No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

The ‘Knowledge’ for coaching


IMAGENAMEThe boom in coaching brought with it such a plethora of qualifications and accreditations that it became hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. As the profession matures, against a background of the financial downturn, Alan Ward argues that L&D managers will demand greater clarity and stringency in coaching qualifications.

On a dark, wet city street, would you rather select a London-style black taxi or an unlicensed minicab? The choice is obvious, if you want peace of mind. The same principle applies when you’re choosing an executive coach. Those who buy coaching on behalf of their organisations are increasingly looking for world-class coaches who they can confidently field to their senior managers. The problem is, how can a buyer tell who is a world-class coach?

The coaching market is well supplied, which is why there's a growing trend towards the use of coach assessment centres in organisations. If you're a professional coach, you'll increasingly be asked to prove to buyers that you are 'fit for purpose'.

This is all well and good - so long as those involved in coach assessment know what to look for. Too often, the assessors look for people who they think will fit the culture of the organisation or people they like. If an organisation wants coaches for middle-aged, white professional men, you can bet they'll be drawn to coaches who are middle-aged, white professional men!

Photo of ALAN WARD"The market is demanding that coaches should be able to provide evidence of their proficiency."

What about their coaching ability? The European Mentoring & Coaching Council has developed a series of coaching standards and competencies that coaches can be tested against; but these won’t tell you how the individual will react in the infinite number of situations they are likely to face.

A good coach assessment process will look at a person's coaching competencies, experience, qualifications and accreditation: it will review the individual's knowledge as a coach, their practical application, their education (what skills they have learned and put into practice), their ongoing supervision and their continuing professional development. The assessors will ask focused questions such as how the proposed coaches would deal with conflict, ethical questions, emotional situations etc.

What this means, in other words, is that the market is demanding that coaches should be able to provide evidence of their proficiency.

Market forces are also 'pushing' coaches in this direction. If you’re a full-time professional coach, you will undoubtedly appreciate that opportunities for employment are becoming harder to find, and much more competitive. In short, you need to find a way of differentiating yourself.

Some, who sign up for a qualification, simply want the 'badge' it brings. Their challenge is to find a course that's credible to their buyers. Other people sign up for a qualification programme because they want to 'up their game'. They want a wider set of skills, perhaps because they perceive that economic changes are creating new situations and they feel they'll need a broader portfolio of coaching skills - from which they can choose the most appropriate 'in the moment' - to help their clients survive and thrive.

So organisations want coaches to show they have 'proof of competence', and coaches are increasingly striving to differentiate themselves. What does this mean for providers of coach education?

Qualification programmes generally assess people on their knowledge, their thinking and their learning. This has long been a criticism of qualifications - they don’t prove you can do the job. The revolutionary implication of this is that coach education providers now need to design and deliver courses that are more than just a badge of study.

The market demand is for courses that will provide a badge of competence as well. To be fair, that's often not the intention. Coach education providers would argue they are just giving people the tools. However, how much more powerful would the proposition be if people were not only given the tools to do the job but they also had to demonstrate that they are able to coach effectively?

The likely outcome is that we'll see a trend towards more practically-assessed programmes, as the demand will be from coaches who want to distinguish themselves as 'master practitioners in coaching' to demonstrate that they have proven ability.

Forward-thinking providers are already striving to stand out from the competition by incorporating more practical assessments - and an element of 'proof of competence' - into their programmes. They are looking for evidence of how a coach has approached a particular problem with a particular client.

"If you’re a full-time professional coach, you will undoubtedly appreciate that opportunities for employment are becoming harder to find - and much more competitive."

Programmes of this nature can curtail the need for such rigorous (and costly) coach assessment. At the very least, this style of programme would help to better prepare a coach for the realities of any coach assessment that they would face in the outside world.

The main purpose of the test for licensed taxi drivers is to ensure an acceptable level of driving competence and practical application of 'the knowledge'. That's the model for coaching qualifications. And, if their programmes are to retain any credibility and influence, coach education providers must have the courage to fail those who do not pass the practical side.

So, in the future, how will a buyer find a coach who is world class? Increasingly, it will be by checking their qualification. In a world where coaches are asked to prove their level of competence, expertise and capability, the market will inevitably reward and recognise those who can show that they operate at the highest level of practice.

Alan Ward is director of Coach Education at Performance Consultants, which has been running university-accredited qualification programmes in coaching and development since 2003. The firm’s postgraduate certificate, postgraduate diploma and MSc are modular, part-time programmes awarded by the University of Portsmouth and accredited by the European Mentoring & Coaching Council.


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

Thank you!