In common with training and management, coaching is unregulated, and therefore anyone can call himself/ herself a coach, and they do.
There are four distinct levels of coach and as you move from one level to the other, the need for skill and experience increases commensurate with the complexity of the coaching process.
LEVEL 1 (L1) – CAREER COACH AND LIFE SKILLS COACH
Level 1 coaching is typified by the coaching process being in the hands of the person being coached, which means that they drive the agenda rather than the coach. This is where most of the coaches in existence (up to 80% of the coaching population) operate. The focus of the coaching effort tends to be on life skills and career coaching. There is a significant gap in experience, knowledge and skills between coaches operating at this and the other levels.
LIFE SKILLS COACHES
Life Skills Coaches will have arrived in the coaching role from a variety of routes; some from training; some from a period of redundancy; in fact – just about anyone, Coaching from just about anywhere. They do not need any specialist knowledge, or experience. Some will have been trained; a few will hold a qualification; most will have picked up their coaching knowledge and skills from books or from attending a short course.
Some are very dangerous. They will be self-taught psychoanalysts and can often be found exploring people’s deep routed emotional problems without the ability or experience to know when to stop. They seek to advise people how to be healthy, wealthy, and happy. Most will certainly not be wealthy. Others might be healthy. Significant numbers are blissfully happy to have anyone to listen to them.
Some will have bought an expensive franchise offering untold wealth; most will be earning below average incomes. Some will be advertising themselves as Executive Coaches (Level 4); most will never actually engage in anything close to Executive Coaching.
They represent 90% of the coaching population at Level 1. You will encounter them at each and every networking event, in increasing numbers.
The coaching process is open-ended, meaning that providing the person being coached is able to pay the fees involved, it will go on indefinitely. There is rarely a definable, measurable goal.
Career Coaches are usually to be found in-company; sometimes employed from external sources; often they are in the HR Department. In the same way as the Personnel Department became the HR Department, ‘Jack and Jill from personnel’ – became ‘Jack and Jill, the Career Coaches’.
Career Coaches will be probably be annoyed that I have placed them at Level 1, implying that they don’t need specialist knowledge or experience. Nevertheless, it is true. That said, many internal Career Coaches will have undergone various levels of formal training; some via the CIPD route; some will use career preference inventories to help them add a pseudo form of credibility to their efforts.
As with life skills coaching, career coaching is often disguised as executive coaching although it bears little resemblance to the executive coaching process described at Level 4 here. Career coaching offered to senior managers is usually a precursor to sending them on an expensive study programme in a European Business School which for many has no outcome other than an attendance certificate. No one fails. The only time career coaching is offered to lower levels of employees is when redundancy follows and the expense of providing career coaching is seen as an unavoidable cost in order to mitigate industrial disruption and employment appeals.
LEVEL 2 (L2) – SALES COACHING
Level 2 coaching is where Sales Coaches operate – in theory.
The coaching process at Level 2 is focussed on business outcomes and is driven by the coach. This is why a significant number of coaching initiatives in companies have failed, and continue to fail. The reason being that the people involved in being a Level 2 Coach are either only being trained at Level 1 – which is not a lot; or not trained at all.
A lot of companies who they say their managers have been trained as coaches, have invested at best two days, and at worst half a day in training their managers as coaches. In addition, the coaching models being used begin with the employee’s agenda, not the manager’s, and not the organisation. A classic example would be the use of the GROW model, which begins with either