So you want to be a coach?

Written by
Changeboard Team

12 Aug 2014

12 Aug 2014 • by Changeboard Team

Training budgets decreasing?

Although the papers are full of doom about pending redundancies, there's still a perception that the unemployment rate for professionals and executives will be lower than for the average worker. However, recent statistics from the US (Bureau of Labor Statistics) reveal that the most vulnerable people in the workforce are managers in their late 40s and early 50s who are considered to be more expensive and less flexible than younger employees.  

At the same time, it appears that in the Western World at least, this recession is unlike any before in that there is unlikely to be a return to  business as usual.  The trend of achieving more with less and outsourcing will not be reversed and the chances of re-entering the employment market once you have been laid off are looking bleak.

Organisations are increasingly reconsidering how best to make use of often drastically reduced training budgets. The CIPD predicts that two fifths of organisations will reduce their training budgets this year and the CMI found that only 29% of managers feel that they have a good level of training to deal with change and maintaining staff morale. This comes at a time when, according to a CMI survey, managers are worried about meeting their business goals because of skill shortage (58%), poor staff morale (45%) and lack of leadership (44%).

Turn to coaching

In addition, around 60% of managers do not feel qualified for the challenges the future holds, even though there is ample evidence that management performance directly relates to profitability and organisational performance.  

Given these figures, we can see that it's absolutely crucial for companies to invest in the best possible form of development for both their staff and their managers. Ruth Spellman, Chief Executive of the CMI puts it like this: “The quality of our managers will be vital to building the success of this country’s economy, and professional, qualified managers will be crucial if organisations are to survive the tough times and succeed next year. With almost half of UK managers expecting further redundancies in 2011, the case for continuing to invest in management training has never been stronger. Business leaders will need to be actively looking for alternative ways to continue to develop the skills of their staff, despite restricted budgets.”

Coaching has a key role to play and there is evidence that suggests it is becoming more noticed as a highly beneficial way to help employee development. A recent survey published by HDA found that “97% of organisations believe that executive coaching impacts positively on business performance”. The ILM’s research shows that “ 80% of companies use coaching as a staff development tool”.  The ILM’s chief executive goes so far as to say: “Coaching is the single most cost-effective development investment an organisation can make … .”

And yet, despite the knowledge that coaching is one of the most effective forms of development an organisation can implement, and despite the fact that it is clear that it is organisation’s middle managers that make or break the success of its strategic goals, coaching is only available to those at the top “with 85% of companies coaching senior managers and directors, compared to just 52% providing coaching for non-management staff” (ILM research).

What do I need to be a coach?

This all presents a very real opportunity for coaches now and in the future.  Most organisations use a mix of internal and external coaches which makes it an attractive career option for those wishing to to be employed or willing to go solo. 

If you aim to become an internal coach, you will find that your coach training supports many leadership skills and abilities such as setting a clear direction, giving feedback, engaging people, building lasting relationships and trust, eliciting lasting change through who you are as a coach.  Equally, instilling a coaching culture in your organisation opens up the space for innovation and creativity as well as the ability for senior management to be free to concentrate on strategic issues – vitally important for businesses in the future.

If you would like to work as an external coach, this gives you the ability to design your work life and align your values to your work more than is usually possible in employment.  Coaching does not require great overheads – you can work with just a website and a phone.

And, if you are in your late 40s or 50s you will bring a wealth of experience of both work and life to the table giving you credibility to work with people at all levels and ages. A survey conducted by the University of Ontario, Canada on coaching style found that nearly 70% of its respondents were over the age of 45. While I’m not advocating that someone needs to reach a certain age to be an effective coach, it appears that people consider this career path later in their working lives, when they have experienced the doing the doing, reflected on their path and are ready to work on enabling others to increase their effectiveness as opposed to working for their own glory.

Choosing the right qualification

While it's simple to set up as a coach, it's not easy. You will have to make it happen for yourself and certain criteria, such as a relevant qualification are important.

As the coaching profession is largely unregulated, it is more and more relevant for aspiring career coaches to be able to show that they have the competence to coach and, often, purchasing departments see a recognised qualification as a prerequisite for working with their organisation as a coach.  

Equally, organisations value that you have invested both time and money in your own development, showing commitment and passion for your new career direction.  

There is a plethora of programmes and investing time to find the best fit for you is important.  There is no ‘one size fits all’ and when choosing a qualification programme, pay attention to:

  • Is the qualification recognised by a well known University or professional body?
  • Does the qualification offer a curriculum with a wide spectrum of topics?
  • Is there a substantial practical element to the qualification?
  • Does the qualification offer a supervisory element?
  • Who else studies on the programme? – a good learning community is very enriching
  • Are your values and the provider’s values in sync?
  • What makes that particular programme unique?

Roffey Park has produced a free guide on coaching which is available to download from its website. Its new Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching, validated by University of Sussex, begins in the Autumn. For more information visit