Super coaches: what they are and what they do

Is it a coach? Is it an executive coach? No, it’s a super coach swooping into an office near you –ready to rescue poor performers from the jaws of lethargy and ego-centric chief executives from the evils of self- deception.

Or will they? Super coaching is seen in some circles as the next big thing in coaching and mentoring, and comes at a time when the market needs a fresh injection of energy as it levels out after a period of hype, growth and over supply. So, is it a marketing exercise or a real chance for top coaches to make their mark?

Probably a bit of both, says Patricia Bossons, director of coaching services at Henley Management College. “Super coaching is a buzz phrase thatmeans different things to different people,” she says. “It implies instant results, but buyers of coaching need to realise that there is no such thing as a quick fix.”

“There are degrees of excellence in coaches, and for me, super coaches are people who are good at coachingand know what to do with the coachee.”

Bossons, who is responsible for the coaching skills programme at Henley, looks for coaches who are flexible, detached and responsive.

She says that coaching, like neuro-linguistic programming, has a variety of tools thatcan be taught and packaged to suit the practitioner, but what counts is how they are deployed, and how they benefit the coachee.

The concept of super coaching comes at a time when coaches are having to think hard about how they promote themselves, says executive coach Carole Pemberton. She attributes this to an unsettled market, shaken up by unfounded hopes in the power of coaching.

Pemberton, who is the founder of the Career Matters consultancy, and author of Coaching to Solutions,says a sense of disappointment characterises coaching right now.

“This is not always the providers’ fault,asthere has been a tendency to bring in coaching to deal with difficult people,” she says, explaining that coaching has been seen as a quick fix or cure-all for many performance and personality issues.

“There have been some very highly inflated expectations of coaching, and some coaches have colluded with that so that there has been a lack of clarity about what coaching can do,” she says. “Also there is a large over-supply of coaches, fuelled by the growth of providers.”

Pemberton recommends that coaches look beyond labelling themselves as super or executive coaches, and instead focus on accreditation. “Accreditation is coming up on the outside lane and that will become one of the issues,” she says.

Yet even accreditation is not a guarantee of effectiveness. Some accreditation is based on the number of coaching hours, not on the quality of the service, and those hours could have been spent in life coaching, financial coaching or executive coaching. The only evidence for the buyer of coaching is the final accreditation.

At Ashridge Business School, Lynsey Masson, director of executive coaching, says that the market is becoming more discerning.

She says: “Organisations are under cost pressure,and purchasers have to justify it more.” In her view, a super coach is someone who proves they have supervision and can provide evidence of ongoing development.

“It will be hard for coaches who go it alone or don’t have a label or a brand,” she says.”But it is also hard for buyers because the market is fluid and dispersed.”

by Stephanie Sparrow

What is a super coach?

Graham Alexander has been one of the big names in business coaching since the 1980s. He is often referred to as the developer of the ubiquitous GROW model.

He was the first to use the term super coach as a brand (he often expresses it as SuperCoach), and first aired his ideas in his book SuperCoaching two years ago. He developed the proposition from the ideas tried out in the book (which set out the core competencies of a super coach, for example), and now has a team of 10 such coaches.

“The distinctions are that super coaches offer measurable and sustainable performance in alignment with specific business needs and help an individual go beyond what they thought was possible for themselves,” he says. “A super coach could sit opposite anybody who wants to be coached and deliver value every time,” he says.

Alexander admits that the brand intrigues people. But he is so confident of his approach that he works with the client until results are achieved “or they get their money back,” he says.

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