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Unravelling sutured stories: coaching NHS managers out from under the quilt

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Purpose ‐ The aim of this paper is to show how storytelling and MacIntyre's virtue ethics theoretical schema can inform a new approach to management development and coaching. It also highlights the potentially collusive nature of a coaching relationship where there is an absence of broader research-based input. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The approach has three stages: first, to sample what it means to lead reform implementation through managers' stories; second, to view those stories as passing on or coaching others in the virtues of the institution; third, to suggest an alternative approach to coaching which includes deepening managers' understanding about conflicting moral traditions, ideologies and discourses that often feature in their stories of change. Findings ‐ The capability to find a way through multiple and conflicting change initiatives appears to be enhanced when managers gain a deeper understanding of the antecedents of the different ideologies at play. It is argued that without the research input and stimulus to understand what is behind change policy, coaching could be submitting to disciplinary power (Foucault, 1980) where both coach and coachee are implicated in a collusive perpetuation of what Žižek calls a "narrative quilting of heterogeneous material into a unified ideological field". Originality/value ‐ One suggested avenue for management development and coaching would be to build further on MacIntyre's notion that it is sometimes only through conflict that we learn what our ends and purposes are, with the question, "Of what [wider] conflicts is [my conflict] the scene?" (adapted from MacIntyre).
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Keywords: Coaching; Ethics; National Health Service; Organizational change; Storytelling

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-03-22

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