The coaching industry appears divided on how best to clamp down on rogue operators as moves towards self-regulation gather momentum.
The European Coaching Institute (ECI) is launching an international register of coaches this summer as a first step towards encouraging every practitioner to obtain a formal qualification.
By the end of next year, the Association for Coaching, the International Coaching Federation and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council are expected to agree on a combined code of practice.
These initiatives follow rapid expansion of the sector over the past 10 years, but some practitioners question their value, saying responsibility for identifying cowboys largely rests with purchasers.
Nick Allen, director of The Coaching Partnership in London, said regulation would not significantly enhance security, because coaching ability is such a hard quality to measure. “Everybody looks plausible, intelligent and has a good-looking CV,” he said.
He argued that taking up references and using word of mouth are much more effective in gauging credibility, and that more emphasis needed to be placed on the ongoing supervision of coaches.
However, Gerard O’Donovan, chief executive of the ECI, said that many management consultants and therapists are now calling themselves ‘coaches’ to attract higher fees.
“They neglected to get trained, and what they deliver to their [clients] is what they were delivering before,” he said.
Gladeana McMahon, vice-president of the UK-based Association for Coaching, said self-regulation would probably take five years to achieve.
“You can’t have something that is relatively new signed, sealed and tied up in five minutes; it just won’t happen.”
She says her association has just started an accreditation process where members face expulsion if they breach its code of ethics.
Jessica Jarvis, learning, training and development advisor to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said that until a common set of standards, ethics and qualifications are agreed by the industry, the onus lies with the purchasers.
“HR or organisational people have to ask questions about the experience of the coach, what returns they can expect and also think about what kind of coach they want,” she said.