Coaching across cultures

Book cover

I got a bit behind on my catch-up reading due to getting some horrible flu type thing, kids being off school with the same thing, teachers’ strikes, my birthday and just general life stuff. Anyway, despite the juggling, I did manage to read Coaching Across Cultures by Philippe Rosinski. This was first published in 2003 which with a bit of a jolt I realised was 20 years ago and was minded of one of my tutors at university saying “never read any lit crit that is over 20 years old it will be too dated”. At that time, that would mean reading critical theory published in the 70s which indeed seemed analogous to being published in the Victorian era. Whether my perception of time has changed (probably) or there is less of a cultural gap between the 00s and now than there was between the 70s and 90s (debatable), Coaching Across Cultures does still have a lot of value and I found it a very useful read. Yes, there are concepts that would probably be articulated differently now, particularly around race and cultural awareness, but that did not detract from the general pitch of the book which was that you cannot enter into a coaching relationship or coach successfully without being aware of the cultures in play in your coaching relationship.

Rosinski’s book starts with exploring coaching and culture in a general way then introduces the “cultural orientations framework” (COF) which is a detailed “language”, as Rosinski terms it, through which one can talk about and understand culture. This framework, Rosinski argues, enables coaches to work with cultural differences in a non judgmental fashion. There are 7 categories to the COF – sense of power and responsibility; time management approaches; definitions of identity and purpose; organisational arrangements; notions of territory and boundaries; communication patterns and modes of thinking. Each of these is then split into a number of different dimensions. So time management approaches can be scarce/plentiful; monochronic/polychronic; past/present/future. Organisational arrangements can be hierachy/equallity; universalistic/particularist; stability/change; competitive/collaborative. This enables the coach to draw up a “cultural profile” (in other words your cultural orientation) for both yourself as a coach and with your coachees, which can be done through individual or team coaching. Rosinski is keen to distinguish between orientations (ie preferences); abilities (what you are capable of) and behaviours (what you do in reality). There are templates given so one could map ones preferences and identify the gaps. The rest of the book explores these in detail to enable exploration of how they work in practice through giving examples of situations from large organisations. Each category of the COF is given a chapter with some examples of activities that coaches could use with their coachees to explore that category of the COF. These activities were incredible useful and included a wealth of creative and analytical exercises that could be used in a range of coaching session. They included stakeholder analysis (reminded me of Friedman’s book), tools from transactional analysis, collage, vison activities and so on. There was so much here that just the worksheets and tools alone would be a book in itself.

Coaching Across Cultures is a dense book in terms of the amount of ideas and frameworks covered. It was definitely a useful read and a book that I am considering buying now to keep as a reference for inspiration to try out new activities. I am not sure I would work through the entire framework, although there might be times when this was useful, particularly if taking on some team coaching or coaching a number of coachees from an organisation experiencing change; but there are many aspects that I would like to try in my own practice.

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