Coaching: How to become a business coach

Fancy qualifying as a business coach? You’re not alone.

Coaching is an attractive career option to many who are re-thinking their vocation – either through choice or recession-fuelled necessity, and training providers are seeing a clamour for courses.

The Coaching Academy, for example, has seen “a significant increase” in inquiries since January. “We are beating all records in our ‘try before you buy’ courses,” says managing director Bev James. “Demand has doubled.”

This surge of interest in becoming a business coach has been seen elsewhere.

“Since the beginning of 2009, we have seen a marked increase in inquiries”, says Alan Waters, director of coach education at Performance Consultants. He believes that the upsurge is partly coming from established business coaches without qualifications.

“There is a growing body of coaches out there who are finding it more important to prove their credentials to clients,” he says.

Performance Consultants offers accredited training at a variety of levels, from an introduction to coaching skills through to a postgraduate diploma, which are recognised by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council( EMCC) and accredited by the University of Plymouth .

Making an investment

But acquiring expertise doesn’t come cheap – it could cost up to £15,000 in course fees over five years. However, Waters argues that investing time and money demonstrates that the learner is serious about coaching as a career. He adds that becoming a business coach is also about gaining relevant experience, a theme taken up by founder and managing director of Executive Masterclass, George Batey.

His modular courses, which lead to delegates being associates of the Association for Coaching (AfC), are spread over a couple of months. In between coaching, he asks delegates to practice informal coaching situations, such as observing other people and adjusting their own styles of questioning. .

Batey stresses that personal and off-course learning are important.

“We advise delegates to keep a personal learning journal”, he says. “Such evidence will help them go to the AfC to become an accredited coach.”

Coaching is a notoriously unregulated profession, which can make purchasing decisions difficult – how do you know whether you have bought a course that will be recognised by the outside world?

The Coaching Academy, which has trained 22,000 people in all aspects of coaching in the past decade, has its courses accredited by the ILM, among others, and has sponsored the National Occupational Standards in Coaching and Mentoring, but managing director Bev James says that good providers also have to offer purchasers “confidence and competence”.

With this in mind, the Coaching Academy includes live training and a personal mentor. New coaches are also advised to develop their intra- and inter-personal skills, says chartered psychologist and author of the newly published Starting and Running a Coaching Business, Aryanne Oade.


Oade says a coach must be able to discern the clients’ to help them define and meet their coaching goals, and must be confident in handling business and personal relationships.

“The more that the coach has invested in their own intra-personal development – to become more aware of themselves and know themselves first – the better for the client,” Oade explains.

And at the end of the day, anyone buying a coaching course needs to be sure they are getting a certificate that will reflect their skills, says Jonathan Passmore, programme director of the coaching psychology programmes at the University of East London.

“Potential purchasers should also ascertain the level of experience of the people offering the coaching. And they need to ask where participants or graduates go afterwards,” he says.

Case study: Tale of a super coach

Graham Alexander is coaching royalty. He developed Grow (Goals, Review, Objectives, Wrap-up), the world’s best-known coaching model, and has coached more than 30,000 chief executives. Yet he says it was passion rather than formal coach training that took him to the top.

“I followed an interest and made it my life’s work,” he says.

Alexander found his metier while working as a manager in IBM in the late 1960s.

“I became interested in bringing the best out of people,” he says. He simultaneously became aware of psychology and Gestalt therapy, which were drifting to the UK from California, and set up a charitable trust that ran self-awareness programmes.

“I discovered that by creating a safe and non-judgemental environment, and by making small and often subtle interventions – such as asking a question or giving some feedback – that I made a big difference to people,” he says.

He admits that reading Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis helped crystallise his thoughts on coaching as a means of boosting effectiveness and he embarked on a coaching career.

Alexander’s work has frequently been before its time (in the early 1980s he was developing line managers as coaches), and when many people were still linking coaching to sports performance, he was translating it into the business arena.

Alexander, who has coached in many top corporations, says that his success does not come from certificates and courses, but from offering “measurable value, credibility and evidence of helping other people”.

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