by Robyn Logan
I had the pleasure of interviewing Leda Turai a few weeks ago. Leda is a leadership and executive coach, trainer and Chair of the Global Board at the International Coaching Federation. In this 4 part interview series Leda shares her observations from the ICF Global Coaching Study, which this year had more respondents from more countries then ever before.
Leda talks about how and why she got into coaching, her views on cross cultural competencies and why they are so important in coaching and also in assessing coaches, and finally an understanding of the context in which the Global Survey was conducted. Who conducted the survey? How were the respondents chosen? How did they make sure the sample was representative?
Listen to the Interview
Robyn Logan: Hi everyone. I’ve got Leda Turai with me today, who is the chair of the board at The International Coaching Federation. Hi Leda, thanks for joining us.
Leda Turai: Hi, Robyn. It’s the pleasure for me to be here—to be connected with Australian.
Robyn Logan: I know. How amazing. We were just talking about the fact that it was 7 am for you and I am ready for afternoon tea over here in Melbourne.
Leda Turai: Yes, we have different seasons as well.
Robyn Logan: Yeah, totally. So, before we get into the discussion today which is about the ICF coaching survey, I would like to ask you a few questions to give people a bit of knowledge about who you are, and one of my favorite questions is – how did you come to coaching?|
Leda Turai: By accident, actually. Because I went to a summer camp in one of the psychological fields which was at Adlerian Summer School and I just fell in love with my trainer and I told him that I don’t know what you do and what you train in – but whatever you do, I would like to follow you. So that was the beginning of my journey into coaching.
Actually, it started to sit well with me because this is something I really enjoyed Not to guide people or teach people, but rather to learn through collaborative and catastrophic conversations. As well. it is kind of mutual learning because the clients learn along and they grow and they achieve nice results and they become successful but I always learn from my clients as well.
Robyn Logan: And how long ago was that?
Leda Turai: I think it was around the end of either 2007 or 2008. My daughter was still little and I had to commute to another country.
Robyn Logan: I always like asking that question because I think the coaching industry has changed so much over the last ten to twenty years that placing your introduction to coaching in a particular time is interesting. Like in 2007, coaching was in a particular stage of evolvement. do you agree?
Leda Turai: Yes, this is one of the biggest differences between the emerging markets and the developed countries because when you look at the survey (which we will be taking about) what we see is that a big big percentage of the coaches in the developed markets have more than ten years’ experience, this is around 30% of the coaches. While this number in the emerging markets is much smaller, so we could see the majority of the coaches in this market have around five years’ experience.
Robyn Logan: Yes. At that time, was that in the Lithuania? Where was that you came across this guy that you admired?
Leda Turai: I lived in Lithuania but I went to Ireland. It was a neutral territory for both of us.
Robyn Logan: Yeah. And do you remember at the time, what was it that he did that you thought “that is amazing”.
Leda Turai: Yeah, his approach to training, it was very coaching-like. And I really enjoyed the discoveries, the experimental and experiential learning. It was just a great way to understand more about the Adlerian psychology which I was trained in and I already had the certificate. So it helped me to integrate my own experience with the theoretical background and some of the practical background they had.
Robyn Logan: Yeah. Did you come from a psychological background before that?
Leda Turai: That was part of my journey. Actually, my first MA is in linguistics. I speak a few languages and I was very much interested in how we learn, what happens, how language influences our thinking, what is the logic, the inner logic, of a language, what are some differences in our mentalities when we speak different languages. I have trilingual children. So my thesis actually was about something I think is called simultaneous bilingual development. And it was very interesting.
Robyn Logan: That is so interesting. I have a background in ESL and Adult Literacy so. we could go on the whole Segway here. I am just going to ask you one question in that path and then I will bring us back. First of all, very humble of you to say you speak a few languages. Because I think you speak about five languages. Is that correct?
Leda Turai: Yes.
