The Rise of the Wannabe Coach, part 2

The Rise of the Wannabe Coach, part 2

15 January 2021
John Bailey
John Bailey
  • Ambits mentor John Bailey tackles the coaching industry in a three-part series.

    This article focuses on business-related coaching with the aim to:

    1. Give you insight into the often confused & confusing state of the coaching industry
    2. Share with you clear criteria to quickly assess the competence of a given coach
    3. Improve your decision-making to select the right coach for you

    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 II: Coaching Training

    Part III: Coach Selection

  • Coaching Training

  • Is formal coaching training required to be a qualified and capable coach? Absolutely not!

    These articles make strong points in that regard:

    1. Forbes: 3 reasons why coaching certifications are a waste of money
    2. Do coaches need ICF accreditation?

    And in our daily lives, many among us already apply coaching skills without even necessarily referring to them as such simply by connecting well with others, asking great forward-looking questions, helping them structure their improvement outlook & specific behaviors (actions), and holding them accountable for related progress. That is the “magiccoaching formula, and you just got it here for free.


    But, without a solid understanding of the underlying (coaching) dynamic you will never use the full (coaching) potential …and that, sadly enough, is the case with many people who nowadays call themselves “coach”[27]. And there are plenty of good reasons in favor of ‘When You Probably Do Need Accreditation.[28]

  • Assessing Training Providers

  • As we learned at the outset of this article, coaching is big business and, unsurprisingly, there are many training and certification providers around the world, large and small, who will happily take your money. Worry not, for there is no shortage of impressive-sounding, razzle-dazzle certificates that money can buy.

    These range from rock-bottom, low-budget online self-certification offerings – a delightfully questionable “quality” in its own right – to utterly over-priced, deep € 5-figure offerings usually by big-brand universities, and often the executive education arms of these. I attended a very high-priced program called “Coaching & Consulting for Change”, offered by a leading, European business university, thinking its curriculum would teach me useful coaching skills. It did not! To date, that program rates as the least-practical, all-around worst training investment I ever made. A costly mistake in money, effort & time.


    Beware of coaching training providers who jumped on that bandwagon to milk this trend and be very discerning regarding your coach's training! World-class coaching training & certification is available at moderate € 4-figure price-levels from leading institutions in this field.

    Here is some advice I wish I would have had years ago to assess the coaching training competence of a given provider and, by extension, the training quality a given coach has likely received:[29]

    1. Verify they are directly accredited/licensed by a reputable, global coaching body
    2. Check how long they have been offering dedicated coaching training. More is better here
    3. Review their evidence of being instrumental in shaping the coaching body of knowledge globally
    4. Validate that their teachers/trainers prove long-years, paid-for coaching work, especially regarding work with high-caliber clients who vouch for their quality publicly
    5. Ensure their coaching certification offers at least 125 hours of accredited training. Anything lower should raise your concern about that qualification, and even that figure is on the very low side
  • Extra-Special Coaching Training

  • There is also a rich range of many different, clever sounding “coaching technique” variants offered for additional training, most of which seem to imply the promise of some “special sauce” coaching approach and client (coachee) performance breakthroughs. For the most part, that is plain nonsense!

    When reviewing the underlying structure and methodology of what these providers preach, one quickly realizes that most of them overlap substantially, just using different wording often combined with a spiffy acronym and re-packaged a bit differently. Above all, a good marketing story. Following article sums up some of the more prominent buzzwords and themes here https://tinyurl.com/yb4vty75.

  • Head, Heart & Gut

  • Coaching training is akin to leadership or other “soft-skill” training in that most participants can attend such training until they are blue in the face, and that still does not make a great coach (leader) in practice.

    The “inconvenient truth” for many more “head-oriented” (intellectual) individuals and leaders is that the truly difficult to master skills are not the commonly referred to “hard skills”. It is the soft skills! Put bluntly, it does not matter how much coaching, or leadership, training someone has had if they cannot build rapport and connect well, profoundly and sustainably with people in real-life.

    The coaching discipline offers a comprehensive, teachable skill-system. Those who have done proper coaching training consistently report that they learned a lot, which substantially boosted their coaching skills. This can be quite a revelation, especially for those who felt they already had strong coaching skills before such training. All that is also firmly backed-up by plenty of related testimonials one can easily find online, by feedback from fellow professionals in my network, and Yes, my own “non-university” coaching training.

    Proper coaching training adds much structure to the coaching approach and skills, particularly in the areas of listening, questioning techniques, and language analysis. And language here means much more than just spoken language by also covering internal dialogue and body language. Overall, the skill set is a healthy mix of head, heart & gut, with an emphasis on the latter two.


    Indeed, successful coaching builds on rapport, safety, trust, and permission. These are matters predominantly of the heart & gut. Ergo, regardless of someone’s intellectual (head) ability, they will fall far short as a coach if they cannot connect with both their and their coachee’s heart & gut through empathy and compassion. A coach with sufficient “cognitive” ability and who has great heart & gut ability is likely to be the all-around better choice.

    And the intellectual ability is vastly overrated anyhow in modern organizations. Science now shows us that the heart & gut each have their own brain, that all brains actively talk to one another and directly influence our emotions, feelings, and resulting behaviors. That puts into stark perspective the heavily biased, historical reliance on IQ- & dated assessment tests. Instead, there is a strong argument to re-assess how we establish a person’s overall IQ and EQ capability in a more comprehensive and updated way.

  • Keeping it Real

  • Even with the best of coaching education and much of it, never let a coaching certificate fool you into thinking its’ owner is great in practice at the skill printed on that paper. And the same skepticism applies even more towards those who decorate their walls with such certificates. Be particularly wary of them.

    Like servant leadership, coaching is first and foremost about being in the service of others, and that stems from a compassionate spirit of helping others become their best selves, i.e. a form of servanthood. It does not stem from an ego-driven basis and a desire to show-off “look at me, look at me” credentials. Such behavior is both undesirable and unbecoming of a credible coach.

  • Notes & references

  • Legal disclaimer

  • 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/.

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • new in this role

    and

    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling

    and

    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more

    and

    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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