Coaching and Mentoring: A Critical Text


Simon Western

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    ‘It is a pleasure to read a book about coaching that goes beyond the rather simplistic prescriptions found in most works of this genre. Far too often, contributors to the coaching literature view their clients in a rather robotic manner, ignoring the complexity and subtlety of their emotional life. In their pursuit of instant solutions, these (presumably) coaching specialists assume a Band-Aid approach to change, not paying attention to the deeper origins of executive dysfunction. Simon Western's contribution is different in that he brings back the uncomfortable complexity inherent to the human condition. By not ignoring the shadow side of human reality, his book very much enriches the coaching literature – and is highly recommended.’

    Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, Clinical Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change, The Raoul de Vitry d'Avaucourt Chaired Professor of Leadership Development

    ‘Simon Western has a rare ability to add new dimensions to existing debates, and help us see matters from unusual angles. In this book he brings his critical perspective to bear with great acuity, focusing his attention on some key themes within the debates on coaching and mentoring. I thoroughly endorse this book.’

    Professor Mark Stein, Chair in Leadership and Management, University of Leicester

    ‘This is an unusual and path breaking book. Simon Western explores coaching in its many variations and simultaneously critiques the different discourses that comprise it. His thinking addresses what he calls the “micro practices,” and macro perspectives. He inhabits that most unusual role – the scholar-practitioner – that enables him to contend with both theory and practice. As a good scholar he situates coaching historically, and as a practitioner can evaluate various methodologies, such as the cognitive-behavioral, positive-psychology and psychodynamics. I recommend this book highly to those who want to practice coaching and to those who want to understand its meaning for the wider culture.’

    Larry Hirschhorn, Principal at CFAR, Professor of Human and Organization development at Fielding Graduate University, Lecturer in Organization Dynamics, University of Pennsylvania, Member, Founder and past President of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations

    ‘I see a lot of books on Coaching, and this is without doubt the most stimulating, original, thoughtful and well-founded account. When I heard that Simon Western was considering a book on this topic I wondered if even he – author of the excellent Leadership: A Critical Text – could bring new light to the topic. He has certainly done so – this is an authoritative, well researched, critical and appreciative account of coaching that has at its heart a profound concern for people, for social life and for the predicaments we face. It will be really helpful for anyone in coaching, for coaches and educators, for students of organization and work. In fact, the book is a substantial contribution to our understanding of contemporary practices of the self, and will be of interest to anyone intrigued with what it is to be social.’

    Professor Jonathan Gosling, Professor of Leadership Studies, University of Exeter

    ‘I recommend this book to anyone in the world of coaching who thinks that they occupy a secure niche. If you believe you have a therapeutic model that helps you to heal the wounded self of your clients, or if you use positive thinking to boost their self-esteem, then be ready for a major challenge and some rigorous thinking about your practice and the assumptions that underlie it.’

    David Megginson, Emeritus Professor of HRD, Sheffield Business School, UK


    In memory of my beautiful son Fynn

    Fynn, an inspiration to so many, his smile and spirit continue to light our lives. Together we shared the greatest joy and adventures. I miss him terribly. Be at peace Fynn.

    In memory of my mother Enid Western

    A great friend to me and others. A brilliant mentor and leader in the education sector who changed so many lives, and through her living testimony, contributed to the emancipation of women, creating a tolerant, more generous society.

    I am very proud of both Fynn and Mum.

    And for my father Terry Western

    I thank you for your continued love.

    This book has been a ‘transitional object’. I located my future in this book, as it became symbolic of hope after facing the despair and grief at the shocking loss of Fynn, then my mother 12 months later. I couldn't write anything for ten months, then I found writing provided a small respite from the grief, a refuge where I became absorbed for periods. Researching, reading, using my imagination and thinking deeply then became a joy, as well as a real struggle and battle of will.

    I write briefly about this experience for others who face a deep loss, grief or sadness, which can feel impenetrable, and for coaches and others helping those who face loss or despair. My experience is that the sadness doesn't pass – the loss and emptiness remain raw – but I have discovered that creativity and new life are possible as well. To survive and find emotional and spiritual health is to walk the high-wire between despair and hope, beauty and sadness, creativity and loss, to experience moments of grace whilst bearing the pain. Then alongside the grieving process, hope and love grow in the face of despair. This book is a tribute to my son and mother; they both would have demanded nothing less from me, that I write the very best book I could. I am filled with love and gratitude for their continued inspiration and presence.

    About the Author

    Dr Simon Western

    Currently: Director of Analytic-Network Coaching Ltd, offering a researched and innovative new coaching process, which aims to transform the way coaching impacts on both individuals and organizations.

    Our task is to work in ‘good faith’ to build the ‘good society’.

    Theory and People Development: Academia and Teaching

    Previously: Director of Coaching at Lancaster University Management School and Leading Master in Organizational Consultancy, Tavistock Clinic. Simon has a pedigree of teaching internationally and publishing on leadership and coaching (Leadership: A Critical Text, new edition in 2013). His thinking draws on cross-disciplinary research (psychoanalysis, organizational culture, religious studies, environmentalism) and also on his diverse and rich work experience, having worked in a factory, as a general and psychiatric nurse, a clinical manager, family therapist, organizational consultant, academic and coach working in FT100 corporate offices.

