Linkedin Articles By Alain Cardon MCC
Past articles posted on Linkedin

How are management and coaching identical, META-PROFESSIONS?

Dec 3, 2015

Managers often accompany people who are also managers. CEOs, for example, manage finance managers, sales managers, marketing managers, operational managers, information technology managers, HR managers, etc. These CEOs are in fact not experts in those different fields. They manage managers and sometimes experts, such as a legal expert or an investment expert, in fields in which they may know next to nothing.  In turn, executives supervised by CEOs often manage other managers and experts. Many of those executives may also not be experts in the fields of the people they manage. In fact being a manager is not the equivalent of being an expert in a given field and managing that expertise. This is true unless a manager is too focused on managing content.  In this case, that manager could be considered a micro-manager.

  • So managing is to be considered a sort of meta-profession.  A profession that manages other professional expertises:  it is a profession that accompanies the effectiveness of people who are either managers in more specific fields, or experts in other professions.

For example, sales managers should not sell.  Sales managers should manage sales experts who sell.  If a given sales manager is a very good manager, he or she could actually manage a team of experts in any other profession, such as a team of truck drivers or a team of factory workers.

  • In this sense, real executives and managers manage processes rather than content.

Coaching is also a meta-profession. Coaches accompany people who have other very different professions. It is in that sense that coaches are not consultants: they are not experts in the fields in which their clients are to be considered already very proficient, or experts.

Coaching and management are therefore very similar professions in that they are both meta-professions. Both are focused on accompanying people who are to be considered experts in their fields, but who may need to be accompanied to manage themselves and others better in order to achieve more performing individual and/or collective results.

  • The similarity between coaching and management, two meta-professions, is most probably why coaches mostly coach managers and very proficient experts.

When one takes a closer look, coaching skills indeed appear to be quite similar, if not completely equivalent to manager-management skills.

  • Coaches have alignment skills that help them focus on shared purpose, ethics, goals, limits, outcomes, etc. at the very beginning a coaching relationship, and throughout its duration.
  • Coaches have analytical, time management, strategic, organizational, informational, questioning, action-planning, etc. skills that serve to accompany their clients as they progress through a shared exploration process.
  • Coaches have authentic relational, listening, sharing, emotional, social, human skills to support the client development process from beginning to end.
  • Coaches have action-oriented skills to accompany client fieldwork as the latter pace themselves to implement their decisions all the way to achieving measurable results

It so happens all these coaching skills are also management skills.  That is probably why so many managers consider that they coach the people they manage.  In fact, the two professions overlap.

  • Of course, most managers and most coaches,  are not equally proficient in all the above skill-sets.  Most have their personal preferences, habits, shortcomings.

Many managers and coaches are more focused on using analytical and relational skills. Less are really proficient in appropriately deploying alignment and action skills. Of course, that is not always true. Some entrepreneur-minded managers and coaches for example, are impatiently focused on immediate action, while very relational and emotional managers and coaches are almost uniquely focused on displaying their people skills. Etc.

  • Interestingly many managers tend to attract coaches that are proficient in displaying the same skills and in avoiding the same less preferred skills.  The same "law of attraction" can be said to apply to coaches who tend to attract similar manager profiles.  In this way, many managers and coaches may get along very well together but may not achieve breakthrough results through their partnerships.

There is, however, an ongoing debate on key differences between coaching and management.

  • One argument, for example, stresses that managers are ultimately responsible to make sure that measurable results are in fact achieved by those they manage.  Not coaches.

It is also true that if coaches and their clients do not achieve results together, that coaching relationship will often quickly come to a rapid conclusion.  The coach will not develop a good reputation and will not find other clients. When measurable results, beyond expectations, are achieved with a coach, there is a good chance the coaching relationship will last and that the coach will get good refererences.  The same  holds for managers.

  • Another argument stresses that managers can fire incompetent or underachieving collaborators, not coaches.

It is also true that when coaching relationships are not productive or that when one of the partners in the relationship is dissatisfied with its process or results, either can decide to terminate it.  Both managers and coaches choose to continue productive relationships and find ways to end those that are not.

In fact, most of the arguments underlining differences between management and coaching may just apply to differences in management styles.  Directive managers own their employee's results.  Controlling and perfectionist managers may attempt to solve issues by firing.  Consider, however, that a truly respectful, delegating, empowering and modern management style is probably most equivalent to the type of relationship that is established in a professional coaching partnership.

There is one notable difference between most managers and most coaches: A large majority of managers is in fact managed by other managers. In most organizations, there exists a more or less complex hierarchy of managers who manage other managers, all the way down to line managers and hands-on experts. Theoretically, the more managers become competent in how they deploy their management skills to accompany other managers and experts, the more they move up the organizational ladder.

