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Barriers to Entry

7 people standing in a row facing forward, reacting with their hands and arms to say "no"

Reflections on what it means to be a Coach

"I coach people."


You coach people, do you? Tell me more…

I was sitting across the table from someone I was meeting for the first time, doing my utmost not to roll my eyes. I was being very judgmental - fortunately, I wasn't coaching - and it has been intolerably hot in London, so I can be forgiven for being more irritable than usual.

There are no barriers to entry to being a coach.

But one coaching course doesn't a coach create.

A coaching brain costs money to maintain. There are training courses, seminars, reading books, listening to podcasts, gaining certifications and accreditation, cost of memberships, attending conferences and last but certainly not least, coach supervision which all cost money.

The nascent coaching profession is working frantically to introduce barriers to entry. And in fact, one of the conditions for something to be called a profession is barriers to entry. Hence multiple membership bodies appear and introduce membership, accreditation, and then varying levels of accreditation to differentiate a novice from a master.

Anyway, I got distracted. This brings me to one of my coaching goals for 2023, to upgrade my coaching accreditation. Doing so is a substantial exercise that would test all but the most dedicated… ummm… coaches, which includes:

  1. Coach Training and Continued Professional Development.

  2. Coaching Experience log.

  3. Personal Coaching Approach.

  4. Coaching Case Study.

  5. Coaching Standards and Ethics Q&A.

  6. Coaching Audio Recording, Transcript, and Critical Reflection.

  7. Client References.

  8. Coaching Supervisor Report and Reference.

I guess that makes it one of the barriers to entry into the aspiring profession. Most people won't meet the requirements. And then, of those that do, many would give up as it is a challenging undertaking. The good news for those who persevere is that several elements provide valuable insights and learning. In particular, I found writing a 1,500-word essay to describe my personal coaching approach particularly valuable. So I want to share an extract with you so you can better understand me as a coach:

Definition and Purpose

I share Rosinski's (2003) view of coaching "...the art of facilitating the unleashing of people's potential to reach meaningful, important objectives." This definition aligns with my prior career in global finance, where the importance of continuous learning to create change and develop new skills was essential.

This viewpoint provides the core focus of my coaching - coaching is about creating change, action and accountability - which I deem essential for executives to thrive when facing the challenges and opportunities ahead of them. I view my work with clients as a partnership, creating a comfortable and supportive environment to turn conversations about possibilities and strategies into tangible action.

Clients are responsible for their learning and development. I can help them find solutions in a supportive but appropriately challenging and structured setting. Done well, my coaching aims to:

  • Help to create awareness and insight.

  • Clarify what needs to change and the development required to achieve the desired outcomes.

  • Review the challenges, obstacles or the nature of the opportunities in detail.

  • Enhance people's ability to make better decisions.

  • Create new ideas, alternative solutions, and hypotheses to explore and experiment with.

Values and Beliefs

My values and ethics mean I work with integrity, openness and honesty. I work to provide my complete focus to each session. As such, I limit how many clients I work with and avoid back-to-back coaching to protect time to prepare for upcoming sessions and reflect after every coaching session. I view process as being important in helping my clients. The quote by Elizabeth King, "It is only process that saves us from the poverty of our intentions", informs my coaching and is something I share with prospective clients when educating them on the structure of my coaching engagements.

I agree with The Executive Coaching Forum Handbook (2015). That the practice of executive coaching demands a broad and deep array of knowledge and that competent coaches possess four core competencies:

  • Psychological knowledge

  • Business acumen

  • Organisational knowledge

  • Coaching knowledge

I bring a range of experience across these competencies, having worked at senior executive levels in New York and London as a Chief Operating Officer. My CPD is helping me to develop my coaching and psychological knowledge, which I will continue growing in the coming years. I write extensively on leadership and coaching, shared via a blog, LinkedIn, and newsletter. I view writing as a process by which we improve our thinking and learning - writing is the process that helps me to figure things out.

Coaching Style

My non-directive coaching sessions are a mixture of consultation, exploration, challenge, discussion, support, experimentation and mentoring. Although flexible and far-reaching, the sessions are situational and intentional. There are business challenges and career and personal development agendas to satisfy.

The Heron Model of coaching behaviours informs my approach, from "push" to "pull" and from challenging to supporting. My coaching style utilises stories and insights from a successful, eventful, and yet humbling corporate career. My approach leverages this track record to push and appropriately challenge my clients when it is in their best interest. During a coaching engagement, unpredictable challenges and opportunities may arise, which may help or hinder the client's development. I believe using both "push" and "pull" approaches depending on the situation is a valuable skill.

In addition, Personal Construct Coaching (PCC), based on George Kelly's theory, informs my approach. PCC helps clients understand and adjust their personal constructs - mental models influencing thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Used in my coaching, it aids my clients in exploring these constructs, to enhance decision-making, relationships, and personal growth. Experimentation is key in PCC, reflecting the theory's principle that people are natural scientists, regularly testing and revising constructs. My coaching fosters client experiments with new perspectives and behaviours, facilitating the discovery of more effective thinking, acting, and feeling patterns. This includes behavioural experiments and cognitive exploration of different scenarios. Such experimentation improves clients' adaptability, well-being, and workplace success.

It's all too easy to run through life without reflecting. But as leaders, we owe it to ourselves, our teams and clients to pause, reevaluate, and move forward intentionally.

🏋️ Challenge: Let's reflect!

This time is about permitting you to take a step back. To pause and to reflect.

What questions do you want to ask but have yet to find the time to tackle?

If you need inspiration, then check out:


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