is at the very core of the coaching process, its ultimate goal. Telic values manifest themselves in the attitudes and the behaviour of the coach, whereas autotelic values describe qualities which will gradually develop in the attitudes and actions of the client as a result of coaching. They are, simultaneously, calibrated indicators and might serve as a specific quality measurement of the coaching process. If at the termination of coaching the client possesses a greater range of freedom perceived as the possibility to make choices, deeper self-awareness, stronger integrity, higher effectiveness and responsibility, as well as more complete Self-realization and readiness to live in agreement with their own vision, mission, identity and values – then the process might be considered to have been successful and served its purpose.

Philosophical and ethical foundations of coaching

The above, thoroughly described values are connected with fundamental, ontological premises regarding human nature which considerably distinguish coaching from other disciplines that deal with the development of human potential. The literature adopts six pillars of coaching approach towards work with people (Czarkowska 2011), which are inspired by the cornerstones of coaching stemming chiefly from positive psychology, and the rules of International Coach Federation’s Code of Ethics, as well as five principles of working with the client taken from Milton Erickson’s practice (Atkinson, Chois 2010):

  1. The client is OK the way he/she is and does not require healing or repair.
  2. The client already possesses all necessary resources (features, skills and talents).
  3. Behind each client’s behaviour there is a positive intention.
  4. The client will always make potentially the most suitable choice.
  5. The changes – internal (meaning intrapersonal) and external (meaning situational) are inevitable.
  6. The development of a person is a voluntary process of expanding self-awareness and the realization of his/her own potential.

The axiological foundations of coaching, which will be described below, serve the purpose of useful theses rather than axioms. However, the existing evidence suggests that making such assumptions aposteriori – by achieved results, ex post factum proves sensible. The method called philosophical pragmatism can be employed here: judging all ‘metaphysical’ assertions by their practical consequences. It is sufficient to bring to attention the results of research by Robert Rosenthal, known in the literature as Pygmalion effect (Rosenthal, Jacobson 1968), which show how ones belief in aptitude and abilities positively translates into achieved results. Other extensive evidence also proves, quite fortunately, that the development of awareness cannot be forced or blocked – all that can be created are favourable conditions for it.

The first foundation: The client is OK the way he/she is and does not require healing or repair relates directly, and to the greatest extent, to the first pair of values Through acceptance to freedom. This foundation reflects the approach to client, which is fundamental for coaching, and considerably differs from psychotherapy and counselling. It does not assume client’s inability or hopelessness while confronted with challenges, which entails the necessity to use the external, professional support of an expert.

In coaching we encounter a different image of clients, who are treated as mentally healthy, self-aware , self-sufficient and stable in a way that they do not require ‘care,’ ‘help,’ ‘healing,’ or ‘repair,’ and definitely do not need to be deprived of the possibility to be responsible for the achieved results. During his/her work the coach should present the position of trust towards the client as he/she is, as well as complete trust that the client is capable of taking responsibility for their decisions, choices and consequences of their actions. Ideally, with the end of coaching process, the client should assume full responsibility for their life and achieve a higher level of self-awareness which will help them actively search for the required resources, creatively build useful solutions and adopt new, functional operational strategies. In consequence, acceptance leads to freedom, which in turn creates: higher self-awareness, full responsibility and the sense of instrumental power (autotelic values from 1, and then 2, 3 and 5).

The second foundation: The clients already possess all necessary resources (features, skills and talents) is directly connected with the pair of values: Through awareness to self-awareness.

The client is the best expert in the sphere of life, work and the situation he/she encounters. He/She possesses unquestionably sufficient knowledge and experience to make adequate decisions and to discover and implement methods that best suit particular situation. In this relation, the coach is only a tool that, through posing adequate questions and attentive, multi-level listening and reflecting, creates the conditions adequate for providing the client with the insight of the situation, potential opportunities and resources at their disposal. Awareness, therefore, leads to self-awareness in the sense that it increases self-reflection capabilities, the ability to make best choices, to create plans and strategies, to search for necessary resources and to implement actions to achieve the desired goals. The coach is a mirror which allows the client to take a close look at himself/herself and search the whole spectrum of experience for the features possessed, already acquired abilities and developed talents from the perspective of their usefulness for further actions. Also in this case, the extended self-awareness creates conditions for the development of other values such as responsibility, integrity and effectiveness (value and the resulting 3, 4 and 5).

The third foundation is the proposition that: a positive intention is behind each behaviour of the client. It is directly connected with another pair of values: through veracity to integrity.

