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Mike Morrison

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Qualify as a Coach? – Investment or Con?


Train as a coach?

It is said that in California the people who made the money on the gold rush were the people selling the picks and shovels not those digging for gold. The same could be true in the world of Coaching, with those making the money selling training and profiling tools. Most coaching practices are not full time, with many all but ceasing trading after just a few years

Have you ever thought about training to be a coach and looked at the many adverts for “accredited coach training? Many people interested in running their own small business will have read the “success” stories of coaches (Executive, business and life coaches) who, with little money but good skills and process, have launched a coaching practice of their own. With significant motivation to run their own business, in the hours that suit them, many of us are led to believe that there is gold in them there hills. Many people personally invest in becoming qualified, on the expectation that anyone involved with coaching would make a lot of money, help people and have a lot of free time. Basic business and common sense logic had just gone out of the window. Completing a “accredited coach training” programme can cost from $200-$5000+.

Many people have taken their redundancy money or their hard earned savings in order to complete training and accreditation and to set up a coaching practice of their own. In the last 5 or so years, newspapers and the professional press have been covered with coaching adverts and stories of people making lots of money and spending little time involved in delivering the required service to a potentially “unlimited” market of people wanting self development for their next career or life decision.

Individuals with little or no business experience, but with the belief that they wanted to “help people” have had some success, and through the power of digital media “pimped up” the stories of success. What is actually happening in the sector is not as rosy as these providers would have us believe. For much of the coaching world is based on the premise of self development leads to success and that the market is almost unlimited. Many of those running today’s coaching qualification courses have at some time run “personal achievement” style courses or journals, and moved into promoting coaching as they felt it was a growth area.

Coaches and the media were claiming that this was the future for business and they encouraged more people to join the coaching phenomenon.

Many people saw an opportunity to make money fast and easily and jumped on the coaching bandwagon, buying training from any high gloss or perceived quality provider. These coaches played their part in the coaching phenomenon, pushing up the already unrealistic earnings potentials to even greater heights. Normal business criteria seemed to be put on hold and coaches ploughed money into this sector partly through fear of missing out and partly through sheer greed. Many believing that it could never end.

The Coaching phenomenon has been compared to the Californian gold rush. Some people did make a fortune but the vast majority who made the trek to the gold fields lost all they had. The people who made the money were, in the main, those selling maps, provisions, or alcohol! – or in the case of coaching – training, personal profiling tools and accreditation.

So it is with Coaching. Product and training companies and those offering services to the coaching world have shown excellent returns, although many are now facing more difficult times on the back of a diminishing market, as coaching is one of the “investments” than many individuals stop spending in when cash is tight.

  • The failure of so many coaches has been put down to the lack of business “savvy” – few of the coaches had any appropriate business experience which would have brought a sense of realism to what was happening
  • Lack of sales know-how – money was thrown at websites without a full understanding of what was required and the implications of what might happen
  • Lack of any financial rigor or cost control – money was for spending and little thought was given to controlling costs and balancing the books
  • Lack of solid evidence to show potential clients the actual value that a relationship was likely to bring
  • Much like the Time Share phenomenon, many people start on training courses, have to offer free coaching to get the required number of “clients” and experience – and fail to realize that after training it will get harder as why would people pay if they can find a coach under training!

In a relatively short period of time, the term coaching will take on a slightly unsavoury taste as more and more coaches fail to provide themselves with a livable income.

And the next or current “Gold Rush”… Social Media Marketing… its already happening

5 Responses

  1. Accreditation is a quality mark and an investment for a long-ter

    Hi Mike, The topic of accreditation is an ongoing and lively debate in the coaching world. To be accredited as a business or executive coach through one of the main coaching bodies such as the ICF or EMCC you do have to meet stringent criteria and commit to continuing professional development so the accreditation does act as a quality mark.

    These bodies offer a clear development route, for example, the ICF offers three levels of credential each with minimum amounts of coach-specific training, coaching experience hours and number of clients coached. What this means in practice is that both the coach and the client can be confident about the level of competence before they agree to work together.

    The other aspect of being accredited is that coaches are bound to work to documented ethical standards for example “I will encourage the client or sponsor to make a change if I believe the client or sponsor would be better served by another coach or by another resource”. This should tackle the issue you raised of “Individuals with little or no business experience, but with the belief that they wanted to “help people” have had some success, and through the power of digital media “pimped up” the stories of success.” A professional coach would not work with someone if they couldn’t add value which is the point of the ‘chemistry conversation’ to ensure the coach and client is a good match and expectations are discussed and managed before the coaching starts.

    I agree that there is a rush of coaches out there but for those who are looking to make it a sustainable business it requires an initial investment of time and money to get a credible accreditation followed by constant ongoing professional development, including being supervised by another coach.

    In conclusion a properly accredited course which meets strict professional development standards and is regulated by a recognised coaching body is not a con but rather a long term investment in your career.

