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The Coaching “Business” Conundrum

SparkAlways interesting to read about the many different flavours of business, executive or career coaching psychology on LinkedIn and the web. Coaching, of course, is fast becoming an ever increasingly popular tool for supporting personal & professional development. With a raft of 2-week life-coaching & business mentoring courses through to MSc qualifications in coaching psychology, there is a wide range of views and opinions of what coaching & coaching psychology is. And more importantly how effective the process it really is? There are so many regulatory bodies espousing their own accreditation, none seem to share the philosophy or common models of regulating coaches or their training. Yet another layer of confusion. How on earth do clients choose a coach that has the expertise, a moral and ethical compass, have up to date working knowledge of the models to coach people effectively and more importantly safely?

So with all that in mind let’s have a look at some trends & evidence for coaching. Interestingly, just over six out of ten respondents in the CIPD Learning and development survey reported that they now use coaching in their organisations. Of these just over 50% say that their organisation see coaching as a ‘permanent style’ and desirable form of management. Moreover, 73% of respondents expect to see coaching by line managers increase in the next few years. So is this trend the latest management fad or something for business to build on to help manage people at work in the 21st century?

The Business of Coaching

Coaching & coaching psychology is still a relatively new discipline and there may be a lack of understanding of how best to use coaching or coaching psychology models. Moreover, in what situations will coaching be most effective. There is some confusion about what exactly coaching is, and how it differs from other services such as some forms of training, counselling and or mentoring. There also seems to be a cultural difference that suggests being a coach is just a revenue stream or seeing the client as a commodity. The coach, whatever their model they subscribe to, has huge responsibilities to the client in terms of their well-being and a duty of care. It’s not clear that the commodity coach is mindful of this when engaging their prospective client.

Moreover, monetising coaching can perhaps remove the human element of the coaching relationship for the coach. This has been shown to be one of the most important aspects of coach & coachee interactions, highlighted in recent the research. Whatever is felt about the commodity coach, being a coaching psychologist is endeavouring to be a psychologically evidenced-based process of identifying an individual’s hopes, talents and goals, whilst helping them to find the confidence and skills to achieve their aims. Whilst complying with an ethical framework and working to a strict moral and legal code of conduct.

Coaching Psychology

Coaching psychologist can be trainers, experts in their field. Most are members of organisations such as the British Psychological Society Special Group of Coaching Psychology, International Society of Coaching Psychologists and the Association of Business Psychology. As a result, providing an ethical framework and legitimacy to their work. Needless to say, coaching psychologists are there to help discover what you want and to develop your potential. Rather than imposing a set of beliefs, obtuse value systems or a course of action upon you, a coach will work cooperatively to help you make the decisions to change your life.

Typically, the process of coaching psychology involves:

  • Identifying what your goals are and turning these goals into concrete objectives
  • Help create a self-image that could achieve these objectives.
  • Forming a structured plan to realise the goals.
  • Building a support framework
  • Executing the plan and looking at the feedback loops
  • Monitoring and celebrating success

The Big Question?

Though the $64m question is does coaching work? Research into coaching psychology is lagging behind the meteoric growth in the industry. Interesting research from Jonathan Passmore et al into coaching and learning is beginning to provide the evidence to support the claims from coaching psychology. However, the “coaching industry” is littered with self-help guru’s espousing a philosophy to change your life in 30 minutes by being more positive. Though without meaningful research how do we know that it works or are you just wasting your hard-earned cash? It is notoriously difficult to measure the subjective experience of individual change through coaching without providing meaningful benchmarking data before the intervention and then afterwards. However, sometimes easier to measure the harder outcomes in business – for example, increased sales or enhanced interpersonal skills etc.

More and more business leaders and managers want to coach people at work, to help them perform better and to feel engaged at work. Coaching as with most things at work is primarily an interpersonal and communication skill that can be learnt. However, having run a number of organisational coaching courses, sometimes those skills can require a lot of hard work to ensure that they become integrated into everyday conversations between staff members and line-managers. Hence the need for continued one-to-one coaching for the learner to cement the key skills and abilities necessary to coach people at work. Listening and reflecting on the coachees thoughts and lived narrative experience can be taught and implemented with care. Though “care” being the operative word; when coaching becomes counselling, the manager may not have the skills or ethical guidelines necessary to manage the ensuing fallout.


So coaching and coaching psychology have a long way to go to support many of the claims made about the effectiveness of the intervention. The relationship is vital for the coaching process to work, you both have to “fit” to ensure motivation is maintained and respect to grow. However, with care appointing your coach or coach trainer and asking them about their credentials and experience you will find a coach that can help you reach your goals. Therefore supporting both personal and organisational goals and objectives with success criteria & data for a return on investment to perhaps prove its worth.