There is a different ‘feel’ to having an original painting on the wall rather than a copy, regardless of whether the original was expensive or not. I wonder whether visitors to the Louvre would line up for as long to see a copy of the Mona Lisa as they do to see the original.

Maybe, the ‘feel’ has less to do with the forensic equivalence of a copy and the original (the brush stokes, antiquity of the paint etc) and more to do with my assumption that I’m standing in front of the original. My interest lessens when that assumption changes.

What has this to do with executive coaching? It is much easier to ignore a copy on the living room, even of a great painting and in a similar way, some people – co-workers, executives and others – are simply not present when you are with them. George Steiner argued in his book ‘Real Presences’ that genuineness requires an underpinning structure of truth, or at least in his formulation, the assumption of truth.

I have always viewed executive coaching as a holistic exercise. If a client presents with anxiety following a rebuke by the boss, I don’t immediately start resilience training. Likewise, a self-help book on assertion could be devoured by such a client in the hope of dealing with the situation. As understandable as these responses may seem, they are just ‘brush strokes’ of technique.

Popular discussion of leadership is replete with check lists of techniques such as ‘am I listening enough’, ‘good leaders ask for advice’ etc. When you meet such a leader its like seeing a copy of the painting; it could be very clever but it’s a series of discrete techniques rather than a holistic real presence, and you sense it.

The focus of my practice is holistic coaching. It’s much more productive and efficient to deal with the anxiety and lack of assertion as arising from multiple synergistic dynamics within the person. This helps ensure our clients are the original.

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