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Standard introductions to coaching state that the “identity of coaching is still an unresolved problem” (Cox et al., 2009, p. 3). In general, however, ‘coaching’ may be defined as “a human development process that involves structured, focused interaction and the use of appropriate strategies, tools and techniques to promote desirable and sustainable change for the benefit of the coachee” (Cox et al., 2009, p. 1). Academic journals on coaching are mostly written by and for coaches, wherein the role of the coach is very positively positioned. It appears that a strong positive role is attributed to coaches in coaching situations. For instance, Cox et al. (2009) imply a maximum of prerogatives for coaches interacting with coaches as they define coaching in terms of four dimensions, namely ‘I’, ‘We’ ‘Its’,and ‘It’:
‘I’ is the first-person experiential text of interaction(s) by the coach (mentioned first) and the coachee;
Coaching seen from a cultural, sociological or symbolic perspective is ‘We’; that is coaching observed from outside of any particular coaching relationship;
‘Its’ are the prerequisite ‘systems’ and ‘contexts’ that remain (mostly) outside of consciousness but that affect both the coach and the coachee; and
The ‘It’ refers to the objectified categories and models revealed by positivist research of coaching behavior.
In this article we explore the ‘I – We – Its’ perspectives, and we do not pursue that of the ‘It’ because the ‘It’ perspective seeks generalizability via representative samples while our casestudy can only claim to be exemplary…


This article researches the function of the coach in coaching. Taking our cue from Lacan’s insistence that therapy is better off without the role of the ‘master discourse’ of a therapist, we explore the idea of ‘coaching without a coach’. The investigation is a product of a case study of MM Group coaching wherein coachees coach themselves without a ‘coach’, though with a ‘moderator’ charged with blocking behaviors like scape-goating. Lacan was noteworthy for what he saw as the counter-productive functions of control and subordination imposed by therapists in ‘ego-psychology’. From a Lacanian perspective (especially as interpreted by Zizek), ‘coaching without a coach’ is a natural corollary. Lacan conceptualizes psychological identity with his I-S-R model (Imaginary-Symbolic-Real); the prevailing coaching literature employs the triad Coachee-Coach-Organization; and we offer a synthesis of We-Coachee-Symbolic. Having explored ‘coaching without a coach’, in our conclusions and discussion section we will pose questions about the ethics and desirability of the model.

  • Lacan
  • ego psychology
  • executive coaching
  • Zizek
  • I-S-R
  • Master Mind (MM) Groups

Un coaching sans coach : Une étude de cas dans une perspective lacanienne

L’article interroge la fonction du coach dans le coaching. Lacan insistait sur le fait que la thérapie gagnait à se passer du « discours du maître » du thérapeute, nous nous en inspirons pour explorer l’idée d’un « coaching sans coach ». La réflexion repose sur l’étude de cas du groupe de coaching MM dans lequel les coachés se coachent eux-mêmes sans « coach », en présence toutefois d’un « modérateur » chargé de bloquer certains comportements comme la désignation de boucs émissaires. Une des singularités de Lacan est qu’il envisageait comme contre-productifs le contrôle et de subordination imposés par les thérapeutes au sein de l’« ego-psychology ». Dans une perspective lacanienne (notamment telle qu’interprétée par Žižek), le « coaching sans coach » en est un corollaire naturel. Lacan conceptualise l’identité psychologique avec son modèle I-S-R (Imaginaire-Symbolique-Réel), la littérature dominante sur le coaching utilise la triade Coaché-Coach-Organisation – nous proposons une synthèse avec le Nous-Coaché-Symbolique. Après avoir exploré les caractéristiques d’un tel « coaching sans coach », nous poserons, en discussion et conclusion, un ensemble de questions sur l’éthique et sur la désirabilité du modèle.

  • Lacan
  • ego-psychology
  • coaching des cadres
  • Žižek
  • modèle I-S-R
  • Groupes Master Mind (MM)
Hugo Letiche
Hugo LETICHE was founder and director of the practice-based PhD program at the Universiteit voor Humanistiek, Utrecht (NL). He is now adjunct Professor at Institut Mines: Telecom Business School, Evry (FR) and visiting Professor at Nyenrode the Business University, Breukelen (NL). His current research focuses on accountability and ethnography. Recent research and publications (articles and books) have focused on magic & organization; images, liminality, film and the ‘filimic’ in organization studies; Latour, ANT and the Anthropocene; the ethics of affect, the Covid pandemic; applications of Object-Oriented-Ontology to business ethics; the deformation of the university and its research agenda; modern slavery and Afropessimism; and practices of research accountability.
Ivo De Loo
Ivo DE LOO is Professor of Management Accounting & Control at Nyenrode Business University, Breukelen (the Netherlands). He received his doctoral degree (MSc) in quantitative economics from Maastricht University in 1995 (cum laude) and obtained his doctorate degree from the Open University of the Netherlands in 2008. Before accepting his current position, he was (i) Professor of Accounting at Aston Business School, (ii) Professor of Management Accounting & Control, Head of Research, PhD Program Director at Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands. He currently is a member of the editorial advisory board of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, and on the editorial boards of Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management and the Dutch ‘Maandblad voor Accountancy en Bedrijfseconomie’ (MAB).
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