Coaching Blog

The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Coaching Niche

Posted by Julia Stewart

Find Your Niche

One of the biggest hurdles most coaches cross on the way to filling their businesses with  clients, is finding their coaching niche.

Other terms for this include finding your target market, finding your ideal client, or identifying your avatar, persona, or favorite client. These are the people you do your best work with, who you enjoy coaching, who succeed at their goals, and who send their friends to you. Marketing gets easier once you find your niche, but not necessarily for the reason you think.

Some coaches turn "finding my niche" into a massive problem that stops them from succeeding.

That's the real problem. It doesn't have to be that way.

Here's a story:

One of my students asked me to coach him in class. His goal was to find his niche. His problem was that he couldn't get his marketing focused without a niche so he was coaching all kinds of people. I asked a few questions and found out that my student already had more clients than he ever thought he'd have.

So I shared something I learned from Thomas Leonard, the Founder of the Coaching Profession, while I was studying with him. Thomas said you don't need a niche, especially when you're starting out. He said plenty of generic life coaches were doing fine without finding their niche.

I suggested to my student that since he already had plenty of clients, maybe he didn't need a niche. He was immensely relieved and immediately reoriented around serving the clients he already had instead of obsessing over getting a niche.

Even if you have plenty of clients, identifying a marketing niche can be useful, so here are the two main paths to finding one:

1. Pay someone to help you identify your niche. I know a coach who hired a branding expert to help her identify her niche. Together, they found a very specific group of people who had problems the coach was familiar with. In fact, the coach belonged to that group and struggled with the same problems. She found a snappy and memorable domain name, set up a website, and soon had a full coaching practice. But she hated coaching her clients. So she fired them all! She said she got tired of listening to them complain because they didn't want to change their lives. She and her coach made two mistakes: They didn't identify a niche that was ready to change and they didn't realize that she wasn't ready to work with those clients, without judging them, because she was still struggling with the same issues, herself. Not everyone who pays a coach or marketing expert to help them find a niche will find their niche and not everyone who finds one will fire all their clients, but it's not uncommon.

2. Get paid while you find your niche. I know another coach who started coaching without a niche. One of his clients was so successful with his help that they referred several colleagues to him to coach on the same topics. The new clients, were also successful with his help and referred more. He had found his niche! He soon had so many clients that his business grossed over one million dollars per year. Not everyone who finds a niche this way will have a million-dollar coaching business, but it can happen.

You can start coaching without a niche.

If you just start coaching, your niche will find you. Over time, notice who your favorite clients are. Make note about what it is you like about them. In particular, notice the clients who refer more clients to you. Think about who they are, how they are, and how you communicate with them. Design a website just for them. Ask them for testimonials. Ask them to review your site and tell you what they like and don't like. Edit until they love it. That's how to market to your niche. Easy when you know how.

Our Coach 100 Business Success training program is included with the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program and the Certified Neuroscience Coach Program, at no extra charge. It'll help you identify your niche, fill up your coaching practice, get referrals and testimonials, become a better coach, and more.

 

Download the free eBook to learn about Coach 100:

Get Paid to Find Your Niche. Join Coach 100.

 

Topics: coaching business, Coach 100, coaching success, ICF, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, coaching niche, certified neuroscience coach

What's the Difference Between a Professional Coach and an Entrepreneurial Coach?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Professional_vs_Entrepreneurial_Coach.jpg

What's the difference between a professional coach and an entrepreneurial coach and why does it matter?

I recently received a couple of emails from someone on my mailing list who asked questions such as these. He took issue with a lead-nurturing (a type of marketing) email he received from us in which I frankly advise new coaches to get good coach training and reputable coach certification.

The writer identified himself as an entrepreneur, who offers coaching as one of his services, so I answered him in language I thought he would understand:

I said we were very clear who our ideal student is and he probably wouldn't resonate with our messages, since they are targeted at people who want to become professional coaches, rather than entrepreneurial coaches. I wasn't interested in arguing the relative merits of professionals vs. entrepreneurs, so I neglected to add that I have a strong bias toward professional coaches, for whom training and certification are a must, as opposed to entrepreneurial coaches who generally rely their reputations, experience, and instincts, to coach. That, by the way, is why I started a coach training school that certifies coaches.

A coach used to be considered half professional and half entrepreneur, 15-to-20 years ago, and the Founder of the Coaching Profession, Thomas Leonard, was a perfect example. He started multiple coaching schools and professional organizations, in his lifetime, but was a classic entrepreneur who embodied the creativity, drive, productivity, and ongoing dialogue with his customers, that entrepreneurs are known for. That said, his major contribution to coaching was the turn toward professionalism and he embodied a stellar reputation for integrity, ethics, quality, and service that went way beyond profits.

