Ambits mentor John Bailey tackles the coaching industry in a three-part series.
This article focuses on business-related coaching with the aim to:
The article covers quite a bit of ground. To make the content easier to process, it is structured into the following three parts. While the storyline flows best when reading those in order, each part stands by itself so simply jump right in and read it in the order that captures your interest.
Part I: History & Context
Part III: Coach Selection will be published 22/01
Coaching, as addressed here in a business context, is a young discipline. Depending on the source, its origins lie in the Humanistic / Human Potential movement of the 1960s, Tim Gallwey’s work in the 1970s on “The Inner Game of Tennis” and, particularly, the groundbreaking work of Thomas Leonard from the late 1980s on. Want more history? Then read the following:
It is also an industry that comes across as both confused & confusing.
‘Inside the field, there is much divergent thinking of what coaching is and whose approach is best. Outside the field, there is even more confusion among clients and the public about what makes up coaching.’ (Vikki Brock “Grounded Theory of the Roots and Emergence of Coaching“)
‘As the sector is so broad and unregulated, there’s no precise way to determine the number of coaches or the full extent of the industry. Finding accurate and consistent data about its global or regional growth has…proven difficult.’
Regardless of how perplexing the coaching industry appears, it is big business no matter how one slices that pie. And here, too, we see a huge variation in recent years’ estimates ranging from $ 1 to 15 billion:
And the coaching industry appears to continue skyrocketing particularly in Western Europe (2016 ICF Global Coaching Study): ‘in total, around 35 percent of professional coach practitioners operate in Western Europe, compared to just over 33 percent in North America’. ‘67% of global coach practitioners are women’ , ‘54% of global clients are women’ and most clients are between 35 - 54 years of age.
Coaching comes in many different flavors. As of this writing, there are >500 coach certification providers globally. Also, ‘the number of professional coaching organizations is increasing…and in 2017 there were 36 professional coaching associations, an increase of about four associations per year…’
Quite evidently, there is also much creativity at work regarding coach titles. On the one hand, there is the good ol’ sports coach. Then there is the ubiquitous life-coach, the career-coach, performance coach, relationship coach, spiritual coach, mental coach, growth-hacking coach, business coach, coach’s coach, and many other clever title combinations to cover various niches. Bottom-line, ‘coaching has arrived in almost every segment of life.’
‘How is a customer supposed to easily navigate in a market seemingly exploding with (coaching) specialists of all kinds offering comparable services? How to even determine their quality standards?’
Aside from a generally growing number of coaches, a related trend for some years has been for many consultants, executives, interim managers, and recruiters to add that label to their social media profiles or to even fully re-brand themselves as “coaches”. I am one of them. And I will never feel lonely in those hordes.
‘A search for ‘Coaches’ world-wide over LinkedIn as of April 2020, gives over 6,280,000 results’. That number will be much higher in practice as many others claiming a coaching title are not on LinkedIn. The term “over-booming” definitely fits here.
Apparently, there is little hesitation for many to presume a coach/coaching title & skill description. That has led to significant pollution of the coaching space through the rise of charlatans, misnomers, and wannabe coaches.
This proliferation is made possible due to the lack of coaching industry regulation mentioned above, and the entry-barriers for adding “coach” to one’s title being extremely low. Anyone can assume such a title.
Adding to this title proliferation in the business world is another recent and misguided HR trend that pushes the agenda of “All Leaders are Coaches”, see point 11 in the following endnote for a strong contra argument on this. However, though clearly, not everyone is coaching material, instilling core coaching principles in a company culture remains a good thing.
An additional contributing factor is the often muddled and even contradictory coaching definitions that abound, and the cavalier behavior of businesses to liberally sprinkle such titles around resulting in more misnomers and confusion. The former shift-leader becomes the shift-coach, the former lean / 6Sigma consultant the agile coach, the recruiter the career coach, the HR Staffing Specialist the D&I Coach, etc.
The Business Coach in particular is often little more than a fancy re-positioning of the artist formerly known as “consultant” or former executive.
‘There are a lot of people out there calling themselves business coaches who don't have any real professional accreditations or associations…Watch out for consultants in disguise…without the real (coaching) training or (coaching) experience to guide you’
Utterly diverging business coach definitions further exacerbate this situation. Following statements underscore that disordered thinking:
It is evident that confusion between coaching, consulting, and mentoring continues to run rampant. And indeed, ‘mentoring and coaching are often used interchangeably in a business context…(as) they share the same goal, namely personal development…’
As part of my research for this article, I had many conversations with consultants, executives, and mentors who adorn their service-offering with coach/coaching wording. Following 3 characteristics show up consistently:
Still, ‘the combination of coaching and mentoring is extremely beneficial for the...growth of employees. When organizations encourage formal mentoring and coaching activities, it sends a strong positive message of commitment to a longer-term engagement.’ Yet, they remain distinctly different approaches, and the following graphic highlights key differences well:
Clearly, ‘there is…a need for formalized education on what coaching is, in fact, largely due to its subjective nature’, and for more regulation to take place requiring more credibility for coaches.
So, what then are sound and commonly shared definitions of coaching in our context here?
Check out the next parts:
Part III: Coach Selection will be published 22/01
The purpose and character of the use of this article are nonprofit and for research and educational purposes. No copyright infringement is intended.
Regarding fair-use, much of the original imagery here has been transformed. Credit goes to www.quotefancy.com for the Dee Hock quote artwork, as well as the following sources https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48681048-chemistry-it-s-like-magic-but-real, https://irmedicalcenter.com/head-heart-gut/.
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