You would think I would carry a bias around becoming a credentialed coach because I am one. However, in this article I will be taking an honest look at the ups and downs of credentialing, clients and coaching industry trends. I’m going to cover five challenges to consider before deciding to pursue training or to continue on and earn a professional credential.
20 year old self: “I want to do something with my life that helps people. Something that really empowers them.”
“What can I do? I can become a therapist!”
“I’m two years into my bachelors, but I want to help people now. Hmmm, why don’t I pursue this 25 hour certificate in coaching so I can start to help people while I’m still in school. Why do they call it coaching anyway?”
Day one of coach training: “OH my gosh! Coaching is not counseling at all?! It is its own unique discipline?! So, I’m not telling people what I think, what they should do or guiding them with leading questions or solutions?! I’m helping them reach their own empowerment?! This approach makes so much sense. I love it, it is also so positive and fun!! I’m hooked. I’m in.”
This was me in 2004, having no clue there was another option for helping people succeed in life other than becoming a therapist or consultant.
2005 I graduated from my first coach training program. It had happened. I had caught “the coaching bug” and my eyes had been opened to the amazing world of coaching... the world of helping people create possibility and access their potential. I was in love.
Needless to say, I didn’t continue down a therapy path after this monumental discovery. I changed my degree to Organizational Psychology with the concentration in Corporate Coaching and that was that. I was coach.
It is now 2018. I’m in my 40s. I’ve coached ever since and carry a passionately earned “Professional Certified Coach” (PCC) credential with the International Coach Federation (ICF).
In 2011 I was hired to start and run a new coach training program through Prescott College. All of which gave me deep insights and respect for the vastly budding world of coaching.
Over the years I’ve seen the title coach tossed around and with it, a key question kept arising:
“I decided to go for accredited coach training and I had a friend telling me I don’t need to. She says I can just take my background and hang my hat as a “Coach”. Is this true? That advice doesn’t feel right to me. What are your thoughts?” - Potential student pursuing training, 2017.
This is a concern that I come across a lot and is a good one to look at.
Coaching is a peer regulated industry, just like personal training for example. Would you go to a personal trainer that learned from YouTube and had a personal success, or would you want a certified trainer that had direct guidance, met rigorous standards and is following a professional code of ethics?
There is much more to the "coach" title than meets the eye.
Today I'll outline five key aspects of coaching to be aware of:
#1 - False Advertising:
I remember the first day of class I was shocked. I had NO clue, that I had no clue, what true coaching actually was. Being completely honest with you, I had an assumption that coaching was a fluffy form of counseling, guiding and motivating people. I thought I’d get my certificate, learn a few tips and then go do my own form of guiding people in the world.
I couldn’t have been more wrong and sadly many people fall into this category without even knowing it. I learned more in that first hour of coach training than I knew was possible and this new discovery completely changed the trajectory of my entire life.
Here is the “down low”: If you are granting yourself a coaching title, or your company is, and also giving people advice, guidance or strategies to follow, this is not actually coaching. Consulting, advising, guiding and/or mentoring are distinct from coaching. Coaching is a unique discipline that focusses on the client guiding themselves through a co-creative process with the coach.
Just be aware if you are doing another modality, or untrained about where the professional coaching boundary lines are, you might not be coaching.
Advice: Place the primary modality you are using, or trained in, as your title. This ensures you are marketing services correctly.
#2 - Liability:
True coaching is low liability because professionally trained coaches do not advise, guide or tell our clients what to do or not do. Client answers are client-generated and this is the professionally outlined role in the coach/client contract. Client success is also client generated. We do not diagnose or treat clients, that is the scope of a licensed counselor or therapist. Coaches are trained to challenge clients, facilitate new thinking and help them develop their internal wisdom.
As a result of training in this “Socratic” discipline, clients reach new heights and realize latent potentials waiting to be tapped into. Clients are also more motivated and inspired when the answers come from within. When people are given advice, this only activates their logical brain. When people reach their own conclusions, the logical and emotional brain is activated, making action more likely. (1)
Professional coach training teaches you exactly where, when, why and how to draw lines professionally. Very valuable!
#3 - Self-referencing:
There are things we know. There are things we don’t know. There are things that we know we don’t know. But the kicker, our blind-spots, are the areas of life where we don’t know what we don’t know.
I know that I know how to tie my shoelaces and cook a mean lasagna. I didn’t know that I didn’t know what real coaching was. I was shocked when I first found out. It was in my blind spot, but I had no clue. I had no clue I would learn over 50 new coaching skill sets.
My advice is to be very careful about being only self-referenced, because we can’t know what we don’t know. “I want to help people” is the starting point. Stand on the shoulders of the wise professionals who can guide you farther down a path and help you avoid major pitfalls or liabilities. Respecting and learning from the Sherpas of any profession, or lineage, will empower you in ways not yet thought of.
#4 - Client confidence:
Here you want to consider who your clients will be. If you are working in the corporate world, earning an ICF credential is imperative for most companies. However, if you are working for yourself, in a non-business related niche, your clients may not care as much whether or not you carry a big credential. However, the majority of people hiring do want coaches to have graduated from a training. Same with hiring a consultant. You would want your consultant to have both expertise and experience.
The ICF conducts ongoing research and found in 2016-2017:
#5 - Leverage:
Having experience in a matter doesn’t equate to expertise. Here is why: There are 9 personality types according to the Enneagram and 16 according to Myers-Brigs. This means one personal success doesn’t automatically translate to other’s people’s empowerment. I have noticed a trend. Someone has success in an area and then turns that success into a program for others to purchase and follow. Unless your clients have all your personality defaults, the actual success rates of your program can only match the number of participants that share your personality tendencies, habits and thought patterns.
If you are only operating off of experiences and passion to help people… awesome! Your wisdom and compassion are needed. You can also consider taking your experience a step further and learning how to meet people where they are at through training.
My coaching business is a prime example. I overcame emotional eating and a painful eating disorder through Intentional Eating methods. I have ample personal experience in successfully overcoming this painful issue. Am I an expert in emotional eating? Not at all, I’m an expert in my own healing. So, before I hung my hat as an Intentional Eating coach, with expertise I: 1) did research to see what works best for other people and 2) relied on my coach training so that I could meet a client where they were at and not tell them what will work for them.
If however, you decide to take your expertise and do further research into how your successful outcomes show up to all personality types, you move towards expert. Be careful of the trend “make money off of your positive experience”, it can leave a lot of people upset when the approach is not working for their background, habits, value system and nature.
Coaching, true coaching, meets people exactly where they are at, leveraging their unique success formula, waiting to be discovered. Learning coaching skills and tools is the fastest road to ensuring amazing client empowerment and success. In coaching you help another human being develop and honor their potential. It is quite a brilliant process actually!
To examine the question “Do I need coach training and a credential to be a coach?” I conclude this:
Because coaching is a distinct discipline, credentialing is a personal matter relating to your unique goals. However, professional training, coaching tools and developing coaching competency is imperative to knowing what true coaching is, reducing liability/false advertisement and leveraging your unique background.
I personally see a world that needs wisdom. Coaches are facilitating new possibilities, wisdoms and transforming lives every day. Your success, wisdom and empowerment is our passion.
To learn more about training and credential options, visit: coachfederation.org/icf-credential
Laurel Inman, PCC, Coach / Mentor / Trainer. She is the Founder and Senior Faculty at the Institute for Integrative Coach Training (IICT).