Coaching as a Profession
Previously, organisational leaders perceived coaching as “weird” and “fluffy” because it was typically associated with life coaching which was not academically referenced or relevant to management and leadership practice. However, concerns have abated as more information about coaching has become available in the academic literature and via books, workshops and videos, and courses have been accredited at the university level. In addition, many organisational leaders are sports coaches and they have adopted some of the principles of sports coaching into their leadership practice.
Coaching has emerged as a profession over the past two decades as a result of industry-led self-regulation, instigated and promoted by organisations such as the American Psychological Association, the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, and the International Coaching Federation. These professional organisations have developed common approaches to ethical, legal and moral standards of coaching practice. For example, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) has established a Code of Ethics, Ethical Conduct Review Process, Program Complaint Process and Independent Review Board to monitor professional practice of the 8 core competencies for its credentialed members at the levels of Associate (100 hours of coaching experience), Professional (500 hours) and Master (2,500 hours) Certified Coach.
Once credentialed, coaches must undertake continuing professional education to renew their credential and, depending on their credentialed level, undertake supervision. Organisations such as the ICF have a global reach with membership in all continents. Organisations which deliver formal coach-training courses are encouraged to have their courses approved by these professional associations. Graduates who meet certain additional requirements can apply for credentialing at one of their professional levels. Some personality assessment and profiling instruments have developed debriefing processes which they call ‘coaching. However, this kind of coaching is not as robust as the coaching delivered by organisations whose courses have been approved by the professional associations.
In 2010, an attempt was made to bring credentialing to the Australian coaching marketplace. Several key coaching professionals formed a group which developed the Australian Standards for Coaching. However, the guidelines developed by this group were never adopted by Australian coaches because of the differences in styles of coaching. In other words, no-one could agree on the “right way” to coach. In addition, some coaches found the guidelines too restrictive for their consultancy/coaching practice mainly because fees for coaching are not as lucrative as fees for consulting.
Those organisations which support coaching becoming a profession also support the notion of having a designated position of ‘internal coach’ within their organisation. They believe that there is a definite need for a certified, professionally trained coach to be employed within organisations which aspire to develop a coaching culture. A formally trained, internal coach in a dedicated coaching position would need to be capable of delivering coaching as per international coaching standards. Opponents of coaching who refer to the low barriers to entry to the profession had their concerns considerably diminished when qualifications in coaching were introduced by major Australian universities at the Master’s degree level.
If coaching was regulated as a profession under legally constituted practice guidelines so that it was clearly distinct from counselling, consulting and advising which have different approaches to the delivery of coaching within the services they provide, it would bring credibility to the position of ‘internal coach’ and increase confidence in the industry from organisational leaders. This credibility would enable organisations to select those internal coaches who best fit their organisational and business needs. With these checks and balances in place, organisational leaders would have more confidence in engaging external, credentialed, experienced coaches to work with their teams and individual team members to deliver a range of coaching services. Meanwhile, the emergence of self-regulatory standards of professional coaching conduct has stimulated organisational acceptance of coaching as a relational process, an essential leadership practice, and a platform for cultural change.