So you want to learn to coach! Or take a coaching approach in your work. Or maybe you simply want to understand what all the fuss is about coaching! Whatever your plans, how do you choose the best and most suitable provider of coach training for you? It’s a great question. There are many organisations out there that can teach you about coaching and there’s ongoing training that can help you to become a better coach. There’s a whole world of information, and it can get confusing, so let’s start with the absolute basics:
What do your potential clients look for in a coach?
When you think about who you will ideally coach in the future, what are they looking for in a coach? Whether you want to be an internal or external coach, or a leader taking a coaching approach, consider what qualifications and credentials your potential clients value. According to an ICF 2022 study, the overwhelming majority of coaches (80%) agree that their clients expect coaches to be certified and credentialed. If you are not sure, ask around amongst your connections or colleagues to get a feel for what your potential clients look for when hiring coaches. What qualifications or credentials do they look for? Have they heard of the coach education providers you are considering? What’s their reputation out there? And what is the perception of the particular coach training course you are considering? How are graduates of this program regarded by the clients you would ultimately like to work for?
What kind of coach training do you want?
There are many options when it comes to “coach education”; you might have noticed! There are plenty of providers of generic coaching or life coach training, if that’s what you want. But if you want - now or in the future - to coach within organisations, then it’s important to learn how organisational coaching is different. To be an org coach, you need to learn how to navigate the more complex organisational coaching context. This includes the inherent complexity of the three-cornered relationships that are common in organisational coaching. With multiple stakeholders involved in the organisational coaching relationship, you will need to learn how to be crystal clear in your contracting - both formal and informal. You also want to explore, well in advance, all the ethical and confidentiality questions that are involved in such a relationship.
What is organisational coaching?
At IECL we teach Organisational Coaching so everything in this article is oriented to our definition of pure organisational coaching. We define organisational coaching as a structured conversation with measurable outcomes that is collaborative and in service of both the coachee and the sponsoring organisation. Does this definition sit well with you? The next question to ask; what is coaching to you? And what kind of coaching do you want to offer? This will help you narrow the field of coach educators down to those that teach what you most want to learn. Some other questions to ask include: What is the definition of coaching that the potential coach training provider uses? Is their definition of coaching a good match with yours (and that of your potential clients)? Now is the best time to get clear on the kind of coaching you want to learn, and how it is defined, then look for an education provider that aligns with your vision of coaching. If the whole topic is new to you, we welcome you at one of our monthly introductory sessions, which are free and explore what organisational coaching is, and how it works.
How do I become a coach?
The coaching industry is currently unregulated, worldwide, and so coaches are not required by law to have a specific qualification or credential. However, coaching without coach specific training (or insurance!) is not recommended and the coaching marketplace in most countries recognises this. Most client companies will expect you to have coaching qualifications and possibly also a credential from a coaching industry body. Evaluate whether the course you are considering offers a recognised qualification at the end of your studies and if a credential from an industry body is a goal for you, check to see that the coach educator can provide some or all of the requirements for an internationally recognised coaching credential. Related to this, your provider of coach accreditation should teach recognised competencies and ethics of coaching, and should be able to explain to you how they do that, whose competencies and ethical frameworks they adhere to, and how their courses teach these. Ask potential providers if the coach training program satisfies the requirements of becoming a qualified or credentialed coach, and how long it typically takes. Find out how much training.
Who is the coach training provider?
The reputation of the coach educator that you choose will reflect back on you as a coach, particularly when you first start out in your coaching career. Whose “badge” would you like to have on your LinkedIn or other marketing collateral? Whose certificate would you be proud to display? The coach training institute’s reputation in the coaching marketplace will influence your reputation as a coach and so should inform your decision making. Ask around to find out what the coach educator’s reputation is in the coaching industry. You can explore this topic amongst coaches and purchasers of coaching to see what people say about the organisation and their courses. Here are some other questions to consider as you interview potential educators: Who are they accredited by? Ideally train with a coach education provider that is internationally recognised by one of coaching’s industry bodies such as the International Coaching Federation (ICF) or Association for Coaching (AC) or the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). How many alumni have graduated from their coach education program? And what are they doing now? More on this below in question 6…
What are their alumni doing with their training since completion?
