Culture driven from the centre: Comparing two coaching bodies by Yvonne Thackray

Stock Photo - Big and small goldfish (c) Rawan Hussein

Stock Photo - Big and small goldfish (c) Rawan Hussein

Coaching culture is a hot topic for professional bodies in 2015, and the majority of the research has been carried out in organisations who have bought into the 'coaching culture', especially where there is - it would seem - a strong internal coaching department. An important and growing trend in the sustainability for coaching overall.

Instead of looking outside and observe how they are managing the coaching culture alongside their companies organisational culture, I thought I'd begin by looking inside coaching and what coaching culture means for professional bodies. How is 'coaching culture' being driven from the centre - wherever that might lie - top down, bottom up, somewhere in between?

As I mentioned in my last blog (Observing the Unobservable), we do not have a clear consensus or agreement of what is 'coaching culture'. The authors refer to descriptions such as the coaching style, the coaching approach, the coaching behaviour and so, and I thought a useful starting point that best represents these descriptions is the accreditation/credentialing process carried out by the professional coaching bodies. After all, if any organisations are going to role model what's coaching culture or coaching cultures that would be the first place to gather such information.

The two professional bodies I'm going to compare[1] are the ICF and APECS, bodies whom I have engaged with since becoming a coach. At the ICF, I was one of the Founding Members and Company Secretary for the Hong Kong chapter that follows a franchise model. At APECS, I am a member of the Accreditation team and project manager for one of the biggest event, the APECS symposium.

I share my top 3 comparisons between the two bodies (open/download table for more details):

       1. Minimum requirements for being labelled a professional coach - where's the starting line?

ICF: To call oneself a professional (certified) coach one needs to have  “a clear demonstration of coaches’ experience as a direct result of coach-specific training approved hours of coaching and emphasize currency of client-coaching hours to ensure that coaches who earn ICF Credentials are currently practicing”.

APECS: To call oneself a professional executive coach, an executive coach needs to demonstrate that executive coaching forms at a minimum: 40% of their practice over five years, at least five years of organisational/executive experience and a Masters degree (or equivalent): “In making an Application to have your expertise recognised you are required to reflect on your Executive Coaching practice. You will be asked to identify specifically how you meet the APECS Professional Standards.” 

2. Credentialing/Accrediting for professional standards based on the coach’s experience (input vs. output) - who's the market

ICF: Focuses on the skills and competencies necessary to be a certified coach (Associate, Professional, Masters) against the 11 core coaching competencies and codes of ethics. Demonstration that a certified coach has met the minimum requirements shall be validated after successfully completing the Coach Knowledge Assessment, and a performance evaluation (audio recording and written transcript) by ICF assessors with little/no feedback from the coach and coachee.

APECS: Based on meeting the minimum requirements in which the market i.e. the clients have validated the coaches practice, the applicants are asked to ‘articulate the detailed rationale, philosophy and pattern of their Practice’ against the 7 pillars framework which includes supervision, CPPD, APECS ethical guidelines, and Professional liability insurance. They share this articulation in their application and during the accreditation dialogue with trained APECS accreditors (APECS peers) who share their views and opinions, and aligned with ISO 17024.

3.  Appreciation of culture and identity - A nod to diversity and inclusivity

ICF: Skills and competencies are considered universal.

APECS: An appreciation of how the executive coach works effectively within different cultures and how it influences their identity as a professional coach is explored in the application form, the accreditation dialogue and CPPD.

Comparison Table: ICF and APECS (Click to open 3 page pdf)

On further reflection, as I compiled this table together it became clearer to me there’s a difference between reading and living in something that encourages quality dialogues. Without a doubt, each professional coaching organisation (of which there are many) has its strengths and limitations and have entered the market that represents different stages of learning and development of the coaching maturation cycle. And so they work along, in my opinion, across a continuum in which they are the current bookends.

To conclude, for now, I believe when most people talk about coaching culture it is a hypothesis of what could possibly happen when coaching (which is to be defined and agreed amongst all the bodies) becomes part of or even embedded as part of organisational life. To date there are insufficient practitioner case studies to validate the realness of this term, however, with the advent and emergence of team coaching and the growing in strength and number of internal coaches, we may begin to understand more of how coaching is really demonstrating its impact, which can be observed and felt as a part of the adoption of that organisation’s culture.

It’s definitely something any association should really commission and carry out some robust studies on what is it for coaches and their organisation.

I leave you with some questions, and always interested in hearing what you think?

  • When does coaching culture mean to you?

  • How do we emphasise the diversity and inclusivity in coaching culture?

  • How do you observe coaching culture?

Please share because as I'm interested in hearing what you think, and what your peers think.

[1] Quick comment on my comparative approach: I've taken the words directly from their website and where appropriate, and based on my experiences, I've added my interpretations /opinions of how it influenced my behaviour, and can be read in detail in the table.