The two photos above show, on the left, a professional coach who displays an openness and willingness to serve clients. On the right, shows an entrepreneur who's burning with his vision for designing a successful business. Both may be useful to coach with depending on what you want to work on. Neither is automatically better, but the professional coach is more thoroughly defined and has qualities that can be more easily recognized and evaluated.

Since Thomas' death in 2003, a leadership vacuum opened up. Much of it was filled by entrepreneurs who were focused more on marketing and sales gimmicks that drive profitability, than on helping clients grow and reach their goals. There are still a few good entrepreneurial coaches, but unfortunately they are increasingly outnumbered by scam artists and well-meaning wannabe's who may give bad advice.

I've known quite a few people whose lives have been transformed for the better by working with professional coaches. I also have known a handful of people whose lives have been ruined by entrepreneurial coaches. That doesn't mean all professional coaches are great, or that all entrepreneurial coaches are bad. Sometimes the opposite is true. It just isn't that simple, but over the years, I've moved away from the "half-professional/half-entrepreneurial" approach to coaching in favor of primarily being a professional and I advise my students to do the same, because it appears increasingly that professional coaches tend to deliver better results for clients and professional coaching is also a better model for coaching success. 

I've been clarifying the distinction between professional coaches and entrepreneurs with my Coach 100 students for over a decade and realized that it could be helpful to many of our blog readers too, so here goes.

Pro_coach_vs_entre_coach_table.jpg

Whether you are a professional coach or entrepreneurial coach isn't really an either/or choice; it's both/and. Because coaching is still not regulated, so there is tremendous freedom for practitioners. But at the same time, it's the professional side of coaching that is driving much of coaching's positive reputation.

If you're looking for a coach, you may want to use the above table to determine how professional your potential coach is. You have a bit more knowledge and power, because professional organizations define what you can expect. Also, if your coach is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF), you can file a complaint against a coach-member who fails to uphold the ICF's Code of Ethics.

Remember that lead-nurturing email from above, that advises good training and certification?

Recent research by the ICF found that coaches who get good training are more successful and less likely to quit the profession, while coaching clients say, all else being equal, they prefer to work with certified coaches. If you're new to coaching, my advice is that you get both coach training and certification to increase your confidence and success.

Get Coach Training and Certification

Topics: professional coach, professional coaching, coach training, Coach 100, ICF, Coach Certification, Thomas Leonard, certified coaches, coaching ethics

Do You Need Life Coach Certification? What 2572 Coaches Have to Say

Posted by Julia Stewart

life coach certification.jpg

If you're thinking about becoming a business, executive, or life coach, then you natually have some questions, such as:

Here are some useful statisitics gathered from 2,572 coaches who visited our coach training website and participated in an online survey.

  • 86.26% say coaching is their career.
  • 43.89% are life or business coaches. 56.11% are divided between other types of coaching.
  • 92.36% want to work for themselves.
  • 75.94% want to be the best they can be, 17.71% just want to be good enough, and 6.35% don't care.
  • 79.95% say becoming a certified coach would help them feel more confident.
  • 75.42% say that confidence would help them sign on more clients.
  • 72.49% say they want to be certified coaches.

If you're like most coaches, you want to make coaching your career; you want to work for yourself; you want to be the best you can be; you'll feel more confident when you are certified; that will help you attract more clients; and last, you want to be a certified coach.

The good news is yes, you can get coach certification online. The best coach certifications are approved by the ICF, and the best way to get certified is to get coach training.

Get life coach certification online in just 8 weeks. Join the ICF Approved Certified Competent Coach Course:

Become a Certified Competent Coach Quickly

 

Topics: business coach, become a life coach, become a coach, ICF, Become a Certified Coach, life coach certification

Why Tony Robbins Can't Pass ICF Coaching Certification

Posted by Julia Stewart

Tony Robbins Life Coach CertificationThe other day I had a conversation with one of my coaching students about why Anthony Robbins wouldn't pass IAC life coach certification.

On further reflection I realized that he wouldn't pass ICF coach credentialing, nor the new IAPPC coach certification, either. Why is that? Because he engages in some huge life coaching no-no's. I'll explain in a moment...

Maybe it isn't fair to measure what Tony Robbins does by standardized life-coaching models. After all, he calls himself a 'Strategic Interventionist', not a life coach.

Then again, he does have a coaching page on his website that claims he is the "Father of the Coaching Industry". Hmm, that flies in the face of what tens of thousands of coaches say, that Thomas Leonard is the 'Founder of Professional Coaching'.

 

For instance, Thomas Leonard founded both the ICF and the IAC. But...

 

And I'm just guessing here, but this is a really big "BUT": There are quite a few overlaps between Thomas Leonard's approach to coaching (I studied at both his schools, where I received several coach certifications and I was Lead Certifier for the Thomas Leonard Coaching School) and Tony Robbins' approach, which I've studied informally.

