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To regulate or not to regulate?


At the recent Association for Coaching UK debate, the subject of whether or not to regulate the industry was a hot topic and with the result of three in one voting against regulation for coaching, it got me thinking about whether or not this is actually the right response.

The timing of this very topic has coincided with the current controversy surrounding moves to regulate psychotherapists and counsellors under the banner of the Health Professions Council. And while the debate resulted in a three in one counting against regulation, the indication was that if it was inevitable, the preference was overwhelmingly in favour of regulation by a professional body rather than an external regulator.

The reason for my thoughts come from the fact that a quick search online can cough up a multitude of either free and very low cost coaching courses - ok so not all are accredited but, from what I have read, accreditation is hardly worth the paper it's written on. And as for testimonials, well we all know that they can be made up nonsense.

These days it's so easy to fudge your skills and hide your faults and while you can argue that any company worth their salt would do the necessary checks there are still some people working out there without the necessary skills and accreditation (or are there - we simply don't know!).

Then there are membership associations too - many of whom provide their own qualifications, but with so many options out there, it is hard to know who is the real deal. Wouldn't regulation simply stop all the confusion? Or would it spell the beginning of a big brother period that would see perfectly good coaches with oodles of experience stuck off for simply not having the right bit of paper?

I would have thought that the coaching industry would have welcomed a move to weed out the fraudsters, the charlatans and regulate things so that those with proven skills (accredited or otherwise) would be backed up or is this simply opening a big, old can of proverbial worms?

So what about you? Are you for or against regulation of the coaching industry?

4 Responses

  1. Regulation – the never ending debate


    In  my experience the current financial crisis is proven the best form of regulation the industry could have.  As coaching hourly rates our coming down to meet the drop in demand many of the coaching individuals and companies not offering their clients exactly what they want at very high quality are getting squeezed out of the market.  This is resulting in only the very best individuals and businesses remaining, great news for the clients.

    Can these high quality coaching companies hang on long enough to whether out the storm, watch this space.

    Tim Hawkes, Unlimited Potential 

  2. An intersting question

    Hi Verity

    Happy new year to you.

    I think this has to happen at some point. 25 years ago anyone could set themselves up an insurance agent and then disappear the next day having taken clients money etc. Regulation in the financial services sector has increased the barriers to entry, but whether it has worked is a different debate and question. There are certainly fewer "rogues" in the industry advising on insurances.

    As someone who has just completed their ILM level 7 in executive coaching in mentoring, we explored the issue in some depth. Currently there are voluntary codes and organisations like the EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council) and the ICF (international Coaching Federation) in existence. The profession is self regulating, so in theory anyone can purport to be a coach and have nothing formal to evidence a minimum level of competency. There are different qualifications,CIPD, ILM etc in existence all conferring a degree of professionalism.

    I feel the clock is ticking but good coaches should have nothing to fear.

    John Dell’Armi

  3. Regulation – not if but when

    Hi, Verity

    I’m with John on this one: the question is not whether regulation could or should happen but when.

    Although I love Tim’s faith in free market forces "resulting in only the very best individuals and businesses remaining", where is the evidence this is really happening?  I am still shocked to find the broad scope of ability competing for and winning high level coaching assignments.  Low barriers to entry coupled with unsophisticated buying practices lead to a market free-for-all.  This cannot be good for the profession, the providers nor the end-user clients.

    My ideal would be a half-way house – let the market regulate:  a critical mass of educated buyers selecting those best individuals and businesses so that coaching retains and improves its great reputation.  Now, only two tasks need undertaking:
    1) Agree what is meant by "best"
    2) Make it easy for buyers to select them

    Call in the professional bodies……


  4. Thanks for your comments

    As I said in my blog, it’s not that I personally feel that coaching should or shouldn’t be regulated, but it does seem that  we are all suckers for regulation of some sort! I appreciate the comments and will look forward with interest to see what happens in the coaching industry.

    Thanks for your input!



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