There are over 16,000 people who belong to the International Coaches Federation. How many of them could effectively coach the division president of an international bank in the midst of the current crisis?
It probably depends on whom you ask. If you ask the coaches, 15,999 of them might assure you that they could do it. If you were to depend on those who hold ICF credentials, about 400 would have some paper that asserts their ability to be a good coach. If you were to ask the training organizations and schools who received their tuition to get a certificate, all their graduates would presumably be equipped to do leadership coaching. Yet, for all the advertised capabilities, there is no generally-agreed-upon criteria for assuring the capability of a leadership coach to meet the coaching needs of senior execs in major organizations.
Let me spell out for you some of what concerns me about this situation and what I think needs to happen to fix it. Say, I’m the SVP of HR for a global pharma company and I need to find a great coach for one of my executives:
A. Can I count on a graduate of a coaching training program? So far as I can tell, neither the for-profit independent coach training schools nor the coaching programs associated with major (or minor) universities has ever flunked anyone who has paid their tuition and gone through the program.
B. Can I count on a person holding a certification from the International Coaches Federation or the World Association of Business Coaches or any other credentialing program? At this point, the certifications represent that a person has had some formal training and some mentoring and a review of cases (in some instances). Many of these coaches are terrifically talented (CCL employs a number of them who are really wonderful coaches). However, there is no ongoing requirements for review of their work and no measurement of their impact on the organizations in which their coachees work. The certificate guarantees that they have persistence, but not that they are effective coaches.
Here’s what needs to happen in the world of leadership coaching:
1. Coach training and coach certification for leadership coaches needs to be targeted to address the special demands of working with leaders in industry, government, education, and the non-profit world.
2. The criteria for certification need to be established based on empirical studies of coaching outcomes, not adherence to a particular philosophy of coaching. The European Mentoring and Coaching Council, for example, does a very nice job of evaluating training programs based on common understandings of best practices in coaching (not necessarily leadership coaching) but the criteria have not been subjected to empirical evaluation. They are based on the beliefs of practitioners, but have never been compared with the outcomes from the coaching work with those who adhere to those practices. The same is true of other accrediting organizations.
3. Leadership coaching must be measured by its effects on the leadership effectivenessof those who are coached. Repeated studies have shown that coachees are poor judges of their own improvement, partly because they have large incentives to rate themselves as much improved. Studies that ask coaches to estimate how much their coaching was worth cannot get at the impact on the people who follow them.
You won’t be surprised to know that I have some opinions about how we should be measuring these also. In a later post, I’ll cover the kinds of measurement that would be more meaningful for coaching evaluation.