I'm a huge Thomas Leonard fan, BUT...it times out that Leonard may have stolen (ahem, borrowed) many of his ideas from Robbins. I'm just speculating, but Tony Robbins' most popular book, Awaken the Giant Within, in which Robbins calls himself a coach, was based on his work with thousands of people over twenty years and was published in 1991. Thomas Leonard founded his first coaching school (the first life coaching school in the world), Coach University, in 1992, with an awful lot of the very same ideas (though there are some key differences).

Not that I think Tony Robbins invented all of his own ideas. Like many entrepreneurs, he seems to have repackaged, renamed and reorganized ideas that were already out there; some new; some ancient.

A few folks trace these ideas back to Jim Rohn, EST, or Landmark. Others trace their early development to the 19th Century American Transcendentalists. But you can find their roots in the words of Jesus Christ and the Buddha, and in even earlier writings and oral traditions from around the world. (This is one of the many reasons why a degree in psychology or social work, even a PhD, won't make you a life coach.)

 

But back to Tony Robbins and why he can't pass life coach certification...

 

REASON #1: Robbins often coaches people who are suicidal. One of the biggest no-no's in coaching is that coaches don't coach people who are mentally ill. And suicidal thoughts are a symptom of some mental illnesses.

The IAC, ICF, and IAPPC all warn against using coaching as a therapeutic tool. The main reason for this rule is that an unskilled coach could actually harm the client. An additional reason is that the coach may expose him/herself to a lawsuit for practicing psychotherapy without a license.

I would not encourage a coach to coach anyone who is in tremendous psychic pain, but I personally have coached clients who had some big issues. In many cases I required them to see a therapist while they worked with me. But they often told me that coaching helped them more than therapy. For some clients, those who are willing to take responsibility for their issues, the tools of coaching are far more empowering than psychotherapy.

Robbins claims he's never lost anyone. If that's true then maybe his strategic interventions aren't as foolhardy as they would be for some coaches. And maybe he's actually saved thousands of lives. In that case, what he does is courageous and extremely valuable.

REASON #2: Sometimes Robbins does most of the talking. This is one of the basic rules of life coaching: Let the client do most of the talking. But Robbins frequently doesn't follow this rule.

I've seen him coach people when he did almost all of the talking. And it appears to work. Why? He reads body language extraordinarily well and he has a keen understanding of human nature. Isn't that true of other coaches, as well? I think it is, but Robbins has decades more experience than most coaches and he's worked with thousands of people. Most coaches can't scratch the surface of what Robbins has already accomplished and their skill levels reflect that.

Still, talk too much in a coaching session and both the IAC and ICF will fail you. In most coaching sessions, I think they are right. But there may be exceptions...

REASON #3: Robbins makes rude jokes about his clients, often when they are deeply suffering. As one of my colleagues said, 'I just thought he did that because he was an a**hole!' Apparently he does it because it jolts the client out of a stuck brain state just long enough for him to shift them into a more empowering thought pattern. And it seems to work!

The IAC, IAPPC, and ICF all recognize that shifting the client's thinking is an important part of good coaching, but using a sledge hammer to do it? That's a great way to lose the client's trust. In most cases, it's better to respect and empathize with the client, especially when they're struggling. Then again, if you have only a short time to coach someone who is in deep trouble, maybe the gloves need to come off...

REASON #4: Robbins doesn't have any coach-specific training. Actually, this is mainly a problem for the ICF. The IAC recognizes that there are good coaches who, like Robbins, have thousands of hours of experience and have been learning for decades everything they can about how to facilitate enormous personal growth and development in others, but who may not have attended an ICF-approved coach training program.

Quality coach training appears to speed up the coach's development, so they can coach competently within a year or so, instead of within ten years, which is what it often takes, for the self-taught. Instead of arguing who is right about this, the IAPPC is experimenting to see what works best. Stay tuned...

Robbins started his journey as a coach while he was still in high school - long before coach training existed. He not only coached his classmates, he claims he read 750 books and attended every seminar on personal growth that he could afford (sometimes attending the best ones several times, so he could master the material). Then he went on to coach thousands of people for decades.

Tony Robbins exemplifies what Malcolm Gladwell says in his book, Outliers: That extreme mastery is the result of about 10,000 hours of experience, rather than the result of extreme talent. Talent is nice, but an obsessive commitment to 'take massive action', as Robbins would say, matters more. 

 

Let's face it, Anthony Robbins really doesn't need life coach certification.

 

He is famous and his results speak for themselves. He gets away with an awful lot, because his clients already know his reputation and trust him, immensely.

So does life coach certification even matter, when it doesn't recognize the skills that such a well-known master coach uses so successfully? It does, but maybe not for the reasons you would think...

