What issues need tackling?

Comments from practitioners on the major issues facing the coaching profession

An investigation into the challenges that need to be confronted if the coaching profession is to grow elicits some forthright views from practitioners and researchers. What are the most pressing challenges that coaching faces? Is establishing the legitimacy of the fledgling discipline its most urgent task? Is it collaboration within the profession to achieve coherence and transparency? Is it working with organisations to measure the true value of the process or should all eyes be on raising standards? And are these goals achievable? In our previous issue and within the CIPD’s HR communities, we asked you what you felt were the major issues currently facing the profession, and how you thought these challenges could be overcome. Here are some of the replies.

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Coaching at Work is keen to foster debate about hot coaching topics. Every issue, we will post a topic for discussion which will also be posted online. Let us have your thoughts. www.cipd.co.uk/coachingatworkdiscussion

The question for the next issue is: To what extent do personality and learning styles affect how coachees respond to coaching?


Eric Parsloe
Managing director, Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring

The biggest short-term challenge is that individual and organisational egos and ambitions will cause increasing confusion and disunity. The psychotherapists and psychologists could start working together. The coaches in the Association for Coaching and the International Coach Federation could combine their efforts. The CIPD, Home Office and European Mentoring and Coaching Council could take the lead in creating a “confederation” of the different and genuine constituents of the new profession. After all, respect for differences and collaboration are, supposedly, fundamental values of coaching.

Monica Verhulst
Coach, Association Européenne de Coaching (AEC), France

The AEC considers the ongoing quest for legitimacy to be a major issue. Coaches need to elaborate a widely accepted theoretical framework where providers share professional standards and ethical values. Seeking more transparency in coach training is also a task to address. Another challenge is the profession’s present lack of coherence. The media thrives on diverging positions among coaching providers creating confusion among potential clients. The AEC invites other coaching associations to work on a common view when communicating about the purposes and content of coaching.

Caroline Horner
Director, I-coach academy

Standards, ethics and codes of practice are critical to the future of coaching. The way to build standards is education. All those involved in coaching have a role to play. Education will empower organisations and individuals to understand what coaching can achieve, its benefits, its limitations, and what it involves. This knowledge will drive standards forward, as it will encourage buyers to ask more informed questions and force coaches to explain their rationale and approach more clearly.

Sir John Whitmore
Co-founder, Performance Consultants

As a profession, coaching is coming of age. But disagreements still exist on the definition of coaching, the qualifications required, the standards and ethics, and whether there is to be a governing body. Organisations and individuals have worked to resolve some of these issues, and that process will continue. Behind all this, however, lies the question: could the coaching profession be the first industry to truly demonstrate a collaborative approach in everything they do? Movement in this direction is what will have to occur in the world of work if corporate social responsibility is to become a reality. The fledgling coaching industry could become the role model for this process.

Stuart Duff
Head of development, Pearn Kandola occupational psychologists

Coaching institutions will need to establish clear guidelines on the minimum standards of coaching skills. We will have to be able to answer the question “what are the skills that help to define a professional coaching relationship, rather than one-to-one training or advice-giving?”  Another challenge is working with organisations to measure the true benefit of coaching. In my view, we still shy away from validating coaching perhaps because we all know it is a powerful process, but equally because we may be exposed to hard truths in measuring the impact, such as short-term motivational gains rather than long-term performance improvements. But the biggest challenge, in my view, is not losing our “edge” in terms of the value of services we offer. Coaching will apply as much in 20 years’ time as it does now – more so probably. To sustain the growth seen over the past 10 years, coaches will need to be flexible to adapt to changes in organisational life. We will need to continue to stretch ourselves through our use of technologies, our attitudes to different working patterns, our understanding of diversity within organisations and our wider knowledge of global organisational challenges.

Jan Wiese
Senior HR consultant, HR Norge, Norway

When it comes to the coaching profession, rather than internal coaches or coaching managers, credentialling/certification draws a lot of attention. A number of organisations are struggling to become the most influential in this respect. In Norway, the best publicised is the International Coach Federation. Many coaches are trying to get into the market in Oslo. Newcomers are likely to have a hard time. Those who succeed will probably be the professionals who combine coaching with other HR-related activities, such as consultancy or training. Credentialling/certification is linked to how the customers will act how they execute quality recruitment of external coaches. The certification is a guarantee of quality. CIPD, HR Norge and similar organisations must train people in good recruitment. I believe the coaching profession benefits from being part-time. I think we should support coaches who work in this way.

Professor Stephen Palmer
Centre for Stress Management

One of the main issues is the acceptance of regular supervision for coaches. Public and professional awareness of this needs to be raised. Published articles on its benefits would be one way of raising it as an important issue.

Alison Hardingham
Director, business psychology, Yellow Dog Consulting

The top issues include: the regulation of coaching activities; how companies can know who will be an effective and ethical coach; how the effectiveness of coaching can be measured; what it is that makes for effective coaching; and where we can find good-quality academic research into coaching.

David Clutterbuck
Co-founder, European Mentoring and Coaching Council

The key themes for the profession include creating a coaching culture, supervision and accreditation, and team coaching. Organisations need to ask themselves: when should coaching be internally or externally resourced; how coach capability and performance can be assessed; how organisational learning can be extracted without damaging confidentiality; how coaching can be linked with other developmental activities and business strategy; and how a broad culture of coaching can be developed.

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