Research Paper: The Role of Intuition in Coaching

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Research Paper Assessment Name: Jamie McConochie Date: July 17, 2012 Student ID: 265130 Email: [email protected] Complete your 2000 word research paper and insert it in the space below. Then email this document as an attachment to [email protected]

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At the mention of the word intuition, ideas come to mind such as “gut-feeling”, knowing something without understanding why, acting on instinct, realizing when something is wrong because it “just doesn’t feel right”, and so on. The last decade or so has seen intuition creeping more and more into the language of business and managerial decision-making models, challenging the traditional rational-analytical approaches. http://www.icoachacademy.com/blog/coaching-resources/research-papers/jamie-mcconochie-the-role-of-intuition-in-coaching/

Transcript of Research Paper: The Role of Intuition in Coaching

Research Paper Assessment Name: Jamie McConochie Date: July 17, 2012 Student ID: 265130 Email: [email protected]

Complete your 2000 word research paper and insert it in the space below. Then email this document as an attachment to [email protected]

The Role of Intuition in Coaching

A research paper submitted as a final assessment for the Certified Professional Coach Program International Coach Academy Jamie McConochie June 2012

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Contents

Introduction 4 Coaching Competency No.2 4 Coaching Competency No.3 6 Coaching Competency No.4 7 Coaching Competency No.5 9 Coaching Competency No.6 10 Coaching Competency No.7 11 Coaching Competency No.8 12 Conclusion . 13 References .. 16

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Introduction At the mention of the word intuition, ideas come to mind such as gutfeeling, knowing something without understanding why, acting on instinct, realizing when something is wrong because it just doesnt feel right, and so on. The last decade or so has seen intuition creeping more and more into the language of business and managerial decision-making models, challenging the traditional rational-analytical approaches. In contrast, intuition has also become virtually synonymous with many spiritual beliefs and practices, and can be found generously peppered throughout the literature on popular psychology and new-age philosophies. The broadness of intuition makes it both appealing as a universal terminology, and at the same time troublesome to define and investigate. The extent to which intuition plays a part in coaching can be seen in relation to the coaching competencies, as set out by the International Coach Federation. This paper will explore some of the research on intuition and attempt to relate it to the coaching process in the context of the ICF competencies.

Competency no. 2: Establishing the Coaching Agreement The first competency in which intuition can be said to play a role is the second one of establishing the coaching agreement. This is defined by Copyright 2006 International Coach Academy Pty. Ltd. Use is governed by the Terms and Conditions at http://www.icoachacademy.com Last updated Feb 2006

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the ICF as the ability to understand what is required in the specific coaching interaction and to come to agreement with the prospective client about the coaching process. During the first introductory or trial session with the client the coach must determine whether there is an effective match. This decision must be made on the basis of the limited information gained during the session, and the coach will need to listen to the signals of their own intuition. The coach will have to decide if this client is compatible in terms of alignment with the coachs orientation, coaching niche and previous experience.

Given the relatively short time of the trial session much of these judgments will likely take place at a non-conscious level by the coach, with more experienced coaches arriving at a decision more quickly and intuitively than less experienced coaches. In a study of intuition in managerial decision-making Dane & Pratt (2007) point out that intuition involves decisions made without conscious analysis. Relating their research to psychological studies they argue that there is a process of non-conscious pattern recognition involved with simple cognitive structures, which enables a person to pick up any warning signals. Furthermore this process also involves more complex cognitive structures linked to long-term memory, allowing previous experience to enhance the functioning of intuition. This is consistent with the conclusions of Dreyfus & Dreyfus (1986) who looked at the Copyright 2006 International Coach Academy Pty. Ltd. Use is governed by the Terms and Conditions at http://www.icoachacademy.com Last updated Feb 2006

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use of intuition in the context of industrial engineers and found that experienced professionals are more likely to use intuition, whilst inexperienced ones are more likely to resort to more formal and rational approaches to make a decision.

Another feature of establishing the coaching agreement involves the coach explaining their particular approach and openly enquiring if the client would feel comfortable with that. In 2009 Mavor carried out a study of 14 experienced executive coaches in which she interviewed them regarding their use of intuition in coaching. She reports that coaches found intuition to be more powerful when they openly contracted with clients in the initial session that it would be used along the way. In a sense this gives coaches permission from the client which, together with the internal permission of acknowledging intuition as part of their skill set, appears to create better conditions for intuition to be more effective.

Competency no. 3: Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client Establishing trust and intimacy with the client is essential for a successful coaching partnership, and facilitates the process in many ways. Mavor (2009) describes how coaches who are aware of using intuition report the need for creating this intimate relationship, and Copyright 2006 International Coach Academy Pty. Ltd. Use is governed by the Terms and Conditions at http://www.icoachacademy.com Last updated Feb 2006

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that having a good rapport is conducive to the manifestation of intuition in the coaching process. This is consistent with the findings of others (Murray, 2004) that focused attention is more intense when you have a close rapport with someone. This in turn facilitates nonconscious processing of subliminal signals in voice and body language.

