This form of coaching has evolved most notably from the work of philosophers, linguistic theorists and authors who include Martin Heidegger, Humberto Maturana, Fernando Flores, Rafael Echeverria, John Searle and John Lagshaw Austin.
This coaching is based on an understanding of language and communication in which language is regarded as the fundamental human technology used to define realities and produce outcomes. Effective leadership, management, coaching and team behaviour depend heavily on how people use language: what is done, and how well it is done, is shaped by how people do or do not use language.
Some forms of coaching involve observing and intervening in the ways people act and intervening to assist them to take full advantage of their talent and competence in a given field. The ontological coach observes how individuals construct interpretations about their existence, which are then reflected through their language and their actions. Through structured conversations, the ontological coach assists others to become aware of these interpretations and how they can be changed.
The ontological methodology is based on an interpretation and detailed model of the process of listening that provides a more effective way of listening which enables communication and relationships. Speaking is also considered a key process and the ontological methodology contains precise linguistic tools that humans use in everyday conversations to create reality and to accomplish their objectives. 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.
The ontological approach to coaching gives access to a different way of observing and interpreting the world which in turn provides access to different behaviours that may better support commitments. Coaching is thus about empowering people to accomplish more than they think possible and to take responsibility for their own actions. It is a self-correcting and self-generating learning method that promotes and supports cultural changes for the individual by enabling them to embody their values, to implement strategies and achieve desired results.
Ontological coaching relies on a rigorous ethical framework. The essence of this framework is that while ontological coaches are able to generate powerful interpretations from which coachee can benefit, the coach does not hold the truth about what is best, and always works within the linguistic, emotional and physical space of the coachee.
Common themes and elements in ontological coaching:
- Interpretation structures
- Observing differently
- Language and linguistic rigour
- Distinctions in listening and speaking
- Creating the present from a viewpoint of the future
- Creating new behaviours and attitudes
- Increasing competence
- Accomplishment of new results