How to Differentiate Between Business Coach Training Providers

Kate Buller, Director of Coaching at ECC, gives some helpful guidance for those looking to train as an accredited executive coach. In this article, Kate helps you begin to navigate the marketplace and differentiate between the existing coach training suppliers.

Googling business or executive coach training returns a bewildering array of responses. It can be very difficult to compare different marketing messages, the market is largely unregulated, and training provider options have proliferated. You’re likely to be short of time with a busy day job – perhaps you’re thinking of adding coaching to your toolkit, or even considering a future career as a coach. You are probably confused and frustrated, after the most cursory of searches. I’m an executive master coach with more that 25 years’ experience and I’m responsible for recruiting coaches onto our sought-after coach team at ECC. One of our criteria is robust coach training, so I’ve learned a lot over the years about the different standards of suppliers. I’m writing this article as a coach practitioner; I know what corporate buyers of coaches and coaching look for. I’ve written this short article to help you begin to navigate the marketplace and differentiate between suppliers.

Practitioner Led VS Academic Bodies

Consider the differences between practitioner-led programmes and those run by academic bodies. Are you someone who likes to learn by doing, or would you prefer to know lots of theories and things like the historical roots of coaching so that you can write essays about coaching? If it’s the latter, look for a good business school and a post graduate diploma or masters level programme.

The practitioner led market is more complex but it’s the one I know something about.

One of the things I’d recommend is to look for a company that is mainly a coaching business, rather than a coach training business that does some coaching (or none at all). Do they seem to operate in the sort of market that might suit your own corporate experience? Have they been around a while? You want your credentials to be with a credible coaching business who looks like they’re going to stick around.

Some coach training programmes will say ‘certified or certificated’ which on its own is utterly meaningless. You need to look for an Accredited programme. There are three main Professional Associations for coaches that Accredit courses and individuals: ICF, EMCC and Association for Coaching (AC). There are other respectable Accreditations like ILM (level 7) but that’s more generic, less a specific coaching Accreditation.

In addition to the course being to an Accredited standard, you also need your own individual professional Accreditation. Does the programme you’re looking at talk about how you do this? Lots of courses ‘qualify’ you via an Accredited course, but then leave you to sort out your application for individual accreditation. Or worse, charge you additional fees to add this part on. The best practitioner programmes will get you to the application point for professional accreditation.

Real Coaching Practice

Once you’ve checked out the detail of the qualifications and Accreditations, the next important feature is how much real coaching practice is built into the course. Look for programmes that encourage you to start coaching, they’ll talk to you about where you’ll find your coachees and the criteria to use, things like being at arm’s length from any existing relationships, typical of the sort of coachee you see yourself working with in the future. Does the course structure reflect deep understanding of how to make it work alongside a busy day job? The ‘input’ hours of the course need to be interspersed with your coaching practice, so you get more knowledge and skills alongside learning from experience. Avoid courses where you get lots of input up front or in big chunks of several days at a time, and then are left to put whole lot into practice. Coach training is partly a journey of self-discovery, which you get through experience, and this takes time.

Look for individual as well as group supervision, this should be integral to the programme. A lot of learning takes place through reflection on practice with an experienced coach and coach supervisor. You should be encouraged to record sessions and reflect on these 1:1 regularly throughout the programme. The coaching supervisors should not have many supervisees, 1:3 seems a good ratio for a coach who’s also doing lots of coaching as well as supervising you.

Think about the size and quality of the group that you’ll be part of, look for as much diversity as possible but also fellow participants who share your level of corporate and lived experience. Some people thrive in very large groups, but our experience shows that a tight cohort of around 12 seems to be a good size to give you an individual experience and enable the group to be rich enough as a learning cohort.

Once you’ve created a shortlist by looking at websites and published information, ask to speak to one of the coaches who deliver the programme. How interested are they in you and what you’re looking for, do they seem genuinely concerned that you find a programme to suit you? Good providers will suggest that you speak to a recent alumnus so you can hear about the actual experience on the programme. You can ask the alumni about the post programme care and the alumni community.

Bio: I’m Director of Coaching at ECC. My interest in professionalising the coaching industry led me to establish ECC’s Executive Coach Training Programme in 2004. This highly respected programme meets all the demands of the Accredited Coach standard, and was developed in recognition of the need for rigorous, practitioner-led, development and assessment for business coaches. As a coach committed to coaching supervision, I bring this experience and context to the Programme.