The History of Business Coaching

Have a look on LinkedIn for the term “Business Coach” with the speech marks. I’ll wait.

At the time of writing this the term ‘Business Coach’ gave back 2.7million results under the ‘People’ section. Under ‘Jobs’ there are 6,395. Many people recognise as a business coach and there are a few job out there with the term. But what are the roots of business coaching? Are there any fundamental practices that you would expect to see from these coaches and from where did they come from. Here I explore the history of business coaching to give you an understanding of where business coaching has come from and where it could be improved.

It starts with Sigmund Freud – Psychoanalysis

For many people the idea of business coach is a person asking lots of questions, and intensively listening to the individual (coachee) in front of them nodding approval every so often before another question. This form of coaching where the coach supports the coachee find the answers is comes from the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud. Freud was a neurologist and psychiatrist (a qualified physician/medical doctor who studied human mental illness not be confused with a psychologist that research mental states both good and ill) who believed that the answer for certain forms of mental illness/unexplained behaviour) lay in the history of the patient (remember psychiatry is a form of doctor – patient) and this answer could be forth coming from asked the patient questions on their history.

This form of therapy was based on the idea that the mind, when in the right state, has more memories than when in a normal, active state in exactly the same way that some people can remember and act differently under hypnosis. Freud had started using hypnosis to discover more about a patient but after a while realised that a hypnotic “trace” wasn’t necessary to get some answers. Freud spent a lot of time investigating not only the waking thoughts of patients but also there sleeping ones by studying their dreams. This analysis lead to the idea of psychoanalysis (study of ones psych or soul) through a patient and an analyst.

Freud was hugely influential at the height of his influence at the start of the twenty century with many followers taking his word as gospel: every thought from an individual lay in the history of that individual. The approach of psychoanalysis (patient being asked open questions) and a root cause of thoughts is a fundamental base of psychology which would stick for the next 50 years. But even at the time there were some who thought there must be more to people’s behaviour based more in the now than the past. It was these people, building on Freud’s work that are the first patterns of business coaching.

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