Shadow coaching: or coaching coaches of coaches.

Something not fully appreciated in the world of entertainment, commerce, and public affairs is the role of 'shadow contributors'… those who contribute their talent and expertise in the background, often unknown to the general public or consumer.

In the field of pop music, for example, the musicians performing on your favorite album are sometimes studio musicians—a skilled elite of musical specialists—substituting for the regular band members who appear in concert.

In the business world those stirring rags-to-riches autobiographies by renowned corporate leaders are often written in large part by ghostwriters, dramatizing or embroidering the historical facts.

And of course those mellifluous speeches by heads of state or political candidates are usually penned by professional speechwriters, with general direction provided by the leaders and their staffs.

But this seems to be a happy trade-off. Shadow contributors receive a respectable wage in exchange for relative anonymity.

This phenomenon also happens in the world of consulting, coaching, and counseling, where a shadow practitioner offers his or her advice in the background, as a consultant to the consultant or coach to the coach.

For instance, one shadow consultant I've used from time to time—to get a second opinion on personnel issues in my client organizations—is friend and trusted advisor Herb Pearce. Because Herb is not signed to a confidentiality agreement with my clients I don't mention the name of the client to him—nor specific names of individuals—but will in general terms outline the case I'm working on.

As a psychotherapist, relationships counselor, and business coach Herb is especially adept at understanding and explaining personality differences and the communication breakdowns they cause—an everyday occurrence in business, from boardroom to shop floor to front office.

It helps that Herb Pearce is one of the world's leading experts on the Enneagram system of personality differences which he teaches in workshops all over the US. His book, which can be purchased on his website, is 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Power of the Enneagram'. (Don't worry, this book is not just for complete idiots. Those of us who are part-time idiots can get value from it too.)

There are countless systems of personality differences (including the popular Myers-Briggs) but I find the Enneagram to be the most useful in business. It's been taught in institutions as varied as the Stanford School of Business, Motorola, the US Postal Service, the CIA, and the Vatican.

Having been a leadership coach for twenty-eight years now (hard to believe it's been that long), I've enjoyed playing this shadow role as well, to other management consultants and executive coaches.

Especially because it allows me to dispense advice from my Chestnut Hill couch and forgo the 'extreme commuting' I normally have to subject myself to (bouncing around on propeller planes and Silverado rentals in rural North America).

But coaching other coaches can be a tricky proposition. Those coaches are often coaching client managers or team leaders, who in turn coach others. So the job is to coach coaches to coach coaches to coach others. (No wonder I need a coach.)

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  1. The shadow consulting you speak of is a common aspect of "mentoring" in the social science world.

    I've become a big Enneagram fan recently. It's helped me understand the seemingly bizarre behavior (from time to time) of certain family members and colleagues. I can look back at my last job now and understand why my boss acted the way she did - and why I walked out. It should be taught in the public school system!

  2. Yes, yes. Mentoring can often include shadow counseling. Psychotherapists often use mentors this way, keeping client names confidential of course.

  3. And triple yes to your comment about your last job, Patricia. The Enneagram can yield stunning insights about why our leaders (bosses, politicians, etc.) act the way they do. And when you can understand why your manager sees the world the way she does, her actions don't seem QUITE so crazy - and perhaps you can take them less personally.

  4. so what would the enneagram teach us about the current candidates for us president?? not sure i'm excited about either of them after last night's debate.

  5. Thanks John for the mention of my work with the Enneagram. I have found the Enneagram personality types system the most useful tool in my life. I've been teaching the Enneagram for 18 years and I am still constantly learning a lot about myself, understanding personality differences, developing the best traits of each type in myself, and relating well to each type (knowing their strengths and weaknesses). Each type is relatively predictable in their concerns and a way in which type a certain kind of approach and communication. People make so much sense when you know this information. I've taught a few thousand Enneagram workshops and I am still amazed how useful and accurate it is. I'm doing an advanced Enneagram workshop in Andover MA on Wed Oct 1 from 9:30-3:30 (very inexpensive) at a beautiful villa and an Enneagram Basic workshop on Fri Oct 10 evening and an advanced workshop the next day Sat from 2-6 in Arlington MA. Go to my website, for more info or email me at I'm happy to chat about the Enneagram. Send me any questions or comments.
    Herb Pearce

