Formal Coach Training: Essential or Not?

by Pamela on November 9, 2013

Do You Choose Your Business Coach Based on Their Training?

In the coaching world, there’s a big debate about whether formal coach training is essential. Unfortunately, coaching remains an unregulated field. Anyone can call themselves a life or business coach. When I first wrote this post in 2009, I was on the fence as to whether or not certification was essential. Four years later, I can say, unequivocally, that I believe training and certification are essential if you are going to call yourself a coach.

There is a difference between coaching and consulting. A consultant is typically hired for their expertise in a particular field and will provide or suggest solutions and processes for the client that are measurable and quantifiable. Consultants tend to give answers, while coaching is based on listening and asking the right questions so the client can come to the solutions themselves.

This past summer, a friend invited me to take a contract job coaching people through what was supposed to be an eight week course on a particular sales technique. By purchasing the course, each person had the use of a proprietary tool to gather data that can assess a company’s Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign (this has to do with internet marketing). The tool was really quite remarkable in that it shows strengths and weaknesses in a company’s PPC campaign thus allowing very specific tweaks to be made. Those tweaks should result in the company making more money. The student looks like a hero and he or she makes more money. The dudes who are running the course look like even bigger heroes and they sell more courses and people pay them to continue using the tool. Win-win-win.

I was basically supposed to provide accountability coaching. I took the course along with my clients/students and learned that the process of presenting the data wasn’t difficult at all. I had no idea how to make the tool work and, in theory, I didn’t have to know. However, a lot of the students didn’t get it either and they needed hand holding that I couldn’t provide.

Many of the other “coaches” (I am not using the quotes in a pejorative manner) had no formal coach training. Unlike me, they had run PPC campaigns before and they understood how it worked. That technical knowledge put them into more of a consultant role, which was ultimately what most of the students in this particular course needed- an expert to tell them what to do or lead them in the right direction. They needed a consultant.

That was a struggle for me. Not only was I trained not to give the solution, but I honestly didn’t KNOW the answers to some of their questions. I didn’t think it was fair to provide coaching to people who needed a consultant, so I wrapped up with some of them and turned others over to the capable hands of my colleagues, who I would dub as “consultants” (excellent ones, at that!).

I believe that you need to be educated on the core principals of coaching if you are going to call yourself a coach. The funny thing about the debate is that it’s mostly among coaches- not among those who would hire one.

Some clients look for that credential when hiring a coach and some just don’t care about it. Most of my clients do ask about my qualifications and I’m proud to say I went through a training program that’s accredited by the International Coach Federation. Does the fact that I’m a certified coach sway their decision to hire me? Most of my clients say that the answer is ‘no.’

This fact used to discourage me. Did I ‘waste’ all those hours of training if no one cares whether I’m certified or not?

I decided to ask a few clients what made them decide to hire me! Most of them said that in our initial conversation, I listened carefully to their challenges and asked some thought provoking questions. They’ve also said that I was very intuitive and the chemistry was right. One client told me that she got the sense that I was aware of her emotions as the conversation unfolded.

Chemistry, intuition, deep level listening, and the right, open-ended questions are really key to the success of the coaching relationship. You can’t learn chemistry. You either have it with someone or you don’t. I’ve always been intuitive, and a good listener. Formal training allowed me to further develop those traits into skills that attract and keep clients.

What do you look for when you hire a coach? Is coach training and certification important to you?

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