    He takes a psychosocial, critical and ethical perspective, to develop innovative ideas such as Eco-Leadership, addressing ethical and business concerns in the ‘network society’.

    Practitioner: Strategic Coach and Consultant

    Simon works internationally with C-Suite leaders across diverse organizations. His expertise is to work in depth and breadth, coaching individuals and teams through challenging times and developing strategic interventions across organizations.

    Clients include: London Business School, Global OD Team HSBC Bank, CEO family business, leaders in Educational sector and CEO and clinicians in Health sector and Hospice sector.


    A special thanks to everybody who contributed to this book, in many diverse ways. To those who helped work the material, including: Agata, Cathy, Pooja, Steve Fleetwood, Mary Simpson for her excellent proofing of first drafts, Maia for her artwork and contribution to my creative process. To my coaching clients, students and academic colleagues, especially Sally Watson who began this journey by inviting me to become Director of Coaching at Lancaster University.

    To the friends who have stood with me: Simon Massey, Norman and Marian Warden, Eliat Aram, Laura Morales, Lynne Sedgmore, Anne-Mary McLeod, Alex Massey, Nick Jenkins, Stuart Butlin, Rosy Fairhurst, Gry, Diana, Terry and Su, Laura and Anne Simpson, Jonathan Gosling, Debbie O Sullivan, my brothers Mark and Jonathan, and the many others, who have shared this difficult journey with me. Also to Alex Wallace, Fynn's best friend who has become a friend to me also.

    I am also grateful to Sage editors Kiren, Kirsty and Ruth for their patience and understanding, and am impressed by the professional and sensitive way in which they do their work.


    Illustrations are original artwork by Maia Kirchkheli.

    All photographs taken by author.

  • Appendix

    This appendix gives a brief outline of a coaching approach that offers a practical application informed by the meta-theory and discourses in this book. This approach is being used and developed by the author.

    Analytic-Network Coaching© (A-Nc)
    Transforming Yourself: Influencing Your Network

    Analytic-Network Coaching© offers a new coaching process that fits with the twenty-first century ‘network society’. It offers coaching depth, connectivity and breadth, bringing ethics together with the capacity to map networks and intervene in them to strategically influence change.

    This coaching process and approach has emerged from the author's coaching and workplace experience, and through research and theoretical development. Drawing on the coaching meta-theory, Analytic-Network Coaching© has been developed to offer a coaching process and methodology that is theoretically robust. It also has the breadth of approach that transcends the limitations of many coaching approaches, as it draws on all four discourses in this text. This approach is accessible for coaching practitioners, and at the same time addresses the challenges of contemporary leaders and organizations.

    Why ‘Analytic-Network’?

    The word ‘analytic’ signifies two approaches within this coaching process:

    • A systematic coaching process. Firstly ‘analytic’ signifies a systematic approach that takes the coach and coachee through five frames to analyse the coachee's experience, their relation to others, their leadership and to their networks, so they can make strategic changes and interventions that produce more dynamic and sustainable change.
    • A psycho-social coaching approach. Secondly, ‘analytic’ signifies an applied psychoanalytic approach to coaching. Psychoanalysis is the longest-established form of psychotherapy, and the aspects brought into A-N Coaching are very different from the dominant coaching brands based on behavioural or goal approaches to change.

    Drawing on the psychoanalytic approach, we pay attention to the unconscious, the patterns that inhibit us and the dormant creativity that lies within us. More than this, psychoanalysis provides a method to work between the coach and the coachee, where the coachee can learn to interpret their own processes and patterns in relation to the coach. The unconscious is not just a dynamic deep within our minds; it is also a dynamic between pairs, groups, organizations and societies. A-N Coaching is a psycho-social approach to coaching, not focused simply on the internal life of the individual. Key elements of this approach are to develop:

    • The Coach as Container: offering structural and emotional containment to the coachee (this enables ‘emotions to become thinking’) and for the coachee to ‘think-in-the-face-of-anxiety’ rather than just be reactive.
    • Emergent Thinking: the coach fosters an attitude of open curiosity – the ability to tolerate the unknown – and in doing so creates a space for something new to be thought, and for the coachee to develop the capability for adaptive and emergent thinking.
    • Associative Intelligence: encouraging new ideas and thoughts to emerge from the unconscious.

    This approach gets beyond the coach fixing the coachee with expert tools, and offers the coachee a way of interpreting themselves, others and the social, in order to become dynamic change agents.


    The word ‘network’ is used to signify the network society (Castells, 2000) in which we live and work. The internet provides us with our mirror: vast interconnected networks of activity, consisting of humans and technology connected in virtual and real time. Drawing on Actor Network theory (Law, 1993; Latour, 2005) we utilize the metaphor of the network to think outside the box, and beyond organizations and departments with clearly demarked roles, functions and boundaries. The concept of the Network Society undoes much of leadership and management theory of the past century; linear hierarchies, fixed structures and roles are not ‘fit for purpose’ in this new environment.

