This thesis aims to explore and conceptualise the subjective experiences of participants in high potential coaching. A review of the relevant literature indicates that the first person voice is almost entirely missing from both academic and practitioner commentary on this topic, and is needed to provide dimensionality and insight into what can be contentious practices. A qualitative study was conducted, based on semi-structured interviews with twelve participants –six coaches and six high potential coachees – using an interpretative phenomenological analysis methodology. Key findings of this study are that:
• The individual voices of participants in high potential coaching are highly diverse. Each actor in the process has a unique and dynamic view on the issues and responds from this unique perspective.
• Being considered to be a high potential is not always experienced as an unmitigated good. It can involve risks of many kinds as well as opportunities.
• Conceptual and theoretical challenges around talent management are reflected at the practice level. These factors can cause personal hurt and confusion, and can lead to cynicism on the part of people designated as high potential.
• Reputation management can be highly important to those who wish to be considered high potential and can lead to some gaming behaviours which militate against the espoused purposes of talent management programmes.
• Coaches do not appear to see high potential coaching as a distinctive area of practice. Rather, they appear to see their practice as capable of flexing to accommodate the high potential context.
• Coaches do see the design and implementation of some talent development programmes as militating against good work by overly-constraining the coach’s freedom to act.
• Coaches frequently conceptualise coaching as having the potential for the client’s sense-making and growth across their whole lives, but coachees do not always see it in this way.
• Coaches experience coaching as highly pleasurable. For the most part, their sense of self and their sense of self-as-coach are indivisible. The coach is coaching.
These findings illuminate a very under-researched area of both coaching and talent management practice. At a theoretical level, they provide the missing subjective voice in talent management debates. At a practice level, they have considerable potential to inform both the design and conceptualisation of talent development in organisations and coaching practice in this area.
Faculty of BusinessBusiness School
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