    In case you don't know the Enneagram here's a brief summary of the types, parts of which each of us have. One type, called the core type, is more automatic to the way you are (requires no effort to be that) and dominant in one's basic motivation, thinking process, perspective, filtering system, etc. There are typical behaviors in each type but behavior is less representative of type than why someone is doing what they are doing. The Types:

    Type 1 - The Perfectionist/Reformer - avoids mistakes, imperfection
    Type 2 - The Overhelper/Cheerleader - avoids their own needs
    Type 3 - The Overachiever/Winner - avoids failure
    Type 4 - The Depth Seeker/Romantic - avoids everyday, humdrum life
    Type 5 - The Knowledge Seeker/Observer - avoids expression of personal feelings
    Type 6 - The Security Questioner/Loyalist - avoids the insecure unknown
    Type 7 - The Optimist/Fun Lover - avoids pain
    Type 8 - The Director/Powerhouse - avoids vulnerability
    Type 9 - Peacemaker/Accommodator - avoids conflict

  6. As far as the Presidential candidates I think Obama is a Type 9 (Peacemaker) with a strong 3 (Achiever) focus (9s go to 3 to develop themselves further) or he could be a 3 with a strong 9. I think McCain is a 1 (Perfectionist) who is very black and white about what he believes (1s can have a hard time with complexity, ambivalence, the gray side of life - they like things definite). 9s are fluid and flexible and are more accepting. Actually I think McCain is a 1 with a 9 wing (wing is one of the adjacent numbers next to your core number that gives you a flavoring of that type too but certainly not as strong as the core type).

    Many people like things very definite so they will go with McCain (even though in reality McCain is no more definite than Obama). It seems stronger to go with someone seemingly more definite or decisive, even though reality is very complex and people in my estimation are more mature when they can really relate well to complexity. I'm a 9 myself so I'm a bit prejudiced! Many 9s have been presidents - Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, Ford. Herb

  7. Anonymous: of all the presidential debates I've seen in the age of television (and I think I've watched them all) this might be the first since 1960 in which I felt BOTH candidates presented themselves exceptionally well, with a strong command of the issues. (That doesn't mean I don't have a passionate preference of one over the other, however!) Perhaps I should do a post analyzing the candidates from the perspective of classic leadership qualities.

    Herb: Thanks for the archetypal analysis of the presidential candidates. I'm still not sure of Obama's archetype. His career trajectory would argue for the 3 archetype, but sometimes it's difficult to tell until you experience someone's presence and energy firsthand.

  8. so you've only been watching these debates for 48 years? you didn't catch the earlier ones? what about lincoln-douglas?

  9. Thank you for this piece, John. It can probably be said that the reason we are all to some degree emotionally healthy and competant is because we have such coaches in both our personal and professional lives. There is just something about the thoughts of one that you respect to give the confidence you need or stir up that which lies beneath.

    Such coaches can also just help you see things from a different perspective. My coaches include many of my siblings. While we are family, we think differently on some things and have led different lives and have had different experiences.

    We are also in different professions; all are trained counselors, pastors, missioniaries and ministers. Along with trusted friends, they have been coaches to the coach for many years. The wisdom of my mom was also invaluable.

    When you mentioned the Myers Briggs I thought of a friend, Shoya Zichy, a brilliant consultant, author, painter and linguist. She wrote a book based on Myers Briggs, Women and the Leadership Q. She had worked directly with the originator.

    I was performing and acting when Shoya and I met and would visit her during my stays in New York. (Her brother was my agent and he kept saying to me "you gotta meet my sister. You are so much alike." He was right!) I remember reading the manuscript before it was published and being fascinated by the topic. Although I was performing, she saw so much more and coached me to not be afraid to broaden my horizons. I took her coaching. She became a coach to a future coach.

