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Coaching Accreditation and Regulation – Pleasure Or Pain?


Training Zone member Andie Hemming, SPH Qualitech Ltd responds to Dave Marchant’s article on the The Myths of Coaching arguing the case for a dispensation of formal coaching qualifications.

This hot potato has been simmering for quite a while and is slowly reaching boiling point! We’ve had many threads on the subject at Training Zone and I was very interested to read Dave Marchant’s article in May entitled The Myths of Coaching.

I absolutely agree wholeheartedly with most of his opinions, but where I don’t share his point of view is about the need for a formal coaching qualification.

According to Marchant you don’t necessarily need to have a coaching qualification:

“But you do need some key interpersonal skills, broad life and business experience and the knowledge of and confidence to use an appropriate coaching model and approach.”

In my opinion you need both!

As I see it, there are two threads to this, firstly the obtaining of a coaching qualification and secondly the membership of (and sometimes accreditation by) a professional body. More and more of my clients and potential clients are asking me if I belong to a professional body and if so which one. Many of them are HR professionals who have referred to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s guide to buying coaching services for their recommendations on which bodies are credible.

Before I continue any further, I must declare myself as someone who, in the main, abhors even the faintest whiff of over-regulation or onerous bureaucracy. My greatest fear is that the accreditation ‘business’ becomes unwieldy and, even worse and heaven forbid, becomes ‘jobs for the boys’.

However, I do think that the field is now becoming too big not to be regulated in some way. The establishment of a common set of standards or qualifications, which are recognisable to both coaches and those wishing to engage their services, could be helpful and offer some protection for both sides (if not quite a guarantee … ) This is, of course, so much easier said than done.

Coaching is such a broad church now – there are business coaches, executive coaches, performance coaches, life coaches, speciality coaches, spiritual coaches etc the list is endless. There are also a large number of accrediting organisations and professional bodies and no doubt all of us will have our favourites - and our opinions of those whom we don’t favour! In my case I’m a member of the Association for Coaching, whom I experience as professional, credible, ethical and pragmatic – they are in favour of regulation, but with a light touch.

When someone says that they are “a qualified coach” what does this tell others? Not that much, I reckon, in terms of what that means, how rigorous their assessment process was and whether, indeed, the qualification is worth the paper it is written on. And who accredits the accreditor?!

I am aware, of course, that clients select the services of a coach not just for their qualifications and reputation but also for reasons such as cultural fit and their general approach. And there is certainly an argument that old fashioned supply and demand economics will sort out the sheep from the goats.

Coaching accreditation is not in any way a panacea and one size will not, I think, fit all but some generally agreed guidelines and principles on quality control, ethics and standards would surely help.

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