IAC, ICF, and IAPPC certification processes are more rigorous to achieve than most coaches realize. They virtually force coaches to get thousands of hours of coach training and practice in order to pass. They won't turn you into Tony Robbins, but they will make you a much better coach.

 

Think of life coach certification as a supportive structure that helps you become the kind of professional coach you'd want to work with.

 

But take everything certifiers say about coaching with a touch of humor. Because these highly-respected certifying organizations may miss a wide range of possible master coaching techniques, regardless of what they say about inter-rater reliability. That just means the certifiers agree with each other; it doesn't mean that their criteria include every form of masterful coaching.

 

If they fail you, remember, they'd fail Tony, too.

 

Don't use either passing or failing life coach certification as an excuse to quit your coaching development. Use it as a challenge to keep going and become the kind of coach who can turn around a client's life in minutes.

By the way, Tony Robbins probably is the Father of the Coaching Industry. But Thomas Leonard is the coach who began turning coaching into a profession. Both have made enormously important contributions.

Thomas started the IAC because he was frustrated that ICF life coach certification was leaving out some great coaches. I later started the International Association of Positive Psychology Coaches' Certified Positive Psychology Coach credential, because I became frustrated that IAC life coach certification is also leaving out some great coaches.

 

I'd certify Anthony Robbins.

 

[UPDATE: 5-24-19 In light of new information, I would NOT Certify Tony Robbins.

 

Reason? As I wrote in this blog post, Robbins has made multiple duplicitous and self-serving comments criticizing women who complain about sexual harassment, abuse, and assault without disclosing that he has been accused of such crimes by multiple women, himself. Whether he is guilty as his accusers say, or not, his public comments, lack of disclosure, and disrespect towards women who have been traumatized violates the ethical guidelines of this school, the IAPPC, ICF, IAC, and CCE.]

 

I've definitely learned some new things from him. And I've seen evidence that what he does is highly effective. I've even learned how to use techniques that Thomas Leonard cautioned against.

What do you think? Do you agree that Tony Robbins wouldn't pass ICF or IAC life coach certification? Or am I totally off base?

Want to learn more about becoming a coach?

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Topics: ICF, Coach Certification, Thomas Leonard, Tony Robbins, life coach certification, certified life coach, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Life coaching school accreditation, certified coach, Coach Certification Bootcamp, IAPPC

ICF Credential vs. IAC Life Coach Certification

Posted by Julia Stewart

certified_coach_goldribbon.jpgI interviewed my friend and colleague, Donna Steinhorn, IAC MMC, ICF PCC, on the difference between ICF and IAC life coach certification in a recent live webinar. Unfortunately, the recording was no good, which is one of the of the many reasons that attending a webinar like this live is always your best option.

The feedback from coaches who attended the interview has been awesome. So I'm going to add a few highlights here, in case you missed it.

The two organizations, themselves, are of course, the ultimate authorities on what they do and they change their policies from time to time. So if you're looking for highly detailed info, visit their respective web sites. The ICF's is coachfederation.org and the IAC's is certifiedcoach.org.

Donna has been deeply involved in coach training and certification for many years and is one of only a handful of coaches who have both ICF and IAC coach certifications, which is why I chose her for this interview ~ that, and the fact that Donna is fun to talk with.

Both Donna and I have been on the coach training and certification bandwagon for eternity (Donna is a member of SCM's Board of Advisers) - and we're both rebels, so we have a shared skepticism, as well as support of these two leading professional organizations and their respective credentialing processes.

We began our conversation by noting that there are limitations to both ICF and IAC coach certifications. Each has its own coaching competencies (or masteries, as the IAC calls theirs). Each definitely has its own coaching style, which you need to be able to demonstrate. Neither style encompasses every possible way to coach brilliantly; they're just doing the best they can.

So why are there two professional coaching organizations and certifications? Actually, there are zillions of them - some completely bogus - but these currently are the most well-known. Oddly, the same man, Thomas J. Leonard, the 'Father of Professional Coaching', founded both the IAC and ICF. Thomas founded the ICF in 1995 and later, the IAC in 2003, just before he passed away.

ICF credentialing, as it's called, emphasizes ICF coach training, mentoring and experience, as well as an online test and demonstration of coaching skill. Thomas sought to streamline the process of certification with the IAC, which emphasizes the results of coach training, mentoring and experience, rather than the documentation of it. This makes the IAC certification process a bit simpler, but it's by no means easier, because coaches need to demonstrate masterful coaching skills. Only about 25% of coaches who apply for IAC Coach Certification pass on the first try.

The ICF has three levels of coaching credentials: The Associate Credentialed Coach (ACC), The Professional Credentialed Coach (PCC), and the Master Credentialed Coach (MCC). The IAC currently has only one certification, the Certified Coach (IAC-CC), but from what I've observed, the level of coaching skill required by the IAC is roughly comparable to the ICF MCC. [UPDATE: the IAC eventually added another 'intermediate' level of certification, as well as a basic "practitioner" level. And the renamed their original certification the Master Masteries Coach.]

