A year ago a friend of mine commented on my coach training which I was starting in ICA (International Coach Academy), saying:
It seems like everybody is just getting a coaching certificate nowadays. If this continues like that, the world will be full of coaches. And who will be the clients then?
I felt overrun by that comment at that time and could not think of an immediate answer. But her question intrigued me ever since and during my coaching journey I have been thinking about it frequently and looked for answers.
In fact recent reports suggest that coaching is the second fastest growing industry in the world, next only to the IT industry, as international-coaching-news.net states in an online article.
The ICF (International Coach Federation) detects in their market research the same trend. Their Global Coaching Study indicates that
the ICF membership numbers grew from around 11,000 in 2006 to almost 19,000 by the end of 2011.
Comparing their estimation of the number of coaching professionals worldwide in 2008 and in 2012 indicates a growth of this industry of 37% (from 30.000 in 2008 to 47.500 in 2012).
And not only the number of coaches is growing. Also the individual business of coaches is growing. In the 2012 Global Coaching Study 59% of coaches report an increase in the number of clients and 49% of coaches report an increase in the number of sessions. This data is complemented by the view on the coaching business from the consumer perspective. ICF’s Global Consumer Awareness Study shows that awareness for coaching is rising. 58% of participants in the survey are very aware or somewhat aware of the coaching profession. This is an increase of 8 percentage points compared to the 2010 results.
So, my friend was obviously right with her observation one year ago. Now, what does this mean for the coaching business? If this trend continues, will everybody be a coach and therewith coaching becomes redundant? I answer with a strong “No!” Coaching will never be redundant. Even if everybody in the world gets trained in coaching we will continue doing our business. And this is my explanation:
First of all, just as a therapist cannot treat himself, it is more difficult for a coach to coach himself than others. The benefit of coaching is that someone is our objective mirror that reflects back to us our own words and deeds. To obtain this outward perspective on us is very difficult if not in some cases impossible. Therefore, being a coach does not mean we are not looking for coaching services ourselves. Being a coach may even enhance the procurement for coaching. Why? Because we know by our experience how powerful it is.
What coaches know based on their experience is confirmed by hard data. In a meta-analysis on the effects of coaching Tim Theeboom et al. found that coaching has significant positive effects on performance and skills, well-being, coping, work attitudes, and goal-directed self-regulation. Forbes online cites another research by Price Waterhouse Coopers which
concluded that the mean ROI for companies investing in coaching was 7 times the initial investment, with over a quarter reporting an ROI of 10 to 49 times.
The effectiveness of coaching is proven and therefore not dispensable as a success factor for companies.
Second of all, the more coaches we have, the better the purpose of coaching will be understood and the more it will be recognized as a service of interest for whoever wants to develop personally. As I see it, people need to experience the power of coaching to understand its effectiveness. The very same friend that brought me to write this article said back then:
I can accept that coaching may be helpful for some people but I don’t see its use for myself in the phase of my life where I am right now.
Half a year later she did some coaching sessions with a friend of ours concerning her career planning. And afterwards she had to admit:
I did not imagine how powerful it is. It really works. I had so many insights and I came out of it much more secure about me and my future.
It is just another confirmation for what Industry Week said:
The benefits of coaching appear to win over even the most cynical clients within just a few weeks.
Now, if you are working like me in business coaching, imagine that your HR clients also received coach training. Wouldn’t that enhance the chance for them to buy our services? As they understand what coaching can do for an executive or middle manager, they will be much better prepared to sell the service inside the company and convince the target group. Especially for a target group of age 55 or older, which is exactly the age range for executive coaching, having an internal ally to sell coaching may be helpful. As the ICF consumer survey reports, particularly the cohort of 55+ is unaware of coaching and the ones that are aware indicate that they are
at a time in life where coaching is not important.
There is clearly a lack of information going on. And one missing piece in the information may be the understanding of what coaching is and what it is good for:
Those aged 55+ were more likely to mention structured work plans and focused concentration compared to all other age groups. The 55+ age group would appear to give more emphasis to a process-oriented view on coaching
and perceive it less as a methodology that generates results. Having an ally in the HR department of the company that can describe reliably the purpose and benefits of coaching, may contribute to enhancing our business opportunities. Also a HR responsible with coach training will be better prepared to choose from the broad offer in the market those coaches that will serve their people best. Having experienced coaching themselves with different coaches, they get a deeper understanding how different approaches lead to different outcomes. They have experienced themselves how powerful coaching can be and that is good for professional coaches.
