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Is it ‘survival of the fittest’ when it comes to coaching?


Olivia Stefanino is typically frank in her view that the recession will effectively sort the 'wheat from the chaff' amongst coaches. Does this sound overly harsh? The good news, she says, is that coaching will be left much the better for this 'evolution'.

There is great debate out there at the moment as to whether there's an increasing or decreasing demand for coaching.

As always, some organisations and individuals see coaches as mere parasites – while others (we like to think that they're the more forward-looking ones) understand that great coaches can help their clients get to where they want with more speed and less stress.

Photo of Olivia Stefanino"Poor coaches do everyone a disservice – and frankly, the world will be a better place without them."

As to which camp you fall into – well, I guess you pay your money and take your choice. But are there bigger forces at work? Could we be witnessing something of Darwinian proportions – but simply because we're in the middle of it, we don't recognise it?

Maybe what we're seeing is that coaching has not only come of age – but thanks to the recession, it's also being streamlined through its own form of evolution.

Of course, none of us wants to think that we're anything but fantastically perceptive, uniquely inspiring and practical hands-on coaches – however, if we're honest, we're probably all able to think of at least a few other people who call themselves coaches who (perhaps secretly) we feel are actually less than a credit to their profession. (Let's just hope that those other people don't feel the same way about us!)

To be fair, most coaches have the best of intentions with their clients' interests at heart. However, not all coaches have sufficient experience to be of much use to their clients. 'Sufficient experience' covers both coaching skills and techniques (great coaches have generally done much more study than a single weekend course) and pure life experience. It's not just a matter of whether you have enough years under your belt (as Luke Thomas so rightly pointed out when he commented on my column last month) but also what you've seen and done in your life.

Beyond the comfort zone

A couple of years back I did some leadership training with an organisation which was keen to develop its managers. They were a curious group – and not overly open-minded to anything that challenged them to think beyond their own comfort zone. This phenomenon was so rare (in my experience, most people do actually want to learn - especially when it involves improving their own lot in life) that I was curious to find out what inspired their attitude.

"Maybe the good news is that the current economic climate will cause those who see coaching merely as 'easy pickings' to fall by the wayside. Am I being overly harsh?"

My subtle investigations revealed that just about everyone in this particular company had been with the same organisation for most of their working lives and they'd also lived in the same town too. (You'd have been amazed at how many of them lived 'just down the road' from their parents.)

Now, it's not up to any of us (especially me) to decide how people should live their lives, but what was interesting was that with this group, their narrow experience of the world not only led them to being closed to new experience, it also deluded them into thinking that 'they had all the answers'. Or in other words, because they didn't know any better, they assumed that there wasn't anything better to know.

This group of people comprised young men and women, together with their middle-aged counterparts. Each had a vested interest in not rocking the boat, as their mutual security relied upon everyone buying into the same small, safe vision of the world.

Would any of these individuals have made good coaches? Personally, I don't think so. If they couldn't bear to be challenged themselves, they'd find it very hard to know how to get the best out of someone else.

Diminuitive outlook

Sadly, there are some people out there who like to call themselves coaches, but who in reality share that same diminutive outlook on life as the managers I've just described.

But maybe the good news is that the current economic climate will cause those who see coaching merely as 'easy pickings' to fall by the wayside.

Am I being overly harsh? Possibly, but then my first loyalty has to be to the coaching profession and the many clients to whom we can be of real, demonstrable help. Poor coaches do everyone a disservice – and frankly, the world will be a better place without them. Long live evolution!

As the old adage says, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going'. And what I find most heartening of all is that there are a number of great coaches who are taking this opportunity to challenge themselves by developing their own skills further. I've been honoured and humbled to find several knocking at my door, keen to learn more about the 'business of being a coach'.

Those coaches who are going to come out on top in this current 'culling' (perhaps the term 'survival of the fittest' sounds better) are the ones who are not only talented coaches in their own right – but who have also taken the time and energy to learn how to market themselves successfully to their target audience.

It's only those who are dedicated to becoming the best in their profession who will invest in their future in this way. And with this 'new, improved' state of affairs, clients can be assured that when they do pluck up the courage and decide to work with a coach, they'll be in the best hands.

Author of 'Be Your Own Guru', Olivia Stefanino helps companies achieve increased profits and reduce stress – even in a tough economic climate. Discover how to motivate your staff by visiting Olivia also offers Red Carpet Coaching for professionals who want to learn how to create a powerful brand and raise their profile. Email to find out more

Coach Olivia Stephanino is holding a draw for free coaching sessions in return for completing a survey. More information here.


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