Coaching World Issue 7: August 2013 - Page 11

Rethinking Coaching: A Q&A WITH ANGÉLIQUE DU TOIT AND STUART SIM Angélique du Toit and Stuart Sim come from seemingly different academic traditions—Angélique is an Executive Coach and scholar who studies coaching in the workplace, while Stuart is a literary critic. However, as colleagues at the University of Sunderland, they found synergy through their shared interest in critical theory as an analytical tool. During the global economic downturn, Angélique and Stuart’s conversations turned to the question of how critical theory could frame a coaching practice that promotes a new mindset in business and helps to avert crises. These discussions planted the seed of an idea that grew into a 2010 monograph, “Rethinking Coaching: Critical Theory and the Economic Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).” We sat down with Angélique and Stuart to discuss some of the central arguments of “Rethinking Coaching.” Coaching World: Although we have reason to believe that professional coaches are using elements of critical theory in practice, the term “critical theory” is probably unfamiliar to many readers outside of academia. Can you give a brief definition and discuss what critical theory encompasses? How can it help shape the way we understand the world around us? A&S: Philosophy as a discipline has always been centrally concerned with the art of interpretation and providing ways of testing the validity of the judgments that interpretations inevitably involve. Critical theory is essentially a kind of applied philosophy, consisting of the development of analytical methods by which to study systems (of any kind, in any area of life). Each critical theory has its own set of procedures by which to conduct analysis, and they yield particular interpretations of whatever is being studied— such as organizations. Critical theory can help us to understand the mechanisms of an organization, revealing its internal politics and dynamics. It can also help us to understand what beliefs underpin organizations’ practices, and also to judge whether these are logical or not, which is where skepticism comes in. CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE > Coaching World | August 2013 11