    Systems theory provides some insights into this domain but open and closed systems theory is limited by the lack of a contemporary networked understanding of how power and knowledge operate within the social field. The recent financial crisis and the Arab Spring are examples of how networks are increasingly interdependent and ‘un-manageable’, because of the speed and complexity of communications, and the unpredictability of social networks that cannot be controlled. In contemporary organizations the task is not to manage but to understand and influence through creating networks of dispersed leaders who find nodal points in the networks. Coaches need to be familiar with the latest change theories in social and organizational thinking in order to help their clients.

    The Analytic-Network Coaching© Process

    The process has been designed not as a linear, functional approach, but as five frames that are interdependent and connected. The process is transformational for the individual and offers HR and managers a coaching process that provides results for the organization, beyond improved individual performance.

    Figure A.1 The A-NcP© connects five frames: Depth Analysis, Relational Analysis, Leadership Analysis, Network Analysis and Strategic Analysis, to create an inter-dependent whole. Individuals are coached to become authentic leaders who are catalysts of influence in their organizational networks.
    • Depth Analysis.Coaching the Inner self. Coachees are encouraged to identify their values and to discover and work from their ‘true, authentic self’ in order to review conscious and unconscious patterns in a way that releases dynamic creativity. In this ‘soul work’ the coachee also works on their values, their desire and their purpose. Depth analysis allows the coachee to work from a solid base, from the place Jean-Paul Sartre calls ‘good faith’.
    • Relational Analysis.Coaching the Relational self to improve relationships through understanding the dynamics that exist between the coachee and others. Its focus is on small teams/groups, families and friends, and these days on distant and virtual relationships. We analyse relational dynamics and the underpinning emotions and unconscious dynamics that entrap the coachee in certain ways of relating and experiencing relationships. The coach utilizes their own relationship with the coachee (transference and counter-transference) as live data to inform the analysis.
    • Leadership Analysis.Coaching the Leadership self to develop the coachee's leadership role, help the coachee develop their ‘inner-leader’ and exercise leadership and followership, and how they take up and react to authority and power and influencing others. The leadership analysis is done in alignment to their personality and context, rather than following a universal leadership competency model. This analysis utilizes the Wild Questionnaire (indicator of leadership, found on to see what the coachee's preferences are in terms of the leadership discourses, i.e. Controller, Therapist, Messiah or Eco-Leadership. The analysis then goes beyond individual leadership to address how leadership can be distributed, how to enable leadership to flourish within an organization, and what leadership contexts require what kind of leaders.
    • Network Analysis.Coaching the Networked self. Using a network mapping exercise the coachee situates themselves on the map and builds their network around themselves. The coach analyses this with the coachee, seeing where power and resources lie, where strong and weak connections are, and the coach offers interpretations to the coachee, associating to the holistic picture (map) they face. Externalizing the network map carried in the coachee's mind has the immediate impact of enlightening and offering a spatial model for the coachee to begin a process of identifying connections they need to make, and nodal points they need to influence. Coachees inevitably feel empowered through Network Analysis because it reveals possible changes which previously felt very stuck.
    • Strategic Analysis. The final frame reviews the previous four frames and enables the coachee to ‘evaluate, consolidate and innovate’. Strategic Analysis focuses on:
      • emergent strategy for the coachee
      • emergent strategy in their network and workplace

      This means analysing and evaluating what's working and then identifying strategies to consolidate what's working, i.e. doing more of the same, developing potential and capacity and building on success. The coachee identifies where to make personal strategic changes that will be sustainable, and to take strategic decisions in the workplace. Innovation helps the coachee to see things from a different place, in a different way. This can lead to new business models, career leaps and to realize which frames need more coaching to develop yet unknown futures.

    Each frame is an important piece of coaching on its own, and yet used together, the A-Nc process becomes ‘greater than the sum of its parts’.

    The Analytic-Network Coaching© process is not a prescriptive coaching formula or a set of tools or techniques, but a process. It provides the conceptual framework which coaches and coachees internalize, so that the process becomes a part of how they think and work.

    There are two ways to approach A-N Coaching:

    • Consecutive frames
    • Adaptive frames
    Consecutive Frames

    Coaching through the five frames consecutively allows clients to pursue a holistic process that coherently moves from the inner self to the relational self, before moving into a person's role and specifically focusing on leadership, then on how to influence their network, before reflecting strategically on the whole process.

    Adaptive Frames

    Once a coach internalizes the five-frame process, they are then freer to work across the boundaries and adapt the coaching to the coachee's context and needs. Clients may come and want to work on a specific area first, perhaps leadership or their team relationships. The coach begins in the appropriate frame but the coach always holds in mind the holistic view and is aware of the other frames, and will turn to them appropriately. The A-Nc process means the coach will be working in a particular frame, and also with the whole process in mind.

    In either approach, what is important is that the Analytic-Network Coaching process is holistic in the sense that the frames inform each other, and the sum of the five frames is greater than the individual parts.


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    Zohar, D. and Marshall, I. (2011) Spiritual Intelligence: The Ultimate Intelligence. London: Bloomsbury.

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