Finally, the ICF has two pathways for credentialing: The portfolio route allows you to get your coach training anywhere [UPDATE: This one is being eliminated in 2022] and the accreditation path requires you to study at an ICF accredited coach training school. The IAC doesn't require demonstration of coach training, just the results of it: masterful coaching skills. I know most IAC Certified Coaches and I believe all of them have had substantial coach training and/or mentor coaching. Donna says there may have been one coach who passed without being trained.

I asked Donna if there were any hidden costs to getting certified by either organization. She mentioned the mentor coaching requirement by the ICF, which would cost you about $350 - 400 per month, but Donna doesn't consider that a hidden cost, since all coaches need to have their own coaches at all times. Personally, I don't think anyone needs a coach every minute of their life, but coaches are foolish if they don't work with successful coaches of their own. I worked with two excellent coaches while I prepared for IAC Coach Certification.

What, in Donna's opinion, is the best benefit of getting certified? She considers the coach directory on the ICF website, which only lists ICF credentialed coaches, to be by far the best benefit, because it brings her a steady stream of potential clients. We agreed that the IAC would do well to offer such a benefit to its own membership.

Finally, which coaches need certification most? Donna says corporate coaches and perhaps executive coaches, since companies usually want to see credentials. She doesn't believe life coaches need to be certified, but I've seen anecdotal evidence that clients are screening life coaches more carefully than they used to. Even new life coaches are telling me that potential clients ask about training and certification.

Potential coaching clients are asking more questions than they used to about their coaches' backgrounds. Increasingly, they are looking for evidence-based coaching and neither the IAC's nor the ICF's certifications are based on peer-reviewed research.

School of Coaching Mastery has been accredited by the ICF and licensed by the IAC, but our Certified Positive Psychology Coach program now prepares coaches for the IAPPC's certification.

Why? Because modern coaching needs to be informed by research and this is the organization that reflects that.

So there you have the Readers Digest version of the ICF Credentialing vs. IAC Life Coach Certification interview.

Join a program that prepares you for evidence-based certfication. Get started with this FREE fact sheet:

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Topics: certification requirements, coach training, coaching clients, ICF, Coach Certification, Thomas Leonard, certified coaches, Donna Steinhorn, IAC, certified coach, coach credential, IAPPC

Professional Coaching Today: World's Largest Coaching Survey (Video)

Posted by Julia Stewart

Last week , I posted an article about The Future of Coaching: How the Internet is Causing the Rise of Coaching.

It shows how changes in technology are driving the demand of professional Coaching. So I thought you might be interested in where coaching is, right now, according to the 2016 Global Coaching Survey by the International Coach Federation (ICF). It's the largest coaching survey to date.

Watch this awesome 4-minute video on Professional Coaching Today from the ICF:

Professional Coaching Today from ICF Headquarters.

 

Interested in becoming a coach? Get the free eBook Now:

Get a free Become a Coach eBook here.

Topics: professional coaching, become a coach, ICF, future of coaching, video, free ebook, international coach federation

Life Coach: Do Coaching Clients Even Know What They Want?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Life Coach Clients CHOICE

One of the hallmarks of ICF coaching is that the coach establishes the coaching agreement (what the client wants to achieve) early in the coaching session. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it's actually one of the issues that distinguishes ICF coaching from, for instance, IAC coaching.

I taught the IAC approach for several years. Their approach tends to focus on establishing a trusted relationship first, then focuses on finding out what the client wants later, because...
  1. Clients won't share their dreams with us unless they fully trust us.
  2. Many, or even most, clients can't articulate exactly what they want without coaching.

So who's right?

They both are. The IAC is correct that the client needs to trust us completely and that they may not be able to articulate what they want from coaching until we've helped them clarify it. However, one of the weaknesses of coaches who've been trained in the IAC approach is that they sometimes never ask what the client wants from the coaching relationship, in general, and from the coaching session, specifically.

On the other hand, if a coach assumes they've covered this issue completely by simply asking, "What would you like to achieve, today?" the session will likely be superficial and the goals achieved may not get to the heart of what matters most to the client.

Why are these two approaches to coaching so different?

Each organization has written their coaching IP (intellectual property) to define coaching under specific conditions. The IAC Coaching Masteries® is intended to describe what happens in one masterful coaching session. The ICF Core Coaching Competencies® describe both the coaching session and the entire coaching relationship and can be understood at the competent, proficient, and masterful levels. At the masterful level, ICF coaching is remarkably similar to IAC coaching.

How do coaches need to handle this?