The above foundation does not call on philosophical arguments of John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau or Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach that people are inherently good, but indicates that each human behaviour is justified and adaptive having internal sense from the point of view of the client. What is particularly noteworthy is the fact that it also relates to the seemingly ‘bad’ ‘or ‘damaging’ behaviour. As established, such behaviour is functional, in the sense it has been determined by the attempts at realization of some substantial needs or values. Here emerge very strong, practical postulates for coaching:

  1. Instead of an immediate evaluation of client’s behaviour from an outside perspective – focusing on deeply hidden positive motives of actions,
  2. Instead of searching for problems from the past that triggered particular behaviour – conscious directing the attention towards internal and positive premises behind particular behaviour,
  3. Searching for the reasons why the client displays it and if the behaviour itself brings the consequences or costs unacceptable for the client – then searching for other behaviour that would satisfy substantial needs or protect important values in a fuller, favourable manner.

In this case, the coach, through honest feedback, gives the client an opportunity to see their authentic, true needs and values and then to choose and adequate and moral (consistent with beliefs) behaviour, which leads to integrity of personality and to more complete life.

The growth of integrity reinforces responsibility, efficiency and, finally, brings closer self-realization (value followed by 4, 5and 6).

The fourth foundation: The client always makes potentially most suitable choiceis again connected withthe pair of values through awareness to self-awareness and through veracity to integrity.

This foundation is not necessarily about rational choice, which, since awarding the Nobel Prize to Herbert A. Simon for proving that people act in accordance with the rule of ‘limited rationality’, has been beyond doubt. Additionally, it is not necessarily about making the best conscious choice, which since the days of one of psychology’s fathers William James, who introduced the division between conscious and unconscious sphere, has been regarded as truism by human mind specialists.

The above foundation is best described by the assertion that in particular situation man, equipped with certain possibilities and anticipating particular consequences, will choose the best available solution regardless of whether he follows ‘the heart and stomach’ – meaning emotions and instincts (unconscious sphere), or reason (conscious sphere). It is vital to stress that in case of the conflict between these two spheres people in principle follow phylogenetically older structures.

It is reflected in an interesting phenomenon: when our decisions, regardless of, or perhaps because of, pride connected with the term ‘homo sapiens’– are driven by the instinct or the heart, then we search for rational explanations of our decisions, which has been described by psychoanalysts as one of ego’s defence mechanisms and called rationalization mechanism. Here also the growth of self-awareness leads to making better choices and integrity. In such case, the coach provides the space, which allows the client to see if there is harmony between what the heart tells (eagerness) and the mind demands (will), since only then we can avoid the trap of ‘not doing what we are supposed to’ or ‘doing what we are not supposed to.’ It results in the growth of self-awareness and integrity of the client, and effective judgment of actions, which helps reinforce responsibility and effectiveness. Higher effectiveness, on the other hand, fosters self-realization (values 2 and 3 followed by 4, 5 and 6).

The fifth foundation: The changes – internal (meaning intrapersonal) and external (meaning situational) are inevitable refers to another pair of values: through accuracy to effectiveness thus reinforcing client’s sense of responsibility, influence and causative power.

Regardless of whether the present situation suits us, and if we want it to finish or last eternally – it will certainly change. Whether we like our way of thinking or not, with time we will become new selves and will recall old habits with embarrassment. On the one hand, what is crucial in coaching is full awareness of the present moment, on the other, understanding that everything is a process, permanent states are non-existent, and the only invariable phenomenon is constant change. This foundation relates to both –external situations and the client. The coach, like a mirror, precisely shows the client the particular moment, what actually ‘is.’ His/Her task is to help the client in realistic preparation and going through change, so it is pleasant, permanent and effective. By means of questions and solid feedback, the coach reinforces the effectiveness of external and internal changes that take place in the course of coaching process. This way the accuracy of the coach and client’s openness to feedback determine gradual growth of effectiveness which fosters client’s sense of causative power. It also builds foundations for taking responsibility for the results of actions and encourage the client to maximize the realization of the potential, achieve most important goals, thus conditioning self-realization (value 4 followed by 5 and 6).

Foundation six: The development of a person is a voluntary process of expanding self-awareness and the realization of his/her own potentialrelates to another pair of values: through partnership to responsibility and through trust to self-realization.