Competency no. 4: Coaching Presence Coaching presence is defined as the ability to be fully conscious and to create a spontaneous relationship with the client. The coach needs to be fully present in the moment to be able to know when to apply appropriate coaching strategies, confidently shifting perspectives and experimenting with new possibilities. This competency is fundamental to the coaching process and is over-arching in its scope, being intertwined with many of the other ICF competencies. The ability to access intuition and trust ones own inner knowing is of great value when having to move in the moment with the client.

In his detailed review of the characteristics of intuition Kautz (2003) points out that the conscious direction of the attention can lead to more awareness of intuition. It follows that the more a coach is able to

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direct their attention and maintain an effective coaching presence, then the more they are able to use intuition in the coaching process.

Mavor (2009) found from her study of experienced coaches that intuition is employed to a large extent in relation to coaching presence. Her results show that coaches used intuition to know when to speak and when to stay silent, in identifying patterns, and in challenging the clients perspectives. The coaches in the study also described how they used intuition to be bold with coaching strategies, sometimes taking risks and pushing back boundaries both for the coach and the client.

In another related aspect of coaching presence Mavor also found that coaches reported listening to their own physical sensations, such as feelings in the stomach, chest, prickly head etc. These indicators helped them know what their intuition was telling them.

The role the body plays in intuition has been the focus of much research, due to the relatively easy methods available for measuring physiological phenomena. For example Bechara et al (1997) carried out an interesting study in which participants had to play a game involving risk but without knowing the rules. They found that participants generated significant skin conductance responses before Copyright 2006 International Coach Academy Pty. Ltd. Use is governed by the Terms and Conditions at http://www.icoachacademy.com Last updated Feb 2006

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engaging in higher risks even though they were not consciously aware of the higher risk. Other researchers have also suggested a link between intuition and physiological response; Bastik (1982) directly ties intuition with body knowledge, and Agor (1986) and Hayashi (2001) link the use of intuition with specific body cues.

Competency no. 5 Active Listening Connected with the previous competency of coaching presence, active listening is the ability to focus on the client, and to hear the clients concerns, listening between the lines, and make connections with what the client is saying or not saying. As has been mentioned above, intuition comes into play through consciously directed attention. Focused listening allows for processing of implicit information in the clients speech, which may be words, tone of voice, pauses, pace, or avoidance of topics etc. This ability to pick up information other than simply words has been demonstrated by numerous researchers. In a study by Lewicki (1986) participants were shown photos of facial expressions and were able to detect minute variations of the basic proportions of the human face. The participants reported feeling that Copyright 2006 International Coach Academy Pty. Ltd. Use is governed by the Terms and Conditions at http://www.icoachacademy.com Last updated Feb 2006

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something was wrong with the faces, but were not able to specify what exactly.

In another study by Ambady and Rosenthal (1993) undergraduates watched a 6 second clip of a teacher giving a seminar with the sound turned off. They were then asked to rate the teaching ability of the teacher. Their rating was then compared to those of other students who had actually been present in the seminar of the teacher. They found a significant correlation between the ratings of the students who only had visual information about the teacher compared with those who were present in the seminar with the teacher.

Lieberman (2000) cites this as an example of intuitive processing, which involves non-consciously drawing inferences about other individuals on the basis of subtle sequences of nonverbal cues.

Mavor (2009) also reports that coaches used a lot of nonverbal cues when listening for indications about the clients state. Intuition was used extensively to understand what was behind the clients words. Setting aside judgment during active listening was also important for the effectiveness of intuition, using it as an offering rather than as truth.

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Competency no. 6 Powerful Questioning A direct result of active listening and coaching presence is the ability to ask questions that reveal information or help the client make connections. The use of intuition can result in the most appropriate questions that evoke discovery and insight.

In their exploration of intuition in managerial decision-making Dane and Pratt (2007) postulate that intuition involves both a process and an outcome. The process typically involves non-conscious patternrecognition, as has been discussed above in relation to coaching presence and active listening. Intuitive outcomes are the actions that directly result from the intuitive processing, which in the case of coaching are the strategies and questions employed by the coach. This is consistent with Mavors findings in which she refers to the process as intuiting, and the outcome as intuitive judgments (Mavor 2009). Her survey shows that intuition is used to inspire coaches to sometimes ask about something out of the blue that had not been mentioned by the client. She reports that intuition is often used to direct the flow of questioning.

Furthermore, using imagination to create powerful questions could also be related to intuition. As Kautz (2003) points out imagination is

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important in cognitive processes for filling in gaps of perception. Hence imagination can be used to lead to intuitive judgements.

Competency no. 7 Direct Communication The ability to provide feedback and choose the most appropriate language in sharing alternative perspectives is very much tied in with the previously discussed points on intuition. All the qualities of intuition are involved here and are a further example of intuitive judgments as an outcome of intuition.

Competency no. 8 Creating Awareness Within the ICF framework this is defined as the ability to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information with the end of helping the client to gain a greater awareness.

