Art-based approaches in executive coaching

I was delighted to be invited to write an article for the Coaching Today magazine about art in executive and leadership coaching. You can read the article below and also download a copy.

I often get asked about art in executive coaching, with coaches and organisational clients wondering about the appropriateness of this approach. I have had comments such as ‘you couldn’t use this in the boardroom’, ‘if my client (paying client) saw us doing this they would think we weren’t doing serious work’, and ‘my credibility would be diminished if I introduced this to my clients’. These barriers often stem from the person’s own perspectives of art rather than the attitude of the coaching client. I have used art for many years in my executive coaching practice and I can truthfully say that my clients are always curious about the approach, and most are open to working in this way.

The complexity of executive coaching

Excerpt… ‘The executive and leadership coaching space can be a very complex space to work in. It is about both the individual’s personal growth as well as meeting the needs of the organisation within which they work. It is about the client achieving personal fulfilment and purpose in their role, operating in a way that feels aligned to themselves, whilst maximising their personal and professional impact to achieve organisational goals.

At a personal level, the coaching offers the executive a reflective space to explore that which is important to them and to bring about desired changes; changes to thinking, changes to behaviour and changes to actions. These changes are not always easy nor are they easily achieved through coaching. Even when clients want to change, unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaviour can be very embedded, and clients can find themselves returning to old ways of being and working quite quickly, and their changes are short lived.

To achieve personal change, clients need a deeper connection to their inner selves and gain a deeper self-awareness and understanding if they are to create lasting shift. This requires going beyond the thinking mind and connecting with their insightful and more knowing mind.

In addition to the personal we also have to consider the organisational. The organisations within which clients work are complex with many different systems within them including political, social and emotional systems.

As a result, coaching areas brought in by clients can also be very complex with complex systems, complex relational dynamics, complex problems, and complex thinking, together with the personal.

To be successful coaching must enable the client to hold both the personal and organisational. It must enable the client to achieve a deeper connection with self and their relationship with the wider complex systems.

This is where art-based coaching is so effective with its ability to hold the complex whole, whilst also connecting to the knowing self. 

Coaching with art enables the client to go beyond words…’

Coaching Today Article

This article appeared in the July 2022 issue of Coaching Today, which is published by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (c) BACP – 

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