The process of development is a gift in the sense that it is a phenomenon inherent and natural for humankind, which we are given together with the freedom of choice. One the one hand, once enlarged spectrum of awareness does not shrink to the previous size – what has been understood and absorbed stays understood and absorbed ( Ken Wilber). On the other, no one can be either forced or obliged to deepen the awareness of oneself. The natural process of progress cannot be halted but no one is obliged to develop their inner self.

Whether client’s development is perpetuated by internal need or external necessity, ultimately his/her freedom of choice amounts to what can be said to this process at a particular moment: yes or no, and the coach is obliged to respect it. In this sense coaching is a partnership relation: it is based on voluntariness, deep trust and ultimate respect. Responsibility of the coach is reduced to ensuring high quality of service (adequate relation, tools and methods), the development itself stays within the realm of responsibilities of the client, who makes all the choices independently, but also suffers their consequences. This is why the growth of client’s responsibility leads him towards self-realization, achievement of which may lead to overcoming his/her own ego, i.e. Self-transcendence (values 5,6 and optionally 7). The coach does not exert any influence on the client – he/she has to maintain full respect and accept whatever the client decides in the name of the first value: the ultimate freedom of the client.

The process of human awareness development is also present in the literature metaphorically as Joseph Campbell’s ‘the hero’s journey’. The development of consciousness is therefore a kind of a journey – uncertain and full of perils, which ultimately leads to the victory over one’s inner weaknesses, brings happiness and prosperity. Described in both ancient myths and contemporary sciences – psychology (Maslow 1943), anthropology (Bateson 1973) or philosophy (Graves 2002; Wilber 2006), the awareness usually takes a similar course: through sacrifice or fulfilment the man reaches a point where the realization of next levels of development (e.g. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) is completed and lacks purpose, thus losing motivating power. The most pressing needs of an individual, in his/her subjective view have either been deprivated – which most commonly leads to crisis, or fully satisfied – which paradoxically might also lead to the same effect. In both cases the crisis is connected with birth of a new level of awareness called transpersonal because this level of awareness entails surpassing oneself; to put it in other words – going beyond desires that stem from ego. It happens through suffering as well as fulfilment: because what I desire is beyond reach, or because I have gained everything I desire. Then the questions arise of what is larger than our personal desires, so what is larger than we are, and this is where one might enter the path of transcendental surpassing oneself, namely the path of service. Having entered the path, a need to discover the mission is born and one embarks on ‘the hero’s journey.’

The development towards Self-transcendence is a natural direction of human development. In the caching process it emerges from the realization and materialization of values vital to the individual, which presently are inscribed in a broader context of social awareness development.

Development of social awareness

Applied sciences, for instance organization and management, in order to achieve the desired results, have to promptly react to changes in the material world, as well as in human consciousness. This is why every once and a while it happens that the paradigm in force exhausts its usefulness. Then the crisis takes place which, as described by Thomas S. Kuhn, triggers multidimensional transformation of thinking and acting.

Present paradigm changes in organization management considerably influence the development of coaching. Increasingly common implementation of coaching perceived not only as a method of work, but also as a set of axiological foundations concerning possibilities for human potential development including human talents and resources, might serve as one of the indicators of this phenomenon. Coaching came into existence in reply to internal needs of people and organizations, but primarily as a response to the cultural and social changes in human consciousness. The scale and the scope of the changes are written about in book of Thomas L. Friedman, Grzegorz Kołodko or Andrzej Koźmiński.

Psychologists, sociologists and philosophers hale long been trying to describe the levels of social awareness including them in mathematical theories (Russel,1903), motivation (Maslow 1943) and communication theories (Bateson 1973, Dilts 2006) or philosophy Wilber (2007) The above levels present the evolution from the most elemental values to advanced ones such as self-awareness, self-development, self-realization or Self-transcendence since, in accordance with the theories of researchers, social awareness evolves towards higher, more developed levels. The evolution of human consciousness is curiously described in Becks’ model of Spiral Dynamics, whose foundations were formulated by C.W. Graves.

Graves assumed the existence of particular ways, patterns or models of life and while researching the development of humankind over the centuries came to the conclusion that human decisions and choices are the effect of the adaptation of consciousness to variable conditions. Along with the changing environment what takes place above all is the shift in systems of values in force and ways of understanding the world. It leads to the change of social structures as well as individual models of life. The final model of Spiral Dynamics designed by his continuators Beck and Cowan includes 8 levels of existence which are experienced by the whole humankind as well as an individual (see table 2).

