Appetite is growing for greater professionalism and a more united structured approach to quality control and standard setting in coaching.

Almost half (46%) of respondents to a Coaching at Work survey favour external regulation while a quarter would prefer an alternative, such as the UK’s Professional Standards Authority’s (PSA) Accredited Register System. The PSA (formerly the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence) sets standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations and accredits those who meet them. It is accountable to the UK Parliament.

Some 16.5 per cent of respondents are against external regulation and 11.5 per cent don’t know.

The survey, Shaping the Future of Coaching, was carried out to mark Coaching at Work’s 10th anniversary. There was a strong desire for more professionalism, including for coaching to become a recognised established profession (see page 23).

Professor Stephen Palmer said: “Let’s be pragmatic. The Government isn’t into unnecessary and/or over regulation of the professions because it costs money. So state regulation of coaching practice is not going to occur [yet]. Accreditation of professional body registers using the PSA system is the way forward if we want to do so. It’s already working for other professional groups. I informally recommended this move some years ago to various professional coaching bodies and at that time I contacted the PSA and their response was positive.”

Jacqui Bateson, Senior For Life Ahead proposition manager at Skipton Building Society in the UK, wanted “one professional standards body where all coaches work to the same standards and coachees have some certainty for their expectations”.

Paddy Ryan, director of coaching at Execoachingpm in Ireland wanted “regulation to prevent the watering down of the standards, but not by non-professional bodies”; Alison Dixon, owner/director of Success Coaching & Development in the UK, wanted “accreditation recognised collectively by the professional bodies so as to ensure consistent standards without it becoming overly restrictive or exclusive”, and coach/coach supervisor Eve Turner also wants coaching to be “regulated by collaboration between professional bodies”.

Some were open to a solution, such as the Register, but needed more information. “I would need to understand better how this works,” said Singapore-based Camilla Sugden, managing director of Niche Pte. Sugden saw “maintaining high standards without becoming unduly bureaucratic” as one of the greatest challenges for coaching over the next 10 years.

Others were in favour of regulation, but concerned that it would mean “huge financial overheads” and “prohibitive cost or red tape” for external providers.

“If any profession is to remain flexible and responsive then regulation has to match that need…. most often regulated industries become sources of bureaucratic red tape and forget what they are really there for,” said Bridget Farrands, director at Figure Ground Consulting in the UK.

Both Mike Hurley, director of Intuition Coaching & Mentoring, and Wendy Johnson, president of the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches, preferred self-regulation.

Paul Brown, faculty professor – organizational neuroscience, Monarch Business School, Switzerland, warned that it would be a “disaster [for coaching] to be regulated by an external body – see the Health Professions disaster for a worked example. Independence is most crucial and self-regulation the hallmark of good professionalism.”

See the full report on pages 15-24


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