The same upward movement is also true of coaches. The more coaches become proficient at coaching managers on a given level, the more they tend move up their client organizational ladders, to coach more proficient managers. That is probably why most coaches claim to coach executives and CEOs. That is their way of saying they are very competent coaches.

  • Most coaches, however, do not have the equivalent of a supervising manager who would be coaching them on how they coach.

This is true except when a given coach participates in some form of coach supervision.

A coach supervision process, undertaken with a more competent coach is equivalent to management supervision undertaken by a more competent supervisory manager. In coach supervision, the supervising coach observes a practicing coach, if possible in a live or recorded sequence, and then offers the supervised coach practical, behavioral options to improve coaching skills and future coaching strategies.

Coach supervision is not the equivalent of coach mentoring.  Mentoring primarily focuses on supporting a younger coach set up and then build a coaching business, or on preparing another to pass a given type of coach certification. Coach supervision specifically focuses on accompanying the development of the supervised coach’s professional skill set.  In effect, this sort  of "coach the coach" process is quite equivalent to managing managers.

Again, to explore (for a small fee) your own management and/or coaching skills through an online self-coaching journey, go to

Change corporate change-management processes, not content!

Sep 26, 2015

When discussing ways to accompany cultural change within their teams and organizations, leaders often respond with a similar, almost predictable reaction.   If they are often truly interested in achieving cultural change results, they are quite dubious that these will in fact really be achieved: "I am really not convinced any program will bring about much cultural change.  In the course of my career, I have seen too many very promising training programs and change-management processes.  None have in fact brought about significantly measurable cultural change results".

On the content level, this reaction is completely valid: 

  • How many comprehensive (and expensive) company-wide change-management programs have in fact resulted in truly measurable and sustainable cultural shifts? 
  • How many millions have been spent in corporate training and development programs over the past fifty years, and what is the real return on investment in terms of measurable results? 

Time and again, other consultants/coaches convincingly elaborate on the merits of another new approach to accompany cultural change, to develop a more collaborative work environment that will favor motivation, empowerment and innovation.  Indeed, any operationally-minded decision maker has very good reasons to be quite hesitant.

On a process or systemic level, one can also immediately perceive that such a leadership response mirrors similar internal processes.  Whenever organizational leadership  begin to promote a new vision, a motivating mission, a sustainable cultural change, a delegating management style, a more collaborative culture, etc. the personnel is invariably interested, wants to believe, but remains rather dubious.  For how many years have they listened to corporate speeches focused on achieving a higher purpose, participated in company-wide change programs only to measure rather insignificant results in their work environments.  Basically, both leaders and their employees agree to the same perception.  We've been there, seen it, done it.  

Everyone is now aware that over time, an ineffective organizational or cultural change-management process has been well practiced and refined to a fine art and that it achieves predictably mediocre results.  Here is how it is orchestrated:

Whenever indicators reveal that personnel satisfaction is lowering, that competent experts are leaving for the competition, that company attractiveness is waning and its public image is blurring, etc. a number of steps are taken, more or less in the same order.

  • Make an official statement announcing the need for a major strategic management or cultural change program.
  • Roll out a comprehensive diagnosis to validate that what everyone already knows is in fact true: our company has a people problem. (This also usefully buys time if the diagnosis covers the whole organization to be valid)
  • Organize company-wide  leadership road-shows to inform everyone of a new strategic goal to develop more collaboration, empowerment, motivation, initiative, etc.  (Powerpoints, posters, slogans with newly coined words and expressions must impress here: to move away from centralized and controlling hierarchy, delegation is out, but today, holacracy is in) .
  • Name an internal change-management officer (at least one or two levels below HR) and have him or her scout the market for a very visible external change expert or consulting company.  A name that has achieved widespread public notoriety.
  • Buy the sexiest change-management expert you can find.  By sexy, we mean charismatic and visionary.  Note here that coining new words to repackage old concepts is also a very useful consulting strategy.
  • Launch the program with a lavish kick-off and a worldwide top-down roll-out, making sure that it is well marketed both internally and externally.  This piece is excellent for company public image and shareholder value.  The leadership team will definitely be perceived as effectively dealing with the company cultural issue.
  • Delegate the follow-up of the program to HR that will delegate it to training and development.  To mirror this, the very charismatic external consultant will delegate subsequent work to a senior partner that will then delegate it to junior consultants.
  • Go back to operational "business as usual".  You have just bought peace of mind for about two years. 

In most organizations, leaders and personnel all know how to actively participate in this predictably ineffective process.  They have learned to play the game to a tee.   

It is said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing relentlessly, while expecting to achieve different results. (*According to Wikiquote the origin of this paraphrase may not be Einstein, nor Franklin, nor Voltaire, etc.)

