When engaging the services of a coach, there is often confusion over the level of coaching needed. A general rule of thumb is that there are three levels of coaching and these correspond roughly to the depth of training the coach should have in order to coach the client at a certain level and in order to achieve the desired outcomes. Although based primarily on Integral Coaching, these rough guidelines may be useful in considering other forms of coaching.
Spontaneous coaching is used where the coachee has an immediate issue that they need to address. In other words, this is appropriate where a ‘quick fix’ is required. One or two coaching sessions may help the person find solutions which will get them over an immediate hurdle. This is contracted between coach and client ‘up front’ before the start of the programme.
A minimum of a short coaching course at an accredited organisation may qualify a coach to deal with issues like this. I have found it interesting that even when coaches are qualifying at higher levels, in their practical exams, they are usually tested in spontaneous coaching. This is a matter of practicality as usually a maximum of an hour can be allocated to this part of the practical exam.
Sometimes as the coaching proceeds through the agreed spontaneous coaching conversations, both coach and client realise that the coachee would benefit through a more intense coaching programme. If this is being considered, this new programme would be contracted as a separate programme either with the same coach, if they are qualified to work at a deeper level, or with a new coach.
Competency-based coaching helps coachees to become more competent at managing their lives whether it be their roles at work or in their private capacities. Here typically a 3-month coaching programme would be contracted where coach and coachee meet every second week for an hour. The coach helps the client, through reflection and practice, to build new neural pathways and thus become more competent.
I recommend that the coach engaged in this type of coaching should have successfully completed a training course of at least 6-months – again at a reputable institution. Coaches trained at this level will also be effective at spontaneous coaching.
The next level of coaching is where a fundamental shift in the person’s ‘way of being’ is sought in order to help them flourish in their occupational and private capacities. The required outcome would be the person viewing the world differently through enhanced awareness and ability to develop new neural pathways thus embedding their new practices. This takes time and usually at least a six-month programme seeing the coach for an hour every second week is needed. In addition, the coachee needs to be committed to changing themselves and diligently practice assignments crafted together by coach and coachee. Outcomes include being able to self-correct and self-generate.
In this realm there are no ‘quick fixes’ neither for the coachee nor the coach. A programme like this requires that the coach has a deeper level of training, ideally spanning about 2 years at university post-graduate level, or other highly regarded institution. Coaches qualified at this level are competent to coach at lower levels, too. In other words, they are capable of doing Competency-based and Spontaneous coaching.
The converse does not apply. Professional coaches with insufficient training should not be working in higher levels of coaching. In other words, a coach trained to deal only with spontaneous issues should not attempt to work with someone requiring a shift in their way of being. After all, we are working with people’s lives! Similarly a General Practitioner would not practice complex spinal surgery.
Of course, the above are general guidelines. There are many permutations of these levels. However, no coach should ever go beyond their level of training and competence. Professional coaches will also refer clients to appropriate outside professionals in other fields, like counselling, when this seems necessary and they will not try to handle issues beyond their scope, or situations outside the realm of their competence, training and experience.
Furthermore, to call themselves a coach, a person should have gone through training as a coach and be qualified in that field. So let’s look at the definition of professional coaching and here I’m using the International Coach Federation (ICF) definition which is fairly generic, covering a wide range of coaching approaches:
ICF defines coaching as ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential’.
No matter how highly qualified in other fields such as psychotherapy, counselling, mentoring or consulting, if engaged in a coaching role, the coach should respect those boundaries and stick to their role as a coach. I have personally found that in working with or mentoring emerging coaches-in-training, the ones who battle most with developing their coaching skills are often those who are qualified in other fields such as counselling.
In brief, make sure you engage the right coach whom you know is qualified and will provide a professional service in line with your requirements. You are more likely to gain positive outcomes, often way beyond your expectations!
For more information on leadership development or executive coaching, please contact Brenda personally at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27 82 4993311
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