Robyn Logan: Yes, that’s not bad. I am interested because at ICA, we have a Chinese program fully culturally, translated Chinese program and one of the things that we did before we began is that we went over there and we did some research on the concept of coaching and we looked at the language used to find out if it is the same globally. We set up a committee – we looked at Taiwanese Chinese, Mainland Chinese, Malaysian Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese… so there’s quite a lot of different languages going on even in that group. And we discovered things for example like there is no word for acknowledgement in Chinese. And acknowledgement is such a critical word in coaching. So I’m just wondering that have you discovered that as well that the language does actually influence the style of coaching in a different culture?
Leda Turai: Yes, absolutely. I believe in that. And that’s why our ICF assessors are trained in biases. So when they come to the course, we ask them about what kind of cognitive and emotional biases do they have. And usually these are international group, so we can have very interesting conversations about what is possible or what is allowed in a certain language or culture, because otherwise it would be quite easy to misinterpret the use of a certain competencies. So just an example, in some cultures, you can’t really ask open-ended questions directly because that would be quite rude. So you would need to go around and make it a little bit more closed, like ‘is it possible’ or ‘would it be okay to ask this question’ and if you are not trained in cross-cultural sensitivities then you might think that the coach is not able to ask powerful questions. So it’s very important to know about these differences and I am sure there are a lot of differences around how the language influences the coaching culture.
So just an example, in some cultures, you can’t really ask open-ended questions directly because that would be quite rude.
And by the way, that was one of the reasons that we reviewed our code of ethics, because also in its language and in its approach the inner code of ethics that did not fit into all cultures.
Robyn Logan: Very interesting. Amazing. We could go further in that direction for sure. Because I notice also that cross-cultural competencies have been a development of the ICF over the last few years which is great to see.
But let’s fast forward to you now being the chair of the ICF Global Board, and I want to ask you this – I imagine that the role would be quite demanding. And for me, when I take anything like that, I always have to make sure that it’s something I am passionate about and I can see the return on the investment of my time. So I am just wondering what was your motivation? Did you accept that role (apart from the fact that it is a great honor), but is it because you have a commitment to certification or you were really attracted to where the ICF was heading at the moment? Was there a particular thing?
Leda Turai: I think it was kind of natural journey for me because when I came back from my coaching training, I established the ICF chapter in Lithuania together with some of my colleagues at that time. From the beginning, I was involved so somehow coaching in ICF where inseparable for me. And then later on I became involved at the European level. I became the co-leader of the coordination team. Then I co-led the Pan Ethics Forum in Europe. So it was always like it was kind of and organic part of my coaching journey. And I think I was just encouraged to apply for the board. I did not have the aspiration to become a Chair or a Board member, but when I got the feedback that there was something I bring and it would be valuable for those people, then I had the courage to do that. And actually, there were some major changes before that, because I am sure you that you know that for a while we had the President, and I wouldn’t have applied most probably for that position. But being The Chair, it means that I’m working with my team. And we are sharing the leadership. So it’s a team leadership and it’s about my role is how do I facilitate the best thinking, the deeper thinking and deepest conversations in that room.
So it’s a team leadership and it’s about my role is how do I facilitate the best thinking, the deeper thinking and deepest conversations in that room.
And I do think that I have some abilities and some passion in that direction, so I really enjoy it and I really enjoy seeing my team going into much deeper, much more provocative conversations, and I really enjoy seeing them noticing personal biases, putting them aside and thinking strategically and globally.
Robyn Logan: That’s an amazing skill, isn’t it? Just back to the point of the President to the Chair, I missed that actually. I am looking it now. I can see yeah you are right. Now it’s Chair and Vice Chair and I made it pass so once again, I guess it brings us back to language to the power of language. How do you see President is being different? Do you think it’s more autocratic? What was the thinking?
Leda Turai: At that time, I think my definition of the President was that it has to be very charismatic personality or its giving a lot of speeches, meets the membership/members a lot. Although, I really like meeting the members this is something which is the currency, and they return on investment in this position. But I like to work with a smaller team rather than be all the time in the spotlight and giving speeches. And maybe this is a wrong understanding of that time but that was my personal logic which actually encouraged me to really apply and enjoy working with a few people. The number of the board members was decreased. Earlier we had I think 16 members and now we have up to nine. And that made all the difference because we are working on using the principles high performing teams.
