Unlocking human potential

The International Coach Federation has infused the profession of coaching with authority and credibility, while helping businesses all over the world to boost their performance

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The International Coach Federation (ICF) has certainly earned its stripes as the world’s ultimate coaching force. It has almost single-handedly managed to up the credibility of the coaching profession, while constantly striving to maintain high ethical standards.

Founded nearly 17 years ago, the organisation boasts a network of over 19,000 members in more than 100 countries and 8,000 credentialed coaches worldwide.

ICF has seen an increase of 16 percent in filed applications from coaches in the past year, and more and more businesses are turning to coaches to stay on top of the game in the competitive marketplace. Why is coaching such a crucial part of business development today? “The business sector is tougher than ever, and coaching can greatly boost the productivity and performance of companies of any type,” says Janet M. Harvey, President-Elect at ICF.

“A skilful management team is a crucial component to a company’s success. Studies suggest that among the four drivers in employment, staff rank their relationship with their bosses as the most important factor. This discovery indicates how important it is that company leaders act as role models. Most managers that move to senior positions do so because they possess high emotional intelligence and can relate effectively with their employees and inspire them in a way that enhances their productivity and creativity. Coaching can help to develop business leaders’ levels of EQ and subsequently improve their relationship with their staff.”

The benefits of coaching unravelled
The coaching profession has not always been regarded highly, and it is sometimes a grossly misunderstood area. A preconceived idea is that coaching is similar to therapy, consulting or mentoring. This commonly held notion is very far from the truth.

Professional coaching is a service quite unlike any other, as it focuses on an individual’s life and particular circumstance. While embarking on a session, coach and client – for it is very much a teamwork effort between the pair – set out to improve the client’s mindset so as to maximise his or her personal and professional potential. The process is designed to be thought-provoking, creative and inspiring – every measure is put in place to unlock capabilities potentially lying dormant.

“Human beings can be set in their ways and they are generally creatures of habit. Coaches will help to unlock clients’ inner potential and inspire them to learn new ways, adopting a mindset that will benefit their undertakings as team leaders. Other qualities that are crucial when holding a senior position might also be brought to the surface in the process,” observes Harvey.

Essentially, Harvey stresses, a coaching programme could transform a leader from “good to great”, which will impact the organisation in a positive way. “After a successful coaching session or programme, we constantly see evidence of team leaders having found capacity for self-reflection, which often leads to their supporting and encouraging differences among their employees. A company is run by individuals, all of whom are unique and who thrive in different ways and for different reasons; recognising that fact has only been known to benefit companies.”

The ICF wouldn’t have been the respected venture it is today had it not been for proven results; coaching does generate solid return on investment (ROI) for clients. According to the 2009 ICF Global Coaching Client Study, the median ROI reported by companies who participated in the study and submitted calculations was seven times their initial investment in coaching.

In terms of success stories, Swedish automobile company Scania saw returns seven to 10 times their ICF coaching investment. Crucially, the company reported that productivity had increased by 18 percent, while sick leave had plummeted from 9.9 percent to 3.3 percent. “Scania’s results are quite remarkable and the company has committed to an ongoing partnership with the ICF which will see all staff receiving coaching sessions regularly, with team leaders enjoying up to nine days of coaching a year,” says Harvey.

Which coach is right for me?
The prejudice that coaches are only in the trade to earn money on quick-fix solutions is rapidly fading. An ICF certified coach will have received 60 to 200 hours of coach-specific training, the number of hours depending on the credential level. Additionally, 40 hours of continuing coach education are required every three years in order to retain an ICF Credential. There are three levels of ICF Credentials: Associate Certified Coach (ACC); Professional Certified Coach (PCC); and Master Certified Coach (MCC).

The process of selecting a coach among the vast network operating within the ICF can seem overwhelming. To aid the procedure, all ICF Credentialed coaches are searchable through the online directory, the ICF Coach Referral Service (CRS) – a free public resource that allows clients to tailor their search for a qualified coach based on specific criteria, be it the coach’s professional experience and direction, or a certain coaching method or language preference.

“When in the process of selecting a coach, clients usually interview three different coaches to find their perfect match. They will ask a specific set of questions relating to their requirements and look at the coach’s experience. Ultimately, the candidate has to find confidence in a coach, while at the same time the chemistry also has to be right. The personality between client and coach doesn’t have to match – sometimes opposite personality types will bring the best results.”

The awareness and credibility of the coaching profession is increasing, and its potential is enormous. With the help of the ICF, this highly-specialised service is only set to gather force.