Coaching is a complex endeavor. Over the years, the Sherpa Executive Coaching Survey has asked about standards of practice, published processes, measuring return on investment, and any number of topics which might shed light on the art and science of coaching.
Quite honestly, we don’t look for any particular answer. We do think it’s important for the industry to develop as quickly as it can. That happens when people have access to information about what works and what doesn’t.
Executive coaching is coming of age. Three years ago, we asked the question: “Can clients and purchasers of coaching services accept a broad range of approaches, or do they want a few choices between standards of practice that tend to guarantee consistent results?”
In other words, will executive coaching go the way of accounting and financial planning, with formal guidelines for service delivery, or will coaches be free to come up with their own ways of delivering services?
- Coaching is in different stages of development in different countries.
- There are dozens of trade associations.
- There are differing philosophies: working on strengths vs. working on weaknesses being a major divide in the industry.
- There are competing training programs. Several are taught by published authors with a following outside their formal classroom offerings. Most are not.
Right now, there is no licensing and regulation for coaching. The industry is self-regulated.
When it comes to standards of practice, the coaching industry will have to come up with its own, as well. If any standards of practice emerge, coaches themselves will decide on them and follow them, independently.
As diverse as the coaching world is, it is somewhat surprising to see standards of practice emerging right before our eyes. Even without any central authority directing coaching activity, we do see common practices becoming standard practices.
The biggest move toward standard practices comes in the use of assessments in coaching. Just two years ago, 8% of coaches did not use an assessment to help with their coaching. Last year, that number fell by half: only 4% of our coaches reported ‘no assessment.’ This year, 99% of all coaches report using an assessment. That’s a major change. That is a new standard of practice created by coaches working independently, learning from each other, joining communities and networks and improving the way they work.
Another move toward standards of practice has been customer driven. Five years ago, 30% of coach/client meetings were scheduled ‘as needed’, and almost 30% of engagements were open-ended. That’s great for coaches. However, the people who purchase coaching services want shorter engagements, more structure and limited scope. ‘Open-ended’ and ‘as needed’ might not fit into a budget, or a strategic plan.
For a number of years now, debate has continued over whether coaching can become, or should be considered, a profession.
Our conclusion: Coaching does not currently have any universal criteria and therefore cannot be considered a formal profession. It is a business activity, an industry, that matches only the broadest definitions of a profession.
Based on industry trends we have captured and analyzed since 2005, we conclude that there are not, and there will probably never be published standards of practice or processes that executive coaches must follow in order to be considered a coach.
In fact, support for ‘a recognized and standard process for coaching, similar to the accounting or financial planning professions’ has dropped significantly in this year’s survey. Three years ago, among executive coaches, a clear majority of both men and women favor a recognized, standard process, calling it ‘absolutely essential’ or ‘very important.’ Women supported standards slightly more than men. Now, just 38% of executive coaches overall strongly favor standards of practice.
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This information comes from the seventh annual Sherpa Executive Coaching Survey.
Media contact: For exclusive material and interviews: Karl Corbett, Managing Partner, Sherpa Coaching LLC, (513) 232-0002 USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
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