This integration of information appears to be a salient feature of intuition. As Dane and Pratt (2007) point out intuition comes into play in circumstances where rational analysis cannot function. Typically this is when multiple streams of information need to be encoded very Copyright 2006 International Coach Academy Pty. Ltd. Use is governed by the Terms and Conditions at http://www.icoachacademy.com Last updated Feb 2006

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rapidly at a non-conscious level. Psychological studies have suggested that in making non-conscious holistic associations individuals map stimuli onto internal cognitive structures or frameworks (Dane & Pratt 2007). This is consistent with other findings that have associated intuition with the ability to synthesize unconnected memory fragments into a new information structure (Mintzberg, Ahlstrand and Lampel, 1998).

This idea of the holistic nature of intuitive process can also be traced back to the Jungian concept of the big picture or seeing things in their broader context (see Anderson, 2000; Singer, 1994).

These ideas all tie in with the findings from Mavor (2009) that coaches use intuition to make connections from what the client has said, to corroborate the clients words with their behavior, and to identify patterns. This intuitive integration of information gives rise to intuitive judgments which, according to the coaches in her study, resulted in challenging the client, raising awareness, and creating shifts, all of which benefitted the client in terms of moving towards achieving the agreed on goals.

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Often, the use of intuition in itself can create awareness regardless of the accuracy of the intuitive judgments being made. As Whitworth et al (2007) succinctly put it,

The thing about intuition and coaching is that intuition always forwards the action and deepens the learning, even when it lands with a clang instead of a melodious ping.

Conclusion The importance of intuition in coaching is something that probably most professional coaches would acknowledge. However when viewed in the context of the ICF competencies the prevalence of intuition throughout the coaching process becomes strikingly apparent. In spite of being aware of it or not it seems that coaches naturally fall back on intuition at every step of the coaching process. From the findings discussed here it could be argued that the use of intuition is integral to, even synonymous with, good coaching in which the competencies are being fully realized.

The form in which coaches use and express their intuition may, however, vary greatly depending on factors such as coaching niche, individual beliefs, or spiritual orientation. Indeed the concept of intuition is so broad that it could cover the whole spectrum of non Copyright 2006 International Coach Academy Pty. Ltd. Use is governed by the Terms and Conditions at http://www.icoachacademy.com Last updated Feb 2006

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spiritual beliefs across to religious leanings. These personal differences would certainly dictate the way in which an individual might develop their intuitive skills and how they are applied in their coaching.

Whilst the issue of how to define and develop intuition is somewhat beyond the scope of this paper a general idea can be gleaned from some of the research discussed so far. It would seem that using intuition involves non-conscious processes and requires a heightened state of focused attention. Learning to listen to body cues would also seem to be important in guiding the use of intuition. Thus in simply employing the coaching skills of active listening, coaching presence, rapport, trusting in the process, in short being a good coach, provides the basis for intuition to freely flow. Whitworth et al beautifully describe this integral nature of intuition as a part of the coaching process:

Speaking from your intuition is extraordinarily available in coaching. Like the wind in the trees, it may not be visible, but we can see and hear its effects. (Whitworth et al., 2007)

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At a time when this relatively young profession is starting to gain more worldwide recognition, further study along this line of research would serve as an excellent underlying thread running through out coaching in all its varied and beautiful forms.

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ReferencesAgor, W. (1986) The logic of intuitive decision making: A researchbased approach for top management. Quorum Books (New York).

Ambady, N., & Rosenthal, R. (1993). Half a minute: Predicting teacher evaluations from thin slices of nonverbal behavior and physical attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 431-441.

Andersen, J. A. (2000). Intuition in managers: Are intuitive managers more effective? Journal of Managerial Psychology, 15, 1, 46-67.

Bastick, T. (1982). Intuition: How we think and act. England: John Wiley and Sons.

Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Tranel, D., Damasio, A.R. (1997). Deciding advantageously before knowing the advantageous strategy. Science, 275, 5304, 1293-1295.

Dane E., Pratt M G. (2007). Exploring intuition and its role in managerial decision making. Academy of Management Review, 32, 1, 33-54

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Dreyfus, H.L., Dreyfus, S.E. (1986). Mind over machine: The power of human intuition and expertise in the era of the computer. Oxford: Blackwell.

Hayashi, A.M. (2001). When to trust your gut. Harvard Business Review at Large, Feb, 59-65.

Kautz, W. H. (2003). Opening the Inner Eye: Explorations on the Practical Applications of Intuition in Daily Life and Work. iUniverse.

Lewicki, P. (1986). Nonconscious Social InformationPprocessing. New York: Academic Press.

Lieberman, M. D. (2000). Intuition: A social cognitive neuro- science approach. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 109137.

Mavor, P. (2009). Intuition in Coaching: Preliminary Findings of an Exploratory Study Lane4 EMCC UK Conference.

Mintzberg, H., Ahlstrand, B. and Lampel, J. (1998). Strategy safari: A guided tour through the wilds of strategic management. New York, NY: The Free Press.

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Murray, E. (2004). Intuitive Coaching. Industrial & Commercial Training, 36, 5, 203-206.

Whitworth, L., Kimsey-House, K., Kimsey-House, H., and Sandahl, P. (2007). Co-Active Coaching, 2nd edition, Davies-Black Publishing.

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