First of all, the ICF emphasizes the importance of a trusted coaching relationship as much as the IAC does. Second, asking specifically what the client wants and how they know they have achieved it, early in the session, helps increase trust by demonstrating that the coach wants to know the client's goals and intends to help the client get there. In addition, tremendous clarity is created when the coach asks these questions and follows up by thoroughly exploring what the client means. And yes, sometimes the client's initial goal changes as greater clarity is achieved.

Why don't more coaches do it this way?

To honor both the ICF's emphasis on articulating the client's goals early and the IAC's emphasis on relationship building first,  clarification of goals second, requires tremendous finesse. That's what makes it masterful.

New coaches who study the IAC approach, may be hampered by the language of the Masteries, because they are written for coaches who understand the nuances of coaching. While the ICF approach, when studied by newbies, may result in stilted and shallow coaching sessions, unless instructors guide students toward the masterful use of the ICF's Competencies.

Takeaways:

  1. Sometimes clients know exactly what they want, but not always.
  2. All clients need a trusted environment before they will share their cherished dreams with us.
  3. Masterful coaches can establish trust while creating tremendous clarity, but it requires finesse.

If you'd like to coach with the finesse of a master, you might want to join the following program. Advanced placement is available for coaches who qualify. By the way, we prepare coaches for IAPPC certification because it is based on a radical idea: Instead of arguing who is right, let's research coaching to find out what really works best. That's a Growth Mindset. Learn more below...

Get Certified Positive Psychology Coach Fact Sheet

Topics: life coach, ICF, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, IAC

Coach Training Schools: How to Identify a Fake Coaching School

Posted by Julia Stewart

icf_tpss.jpg

After fifteen years in the  business of coaching and coach-training, I've seen my share of fake online schools. So when I stumbled across a "new" online school with a few tell-tale signs, I intuitively knew it was bogus. Just to be sure though (like any good coach), I checked to be certain. Yup, I was right the first time.

Unfortunately, there is seemingly no limit to the number of people who will spot something popular on the web and will try to scam the unsuspecting into sending money. Don't be fooled!

If you're wondering if a coach-training website, or any educational website, is legit, here's what to look for...

7 Clues a Coach-Training Website is Fake:

1. The site doesn't clearly indicate who owns it or runs it. This new site that I found just states, in the "About Us" section, that it's a membership site for people interested in positive psychology. Pretty sketchy.

2. It claims to be a university or graduate school, but the web address doesn't end with .edu or .org. Read number 4 for more about this. In the United States, there are specific laws about who can claim to be a university. Generally, a university offers many topics and awards degrees based an specific requirements. This one claimed to be a US organization, but didn't seem to fit the definition.

3. It claims to be a college or university in the United States, but it gives out diplomas. In the US, you get a diploma when you graduate from high school. If you go on to post-secondary school, such as a college or university, you earn a degree, certification, or certificate of completion, not a diploma.

4. It claims to be accredited by an official-sounding not-for-profit organization that is approved by the United States Department of Education, but the web address doesn't end with .edu (only educational institutions with this type of accreditation can use .edu addresses). This one made such a claim, but the address ended with .us. Curious whether there was any validity to the claim, I went to the Department of Ed. website and searched their list of approved agencies. Nope, not there.

A hallmark of fake schools is the claim of being accredited by official-sounding organizations that don't exist.

By the way, Department of Ed. approval is the gold-standard in university accreditation. However, legitimate coaching schools that claim accreditation are generally accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF), which is not approved by the Department of Ed. ICF is a good organization. In fact, it is the oldest and largest such organization in the world. This type of approval or accreditation is the gold standard in coaching. You can trust coaching schools that are approved or accredited by the ICF. Just check the ICF's site to be sure.

5. Information about the courses and topics taught is scarce. This new site shares basic information that anyone can find with a quick web search on positive psychology and copy & paste it onto a fake site.

6. There are no trust marks or confirmation links on the site. Trust marks come from third-party organizations, such as the Department of Ed, or the International Coach Federation, or the Better Business Bureau. They usually include links to the accrediting site that confirm the school's claims and may even rate the school on trust and best practices.

7. Here's the scariest red flag: to join this new "organization" that I discovered, you're instructed to copy & paste their payment form into an EMAIL with your name, address, credit-card number, security code, and expiration date! No legitimate organization will EVER ask you to put sensitive payment information into an email.  Email is just not secure. My conclusion is that this site is designed to steal identities from people who are interested in positive psychology and that if you are foolish enough to "join", you will soon discover that your credit card has been maxed out. And because of the tell-tale "diplomas" mentioned on the site (#3 above), it is likely outside the United States, even though it claims to be "American". It's difficult, if not impossible, to catch international scammers, such as these.

So How Can You Find Trustworthy Coaching Schools?