Levels of existence and consciousness of a human in spiral dynamics model

The first phase of existence and consciousness of a human in spiral dynamics model is instinctivistic phase (beige). It characterizes the level of consciousness of a human in which survival and preservation of life are primary objectives. The most important factor is securing physical safety for oneself and basic, according to Maslow, needs – food, shelter and survival of the species. The model of life at this level focuses on providing oneself with physical and physiological satisfaction: it’s difficult to talk about higher values here.

Along with the development of consciousness we enter the second level of the model in which existence chiefly focuses on securing the safety of one’s life by being in a group. This animistic and magical (purple) stage of the development of consciousness is a ritual phase, where forces of nature are perceived as magical. Secure life is provided by the ancestors of the clan and following rituals and traditional law of the community. Nowadays, those groups are sports teams, some corporation teams or criminal organizations belong. Each one of them exhibits particular forms of ‘ritual’ communication and magical methods of appeasing ‘gods.’

The third level of the development of consciousness the desire for power prevails for the first time. Egocentric phase (red) brings values such as expressing oneself through dominance, conquest and power over others. Against it appear moral dilemmas along with the fight for freedom against the hostile world. Strength and power are of importance. Today, this phase is represented by media stars, terrorist groups and gangs.

The fourth level of existence, called absolutist (blue), treats the existence of God or the holly truth as the highest virtue. Emergence of ideology, from the viewpoint of the development of consciousness, is tasked with bringing order to human life. If what is good and evil has been explicitly established, it is easier to preserve stability and order. Establishing stringent rules and suggesting the necessity of obeying them serves as means of retaining power e.g. to secure future safety and salvation.

The next, fifth phase of the development of consciousness, points to the rise of individual needs. In this individualistic (orange) phase, the existence focuses on values such as effectiveness, realizing goals and success. It is manifested by high social position and authority obtained through resourcefulness, practicing science and money (liberalism). The world is no longer based on mutually excluding contradictions: it is full of alternatives and opportunities for success.

The sixth level in the development of consciousness – Egalitarian and Relativistic (green) means establishing bonds between people, groups, nature and the development due to cooperation – above the prior religious and political divisions. This is a phase of pluralism and tolerance towards social and cultural differences. Social justice, environment protection and achieving harmony in relations gain importance.

The seventh level – Integrative or Systematic (yellow) is the phase in which humankind discovers and appreciates human potential. At this stage of the development of consciousness the world is already perceived as a complex, turbulent and chaotic system. The successive phases of crises threaten the very foundations of the system, hence the adoption of the responsibility for creating the world and one’s existence. Realizing ones potential in creative integration with other beings is of value. Quite significantly, this stage in human development created the need for such forms of self-improvement and education as coaching. Therefore, coaching is the answer to the social need for development and self-improvement.

The eighth level – Holistic and Transpersonal (turquoise) is an awakening, new level of consciousness directed at creating peaceful and coherent world that cannot be embraced by three-dimensional perception. The world is holistic; science depicts it as set of precise, balanced, interrelated powers with the humankind as an important, but not dominant element. At this stage, the interest focuses around developing intuition and crossing the boundaries of traditional cognition.

Table 2 Levels of existence and consciousness in Spiral Dynamics model

Compilation Czarkowska L.D. (2010b) on the basis of: Beck, D.E. and Cowan, Ch. (1996), Graves, C.W. (2005), Wilber, K. (2006).

Don Beck’s research indicates the existence of all levels of consciousness in the contemporary world. Collective consciousness places itself a bit higher than the statistical average of individual ones since its shape is mostly influenced by people of power (including the fourth power – the media). The number of representatives of individual phases is distributed unevenly around the globe – it is influenced by social, political and economic conditions of particular regions.

On the basis of the above levels, from the perspective of the coach it is extremely vital to inspire the client to answer important questions: What phase does my consciousness reflect? What is important for me and where does the need come from? What influences the choice of what I desire? Do the needs I fulfil result from my deep values? To what extent do they mirror the fashion and social trends and to what degree do they reflect my personal potential? Finding the answer to these questions allows for greater self-awareness and better appreciation of what directs individual choices and decisions.

Leadership coaching

The changes in social awareness also influence management sciences within which certain traceable, quite well depicted historic periods may be observed (diagram 2). The omens of a new era also appear e.g. in the shape of new trends or ‘recommendations for a new age’ (Hamel 2009). Surely, no single commonly accepted name has yet been given to the phenomena, which appeared after post-modernism, and the title: Integrated management (holistic) based on values inscribed in the above patternis a proposal resulting from the analysis of the terms appearing in contemporary literature (Grudziński, Hejduk, Sankowska, Wańtuchowicz 2009 or Kuc 2008) and adequate to the dominating values and the resultant style of thinking and actions of organization leaders.

