Today’s podcast episode is all about coaches, something near and dear to my heart. Over the last ten years, I’ve come across many people calling themselves coaches and hearing lots of opinions about that title. Often, these are internet marketers masquerading as coaches. Coaching is a credible profession, but it’s important to know how to find the right coach and not just a salesperson.
My background includes a lot of coaching for business leaders. I worked at a boutique executive and leadership consulting firm after graduate school. After that, I had a corporate role that was involved in organizational and leadership development. My graduate degree is in industrial organizational psychology, focusing on business and human behavior.
I have experience working with coaches and being a consumer in the coaching industry. I’ve worked with many coaches, sometimes multiple coaches simultaneously. This episode covers certification, the code of ethics, and competencies.
My job is to help small business owners discern what they need for growth and how to avoid wasting any financial resources. I don’t typically talk much about coaching. But I hear about people having poor experiences with coaches, specifically business coaches, and I address it and help them move through those experiences. I want people to learn how to self-coach, and when they do need a coach, I want you to walk into that relationship feeling empowered. So, let’s dive in.
Certification from the International Coaching Federation
I’ll start by sharing that I am not certified by the International Coaching Federation, and I want to be transparent about that. I personally feel that my graduate degree suffices as a qualification for coaching. I have taken coaching-related courses and classes. I also have a certification in brain coaching, but I am not a master coach or associate coach through the ICF.
When it comes to coaching, I don’t think you have to be certified to be qualified, but I do believe that unskilled, unqualified coaches can have a huge impact on their clients. There is a lot of harm and complexity in this area. Coaches should have some coach training and be familiar with the ICF and their code of ethics.
It’s important to protect those people who are consumers of the coaching industry from predatory and unqualified coaches. It’s not necessarily bad people, but they don’t realize what they’re doing is causing harm.
The ICF is a non-membership body and is the world’s largest organization, leading the global advancement of the coaching profession and fostering coaching’s role as an integral part of a thriving society. It’s the closest thing to policing an unregulated industry.
ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaches work to unlock previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity, and leadership. It’s collaborative, not just a teaching moment. It’s client-centered and should prioritize the identity, autonomy, and agency of the client.
Coaches should ask a bunch of questions and provoke perspectives. Clients should uncover some insights that can lead to a list of action items. Once clients work through the action items, they can return to the coaches and review what they did and what they learned.
Coaching is Process-Oriented
Coaching is a process. Coaches should have their own method that they work through with each client. The certification process helps coaches develop their methods and learn more about the importance of that. When you’re working with a coach, they should be able to explain their process and philosophy to you before you get started.
Some people will not get value from coaching. Some personalities just want someone to tell them what to do, and those people need a consultant instead of a coach. Telling someone what to do doesn’t help change behaviors, and that’s what coaching is all about.
Blended Models Work Great
I often find that a blended model is great, using coaching, consulting, and mentorship. Mentorship dives into experience sharing, which can help provide context for different action items. With business coaching, education is helpful. Information may not change behavior, but when it’s combined with tools and the removal of emotional and mental barriers, it can be incredibly beneficial.
Qualified Coaches Will Have These Competencies
The ICF has a published code of ethics, and it’s good to know about it. Even if you work with a coach who isn’t certified, they should still be aware of the code and follow it. The same goes for the value statements.
Coaches should review this information on a consistent basis to stay familiar and educated about what they’ve published. There are also core competencies and training videos on the ICF website that coaches should be aware of. These competencies are important for me to review constantly.
This first competency, ethical practice, means you understand and consistently apply coaching ethics and standards of coaching. Often, this is just the price of entry to doing business. Ethics and integrity are incredibly important, and anyone not operating this way should not sell services to others.
Open and Flexible Mindset
Coaching anyone who isn’t open and curious to receive feedback and jump into the conversations will not be successful. It’s a red flag. All coaches should have a curious and open mindset toward their clients in order to learn more about them and find ways to help them improve. Moving through challenges and finding creative solutions is part of the job.
Establishes and Maintains Agreements
This competency is defined as a coach who partners with the client and relevant stakeholders to create clear agreements about the coaching relationship, process, plans, and goals. There should be agreements for the overall engagement, plus each individual coaching session. Setting boundaries and expectations helps keep everyone focused on the task at hand. There shouldn’t be open questions on either end that cause delays or distractions.
Cultivate Trust and Safety
Coaches need to partner with their clients to create a safe, supportive environment that invites clients to share freely and be open. There should be mutual respect and trust. There’s a sensitive dynamic between a coach and a client, and it’s important to both acknowledge the expertise the other has and collaborate together to maximize that expertise.
Maintains Presence and Listens Actively
Coaches should be fully conscious and present for their clients. It doesn’t matter how busy you are behind the scenes; each session should be completely about the client in front of you, and if you can’t provide that, you’re doing them a disservice. It’s equally important to listen to what your client’s needs are and understand the context of the systems.
Coaches should facilitate client insight and learning by using tools and techniques such as powerful questioning. I often use silence to get clients thinking and talking more instead of filling the space. Coaches cannot take action for the clients, but they can and should give clients accountability tools. Coaches will ask you powerful questions and get you thinking, but they shouldn’t judge your process or how fast you move. It’s a fine line.
When to Hire a Coach
It’s time to hire a coach when you want to explore a certain goal or progress measure you’re looking to make. You might feel a little stuck and need some guidance to help you find your own success. Maybe you tried a YouTube video or podcast first (which I recommend), but you still have difficulty gaining clarity, and you struggle with accountability. That’s when a coach can be extremely helpful.
Next week’s podcast episode will help you answer the question, “Are you coachable?” So, if you’re thinking about taking those next steps, make sure to come back and find out the answer.