There are many good coach training schools, but Google isn't the best way to find them. Use the ICF's Training Program Search Service (TPSS). They have a huge number of approved and accredited coaching schools to choose from that they have already vetted for you.

Looking for an ICF Approved Coach Training Program?

The Certified Positive Psychology Coach® program approved for 125 ICF hours. Check us out at the ICF TPSS under the following name:


Julia Stewart Coaching & Training LLC, DBA: School of Coaching Mastery
.

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Coach Certification: Should the ICF and IAC Change How They Certify Coaches?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coach Certification

Coach Certification: The Great Debate

The ongoing debate about coach certification, coaching qualifications, and the profession of coaching was raised again today by Kerryn Griffiths, who runs ReciproCoach (an organization that has formalized the old laissez faire practice of buddy coaching, as a method of gaining practice for coaches) in an article called, "Where is coaching regulation headed?" Her article, which is only available to members of ReciproCoach, offers the rather alarming proposal that currently certified coaches might not be allowed to coach, anymore. While I disagree that this is a legitimate worry, I share some of the questions raised by Kerryn, as well as by the authors of a research paper liberally quoted by her: "From Competencies to Capabilities in the Assessment and Accreditation of Coaches (Bachkirova and Smith, 2015).

The process of certifying coaches based on competencies dates back about 20 years and it has been challenged many times. Does it really measure quality coaching? Do certified coaches really coach any more effectively than those who aren't certified? Which certification process is best? What does the research say?

I've been grading coaching sessions using coaching models invented by me, or by Thomas Leonard, or by the ICF, or IAC for over twelve years. What I can tell you is that none of the models I've used is perfect. They all miss possible approaches to coaching, because coaching is a process created in the moment by coaches and their clients and coaching models are all based on past experience.

Also, the coaching models currently in use by the ICF and IAC are not based on research, mainly because they were created before much research had been done on coaching. However, some recent research supports the skills the IAC and ICF advocate. For instance, asking is indeed usually more useful than telling and asking, "how?" tends to be more useful than asking, "why?".

My main complaints with both ICF and IAC certification models is that they really are both styles of coaching; they do not represent all good coaching. If you sent me two recordings of coaching sessions, one that passed ICF certification and the other that passed the IAC, I'm pretty certain I could tell you which was which. (Come to think of it, please don't send me any coach recordings. I'm busy enough, thanks.)

Also, competency-based coaching (the IAC calls their IP, "masteries", but the certification is still competency-based) has a way of limiting options and it encourages a tendency toward perfectionism in both coaches and certifiers. Perfectionism is fear-based (fear of being found flawed) and leads to constriction, limitation and less innovation; hardly good qualities for coaching.

In my opinion, there are at least a thousand styles of coaching that could be effective with the right clients in the right circumstances and most haven't been invented, yet.

A few years ago, I started telling my students who sat for certification, "Surprise me. I'd love to learn something new from you." And a few of them have, indeed, opened my eyes to new possibilities. Most coach certifications aren't like that.

But research has its limitations, too. Findings are sometimes only valid within a very narrow set of conditions and sometimes researchers miss or confuse what's really going on. In the end, all we ever have is our best guess. That doesn't mean we shouldn't investigate, only that we need to hold our findings lightly.

So is it worthwhile getting certified? I think it is. For one thing, most coaches want to be certified for some great reasons. Plus, if you can shoe-horn yourself into one of these coaching styles, you probably have many coaching tools in your tool belt and you know how to use them. Don't worry if every session you do wouldn't pass. Do remember that these coaching styles represent less than 1% of what may be effective. A few years ago, I suggested Tony Robbins couldn't pass ICF or IAC certification. What's the difference? Here's a brief comparison of ICF and IAC certifications.

New certifications and certifying organizations may come along. They might be better. Bachkirova and Smith offer an interesting model based on capabilities. I'll need to hear it in action before I jump on board. Presumably, they will research it, first.

My personal opinion is that most certifications focus too much on the coach and not enough on the client, where the evidence of success can be observed. Does the client open up to more possibilities, have insights and increased clarity that lead to enthusiasm, growth and solutions, plus action plans, supportive infrastructures and next steps? If clients are revisited days or weeks after the coaching, will certifiers find that they followed through on plans made during coaching and their lives are indeed transformed? If so, who cares how the coach got them there? The ICF and IAC do look at these, but I'm suggesting they mostly look at client outcomes, rather than coaching behaviors. I'm guessing researchers will be looking at both.

When enough research has been done, maybe - this is a BIG maybe - coach certification will be perfected.

In the meantime, the ICF is the main game in town. The IAC offers an alternative, but needs to certify a lot more coaches to stay competitive. I've heard a suggestion that they let their licensees start certifying coaches for them and that may be a great solution. In any case, if coaching is ever regulated in your country, being certified by the ICF or IAC will likely grandfather you in.