    For this book, Shoya interviewed so many prominent women, from heads of state to performers to businesss executives, categorizing each by color as a means of determing inherent leadership qualities. I think I was, if I'm remembering correctly, an Blue Innovator. I'd recommend the book.

    Regarding the debate, I thought that both men did a fine job from the standpoint of knowledge. But I thought Obama was better in many respects. I also thought that Obama handled himself so much better than McCain. Disdain and disrespect can be seen and heard, even if the words are smooth and confidently spoken. These things reveal themselves in tone, on the brow, and through clinched jaws as the other speaks.

  10. Anonymous: I was only talking about the debates I've seen in THIS life. Actually there weren't any presidential debates for the general election before 1960, but the Lincoln-Douglas debate for US Senate was a dandy. (Come to think of it Lincoln was the last Republican I voted for.)

    Thanks, Judith. I'm not that familiar with that system. But I'm guessing you're an ENFJ in Myers Briggs? The disdain and disrespect you saw in McCain's manner is definitely typological. If Herb checks back in, he can elaborate on that from an Enneagram perspective.

  11. While I respect categories, I find them limiting and perhaps dangerous as well. It must also be very satisfying for coaches, counselors, and psychologists to to determine who people are based on such categories. Does this limit their understanding?

    Just because I find categories interesting does not mean that I rest my complete judgment on them. I reserve the right to see variance beyond categories or behaviors at any time or another. We often have leanings one way or another and wholly become the self-fulfilling or other-fulfilling prophecy.

    People are mercurical, at least those who do not allow various systems and categories to define them and often time when such happens a light in the eye, a twist of the head, or a scuffle of the feet reveal variance or opposition to the accepted prophecy.

    Having said all of that, I would like to know what an ENFJ is, Mr. Pearce. Perhaps I will come to know myself even more. This I'm always interested in. :-)

  12. Judith, sorry to confuse the issue by throwing in an off-the-cuff, Myers-Briggs analysis (ENFJ). Getting back to the Enneagram system, it allows VERY rich differences within each of its nine archetypes, but the archetypes themselves are quite striking. For instance, within the "3" archetype (the performer, overachiever, motivator, result-producer, winner) - which fits many US politicians - you have enormous differences. Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Mitt Romney would fit the same overall "3" archetype but while being very different from each other. But determining someone's archetype is an art not a science and even the top Enneagram teachers disagree on which type certain individuals are, for instance Obama. (Is he a 3 or a 9?)

  13. In reading the comments again and doing a little research, I like the Enneagram. Just in my very brief research, I guess I'm a 2. But as with the ENFJ (John was spot on with this) I am not terribly big on the need of flattery for myself. I do believe in love.

    Flattery is not necessarily love. (But it can be depending on the need of the other.) The desire for love is universal, but the fear of not being loved may not be. Love (perhaps even flattery, not seen as a negative) is given and received differently, but the heart is never left out of it. Perhaps the question to be asked is one of intention. What is the motive?

    I am rather independent minded and never simply sought after the approval of others, never being the teacher's pet or mommy's little girl, and never being terribly interested in what others say of me so as long I have expressed myself clearly and shown openly where I stand. Opposition is no problem. Does this sound like a ENFJ?

    Often times I am quite successful in expressing myself through words and actions, other times I am not. The former, however, happens more often, although I am not always successful even when the obvious is clear. You can only do what you can do at any given time. I do sacrifice readily for the needs of others AND see to it that I get what I need. I must admit, however, to learning this over time.

    Hmmm? I guess this is precisely the matter here: development and those who help us in the process i.e., that coach of coaches. Maybe I'll drop in on the workshop in MA with Mr. Pearce. No worries about the off the cuff analysis, John. You were spot on which perhaps indicates to some degree your "type" as well. :-)

    Your question regarding Obama is precisely my thought on systems or categories. Above, I have tried to point out the same in reference to myself. Thanks again, John, for the post. I think you're an ace. Is that a type?

  14. Particularly to Judith,

    I am also concerned about any typing system limiting the truth of one's uniqueness. Every typing system is only an approximation of the truth and the whole idea is to develop and use the strengths of all the types. The type is simply the main tendency.