Diagram 2 Periods – the change of management paradigms – own analysis (Czarkowska 2012, p.69).

What inspires the description of these paradigmatic changes in management as divided into four correlative areas is AWAL model (ALL Quadrants, All Levels within Ken Wilber’s integrated theory (2006), which utilizes the previously described Don Beck’s and Christopher C. Cowan’s idea of Spiral Dynamics (1996) designed on the basis of Clare W. Graves’s theory (1970).

Wilber proposed a model of reality which results from systematized ways of thinking about reality from the perspective of the range of phenomena (individual or collective) and their type (subjective – internal and objective – external). Having considered both factors, we can obtain four areas – quadrants (diagram 3) called respectively: intentional, behavioural, social and cultural. Different scientific theories are useful for the analysis of these areas.

Diagram 3 Areas of paradigmatic change (All Quadrants) – own analysis following Wilber K. (2006) (Czarkowska 2012, p.69).

Analogically, each human activity contains all the above aspects:

  1. intentional (mind- inner, singular consciousness)
  2. behavioural (brain – neurophysiologic activity of the brain and observable body reaction)
  3. social (system, structure – external and objective relation towards social reality)
  4. cultural (common value and meaning – point of reference for shared values and meanings) (Chybicki 2007).

Looking at organisation management from the perspective of coaching, to fully utilise the latter as a method of increasing self-awareness and causative power we can pose fundamental questions that relate to four respective quadrants (table 3):

Table 3 Fundamental coaching questions for four spheres of organization management – own analysis (Czarkowska 2012, p.72).

The type of answers to such formulated questions will depend on the degree of self-awareness development of organisation leaders. Professionals running companies and left without coaching assistance because of the educational profile present in economic educational institutions are fully aware of only material and structural factors. Being aware of mainly economic and organizational considerations, they focus their attention and efforts on managing what exists in the physical sphere (first and second quadrant in Table 3 – resources and actions, structures and procedures). The question of leader education system reappears here. As the research of Stanford University graduates indicates, 90 % of education time is devoted to gaining knowledge and professional skills. Only 10 % is dedicated to education aimed at self-awareness development, emotional intelligence and ethicality of decisions. Simultaneously, the researched graduates – high class managers admitted that the success they achieved is mainly owed to these aspects of personal development neglected by traditional education (ICF). The development of leader’s consciousness proves to be extremely beneficial to the organisation itself since, as we have already mentioned, coaching usually brings 5fold ROI.

The next dimension of management that became the subject of systematic studies no sooner than in the 1980’s is the impact of cultural factors on organizations (third quadrant). Social sciences noticed the significance of cultural dimension in all areas of human activities much earlier – it has been noticeable from the ancient thought to works of early social and cultural anthropologists (amongst others Max Weber, Bronisław Malinowski, Mary Douglas or Ruth Benedict). The works of Hofstede, Cliford Geertz (1975) Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars (2006), together with the works from the field of coaching by Philippe Rosinski (2011) contributed to extending the scope of management by the sphere of organizational and multi-national culture, as well as the cultural context in which particular organization functions. Presently, a considerable challenge in coaching practice is the reflection on understanding management ethics when cultural differences come into play (Wujec 2011). The diagnosis of cultural factors and recognizing them as relevant variables that condition decision-making, organizational behaviour and leadership styles definitely remains one of the subsequent directions in coaching ethics development in the world.

The new, being presently discovered, marketing dimension which has long been present in social sciences is the dimension of human consciousness (fourth quadrant). Just as the noticing previously unconscious cultural conditions permits to understand the formative nature towards their own values and break free from their restrictive influence, the realization of the range of one’s awareness puts us in a position of our own observers. It provides the opportunity to liberate oneself from acting on the level of instinctive responses or passively learned patterns and scripts that function on the level of habits. It gives us the opportunity to become the creators of our own reality in the true sense of the word.

In order to discuss the consequences of such a notion any further, a few prior assumptions have to be made. Firstly, the model in which the human being is in the position of a passive product of culture and the existing socio-economic conditions because, in such formulation, the individual being determined biologically (instinctively) and economically (materially), as well as being conditioned socially (stratificationally) and culturally socialized can only behave in a particular way and thus react to the factors external to him.

