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How to choose a business coach you can trust

Industry body warns leaders to beware of damaging business coaching

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If you need leadership coaching, heed this warning. Executive coaching is unregulated in Australia. Anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves a coach. For this reason, International Coaching Federation Australasia’s Head of Stakeholder Engagement Tim Sprague is spreading the word: Only choose a coach who is accredited with an industry body like ICF.

“One of our concerns is that, in an unregulated market, organisations can unwittingly engage coaches who can do damage,” he tells me in our interview. “But by hiring credentialed coaches you ensure a level of competence.”


Triggers for hiring an executive coach

Leadership coaching is on the rise in Australia and New Zealand. There are many triggers for wanting to hire an executive coach, career coach, or life coach.

“A leader may want to move up in their career or take on a new role,” says Tim. “We work on their behaviours and their beliefs.”


Difference between a coach and a mentor

Tim says an executive coach is different to a mentor.

“We’re not mentors,” he explains. “A mentor is someone who says, ‘I’ve done it before; this is the way you do it.’ A coach says ‘That’s an interesting problem; What are the options you have?’ so people develop their own capabilities and their own solutions which is more robust and scalable.”

Tim says sometimes leaders “know how to get there, but there’s a voice in their head that’s stopping them.” Other times “they don’t know how to get there and there are behaviours they need to adopt.”


Accredited coaches must jump through hoops

ICF Australasia currently represents more than 2000 trained coaches throughout Australia and New Zealand. It exists to lead the global advancement of the coaching profession.

ICF-accredited coaches have been rigorously tested and assessed. They must have completed minimum training hours and coaching hours, passed an exam, and had their coaching assessed as delivering with a ‘competency framework.’


Accredited coaches can be trusted

Importantly, credentialed coaches keep to a code of ethics so you can trust them. For many leaders, having someone outside the organisation who can be a trusted support is highly beneficial, says Tim.

"A quality coach is someone who can help them lift their thinking to the next level up, someone who can challenge their thinking and help them create new solutions."

“ICF-accredited coaches coach CEOs and other C-suite members, as well as leaders at all levels in prominent organisations across Australasia,” says Tim. "Systemic coaching, where we coach teams, is increasing, and we work with government and Not-For-Profits. It's very broad."

He says coaching applies to every industry because "how best to lead people is universal.” 

Extra challenges for leaders in the pandemic

The pandemic hit the coaching industry hard in the first six months of 2020.

“People thought leadership development was a discretionary spend,” remembers Tim, “But, once wellbeing issues surfaced, they realised leaders needed support for the extra challenges the pandemic created, and business increased.”

He says a side effect is that people realised they could be coached from anywhere in the world, and as a result, Australian and NZ-based coaches now have clients overseas.


A meeting of like minds: ICF partners with Growth Faculty

ICF Australasia has been a valuable partner of Growth Faculty, linking member coaches to our Global Headliner speakers such as Patrick Lencioni (author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team) and Jim Collins (Good to Great). 

“One of the responsibilities of ICF is ongoing development of our coaches so we link them with high quality experiences,” says Tim. “Growth Faculty has some of the leaders in leadership thinking so it’s been great to expose our coaches to those people and to link them up.”

“We’re selective on which events we partner on, and we partner on those events most likely to provide a framework and information that will equip our coaches to best help their leader clients.”

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"We equip our coaches to best help their leader clients." ICF Australasia Head of Stakeholder Engagement Tim Sprague

Should all leaders have a coach?

After hearing about the benefits of leadership coaching outlined by Tim, I ended our interview with the question, ‘So, should all leaders have a coach?’

“I would say at some point in their career,” he answered. “A coach is not a crutch. For a period of time it can really lift your level of thinking, the way that you see problems and solve them - so it will add to your toolkit.”

Appropriately he wound up our interview by saying “Coaching is to meet a set of goals and once they’re met, you might disengage for a period of time until you need a coach again.” 


At Growth Faculty, we share ICF Australasia's passion for helping you become a better leader. With a Leadership Pass you get access to the world’s most successful leaders and their tools, frameworks, and personal stories to help you grow. Our leadership pass means you have unlimited access to our inspiring global events, masterclasses, book club events and leadership library - so you can learn the qualities of successful leaders.  


Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Photo of Tim Sprague from Tim Sprague.

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