    Claire Walsh
    Managing Partner, Bespoke Management Training at LCP
  2. Quality of training being provided

    I think it’s really important that trainers have valuable skills and expertise to pass on. In my experience, there seem to be quite a few people who have trained as coaches who don’t appear to have any expertise, they simply fancied having a go at  being a trainer. I think there are quite a few snake oil salesmen out there!

  3. accreditation…

    Hi Claire

    If only "accreditation" meant something nationally/internationally.

    The question is who sets the standard – agreed by who? Its not like many coaches can even agree what coaching is or is not! Indeed look at many of the "senior" people in the industry and go back 20 years and they were calling it mentoring!

    Accreditation is not what it is cracked up to be

    For example one of the largest coach "training" suppliers course is "accredited" by the ILM – when in fact it is an endorsed award that anyone can obtain – our own company offers ILM endorsed awards – it is valuable, but I (as the supplier) set the standard not the ILM. The ILM just rubber stamp to say that I have set just assessment against the objectives I set and that the process is a fair one.

    Other providers have found ways of glossing over the accreditation issue. Providers may use terms such as "recognised", "authorised" or "approved". In many situations these terms have no real legal meaning and can be very misleading to purchasers.

    If coaching is about outputs rather than inputs, then no coach training should be "accredited" but people should pass some form of assessment with a centralised body, irrespective of how they gained their skills.

    If the accreditation were by a UK/ internationally recognised university then I would agree – as to offer such qualifications there is an agreed robustness and rigor, but any self proclaimed association (no matter how big) is there for its own commercial purposes.


    Don’t get me wrong, accreditation is and could be of value, however there is so much diversity in the market place that at the moment this means little other than a person has followed the syllabus of a provider and done it successfully.

  4. One Born Every Minute?

    Mike, I think your correct in everything that you’ve written here. I would concur that the coaching ‘bandwagon’ has failed to coalesce into a recognised and properly structured discipline. A ‘thousand flowers have bloomed’ and most have them have turned out to be weeds, most withering in the drought of the recession. The truth is that the HR Development industry is without doubt seasonal and fashion conscious, before ‘Coaching’ was the new black it was Emotional Intelligence and before that the ‘Learning Organisation’ and before that ‘NLP’, etc etc.

    The next big thing for the HR community is yet to fully crystallise, the damned recession emerged preventing organisations rushing like moths to the flame, and throwing money at a discipline or process or system that may or may not have been suitable (if it worked in the first place), but it will emerge, eventually. In the mean time like any product or service, coaching has a life cycle, and maturation has been passed, this years exhibitions show a significant decline in coaching providers. Advertising has significantly reduced and whilst a market might still exist coaching does not have the same profile it did 2-3 years ago. That doesn’t mean its dead, it just means it’s no longer ‘flavour of the month’ and that might not be a bad thing for the coaching industry, allowing it to at least get some structure into its ranks.

    And apparently you’re all wrong, The Coachig Academy say it’s all to do with my personality, that’s what determines what I might coach: “For two exciting days, discover whether coaching is right for you, why The Coaching Academy is the number one choice for professional coaches and which type of coaching suits your personality (for example, life, business, corporate and/or youth coaching).”

    Two years ago I wrote an article on this web site entitled: “Coaching: A faster way to lose money than burning it.”

    I still stand by every word of it.

    In the absence of any recognised structure or nationally recognised governing body or even the most basic agreement on standards the reality is that anybody can be any type of coach and deliver to who ever they like, provided there’s still one being born every minute.

  5. Probably More Than One a Minute!

    "While a huge 86% of organisations have introduced coaching or mentoring programmes, nearly two thirds fail to directly support corporate objectives but focus instead on developing individual talents."


    "To make matters worse, 15% of employers have put no measurements in place to assess the outcomes of their coaching and mentoring initiatives. These are the findings of an online poll undertaken by recruitment consultants Hays Senior Finance and coaching and mentoring specialists LeaderShape.
    Chris Gulliver, a director at Leadershape, said: "This is a very expensive missed opportunity for UK plc in fast-moving times. Increasing amounts of money are being spent on coaching as a universal panacea, but many companies have no comprehensive overview or sense of purpose."
    But the research also revealed that, while almost three quarters of employers use internal staff to undertake coaching and mentoring activities, only 16% of coaches and 28% of mentors receive any training or support themselves. Some 29% of team or group facilitators also received no help.
    "There is a clear lack of framework and training given to those who are delivering many of these programmes, with the obvious outcome that they simply don’t understand how to use coaching effectively and spend money wisely. In what other area of business would money be laid out with so little thought to evaluating its impact?" Gulliver said.
    Nonetheless, more than half of those questioned said they planned to expand their coaching provision over the year ahead. Some 85% indicated that expenditure in this area would either remain static or rise this year, with 37% expecting a small increase and 2% predicting a significant boost."
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