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Profile: Katherine Tulpa, Chair Association for Coaching


Katherine_TulpaFrom a disgruntled teenager to a young adult, the coaching industry has grown up of late and Katherine Tulpa, who was voted coaching person of 2007, has been holding its hand along the way. Annie Hayes reports.

Tulpa would be offended to be boxed in the 'I just ended up in coaching' throng, because it was a very conscious decision to move into the industry. "I was sitting as a senior board member of a UK Plc as its marketing director and realised that I wasn't enjoying it anymore. I decided that I had to go."

That was seven years ago and with several coaching courses under her belt, Tulpa found herself asking questions about the state of the industry. "I wanted to know how I could find out about best practice, whether there was an active body out there," she explains. It was a time of the blind leading the blind with little direction or guidance about the way forward and so it followed that the Association for Coaching, or AC as it is commonly known, was formed in 2002. At around the same time the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) was formed but wasn't as active as the AC or as UK-focused.

"Coaching is becoming really grown up and the industry is starting to recognise what good coaching really looks like."

Katherine Tulpa, Chair Association for Coaching

Tulpa's leadership experience (a key reason she wound up in the UK from the States) saw her career catapult to the fast-track and her background in taking the 'coach approach' has been instrumental in shaping the backbone of the AC. Today the Association boasts steady growth with 75 new members a month from a range of organisations and outfits, totalling a manageable 1,900 members from 30 countries but predominantly the UK. As an independent, not-for-profit organisation the AC aims to promote best practice, and raise awareness and standards across the coaching industry. Tulpa tells me that members are put through a stringent vetting procedure: "They have to complete an application and we take up their references – there's grading and different criteria."

There are three levels of individual membership: affiliate, associate and member. Key to the membership structure is the emphasis on collaboration which Tulpa is keen to flag as a core value. For the gold-card experience - a member pass costing £70 plus a £20 one-off registration fee - individuals who have undertaken a minimum 100 hours' training in coaching related disciplines and have delivered individual/group coaching in private practice or a workplace setting, have the right to vote, and the opportunity to get voted on to the Council. The Association really is an organisation for and by members.

"It's not hierarchical at all, it's a collaborative movement – we're not a small group of people saying this is the way to do it. It's about active listening, we're very open and goal focused. The AC is more bottoms-up – we're member and market led," says Tulpa.

At the heart of this member-led body is the co-coaching groups – there are 18 to date, the oldest having run for four years, each offering members the opportunity to learn in a peer-to-peer environment.

Added to the continued professional development efforts is the annual conference (now in its third year) in March. There's also the coaching round-table, on which the AC has a well-deserved place alongside coaching heavyweights and the influential Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Apex, EMCC and the International Coach Federation. The task here is to come together quarterly to co-operate and enhance coaching's reputation. So what of those cowboys that so rudely litter the coaching arena?

"It's not hierarchical at all, it's a collaborative movement – we're very open and goal focused. The AC is more bottoms-up – we're member and market led."

"They're still out there but coaching is becoming really grown up and the industry is starting to recognise what good coaching really looks like," says Tulpa. Recognition is a thing Tulpa knows about from first hand, voted as coaching/mentoring person of 2007 by 'Coaching at Work' publication. In paying tribute to Katherine's work those nominating her said: "She is a huge powerhouse and has been instrumental in founding one of the lead professional coaching bodies, the AC", and, "She really is an extraordinary human being. So many people head bodies for the kudos, yet she is completely selfless and focused on serving the industry and its coaches."

In this vein Tulpa tells me that whilst it is 'nice' to be recognised the important thing for her is about what the award represents - she isn't keen to put her feet up just yet. The plan is to expand AC's work internationally – they launched in Ireland last year and want to go global: "2008 is about putting the infrastructure in place whilst maintaining standards and honouring unique differences."

You can't help but think this accomplished woman will do just that. Tulpa, who attributes her success to having a vision, being resourceful and open to asking for help, says she works from the heart and puts authenticity at the centre of everything she does. Her energy and appetite for coaching is noteworthy and we expect to hear much more of her in the future.

For more information about the Association for Coaching go to:

'Psychometrics in Coaching - using Psychological and Psychometrics Tools for Development' is the latest book commissioned by the Association for Coaching (AC) which is being launched at the AC conference on 13 March. Drawing on worldwide expertise, it examines a range of psychometric questionnaires and challenges readers to consider which tests, if any, are appropriate and in what circumstances.

Published by Kogan Page it costs £24.95. For more details go to or

We have three of these new books to give away, hot off the press. For a chance of winning, please answer the following question. Which organisation has commissioned the book 'Psychometrics in Coaching'?

Closing date is 20 February. Email your answer to The first three correct answers drawn from the hat will each win a copy of the book. See below for further terms and conditions.

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