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Opinion: A new dawn for coaching?


new dawn
It's fair to say that coaching has exploded onto the development scene a few years ago. Now a multi-million pound industry in its own right, there is still no single common coaching qualification and no regulatory body. As the sector matures, Pervin Shaikh argues it is time for coaches to put their house in order.

Coaching is still a relatively young industry in the UK, but set to grow exponentially over the next few years. There are more than 100,000 life/ executive coaches in the UK alone (and I’m not sure who is counting). According to the Department of Trade and Industry figures, the self improvement industry is worth £50 million and the figure is rising fast.

This is very impressive even though life/executive coaching in the UK is still an unregulated industry. At present, anyone can call themselves a coach in the UK after undertaking a short course/weekend or a largely unsupervised long distance course. Setting up a coaching company in the UK is also a relatively straightforward and fast process. Incidentally, there are even companies who are willing to take the headache away of setting up for a very small fee.

Pervin Shaikh"Various coaching institutions have produced 'checklists' and 'help guides' in an attempt to provide clarity... based on their own teachings and practices. However, these are not robust enough to encompass the broader demands of the market."

Once a basic website with a phone number has been created, people can start working with real life clients both in the UK and internationally. It is literally is as simple as that and this is very worrying because there are no regulations in place which stop “unqualified” coaches “setting up shop”. Thousands of new coaching companies are being set up in this way every month adding to the already bewildering choices available to the public.

Generally speaking, most coaches will deliver what they preach, but what is stopping the “cowboy coach” from ruining the good reputation of thousands of ethically abiding coaches? By regulating the industry, there would be greater transparency, making it easier for a potential client to differentiate from the plethora of both qualified and unqualified coaches currently available.

Subsequently, unprofessional coaches would be weeded out because all coaching students would have to undertake formal training and then continuous personal development coupled with compulsory supervision upon course completion for all qualified coaches. This is a far cry from the present day scenario whereby anyone can set up as a coach and there are no actual requirements for coaches to undertake CPD or coaching supervision. The onus is upon the individual coach who may choose or not choose to continue with such necessary activities.

Jonathan Jay, founder of the Coaching Academy, adds his weight to this non-regulation/regulation debate by saying fee paying clients, already regulate the industry themselves because customers expect a high standard for the service they receive. This is partially true, but there are no legal regulations currently in place safeguarding clients’ interests. No doubt, we could learn from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) which has both the clout and muscle power to ensure it safeguards the interests of both its profession and members.

More pressingly, a regulated coaching body could provide invaluable answers to the following questions:

  • What do clients need to be mindful of when selecting a coach?

  • How does one ensure clients are satisfied with the services they have received from coaches?

  • The challenge however, is how does one quantify an intangible service such as coaching? A client’s perception of a coaching service will differ from another client’s perspective due to the unique nature of a coach/client relationship.

  • How do clients, ensure they are getting value for money? Prices can vary greatly depending on the location and experience of the coach and at the moment, this is “hit and miss”. Most good coaches will offer a “money back guarantee” to unsatisfied clients but this is more down to goodwill and ethics of the coach concerned rather than standard regulated procedures.

  • Who can clients turn to when they have complaints?

  • How can rogue or “cowboy” coaches be stopped from serving the public?

  • Where is the industry heading? How can a regulatory body provide greater clarity on the future direction of the industry in terms of trends and growth patterns? At present, general predictions suggests that the industry will continue to grow, but no one really knows how accurate, consistent and up to date these predictions are.

  • Who coaches the coaches and supervises them? How much supervision is required and how often?
  • Various coaching institutions have produced 'checklists' and 'help guides' in an attempt to provide clarity on the above based on their own teachings and practices. However, these are not robust enough to encompass the broader demands of the market. Consequently, such guides can in essence have a hindering effect instead of providing clarity and guidance, because they will vary from one coaching institution to another.

    There is no denying the fact that there are countless coaches up and down the country currently doing amazing work with their clients both in the UK and internationally, but these coaches rarely get the recognition they so rightly deserve. A single regulatory body would no doubt recognise such achievements. More importantly, regulating the coaching industry will take it from infancy to the next level of development, because it will give the industry the credibility it so rightly deserves.

    More and more people will start seeing coaching as a “need to have” as opposed to a “nice to have” service. Furthermore, clients will be empowered due to the safeguarding and reassurances which regulation will no doubt bring. We could also see a more uniform and rigorous training and development programme for all coaches thus eliminating unprofessional few who have the potential to tarnish the name and work of the rest of the profession.

    Pervin Shaikh is a personal coach at


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