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Life Coaching then; life coaching now

Life Coaching then and now

This year marks my twelfth as a life coach so I thought it appropriate in this first article to start by comparing coaching then and coaching now to highlight how far it has travelled from the personal development fringe when I started in 2003 to the centre ground of L&D in 2015.

2003: Coaching then
• Saying I was to retrain as a coach elicited blank stares, frowns or polite ‘smiles’, the kind that never reached the eyes. One friend looked genuinely worried and admitted later they thought I wanted to drive executive coaches, the swishy kind with the dinky tables.
• It was pretty much a given that the only route for the newly qualified coach was to set up in business for themselves and work as an external coach. Self employment or bust!
• When someone asked what you did at a party, saying you were a life coach would have to be followed up with a lengthy explanation of what that was, who used you and why.
• Even enlightened early adopting organisations saw it as mostly remedial: we have a problem with (insert senior employee of choice); let’s get a coach in to work with them and get them back on track.
• For years nobody ever asked about my qualifications, professional memberships or any other proof I was a ‘real’ coach.
• It was mistaken for the latest ‘fad’; counselling that had had a makeover and rebrand.

2015: Coaching now
• Career coaching is widely understood and the benefits recognised. In many organisations it is now an integral part of their L&D function.
• Internal coaches are becoming increasingly common. Even among orgs with ‘traditional’ reputations; the Big Four accountancy firms for example all employ internal coaches (who said accountants can’t be cutting edge?). Hell, even the MOD employs full time career coaches now.
• Say you’re a career coach or executive coach now and it’s quite likely the response with be, Oh I had some coaching. It’s not often I have to explain at length what I do anymore. Which is progress!
• Companies accept that waiting until there is a problem is too late. Coaches need to be bought in early, the earlier the better. Onboarding, transitioning into a new role, formation of a new team are all ideal scenarios for introducing coaching.
• Now few companies will hire external coaches who aren’t a member of either the International Coaching Federation (ICF), Association of Coaches (AC) or the European Coaching & Mentoring Council (ECMC) and have a depth of experience.
• Most HR professionals now understand the difference and when each intervention is appropriate. Counselling looks for root causes to current or historic problem/s and for ways to ‘fix’ them. Coaching emphasises the advancement towards goals by addressing performance.

• Is your view of coaching more 2003 or 2015?
• Is it time to bring coaching it inhouse (one corporate reduced spend from £2 million per annum to under £400K by doing just that).
• Are you confident the right people are being coached at the right time for the right reasons (or at all!)?

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