    For instance I'm a 9 peacemaker and I have a very strong tendency to go along with others and create peace, though sometimes to my detriment. I realize that tendency and make an effort (which sometimes doesn't feel so natural) to be assertive and even confrontive at times. I realize that is my balancing point, to be a bit more like an 8 who is more naturally assertive and self directed. We all need to delve into some discomfort to keep integrating the "opposite" of our type's tendency, in order to be balanced and have the full range of life's possibilities.

    You sound like you might be a 2. 2s tends to be very attuned to others' needs and tend to be giving and often overgiving, sometimes as a way to be validated and loved. Every type has many levels of maturity and it sounds like you've grown a lot in your lifetime. Typically 2s underfocus on their own needs, and hint at what they want instead of being direct. They tend to be positive and hide their more painful or "needy" feelings. When more developed they can be direct about what they want, receive as easily as give (which is a challenge for most 2s - to receive easily without having to give back right away!). A mature 2 expects little in return for the generosity and personal giving that they are so capable of.

    ENFJ, extraverted, intuitive, feeling, judgers (Myers-Briggs terminology) are very charismatic givers, inspiring others, visionary, comfortable with relating to others, very intuitive, big picture people, caring of others feelings with a sense of what is appropriate in any setting and are generally fairly decisive. It's often correlated to Type 2 in the Enneagram.

    I'm happy to share more if you want. My book is really good about explaining the Enneagram in depth in terms of type description, personal growth, relationship dynamics in and between the types, and spiritual growth. Let me know if you want a copy. I do Enneagram workshops often so if you are ever in Boston let me know. There's one this Wednesday and several the weekend of Oct 10-11. I'm happy to travel to Detroit if you want to sponsor a workshop! Email me at herb@herbpearce and I'll give you my phone number and I'd be happy to answer any questions you have. Herb

  15. Herb - Thank you very much for your words - much appreciated. I am most certainly interested in your workshop and perhaps I can sponsor one here and make it to your upcoming workshop in Boston. I would love a copy of the book. I will email you. Again, Thanks.

    By the way, I have no problem at all in giving or receiving freely. In fact, I expect to give to family, friends and perfect strangers and to receive too. But I do not necessarily expect to receive from those whom I give to. This may sound strange or incredibly altruistic. But perhaps it isn't really.

    I am a believer that if you give it shall be given to you likewise with good measure. I rarely expect that through my giving (charity or otherwise) to receive from the person(s) to whom I have given. Goodness is goodness and is possessed by many. The streams of goodness are endless; the paths through which it flows bountiful.

  16. How can McCain be a type 1 with the many seemingly uncalculated risks he has taken and with the abundant of errors that are so obvious in the running of his campaign? If the answer is he has little control of running his own campaign, this seems to nullify that he is indeed a type 1. But then again, I'm new to this system, as in a couple of hours ago.

  17. Judith, each Enneagram archetype has a range of maturity, self-awareness, emotional health, etc. So for instance a self-aware 1 would be highly principled and exhibit less of the angry, self-righteousness that a less developed 1 might exhibit. A self aware 2 would be very "other-oriented" and project less of the neediness that a less developed 2 might project. That's why there can be such dramatic differences within a given archetype. Notice the dissimilarities between Tony Robbins, Tom Cruise, and OJ Simpson. But they're all textbook examples of the "3" archetype, though at different levels of emotional maturity.

  18. Actually I am reconsidering what McCain is. Maybe he is actually a Type 6 - The Questioner. They can be fear based and prepare constantly for worse case scenarios - more paranoid when highly stressed. The more dysfunctional 6 can be consistently overcautious, want to control others, focus on the negative and look for enemies. This seems to describe him more actually. A dysfunctional 1 is very controlling but they talk about morals more than McCain does.

    By the way Judith I would love to travel and do a workshop where you live. Herb

  19. Herb - Although I'm REALLY new at all of this, McCain certainly sounds more like a 6 than a 1.

    Regarding coming to Detroit, we'll have to get a workshop going here. Can you bring John along?