Coaching schools, such as School of Coaching Mastery, often offer their own coach certifications.

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Topics: ICF, Coach Certification, Thomas Leonard, Tony Robbins, life coach certification, IAC, Masteries

Future of Coaching: Evidence-based or Intuitive?

Posted by Julia Stewart

evidence-based coachingI just watched a lecture by positive psychologist, Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, on positive psychology coaching. In it he referenced his ICF International Conference talk, in 2009, on the future of coaching. Tal makes a strong case for the future of coaching being evidenced-based.

What are his arguments? That some of the tools of coaching, such as visualization, positive reinforcement, and positive self-talk have already been debunked by research. That is, they can hurt more than help, unless applied under particular circumstances. Plus, as he points out, without strong evidence to back them up, most human development fads just die out. Remember EST?

I'm inclined to agree with Tal, that evidence is where the greatest growth exists now for coaching. But that doesn't mean coaching hasn't been effective, just that it can become even more effective. Actually, it's the incredible success of coaching that seems to pique the curiosity of scientists. 

To point out the obvious: if people waited to do new things before scientists completed relevant research, we might still be sitting in caves waiting for the okay to use fire. 

As another positive psychologist who teaches coaching, Robert Biswas-Diener, PhD, has said, research doesn't just inform coaching, coaches themselves, often suggest what scientists should study next. It's a collaboration, not a top-down relationship.

In fact, the Harvard-affiliated Institute of Coaching, was founded by coaches to encourage research into coaching and positive psychology. And the Harnisch Foundation, headed by Ruth Ann Harnisch, herself an IAC certified coach, makes $100,000 available every year for coaching research and coaches are even taught and encouraged to do their own scientific research.

By the way, research has also confirmed that most of what masterful coaches do with their clients really does work quite effectively. That includes acknowledging what their clients do instead of who they are, which leads to growth instead of stuckness.  So far, the research has affirmed most of what coaches have been saying all along.

Research is good, very good. But it's not the only thing that matters in coaching...

So then there's this thing called intuition.

Tal doesn't mention intuition in his lecture, but positive psychology researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, considers intuition to be a knee-jerk reaction to things based on what "they say". In other words, it represents people at their dumbest. Scientific findings are therefore almost always more accurate than "intuition".

In coaching, intuition is something else altogether. It's what emerges when coach and client scrape the gobbledygook of life off their brains and get into a highly-connected conversation that the ICF describes this way: 

• Coach is connected to complete trust in new and mutual state of awareness that can only arise in the moment and out of joint conversation.
• Coach is comfortable not knowing as one of the best states to expand awareness in.
• Coach is willing to be vulnerable with client and have client be vulnerable with coach.
• Coach confident in self, process, and the client as a full partner in the relationship.
• Sense of complete ease and naturalness in conversation; coach does not have to “work” to coach.

In coaching, the emergence of this intuition, or insight, is what makes the coaching conversation pivotal to the client's growth. It's often simple; however it's anything but dumb. This type of intuition is related to Czikszentmihalyi's Flow and to Barbara Fredrickson's Positivity and Love 2.0, but the research into Coaching Presence or Personal Greatness, as it is variously called by coaches, is so far is pretty thin.

The distinction here is explicit vs. implicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is what we can talk about. Implicit knowledge is that semi-conscious processing we do in the moment when we are completely present. The human mind is still the most powerful computer known. For instance, neuroscientists have discovered that babies learn language through a process of sophisticated statistical analysis. Since the babies studied are pre-verbal, by definition they are processing implicitly. That's what I call intuition. 

Coaches cannot afford to throw out this type of intuition in favor of evidence. We don't have time to check academic papers in the middle of a coaching session. Fortunately for us, the human mind is spectacular at processing information, that is if we stay curious and don't succumb to fears, ego and petty issues. But coaches also can't afford to ignore evidence that points the direction for growth in professional coaching, not when the research is so excitingly positive. Neither intuition nor evidence is perfect, but when we integrate the two, we get something even more powerful.

"The genius of the AND", is a phrase that Tal loves to use. And this is a good place to use it. I believe the future of coaching will be evidence-based AND intuitive. Scientists will eventually discover what coaching intuition is and why it's so powerful and then maybe we'll all be on the same page.

Until then, gather the evidence, but don't be afraid to use your intuition during coaching. Because remember, fire was cooking our dinner long before science was invented.

Oh and the guy in the picture? That's Flash Gordon, my favorite astronaut from the 1930's. I included his pic (love his friend's little hat) to remind myself how silly it can be to predict the future. Doesn't seem to stop me, though.

Learn more about coaching that is evidence-based AND intuitive:


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Topics: ICF, Barbara L Fredrickson, future of coaching, Institute of Coaching, masterful coaches, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, intuition, Tal Ben-Shahar

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