Robyn Logan: Yes, I think that is a really great shift. Maybe they should do that in the United States. Get rid of the concept of the president and just bring in The Chair of the United States.
Leda Turai: Another long topic ha-ha.
Robyn Logan: It would be. Okay, great. Let’s dive into to the survey. First of all, can I just say it’s fantastic that the ICF does this survey regularly and that you work with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to do it. It’s really good. I noticed a few things, so I’m gonna pour out a couple of things I noticed. Maybe you can tell me the things you observed. But it seems to me that for the first time, this time around; there was a more of a focus on managers and leaders who are using coaching skills, who are not certified coaches. And this is the definitely a growth area that I have observed. I am wondering if you can talk a little bit about that.
Leda Turai: Yes, so we had our first global coaching survey in 2007, also conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers. And that we use a benchmark, so we compare our future studies to that. We started with around 5000 responses in 7 different countries in 2007, and we started to grow from that period. Then in 2011, we had more than 12, 000 responses and more than 4000 were from non ICF members. But we didn’t have the category of managers and leaders using coaching skills, so usually, the first question in the survey was “Are you a professional coach or not?” And if you said “I am not”, then you actually didn’t have the eligibility to participate in the survey. So, seeing actually the growth in the organizational coaching, and I am sure you know that we do also some research in this area every year with Human Capital Institute and we have already two studies on the website, so we have seen that there was a big growth in that direction, and internal coaching is becoming also more and more popular. And we got curious about what is happening in that area.
And a big value of this survey is that actually 38% of the respondents were non ICF members. So it is not an ICF population research, but an industry research.
So the new future of this survey is that actually we had a whole coach continuum, which means that we had in the beginning the question “are you a professional coach or not”. And if you say “yes”, then you can choose from the categories, “I am an internal coach”, “I am an external coach”, “I am doing both”, and “I was a coach but I am not a coach any more actively”. And if you chose “I am not a professional coach” alternative, then you can further choose from “I am an HR person using coaching skills”, “I am a manager using coaching skills”, or “none of the above”. And only by choosing “none of the above”, were disqualified from the survey. And it’s pretty amazing that we managed to reach more than 15,000 coaches, leaders and managers answering the questionnaire. And we reached 137 countries, which is the biggest number ever. And a big value of this survey is that actually 38% of the respondents were non ICF members. So it is not an ICF population research, but an industry research. And 16% are managers and leaders, which is a serious more number but keeping in mind that this is our first time we reach them. I think it is quite impressive already. And having more than around 2,500 responses from them gave us some kind of picture.
Robyn Logan: And what was the most interesting finding from those leaders and managers who are using coaching?
Leda Turai: For me, the most interesting finding was that actually many of them participated in the coaching training, which was accredited. I think more than 70% of them have had coaching training experience and around 20% of them actually have credential or a certification. And also, when we look into the hours of training they had, it was more than 60. And even a lot of managers participated in 125 or even more than 200 hours of training. That was really amazing that in the organization, coaching was moving to a more professional level. So it’s not any more like as you said in 2007, that in some countries managers had two days training and no experience as a client in the coaching and they went back and tried to apply the coaching in their daily work. So now we see that they get a quite profound training in coaching.
Robyn Logan: And do you happen to know where they find the people to do the survey? I am just wondering whether the bar is quite high that they would be certified because I know a lot of leaders and managers are not certified. I am wondering whether there might be one of the reasons for that number is that the people who were attracted to fill out the survey knew about the ICF and were more likely to be certified.
Leda Turai: Well, yes. Actually, we contacted the ICF members and they got the generic link to create a snowball effect and they were asked to actually distribute that link, then we approach chapters with the same request. And we also use our strategic partners like Human Capital Institute(HCI), Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). PricewaterhouseCoopers also sent the link to their clients. So in this first survey for managers, we most probably reached the certified coach category, but it’s an interesting number and you are right that we still have to do a lot of work in this area, and we need to talk about the value of being a trained coach before you apply it.