Corporate coaching has spread rapidly from the US across the world, with the business sector happy to buy in such support for employees they are grooming to be high flyers. The higher education sector, in contrast, would appear to offer a less obviously lucrative, and perhaps more sceptical, market. Yet coaches in the US, and to a lesser extent in the UK, are working with an increasing number of academics, helping them to confront not only the challenges they share with many other professionals (notably the sheer lack of hours in the day) but also the pressures specific to the sector.
Nathalie Houston, associate professor of English at the University of Houston, has just begun to offer coaching to academics outside her own institution. In addition to her full-time tenured job teaching and researching Victorian literature, literary theory and the history of the book, since 2009 Houston has been involved in the ProfHacker blog, where a team of more than a dozen writers offer “tips about teaching, technology and productivity”.
“I write about time management and work-life balance,” she says, “topics I’ve been interested in for a long time.”
Recognising that she often provided informal coaching to colleagues, friends and students, Houston decided to gain a formal qualification and set up a practice that she hopes to extend to about 15 clients.
She “meets” them, either for 30 minutes three times a month or 45 minutes twice a month, by phone or by Skype – mostly, she says, “on Fridays, when I don’t teach or have university meetings, and on Saturdays, so it’s compacted into a certain section of my week”.
The basic principles are simple. “While therapy tends to look to the roots of the problem, to trace it back to some dynamic or trauma,” explains Houston, “coaching is about what you can do now to change the situation.
“As one well-known coach said, if a stick in a river gets stuck, you don’t ask what made it stuck – it just needs a nudge to go on floating down the river. Coaching focuses on the nudge. It’s action-oriented, and present- and future-directed.
Read full story, and I’m ahead on this one, thanks to The Kerslake Company! We have been in discussions recently within the LTDU at the University of Winchester, re bringing together a group of people who are interested in coaching, which you can see from my PGCLTHE assignment, I am.