The sudden proliferation of agencies offering coaching to executives has led
to a wildly uneven quality of service
In business, the demand for better results, improved performance and
increased productivity grows daily. The impact of these demands on the people
who must deliver them is often ignored.
While in the City having your own personal coach has become a status symbol,
many more organisations should be considering coaching. In many workplaces, it
is no longer enough to be a manager – you must be a coach as well.
Coaching is a way of helping people achieve more but in a fulfilling manner
– and perhaps bringing a little humanity and joy to the workplace.
In the world of executive coaching – a one-on-one relationship with a
professional, usually from outside the organisation, lasting anything from a
few weeks to a year – the potential benefits could be lost in the confusion
that is beginning to characterise provision in this area.
There has been a proliferation of agencies providing executive coaching –
’boutique’ consultancies, offshoots of larger consultancies and training
organisations, as well as independent coaches.
The people offering executive coaching come from a variety of backgrounds,
including the psychological and psychotherapeutic disciplines, training and
consultancy, sport, ‘popular’ psychology and from the business world, where
some managers chose to engage in a second career. The offerings vary
considerably as well, and include programmes lasting from a few weeks to a year
or more; from programmes where the content is driven by the provider’s
background and expertise, to those where it is driven by the needs and
interests of the participant.
There are no agreed standards, principles, or ethics. There are for instance
quite differing positions on who the client is. Is it the person being coached
or the person who is paying the bill? The answer has a major impact on issues
such as confidentiality and on the goals agreed.
Professionals with a background in say psychotherapy tend to view the person
being coached as the client. I believe this is not right, in most cases at
least. Where the employer organisation is paying the bills, and the coaching is
designed to help the individual achieve business goals, then the organisation
is the client – and should have certain ‘rights’ over the intended outcomes.
Supervision also remains a grey area. The notion of supervision is borrowed
from the counselling profession and describes the relationship between the
professional and another, usually more experienced, colleague.
It ensures the best interests of the individual being coached and the client
organisation are protected and that the coach is supported and continues
learning. Very few coaches have this as a regular feature but it is a strong
indicator of professionalism.
There are no standards for the training of coaches. The small number of
providers that offer such training have very different course structures, which
vary from two-day workshops to year-long programmes. The School of Coaching
has, however, recently started training business coaches and it is certified by
the University of Strathclyde.
It’s not yet the Wild West. And in many ways it is an inevitable part of a
fast-growing, important and exciting discipline that has yet to agree rules,
regulations and standards.
But changes are inevitable. Standards need to be defined. We need a
regulating body. It is imperative that such a body is as inclusive as possible
and the diversity that is currently a problem is also a source of richness,
creativity and learning. And it is vital that these changes happen before
clients become disillusioned and executive coaching becomes devalued.
Watch this space. Until then we must rely on encouraging and educating
consumers to ask tough questions.
By Myles Downey, director of studies at the Work Foundation