Why is Coaching Certification So Important?

Why is coaching certification so important? Because the people coaches serve are important.

We really have no way of knowing the exact number of those who call themselves coaches in an unregulated profession … the low hundreds of thousands? Each training organization have their own alumni numbers. International Coach Federation, International Association of Coaches and Christian Coaches Network have their numbers but still there is no accurate aggregate.

Anyone can call themselves a coach and they do. Anyone can designate someone else to be a coach and they do. Anyone can train a cadre of men and women around their own body of literature or teaching and call them coaches … and they do. Coaches abound.

If we are going to make a distinction between coaching as a clear and standardized profession versus coaching as a general skill set, I think we have some further work to do.

Jennifer Corbin, Master Certified Coach (International Coach Federation) and President of Corporate Coach U where I graduated after I finished Coach U many years ago, recently offered the following bullet points on why certification is so important.

As the coaching profession grows, more potential clients will be looking for credentialed coaches. This includes businesses that want to include coaching to enhance their work environment. Therefore, having the credential can help you to attract more business.

I truly hope Jennifer is correct. In my over 14 years of professional coaching with leaders, executives and professionals, I have only a small handful of times ever been asked what my coaching credentials were. As the general public, both business AND personal, become completely familiar with coaching, they will hopefully start to ask better questions, including, “What credentials do you have and from where?”

I believe that “where” question is critical. The coaching industry has bastardized the concept of having meaningful letters after a person’s name. Coaches tout copious monikers that mean nothing whatsoever to the general public. Coaching ‘schools’ and those of us who, in addition to coaching, are independent trainers, turn out certifications and letters like candy factories.

There is nothing inherently ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ about this practice. It is a way of recognizing achievement for those who have taken training. But I believe this is why International Coach Federation and in the Christian community, Christian Coaches Network, have credibility. They do not train but they do offer broad and meaningful certifications not tied to their own inside training programs.

We do have a new player on the scene that MAY bring some further sense of organization to it all. The Center for Credentialing and Education which, I’m told, many coaches have jumped on board with over the last year, say this of themselves:

Recognized for excellence, the CCE staff is frequently invited to present to other national organizations and participates actively in the committee work of several highly regarded groups. Among these are the Association of Test Publishers (ATP), the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR), and the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA).

While CCE’s initial projects focused on counselling and related professions, its reputation for excellence resulted in requests from organizations representing many other fields. CCE serves clients from a diverse array of professions ranging from medical to interior design.

We’ll see how CCE pans out and whether it ends up having meaningful recognition or only adds to the plethora of initials … and yearly renewal fees. Like many other early adopters, I did obtain their Board Certified Coach, BCC recognition. As I say, we’ll see how meaningful it turns out to be in the mind of the public.

Jennifer further said,

Working toward certification insures that you become proficient in the core competencies. 

Jennifer Corbin is referring here to International Coach Federation core competencies. I have been around long enough to remember ICF as a fledgling organization and of having been in on the development of these competencies that we thought a truly professional coach should be characterized by.

I think as coaches, we were well served a little later by CoachVille proficiencies, but they don’t get as much air time as the ICF competencies. As an historical note, Thomas Leonard, the granddaddy of modern coaching, was a prime force behind the creation of both ICF and CoachVille. I believe anyone in coaching really would do well to be familiar with both competencies and proficiencies.

But Jennifer’s point stands. You work diligently toward obtaining a certification and you will of necessity become more proficient in those things which make for a competent coach. That is far superior to the wild west of each person, school or training program, “doing what is right in their own eyes” without a recognized set of standard practices against which to judge the professionalism of individuals plying their services as professional coaches.

This doesn’t mean the credentialing system is perfect, far from it. But at least it is there and working and moving in the right direction as the industry matures.

The last point I’ll pick up on from Jennifer Corbin:

Certified coaches enhance the credibility of our profession.

Any organization that pursues professionalism in the delivery of its services to the public is a good thing. For men and women to be intentional about improving quarter after quarter and year after year in their chosen profession is desirable. For there to be a large ‘governing’ body, even self regulated with integrity, to oversee such professionalism is wise. We can only hope that the majority of those who call themselves coaches will pursue credible, meaningful certification and expertise.

It takes time to amass the many hours of actual coaching time required for credentialing, but to those working on it, I say, “Press on. You’re going to get there. Those of us who have these credentials have and you will too.”

Where credentialing will end up as the coaching industry trends through it’s teen years and on to maturity is up for grabs. It may still be too early to tell. Many players are still getting into the game and trying to shape its future to their advantage. Time will reveal all.

Gary Wood
G.E. Wood and Associates

For the record:

PCC – Professional Certified Coach – International Coach Federation
CMCC – Certified Master Christian Coach – Christian Coaches Network
BCC – Board Certified Coach – Center for Credentialing and Education

Executive Coach, Gary Wood works internationally with leaders, executives and organizations to beat burnout and less stressfully but more effectively move forward significant causes, projects and programs. Gary’s “Clarity Model Training” and book, “52 Solutions for Those Who Need a 25 Hour Day” assists those serious about improving effectiveness and knowing or helping others know, what to do next. Gary’s website is www.gewood.com

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