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Dr David Gray, Dr Barry Curnow & Dr Mark Saunders

KEYNOTE: Concepts of professional identity (and changes in identity) as coaches move into the coaching profession

Session on Thursday, Jul 7th, 13:30
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Dr David Gray (BSc (Econ), MA(Ed), MSc, Cert Ed., PhD, FRSA) is Professor of Leadership and Organisational Behaviour at the University of Greenwich (UK). His research interests, and publication record, include research methods, management learning (particularly coaching and mentoring), professional identity, action learning, reflective learning, management learning in SMEs and the factors that contribute to SME success. He has published books (Doing Research in the Real World, 2014, 3rd edition) and articles on research methods, organisational learning, and coaching and mentoring. David has led a number of EU-funded research programmes including one examining the impact of coaching on the resilience of unemployed managers in their job-searching behaviours and another on how action learning can sustain unemployed managers in starting their own business. He has recently completed a global survey into the professional identity of coaches (reported here at the conference).

Dr Barry Curnow is Director of Professional Business Engagement at the University of Greenwich Business School in the UK and was Head of the Department of Human Resources and Organisational Behaviour 2009-14. He is Principal Investigator of the Pathways to Professional Identity Research funded by the University conducted with David Gray, Mark Saunders and Catherine Farrant. He is a Group Analyst and Psychotherapist, Certified Management Consultant and seasoned Executive Coach with international experience of leading, coaching, counselling and mentoring professional service firms and their clients in the arts and crafts of client relationship management and deep change. He was Visiting Professor of Management Consulting at Cass Business School, City University, London (2001-2010) and at Durham University Business School (2003-7). Barry is a Past President of the UK Institute of Personnel Management (now CIPD), Past President of the UK Institute of Management Consultants and past Chairman of the International Council of Management Consulting Institutes. Barry was previously Chairman and Chief Executive of MSL Group International Executive Selection and Assessment Consultancy, Managing Director of Hay Management Consultants in London and Hong Kong, and Worldwide Partner and Director The Hay Group. He is the joint consulting editor of the International Handbook of Management Consultancy (Kogan Page 2001/3).

Dr Mark Saunders (BA, MSc, PGCE, PhD, FCIPD) is Professor of Business Research Methods at the University of Birmingham (UK). His research interests include research methods (particularly for understanding organisational relationships and participant selection), human resource aspects of the management of change, (particularly trust and learning), and SME success. He is a Fellow of the British Academy of Management and a member of the Fellows’ College. Mark has co-authored and edited a range of books including Research Methods for Business Students (2016, 7th edition), Handbook of Research Methods on Trust (2015, 2nd edition) and Handbook of Research Methods on Human Resource Development (2015). He is joint editor for Sage’s Understanding Research Methods for Business and Management Students series and editor for Edward Elgar’s Handbooks of Research Methods series. He has recently completed a global survey into the professional identity of coaches (reported here at the conference).


Identities are about who we are, who we are not and the features that differentiate us as individuals within groups, including organisations, social networks or professions. Hence, professional identity is just one of the multiple social identities that individuals hold. Identity includes the meanings attached to the individual by the self and by others, meanings that may be based on personal, idiosyncratic characteristics such as attributes, traits and abilities (personal identity) or on a person’s social roles and identification with some human aggregate (social identity). Identities are multiple and socially constructed, helping us to connect different experiences and to reduce fragmentation in feelings and thinking. Social identities change as people change roles, jobs or organisations or professions. Coaching is taken as a typical example of how people transit from one form of professional activity to another. The research study reported here seeks to address the following question: How is a professional identity (or multiple identities) created and maintained amongst coaches? In making their career transition, what continuities and tensions do coaches experience between their old identities and their new emerging sense of self? The study offers implications for the professionalisation of coaching and for practice.

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