The January 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review features thought-provoking research on executive coaching. The report addresses issues I’ve been concerned about for years, including credentials. You may access the report online and contribute to the discussion on the HBR editors’ blog, as I did yesterday.
The first time I searched for helpful information on coaching credentials was in 1996. Then, my coaching practice was growing rapidly, and a colleague responsible for executive development confessed she was clueless about identifying good coaches. She asked me to prepare a conference presentation to address coaching credentials and coach/client “chemistry.”
In 1996, I could find no research to back up my experiences, but I had anecdotal evidence about how to choose a coach, based in part on coaching follow-up surveys from clients. I had interviewed coaches around the country, seeking a senior coach/mentor. Most candidates lacked the wisdom, experience and educational background I felt were necessary for my professional development.
Then, as now, I made the point that anyone may claim to be a coach. Before hiring one, how do you know whether you are hiring a master or a flake? It was gratifying to see HBR’s article affirm my perspective with the words: “buyer beware” (p. 92). The HBR study asked respondents about the importance of coaching qualifications earned through certification or psychological training. These choices don’t reflect credentials I believe matter most, although “psychological training” is related to coaching-relevant social and behavioral sciences, including communication studies (and interpersonal communication, specifically).
Overall, the HBR research is a great start, by a reputable source, of serious inquiry into a growing profession. If you’ve had a successful coaching relationship, either as coach or coachee, what credentials made the biggest difference to you?