What is important here is to notice that if over the years, the content of change-management programs seem to differ, each time by focusing on new concepts, new consultants, new tools and theories, etc. the change-management process itself is almost invariably the same.

  • The shared paradoxical  illusion is that changing the content of an ineffective top-down process will somehow change the top-down culture.

An equivalent error would consist in believing that changing the subjects or content of meetings run by ineffective processes will suddenly render these meetings much more successful... or that changing the music score played on a poor stereo system will suddenly deliver excellent sound.  "The medium is the message" (*M. McLuhan).

  • It is high time that organizations start to totally reconsider their change-management processes.  They don't work.  Nobody really believes in them anymore.  Nobody will make them work!
To read an article on systemic organizational coaching:
To read an article on team and organizational cultures:
To access English and Spanish books on systemic individual, team and organizational coaching:

Systemic Coach Presence

Jul 29, 2015

Since the early eighties, as a man, father, manager, trainer, consultant, coach and coach supervisor, I have relentlessly been developing my capacity to perceive through systemic lens and then act accordingly. I first trained alone, then with clients, then with my family and close friends. And so with individuals, teams and organizations, day in and day out, my perceptions have been slowly altered and my beliefs and behaviors have followed.   After all these years, I now realize that my reality has radically changed. My world is completely transformed and thankfully, this still an ongoing process.

Almost viscerally, for example, I am now conscious that a common harmonic resonance may well link completely distinct and unrelated systems. Without any apparent connection and at a distance, apparently independent people, families, teams, and organizations unknowingly share a common inner rhythm and similar physical and patterns. No matter their size, they show resembling contours or profiles that could well cast very similar shadows. And these apparently distinct systems belong to one same family, as if they had been separately shaped together, always listening to a same melody, as if they had tuned into and embedded the same vibration in the depth of their souls.

I now also perceive that apparently separate events and movements also display a striking coherence of form. Unrelated occurrences and behaviors flow within resonating waves and display similar patterns in time. They unfold with similar beginnings, ebbs and flows, peaks and dips, aspirations and destinations. No matter their scales, whether they last just a few minutes or develop over tens of years, these seemingly unrelated events independently proceed within a shared movement. And so totally unrelated behaviors and occurences have common fingerprints that display almost predictable fractal itineraries to achieve common results.

In the same way, I keep being struck by the false coincidences that beautifully orchestrate whom gets to meet whom and when, what suddenly needs to warm up to work out and what must surprisingly fall through, when things all decide to surge forward and when they all slow down to become chillingly still. More and more, it is becoming obvious that everything significantly participates in one great meta-pattern within which, for each and all, the seeds of our futures can now or later either be watered or ignored

And within this larger scheme of things and events, I am also conscious that one way or the other, every one of my feelings, thoughts and actions are actively participating with countless others in order to build this endlessly developing universe.  As a man and master coach, this truly gives me great pleasure.

Available on KINDLE: Masterful systemic Coaching (by Alain Cardon)

Systemic Organizational Coaching

Jul 22, 2015

First, there was Executive Coaching.  that really concerns coaching for individuals as not everyone is an executive.  Most are managers, and some don't even know how to manage themselves.  Paradoxically, in many individualistic organizational cultures where defensive territorial strategies are the rule and active collaboration with peers is the exception, this type of confidential approach is  still favored over any type of team development method.   To pacify their conscience, however, these (internal) competition-driven organizations do implement short and regular incentive workshops and team building seminars typically focused on boosting collective motivation and temporarily fixing fundamentally inoperant relationships.

Then came Team Coaching:  Including the team leaders, the approach is normally tailored to accompany intact team development as measured by increased operational quality, effectiveness and results (ROI).  The ongoing debate on how to measure Return On Investment reveals that there is still much to be done for team coaching to really become focused on operational issues.  Indeed, much like in sports, real team coaching results are very easily measured by the fact the concerned teams have rapidly improved their operational results to become obvious Olympic winners.  If not, then the so-called team coaching process was probably still too focused on such soft issues as improving relationships, creating a humanistic culture, boosting motivation, empowering, etc.  If this is the case, these team development processes should in fact still be named team building, not team coaching.

