Review: Coaching at Work Magazine

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Emma Ranson Bellamy a fledgling coach and Duncan Gee a senior coach and mentor put the launch edition of the CIPD's Coaching at Work magazine through its paces and reflect on its worth from their two very different coaching perspectives.

Title: Coaching at Work magazine
Author(s): Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
Publisher: Personnel Publications Ltd
Price: £75 (CIPD members) or £85 (non members) for six issues a year and an online resource
Reviewers: Emma Ranson Bellamy, fledgling coach and Duncan Gee, senior coach and a mentor at the UK college of Life coaching.

Review by a fledgling coach:
I'm sorry to be blunt but my initial thought when the CIPD’s new Coaching at Work magazine landed on to my doorstep was how boring it looked. The title could easily be replaced with ‘The worker’ or ‘Sorting office news’. There is little indication from the first impressions that the magazine is a ground-breaking offering that aims to inspire coaches as they feel their way in the coaching waters.

What if we were judged by the trade magazines we read? If coaches are going to be assessed by the formulaic ‘men in grey suits’ look of Coaching at Work then I worry about the state of the fledgling, emerging, exciting, inspiring and life-changing industry that I work in.

The magazine is also fairly costly. Priced at £85 for non-CIPD members and £75 for members (for a mere six issues) the cost to my calculation comes out at over £14 and £12.50 per issue respectively!) It’s sure to put people off in my opinion. I’m assuming that the publishers are hoping that firms will pay for it.

I wonder whether the look of the magazine was more deliberate than I’d first thought too. There are some in the coaching business that are moving towards regulation.

Perhaps the dreary look of a man in a dull suit overlooking some employees on the front cover is a conscious effort to make the profession look as if it’s part of the establishment, a profession that has been around for years rather than a new movement. If this is the case, surely there is another way of moving it into the realms of universal acceptability and standing?

But let’s not judge a book by its cover. So mindful of this I made it past the dull man in his dark suit and crisp, white shirt.

It contained all the normal content you would expect from a trade magazine. The first few pages are dedicated to news, sadly they will have a problem with currency because of the infrequency of the magazine. Further on you’ll find features and surveys.

I enjoyed the Alison Hardingham piece in the first issue which destroyed some coaching certainties. Her clarity of thought on the issue of feedback catapults the debate on who is judge in the coaching scenario, a discussion which has more mileage in it yet.

I also enjoyed the concept of the ‘trouble shooter’ and there were some good bits from Jessica Jarvis which will be invaluable for the in-company coaches ‘tool-kit’ when they are asked for further resources. It was also interesting to see how large companies are making coaching work for them and hear how senior people are supporting the value of coaching. But again it’s formulaic.

The coach is constantly learning. From every session there is mutual learning taking place. For my £14 per issue I expect more opportunities to expand my knowledge than was delivered! The online resource will definitely go some way to answering this and the up to date news issue, from what I could see by the visuals on the back page this looked pretty good.

But the magazine is such a let down in terms of visual impact and format creativity. The editorial board look like an impressive bunch of names. No doubt they are the who’s who in coaching, brilliant! This makes it even more of a shame that I feel disappointed by it. I’m trying to like it, I really am, but it just looks dull as though they’ve not tried to mirror the industry which I am so excited about.

Coaching at Work together with the online resource is a great concept and it has come just at the right time as not only is coaching here to stay but it will evolve with time, politics, human development and with coaching itself. But I feel that the CIPD have missed a real opportunity to launch a magazine that reflects a truly exciting and potentially life changing movement.

There are some magnificent people in the coaching community doing wonderful things and there are some coachees and mentees who are making real changes to their lives and environments, the positive effects we will be reaping long into the future.

Can we please have a product which mirrors this rather than an off the shelf package which I feel may have worked from a publishing perspective but not for me as a fledgling coach. Coaches in and out of corporate life deserve better in my opinion!

Review by a senior coach and mentor:
Coaching at Work is innovative. Any magazine that can bring the skills and techniques to the fore of the corporate arena has a vote of confidence from me. My only concern, and it is a big one, is the magazine’s stance. What is it?

It concedes that coaching is a huge umbrella which contains all forms of coaches, directive, non-directive, specialist performance reviewers and sports coaches, to name but a few. This is how coaching is, but also, the reason why so many companies find the term confusing. Unfortunately Coaching at Work in my opinion is making this lack of understanding worse by not tackling the big issues. Here are three examples that I would have loved to have seen presented and discussed:

  • Can an internal coach ever be totally non-directive and non-judgmental? Similarly, can an in-house coach be totally objective and removed from the influence of the company's objectives and its values that they originally bought into?
  • Trainers and consultants are going into organisations and delivering coaching methodology and calling themselves coaches but who is this working for?
  • Psychologists who have a natural affinity to coaching are pushing for coaches to be trained in psychology before they are qualified, what is the benefit?

These are the big questions in the industry at the moment and they will only get louder. I am surprised that the inaugural edition did not discuss any of these in greater depth and detail. A couple of the columnists eluded to it but failed to set the magazine’s stall. This I fear may have a negative impact.

Individuals may pick up the magazine, read a few of the tips and discussion points and think, “Great I can do that, I’m a coach now!” Jessica Jarvis said in her article, The rise and rise of coaching that employers, "Were finding high quality coaches difficult to find.” I’d like to hear what the staff and writers at Coaching at Work feel constitutes a high quality coach, is it someone who is qualified, a directive coach with field experience or a non-directive coach?

My overall feeling is that the publishers are on to something with their new magazine but I think that they are hedging their bets with it. I do hope they will find their feet in the next issue and present a stronger direction that will lead the way. If they do this they might just become a sounding board for the industry.

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