What makes coaching so powerful? The flexible approach. Coaching gives to everyone what they are looking for. Based on the principle that the client has all the resources to find the solution within himself, each coaching journey is unique and takes on the dynamics, learning, and direction that the client chooses. Interestingly this is reflected in the Consumer Awareness Study conducted by ICF, referred to above.
Male respondents (38%) were more likely than females (27%) to identify business or career development as a reason for participating in a coaching relationship. Females were more likely to highlight defining their own strengths and weaknesses (50%) when compared with males (43%).
Also women seek out coaching more to enhance Self-esteem, while men procure professional development. So, whatever our client seeks in coaching, he or she will find it, because they choose what to work on. This is what makes coaching so powerful: It responds to the very individual need of each client.
Third of all, having more coaches certified will further enhance the quality of our business in several ways. Not only by the simple fact that more people who claim to exercise coaching are getting trained with the right tools, but also because the coach training offer will enhance. There will be more diversification among the coach training institutes, from lower to higher-level programs. For example, as just happened last year Georgetown University was the first University to include Coaching Programs in their curriculum. With growing numbers on coach professionals, the higher competition in the market will require more and better coach training for those who want to distinguish themselves from the mass. This means more investment in personal coach training and the search for higher quality coach training institutes for the ones that take their job serious. For the rest, who seek out coach training more for their personal interest with less focus on high-level training, it means that they become qualified buyers, such as for example our HR clients referred to above.
Finally, coaching fulfils the basic need for recognition that we all have. We all want to be respected for what we know. We all want to be recognized as a competent person. We all want to feel that we are able to manage our own life. Interestingly, although we all share these needs, nobody is responding to them. Of course, I am speaking here in very generic terms (all of us and nobody), but let’s just consider this a broad tendency in human beings.
As a broad tendency in human beings I observe that people prefer to be asked for their opinion instead of being told what to do. Ask yourself how you feel, when someone is giving you advice without you having asked for it! Do you get angry? Do you feel like the person is putting themselves above you? Do you feel put under disability? If you feel so, why should anybody else feel different? So, if people prefer to be asked and respected for their opinion, decision, choices, why are so many people telling them what to do, giving their advice and criticizing the choices of others?
As broad tendency in human beings I observe that people prefer to be listened to instead of receiving a lot of information they did not ask for. Ask yourself how you feel, when someone is just talking instead of listening to you! Do you feel like being of little interest? Do you feel devaluated? Do you feel the other person thinks themselves to be more important? If you feel so, why should anybody else feel different? So, if people prefer to be listened to, why is nobody listening but talking?
Now coming back to the final reason why coaching will not become redundant even if everybody will be trained in coaching: I actually think that everybody in the world should get training in coaching. Because it would make our social interaction much more efficient, respectful and successful. Follow me on this thought:
The basic premise in coaching is based on the principles of adult learning theory:
Adults are autonomous and self-directed. As adults have accumulated a foundation of life experience and knowledge they need to connect learning to this knowledge and experience base.
The coach responds to these basic needs with two main activities: asking and listening.
Coaching is so successful, well accepted and gratifying because the coachee sees their basic needs satisfied in each session: He is asked about his life and listened to. Something that non-coaches tend not to do. In the daily interaction with others, people forget that the people they are dealing with are the same adults that appreciate the application of the same principles that they appreciate
being autonomous and self-directed.
Instead of respecting their needs, in daily interactions they all too often go for the opposite behaviour: talking and advising.
Sadly funny thing is that we all are living in society with social interactions being a necessary and central part of our lives. We are living in a context where fulfilling the basic needs of being asked and listened to is valid for everybody. Yet, only few people seem to give this to others. In my opinion this leads to a deprivation that most people sense in their life—the deprivation of attention, respect, consideration. Something that is easily transmitted by applying two basic coaching tools: asking powerful questions and listening actively. Most people, who are not in a coaching relationship, will not get these basics from the people that surround them. Our society does not educate us for these skills. Our society educates us for showing-off, defending our viewpoints, competing, being better. This is incompatible with the humble positioning that coaches take on naturally.
So to give finally an answer to my friend’s question of one year ago, I can say that I am convinced that there is no such risk as having too many coaches in this world. Actually it is desirable that everybody in the world gets coach training, so that we can fulfil each others needs in our daily interaction.
 2012 ICF Global Coaching Study – Executive Summary
 2008 ICF Global Coaching Study – Executive Summary
 2014 ICF Global Consumer Awareness Study – Executive Summary
 Tim Theeboom, Bianca Beersma, Annelies E.M. van Vianen, University of Amsterdam (2013). The Journal of Positive Psychology.
 2011, Executive coaching - another set of clothes for the Emperor?
 Georgetown University: http://scs.georgetown.edu/