  20. There's suddenly quite an online debate about McCain's type. Most see him as an 8 (brusque, impulsive, dominating) but I still see him as a 1, given the focus on duty, his attempts to control his anger, and his lapses into self-righteousness. Still not sure about Obama, because he has so many 3 and 9 qualities. His resume is textbook 3 but his demeanor is more 9.

    Judith, I have to stay off planes for a while until my inner ear condition improves. (My 12 hour trips every weekend to/from remote client sites last year did me in for awhile.) But if you make it to New England let's definitely hook up!

  21. Getting back to shadow coaching, the term "shadow" can also refer to a coaching technique in business in which the coach follows the executive or manager around like a shadow and observes all of his/her interactions (in 1:1 conversations, group meetings, presentations) - then offers coaching based on those observations.

  22. Great point, rj. I find that form of shadow coaching to be extremely useful. By seeing an executive "in action" in the course of a typical day a coach can give relevant feedback - often immediately after an important interaction. I once spent several 8 hour days shadowing the general manager of a mill, giving him feedback every hour. To his credit, this GM REQUESTED the shadowing. For most managers it's a tad intimidating.

  23. There's yet a third use of the term "shadow" in coaching, though it's more common to psychotherapy. Jung uses the term to describe that "dark" aspect of oneself that is unconscious, repressed, and disowned. Helping someone take responsibility for and own that part of himself or herself can be critical for that person's growth.

  24. Right again, rj. The shadow of ourselves we can't confront is what we react to so negatively when we see it in others. In my executive coaching work I don't refer explicitly to Jung (and I don't practice psychotherapy with my clients) but I will often refer to that part of ourselves we've disowned. If Herb checks back in, he may have something to say about this, which I believe is part of his practice.

  25. In the Jungian sense friends and family can stand in the stead of a shadow coach too to reveal those "dark" aspects. Sometimes even perfect strangers and children point out things wittingly or not that make us think, "you've gotta work on that."

    That observance of these aspects in others can be wild. A few weeks ago I was truly pissed at a one of the constructions crews on a job that was taking much longer than normal to complete. Driving away from, the house coming down the street, came a guy walking right in the middle of the stret. Was he OK? I lightly beeped my horn. Surely, he saw me; it was daylight.

    Well, the horn pissed him off. He went completely bonkers, calling me every name in the book and literally becoming unhinged. (The scene was so uncharacteristic for this pristine tree-lined street on which the house sits.) I drove away shaking my head. But as I looked at him in the rear-view mirror, I began to think that his outward actions were my inward thoughts. I adjusted my thoughts immediately.

  26. Uh hi John!!

    Um, can I be a coach too?? I have been coached, so I guess I could now coach.....I guess??

    I'm reading....

    Have a GREAT day!!!


  27. Yes, Judith, as the saying goes, "the world is our trainer" (or coach) - and friends and family especially can press those buttons that force us to confront aspects of ourselves we'd prefer to keep in the shadows. Nikki, it's a healthy sign to be able to relate to many or all of these archetypes.

  28. I guess the key word here is archetype. Reading up on the Enneagram system, I too had the experience of relating to more than one type. This seems typical if you think of there being one human model from which representations exist. While nature is a given, nurture must have something to do with our type too.

  29. The shadow is certainly our unconscious, that which we can't see and even can't see that we can't see. Others may not see it either. Sometimes we can only see later when a result happens that exposes that which we were blind to. A relationship loss or loss of a client or a fight, might reveal a lesson, perspective or insight that we missed. It behooves us to pay attention day to day to make sure we are "checking in" with reality, "checking in" with people, "checking in" with ourselves. It helps to journal, meditate and question our assumptions. The human experience seems to be one in which we constantly learn new perspectives and are humbled! Another thought is that since we are also spirit as much as body, the spirit self is living on another plane and the body/mind aspect ourselves can be fairly blind! Maybe our real purpose in life is to learn to see from spirit's perspective which is more about learning to love, a love much deeper than romantic love! Herb

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