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Coaching Diversity

Hello everybody. In this edition of The Coaching Conversation, I'm going to talk about a really sensitive subject; something that I do meet from time to time, not regularly, but often enough to want to share - and that's about diversity.



Sometimes when I'm coaching a senior executive, it becomes clear to me over time, during the course of the program, that that person has some form of preconceived ideas around other people. We can call that prejudice. You can call it bigotry, you can call it anything you like, but the truth of it is that its narrow mindedness. The truth of it is, it's looking at a situation without an open mind.

Pre-judgment on occasion has been blatant. Misogyny has been blatant, racism, sexism, ageism, but often it's much more subtle than that. Often, it's a feeling that someone is going to behave in a certain way regardless of the facts, regardless of what they do, they construct events or reconstruct events in retrospect, to reinforce that opinion. Clearly, it's not very productive. Clearly. It's not very helpful in getting the best out of the coachee's performance and their relationship with that colleague or colleagues.

Sometimes I think the national press or the trade press don't help. There’s a lot of talk about generation, a lot of talk about the various forms of bigotry that occur that often shape things in people's minds that would otherwise not have been.

Sometimes you've got to, as the coach, try to understand why there is this level of narrow-mindedness. What is it that makes them think someone is going to be like this? Someone's going to think like that or behave in this kind of way then you can get to the root cause of it. If you can unpack it to a sufficiently deep level, you got the chance of rebuilding in a more open and constructive way.

I have to say on occasions as a coach, it's been quite a challenge to get the subject on the table in a way in which it can be talked about openly and honestly, and I suppose that's part of the coaching skills; that you need to be able to help your coachee get to a place where they're able to see the truth or see things the way they really are, as opposed to continuing with disillusionment. I have found that once people begin to see in stark relief, they begin thinking ‘perhaps have been looking at this through the wrong kind of lens’.

I think as senior people go through their career curve, it becomes increasingly important that they improve these skills and value people for who they are and what they can do, as opposed to their age, their sex, their ethnicity, or whatever else, because in simple numbers terms, the more senior you get, the more likely you are to have a wider diversity of people reporting to you directly or indirectly, and as a leader, you've got to have the ability to lead them in without fear or favour, equally.

The other side of this, or the extension of this, has been sensitive to people who are not liking. So, I don't understand personally, all of the religions in this world, and I don't understand therefore for all of the sensitivities that other religions may have, but if I'm sensitive enough to know that I don't know it if I'm sensitive enough to realise I need to be careful as I can be in helping your coachee recognise this perspective.

It's usually about picking an event or picking a problem that they've identified without identifying one of the causes and then helping the coachee talk about what happened, helping the coachee work through what may be driving the reaction and the steps that they've taken, the assumptions they may have made before they decided to do whatever it was that they decided to do. As you go through that process, you may be fortunate enough that they stumbled across it themselves, or it might be that you have to start to ask questions that suggest they examine it in the way in which you're suspecting might be the reason.

Clearly, as a coach, it's not for you to be judgmental clearly as a coach is not for you to decide that this is wrong and bad, and shouldn't be happening as a coach. You're only there to help the coachee, develop themselves to be the person they want to be, to be the best person they can be. And if you are doing that with an open mind is for you to let them decide if dealing with this is now a priority.

There's another dimension to this, which is potentially insidious, which is that the coachee feels like this is the organisation or the organisation's leader who has this in-built culture. This inbuilt judgment or prejudice is therefore inherited by your coachee as ‘that's the way things get done around here’.

Now, unless the coachee is choosing to go on a campaign, to go on a crusade, to become an evangelist around this as the coach, it's not your role. I don't feel in any way to encourage them to embark on some form of mission unless they believe it's important enough for them to say so. And if it is, then you can help coach them in how they might go about that to be most effective, to make the change they want to make.

In one example, I had a client who was recruiting at the director level. He was concerned about interviewing ethnic minorities in case he didn't appoint them and that they may well sue him for racial discrimination in the selection process. I helped him through that barrier. I helped him think about what the downside to that would be in terms of potential candidates - He wouldn't meet talent, and he made the judgment for himself to interview a number of minorities. He did an interview for the role, and you know what I'm going to say – hey presto, the successful candidate, was an ethnic minority and a year on is an absolutely outstanding hire. Now I would say that, wouldn’t I? But it's true, and had we not had that conversation in the middle of the coaching session, he would’ve missed out.


So, there you have it, the latest edition of The Coaching Conversation. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you found it useful. You can find out more about our coaching programmes at

If you want to reach out you can send us an email at you can book a free 30-minute coaching session at which will give you a really good feel for how coaching can help you.

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