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the old saying goes. What are the graduates of this organisation doing with their coach accreditation? Follow some of them on LinkedIn and ask about their experience and opinion of their coach training; did they get what they were hoping to gain from the program? Did they enjoy it, and how are they applying their learning now? Talk to coaches that you admire and find out where they trained and what they would look for in a coach educator today. You might also want to take a look at #coaching and related hashtags on LinkedIn to see what the conversation out there is about and who is engaging in it. From there you can contact those whose voices you resonate with, or who appear to be opinion-leaders in the industry; you’re looking for some of the key players in your region or industry to understand better how these coaches were trained, and by who. You can also ask the provider how long they have been around? When was the coach training institute founded, and when did they start training coaches? Ideally they will have some solid experience and results.
Who are the faculty?
When you consider your options for coach education, it’s good to understand who you will be trained by if you choose a particular provider. Are the faculty of the coaching education courses also practising coaches themselves? Ideally they will be, so you can learn from their direct experiences of coaching; what works and what doesn’t work, in the real world (as opposed to a theoretical or purely academic understanding of coaching). And are they also great facilitators of learning? Ideally find a provider that understands the adult learning paradigm, and how to work with you as an adult who will be bringing your own professional and life experiences to the course, while learning what may be an entirely new skill for you (and one that may require some unlearning, a common situation for many when first starting out as a coach!) While looking into this aspect of coaching education, find out how the organisation teaches; whether it’s face to face, through online coach training courses, or some combination of the two. (By the way, you can check out some of our faculty here).
What is the long-term focus of this coach educator?
This may seem an overly detailed question, but in a crowded and largely unregulated industry, you may find that some coach training organisations are focused purely on getting numbers through the door and that there’s not much by way of support available to you once you complete the program. Ask about just how much support the coach educator can provide to you post-training, and what form that support will take, including how they can help you to continue to develop as a coach (it’s a lifelong learning journey, after all). Some questions to ask: Is there a coaching community of practice that you can join as a graduate of their program? How will you continue to learn and develop as a coach? Can they help you to gain coaching practice hours? Can they help you get started in your own coaching practice, and how do they do that?
Is the coach training course theoretical or practical? Or both?
This is a great question to ask as it will affect not only your learning experience in the course you participate in but also your confidence to start coaching immediately after completing the course (and this, ideally, is the outcome; that you feel ready and able to coach, to start gaining experience and practice hours right away). Ultimately you want to find a coach training course that offers a combination of both theoretical and practical; the best coach education is evidence-based and strongly grounded in theory, while also including plenty of real coaching practice (not role-play), plus mentoring from experienced and qualified coaches as well as reflection on your practice, so that you leave the training feeling not only competent but also confident as a coach.
Finally, is the coach training up to date?
Coach education curriculums should never be a “set and forget” proposition. The latest thinking, research and organisational trends affect both you and your potential clients and ideally your coach education provider is positioned at the cutting edge of the latest thinking around coaching. Questions you can ask include: When was the curriculum last reviewed? AND Are the faculty active in the coaching industry? Ideally your studies will teach you an agreed and solid foundational knowledge of coaching, as well as touching on the latest thinking affecting the coaching industry.
A recent participant in IECL’s Level 1 Certification said: “It is challenging, confronting, and difficult, yet one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. I only wish I had tackled it earlier in life.”
We hear this a lot, and hope you won’t wait until you’re nearly ready to retire to learn the essential skills of coaching. Whether you choose to study with IECL or another provider, we hope you will learn coaching skills; the world needs great coaches, now more than ever. To find out more about IECL’s program, contact us to set up a one to one chat with our team; we’d love to meet with you!