Pragmatic advice for coaches, managers & leaders

What might the ICF Global Coaching Study 2012 tell us? (Part the First)

I am not a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and I am not using this series of 3 posts to promote them (or PWC with whom they completed the study) but I would like to say that any research that can achieve valid responses from over 12,000 coaches, didn’t come about without a lot of hard work and a fair bit of number crunching. So, if we are to see, as surely we must, the professionalisation of coaching, such studies would appear to be very helpful and therefore I just wanted to say thank you to the ICF and PWC for their work. They kindly also gave me permission to use the data in the Executive Summary on The Executive Coaching Blog.


The three key findings I wanted to share this week and for us to think about the implications of together, concern the following areas:

1.The expansion of the coaching ‘profession’ despite economic turndown

2. Annual global revenue from coaching

3. Changes in the next 12 months

These will be my own views and those expressed in the Executive Summary, which I shall reference in order to make it clear who said what, still with me?

Part 1 Expansion of the coaching profession

My first point starts even before we get into the findings of the study, with a brief look at the word “profession”. Defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification” I would still contend that coaching is on a long journey towards being a profession. There are those who work within coaching who may be seen by this definition as a “professional coach” i.e. those that hold a qualification after prolonged training but others who are clearly not. Indeed the Study highlights that coaches themselves consider the biggest obstacle to coaching in the next 12 months “untrained individuals who call themselves coaches” (p.12).

Calm Down!

Before you start shouting at the screen that having a qualification does not guarantee you are a better coach than by not having one, I agree, to some extent. We all know coaches, who have no formal qualification, that get great results. That’s not my point. My point is that if we want to professionalise coaching then we probably need to regulate it through the move towards qualifications (by study or through recorded experience – I don’t care) following prolonged training.

Anyway, back to the study …

The research extrapolates data to arrive at a figure of 41,300 active coaches in the world (p.5.). This number is growing most quickly in “emerging regions”. The highest number of coaches per million of population can be found in Oceania: mostly Australia and New Zealand where there is the highest number of coaches per million.

The growth in coach numbers may have several root causes, including I suggest the global turndown. Made redundant but like people? Want to be self-employed, and have some technical expertise? Become a coach. Although, if you are going to be using your technical skills and knowledge you are, in reality, likely to be mentoring. Not a problem, but the two are related yet different.

Other reasons may include a move away from “classroom-based” training to a more personal approach. Of course, familiarity with coaching and a growing sense of trust in its efficacy, is also likely to play its part too, which will help you get through the door of organisations more readily than may have been the experience, 5 or 10 years ago.

Define yourself

The US and Western Europe has the largest number of coaches: 15,800 and 17,800 respectively according to the study (p.6).So what? The Executive Summary does not break down coaching into its many families e.g. executive, life, career etc but with that many coaches around, it may be worth you making sure that you have a niche defined in order to help you position yourself as a leader in that particular sector. Define who, where and what you want to focus on and your place in a ‘profession’ with so many generalists, is, if not assured, more likely.

These are just my rambling reflections on a very important piece of research for coaching. What are your thoughts? Add a comment and let’s get some professional dialogue going.

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