Indeed, when teams develop to become winners, one of the indirect results, or collateral benefits, is accrued results-oriented collaboration, better operational collective decision making and follow-up, more effective team business meetings, better information flow, and much more respectfully challenging relationships.  Note that better relationships is not a complacent concept.  It is very specifically defined and comes last.  It is to be considered an indirect outcome of successful team coaching.  Not an initial goal.

nd then comes Organizational Coaching.  That approach consists in collectively accompanying the top key organizational players, up to eighty senior managers including the executive team or board, in strategic work focused on rapidly implementing measurable operational change.  Typically this type of large-group coaching process requires at least two to three days, takes place in a spacious ballroom within which all the work takes place - both plenary session and breakout groups -  and is focused on designing results-oriented action plans to implement a rapid, measurable organizational turn-around.  The goals are typically focused on succeeding a merger within six months, increasing sales or profit by a third, managing 100% growth, cutting expenses by 20%, reducing time to market by 50%, increasing measurable quality, etc.  And each of these goals are to be achieved within months.

Consequently, the objective of Organizational Coaching goes one step further than team coaching.  Beyond creating the conditions for accrued tranversal collaboration between people and teams, its ultimate purpose is to prepare and then ignite a form of collective conspiration focused on immediately solving a key strategic issue.  An organizational coaching’s success is measured by a very wide range of measurable operational commitments, many of which are team or network-specific and most of which are to be implemented if not delivered in the following weeks and months.  This process can ensure vital organizational turn-arounds at a much faster pace than any  normal executive team can manage, usually by staying within its natural confort zone.

Contact me for references!

For more information on Organizational Coaching
For a KINDLE book on Systemic Organizational Coaching

Systemic Organizational Coaching

Mar 4, 2015

The digital revolution is provoking a major shift in organizational energies. Politically, internationally, and in business, this is shift is provoked by emerging or bottom-up solutions, responsibility, initiative and action.  It is undermining top-down, centralized, leadership-driven or hierarchic systems.  As a consequence of this upheaval, most modern social, political and organizational systems need to break through Alice's proverbial mirror and embrace a totally new reality. Old-world paradigms need to be revealed, denounced, renounced, and a totally new frame of reference needs to be embraced. It is high time to face, challenge and even confront the paradoxes inherent to the big-business corporate and political world and to the consulting and coaching professions:

Traditionally, the most effective way to revive an organization is well known by shareholders:  Change the CEO who will then change most of the executive team.  For the following year at most, major organizational changes and better results can be expected.  Rapidly, however, the new governing body will be taken by its own internal politics and routines.

These new executive teams and boards will then reach a relative equilibrium, level of comfort, stability, and predictability. Each team member will focus on defensive strategies, on consolidating individual positions, on increased bonuses, negociating wider parachutes and retirement plans.

Paradoxically, that is precisely when executive teams start publicizing that they aim to pilot their organization's change management.

Such executive teams and boards then intensely communicate on visions and missions, on new ethical standards, on cultural change, on collaborative empowerment, on liberating individual initiative, on new flat organizational cultures, etc.   Once these lofty concepts have been lavishly marketed :

  • Either standardized, mandatory, highly centralized programs controlled and rolled-out by headquarters can be expected follow.
  • Or everyone loses interest with the shows, nothing happen, and executives will start looking for another, new sexy concept to market.

Such strategic cultural change programs are invariably delegated to Human Resources, the main centralizing and controlling body in most systems, to be implemented within the whole organization.  Compare HR's function to that of the Party in Eastern Bloc and Communist countries.  Delegation of change programs to Human Resources is also a sure sign that top operational executives can now consider it is time to go back to their short-term finance-driven "business as usual".

Whenever internal and environmental pressure for change becomes really overwhelming, top executives will agree on an excellent postponing strategy:  they will urgently call on a big name consulting company for a comprehensive, time consuming and very expensive study on change.  Invariably, the results of the study confirm what everyone has always known.  That will call for more discussion, detailed analysis and maybe a new centralized mandatory program.

In most organizations, the main paradox in implementing today's necessary cultural transformation is that executives firmly believe that change towards highly motivating, emerging, bottom-up, start-up, entrepreneurial cultures, processes and solutions can be managed by the same-old top-down, centrally-controlled organizational processes. Organization leadership is all for change management, so long as it doesn't apply to how they manage and to how they manage change.  Indeed, one cannot expect them to phase themselves out, at least in the way they manage.

For more on the systemic paradoxes of change management and coaching read the Kindle book (link below)   A word of caution: The text in this book is not meant to be politically correct or to reassure coaches, managers, leaders and HRs who identify themselves as change management professionals.  This book is rather meant to question what a systemic perspective would define as our favorite change management illusions, simplistic concepts, buzzwords, standard thinking, fads and other time wasting, tried-and-tested gimmicks: those that have not really brought about much change in the corporate world in the last fifty years.  Much the contrary.  So without taking anything personally, and without taking anything as true, prepare to be challenged by the many coaching and change management paradoxes this book presents.

And one last piece of paradoxical advice from a coach, never take any coach's advice! (including this one)

For more on the systemic paradoxes of change management and coaching read:
COPYRIGHT Alain Cardon