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Ontological Coaching – An Introduction

In a global economy, a company’s people are their greatest asset and taking the time to focus on employee motivation and employee development will reap great benefits. To achieve this it must start with better people management at its very core, i.e. every individual, every manager!

Coaching contributes to this by offering an opportunity to improve the skills of self-awareness, managing employees and enhancing their performance. Coaching can deliver this by:

·Deeper self awareness of “what” and “how” you react and communicate

·Engaging employees’ with their work, making them feel valued and fostering commitment to the organisation

·Promoting self-responsibility and initiative, and facilitating adaptation to new challenges and change

·Accommodating and supporting employees’ obligations to their home lives so that they are productive and effective while they are at work.

By improving the performance of individuals, coaching enables the organisation to achieve superior performance in terms of labour productivity, cost-effective investment in HR, quality, and innovation and customer satisfaction.

What is Coaching in a Corporate / Executive context?

Coaching is a collaborative solution-focused, results-orientated and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and personal growth of the coachee.

Professional coaching is a partnership between a coach and an individual that supports the achievement of results, based on goals set by the individual. Through the process of coaching, individuals focus on the skills and actions needed to successfully produce their personally relevant results.

In essence, coaching has two main facets. First it is behavioral and performance focused, which means it is concerned with helping individuals perform tasks to the best of their ability.

Second, it is person-centred, which means that the individuals being coached are seen to have the important insights.

Ontological Coaching – A powerful, professional discipline in Coaching

“Ontology” is the study of being and Ontological Coaching is about coaching a way of being, as a means of producing major shifts in perception and behavior through all aspects of communication.

Our way of being can be thought of as the internal reality we live in, which especially includes the relationship we have with ourselves. It is from this internal reality that we form our reality about the external world and how we participate in it.

Way of being is a dynamic interplay between three spheres of human existence – language, emotions and physiology (body posture).

Performance and effectiveness is shaped by our way of being.


The methodology is based on a new understanding of language and communication developed in the latter part of the twentieth century. The essence of this new understanding is that language consists of listening and speaking and that language is fundamental in creating reality.

Language is used to produce outcomes and generate realities. People act from what comprises reality for them.

Effective leadership, management, coaching, and team behavior depends heavily on how people use language. What is done, and how well it is done, is shaped by how people do and do not use language.

Included in the methodology is a new interpretation and detailed model of the process of listening. Listening is an ever-present part of human interaction in the workplace. The model provides a deeper and more effective way of listening that enhances communication and relationships. Listening is regarded as the crucial factor in communication and essential for establishing trust and rapport. Listening is a core business process.

Research has shown that senior organisational personnel spend much of their time engaged in listening. One important question to be considered is: “Does the listening of organisational personnel facilitate new ideas and change, as well as enhance performance and productivity?”

Of course, speaking is also a key business process. The methodology contains six precise linguistic tools (called basic linguistic acts) that humans use in everyday conversations to create reality and get things done. Typically, people are not aware of how they use, and misuse, these linguistic tools. Awareness of how to intentionally use them produces more effective ways of conversing, relating and performing in workplace settings.

Stories and narratives are often silent, invisible and in background of everyday conversations. They reflect the deep culture of organisations and can be major barriers to change. They provide powerful contexts of meaning, shaping what people see as possible and not possible for individual, team and organisational improvement. A key part of using this tool is how to uncover destructive narratives and develop powerful and empowering narratives.


“Traditional corporations have ignored human emotion. They have tried to pretend it didn’t exist or, worse, tried to suppress it. The renewed focus on humanity in organizations requires an understanding of human emotions. To energise employees is to harness emotion. Bad emotions have a bad effect on profit; good emotions are fuel that drives productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction.” (James Martin, Cybercorp)

People are always in some mood or emotion. Moods and emotions permeate everything people do, and constitute a core business process.

The methodology contains tools for recognising, managing and shifting moods and emotions. The power of moods and emotions is that they always predispose people towards certain behaviours and not others. Speaking and listening, and engaging in conversations, are indispensable forms of human behaviour. How effectively people speak and listen cannot be separated from moods and emotions.

Unfortunately, moods and emotions have not been seen as a crucial area of learning for performance improvement. They are an integral part of the effective use of language for effective communication in leadership, management, coaching and team building. In short, they form a crucial dimension of morale and organisational performance. Precise distinctions and tools in the methodology include:

·How to distinguish between moods and emotions.

·Recognising and utilising SIX basic moods of life as a deeper level of emotional intelligence, and how they impact on morale and performance.

·How to shift from negative moods to positive moods.

·How to use moods and emotions to have more effective and influential communication that builds relationships and long-term collaboration.

·How to engage in constructive emotional leadership.


This would seem to be an unlikely area of attention in the context of organisational performance and improvement. Like moods and emotions, the body has largely been ignored as a key area of learning that impacts on individual and organisational performance. The importance of the body can be expressed in the following way: our way of being is embodied.

The body is always present in how people listen to each other and speak with each other. Speaking is not limited to the vocal chords – it occurs from the body. (This is well known for actors and singers.) An individual’s posture consists of the subtle configurations of muscles and skeleton that have been learned throughout life. In many subtle and powerful ways, posture can keep people trapped in negative moods, and negatively impact on listening and speaking.

Specific tools that are part of this aspect of the methodology are:

·How to use the body to get into more constructive and productive moods.

·How small shifts in body posture can generate a more positive outlook and produce more effective communication.

Benefits of Ontological Coaching

Organizations and individuals who engage in a coaching relationship can expect to experience fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhanced thinking and decision-making skills, improved interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in carrying out their chosen work or life roles.

Source by Alan Sieler

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