Secondly, it is necessary to grant an individual the role of the creator of his own reality, a conscious and creative participant of culture, who actively gives sense and meaning to his existence (Frankl), and becomes a causative agent in physical, material and social conditions of his own existence. In congruence with this approach, man becomes the actor and is capable of taking actions, which contrary to behaviour are intentional (taken consciously) and directed at the achievement of goals vital to the individual. This approach is a result of basic discoveries in positive and generative psychology (Gilligan 1977), and congruent with previously discussed fundamental axiological foundations of coaching.

Diagram 4 Deterministic model of manas a conditioned being vs. Voluntaristic model of man as a being capable of not only reacting but also acting – own analysis.

The idea behind this approach can be illustrated by diagram 4 describing the cycle of mutual relation between reaction and actions. The changes in external conditions trigger particular reaction and require changes in both thinking and actions. The process of thinking occurs through the development of self-awareness, ascribing meanings and understanding the world, establishing systems of values and the resulting axionormative regulations. Actions here amount to generating new strategies that aim at the satisfaction of the next levels of needs. This feedback generates the creation of new conditions and the cycle can repeat itself.

Diagram 5 Reactions and actions between the intentional and material spheres – own analysis (Czarkowska 2012, p.68).

Conscious individuals intentionally create desired changes in their environment. It is the core and essence of coaching intervention to make the conscious person assume a more pro-active (creative and adaptational) approach towards their lives, organization they work for, and the community they live in.

What remains a consequence of these considerations is the approach towards the management of organisations not exclusively from the perspective material conditions but also from the viewpoint of conscious leaders of organisations being the creators of new reality. This approach stall be consistent with indicated changes in the perception organization management (Koźmiński 1996; Hacel 2007; Drucker 2009).


The global change in consciousness takes place simultaneously in two ways along with Jim Rohn saying that people are driven towards development by inspiration or despair. Positive social, political and economic changes might be triggered by world crises, international financial crashes, economic and commercial wars, or ethical disrepute in politics. They can be purposefully created, say through media or education and particularly through the education and coaching of leaders.

In this scope coaching plays a significant role since it is inherently based on self-reflection and the development of self-awareness that help develop the skills such as:

  1. coherence – internal integrity and external consistency
  2. ethicality of taken decisions
  3. awareness of the consequences of choices made
  4. courage in realization of one’s mission and values, and mission of organisation.

Ever-increasing level of worldwide implementation of coaching in organizations is the indicator of the above change.

Going back to the seven elementary axiological foundations described in this article, the coach, through his attitude resulting from acceptance, awareness, veracity, accuracy, partnership, trust and respect towards the client, awakens the client’s internal readiness for the freedom of choice, self-awareness, integrity, effectiveness, responsibility, self-realization and, ultimately, Self-transcendence.

It is interwoven with globally visible changes in the approach towards human resources in organizations. It is also consistent with more and more common recognition of a new role of an individual in management as a conscious co-originator of organizational reality.

Coaching, being a tool for expanding self-awareness, emerges as a natural stage of the development of methods to realize vital social and business goals which support balanced development of the world and responsibility for the quality of life of future generations.

Further directions of research

This article remains a small contribution to the development of knowledge concerning ethics in coaching. Fields of research such as comparable analysis of the existing codes of ethics of professional coaching organizations, validity of supporting the development of ethically controversial managers and organizations, ethics of coaching in the light of cultural differences and such like require further research.

The above also applies to axiological issues in management and fundamental philosophical premises. Since coaching remains an interdisciplinary field, its scientific principles are still to be formulated. Further exploration of coaching in the light of the development of social awareness is equally interesting. The last issue is particularly absorbing since the phenomenon of coaching appeared suddenly, initially as a kind of fashion, to develop into number 2 most desirable profession in the world (ICF) – as an answer to social needs such as the need for development, self-improvement and success.

The phenomenon of coaching still requires reliable case studies for adequate description. Insofar as the financial effectiveness of coaching has been confirmed, many people stall ask themselves the question ‘How is it possible that a simple conversation brings such significant effects?’ and ‘What really happens behind the closed doors? This article is a humble attempt at answering these questions.


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dr Lidia D. Czarkowska PhD

Director of Coaching Centre; head of post-graduate studies: Professional Coaching and Managerial Coaching, assistant professor at Social Science Department of Koźmiński University, psychologist and sociologist.

Bożena Wujec MA

Lecturer at MBA studies and post-graduate studies Professional Coaching realized by Koźmiński University, PhD student at Koźmiński University.