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Coaches, Coaches, Everywhere

Getting to grips with the coaching market in South West England was always going to be a bumpy ride after living abroad for six years. A coaching world away from the positive and dynamic energy of Abu Dhabi; the well-established and traditional nature of Sydney, Australia; and newly formed embryonic market in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Since September my main effort has been a concerted attempt to understand the characteristics and dynamics of the current British coaching market.

Reflecting back on personal observations from three months worth of networking events highlights some of the challenges coaches face in the twenty-first century. Profession-wise, coaching still faces the unresolved problem of an identity crisis. The absence of “an accepted working definition of coaching as a concept” (Gray, Saunders, Curnow, & Farrant, 2015) creates confusion, uncertainty and ambiguity in the marketplace. This continued lack of concrete and congruent foundations sets an unstable precedent that permeates the overall image of coaching, clouds potential clients’ judgment and impacts organisational and individual financial investment. The added phenomenon whereby a coach is never simply a coach but also a consultant (62%) and/or trainer (60%) (ICF, 2012) merely exacerbates misunderstanding within the professional arena.

From the top of my head three conversations illustrate the current gap between pure coaching and popular misconstrued beliefs:

1. “I’ll keep an eye out for anyone who needs “fixing”.

2. “We already have an established internal coaching culture framework embedded within our company”.

3. “I’ve already been coached in the past”.

In response, I developed the following antidotes to challenge perceptions and broaden horizons during conversation.

1. “Thank you and I genuinely appreciate your support. I find coaching provides the perfect opportunity for my clients to experience transformational change, embed new strategies that unleash their true potential and successfully pursue life long aspirations”.

2. “I would be really interested to learn more about your organisation’s coaching culture framework and how you have ensured the integration of a robust and long term coaching strategy in line with your company values and ethos (Jarvis, 2008) as opposed to short term unsustainable strategies. We could also discuss how you assess coachees “Coachability” (see my previous blog post) before they embark on the coaching journey as well as how your managers and employees are involved in coaching especially as coaching as a secondary job role is ‘the most difficult one to perform’ (Gerber, 1992)”.

3. “I would love to learn more about your initial coaching experience and discover how coaching improved your working and personal life. It would be fascinating to discuss how working with a different coach now would benefit your current position, desires and performance”.

I also quickly discovered it was 100% guaranteed that another coach would be present at every networking event I attended. The highest concentration that I observed was 25% “coaches” at a single networking event. I’ve met the full range: sales, business, executive, confidence, life, success, referral…the list continues. The definitive number of professional coaches is an “estimated global number of…41,300” (ICF, 2012) with the highest concentration in Western Europe. Another point of interest I observed was the relationship between coaches; although generally supportive with mutual understanding and respect; the recommendation to find "nother market; preferably elsewhere” still evokes a wry smile.

In a nutshell anyone can call themselves a “coach”. Make sure you take the time to research and find the right coach with the right skills, experience, approach and ethos who is right for you now.


Gray D.E, Saunders M. N.K, Curnow B, and Farrant, C. (2015) ‘Coaching: An emerging profession – or just a spanner in the HRD toolbox?” The 16th International Conference on Human Resource Development Research and Practice across Europe: UFHRD, Cork, 3-5 June 15 [ONLINE] Available at: Accessed on 9 Des 15.

International Coach Federation. (2012). Global Coaching Survey [ONLINE] Available at: Accessed on 9 Dec 15.

International Coach Federation. (2015) What is professional coaching? [ONLINE] Available at: Accessed on 9 Dec 15.

Jarvis, J. Making the case for coaching: Does it work? [ONLINE] Available at: Accessed on 9 Dec 15.

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