We put reader questions to the International coach federation to help you decide how best to utilise the skills of a coach.

I’ve heard a lot about business coaching recently. These are difficult times though. How can I justify the expense of a business coach when I’m trying to reduce expenses in most departments of my business?

That is a very good question. Perhaps the largest justification of coaching is that coaching offers a good return on investment for individual clients and offers a significant return on investment for companies. According to the ICF Global Coaching Client Study, 68 percent of individuals indicated they had at least made back their initial investment. The median suggests that a client, who achieved financial benefit from coaching, can typically expect a ROI of more than three times the amount spent. According to the same report, the vast majority of companies (86 percent) say they at least made their investment back. In fact, almost one-fifth (19 percent) saw an ROI of 50 times their investment, while a further 28 percent saw an ROI of 10 to 49 times the investment.

If I decide to take on a coach, how does the coaching process pan out? I’m already working a ten-hour day and have little time for extra-curricular activities.

The coaching process will involve you working with your coach to determine the scope of your relationship and actions/desired outcomes you hope to achieve. This will allow the coach to suggest a coaching timeframe (perhaps meeting less frequently over an extended period of time or meeting more frequently over a shorter period of time) and how you will work (coaches tend to work virtually—via telephone, Skype, email—but also work in-person where applicable). All of these factors will determine the amount of time the process will entail.

Keep in mind that in-between sessions, your coach may ask you to complete specific actions to support the achievement of your identified goals. To do so, they may provide additional resources (relevant articles, checklists, assessments, or models to support your thinking and actions).

I’ve done several training courses over the years. How is coaching different from training? What can I expect to learn that is unique to the coaching process?

Training programs are based on the acquisition of certain learning objectives as set out by the trainer or instructor. Though objectives are clarified in the coaching process, they are set out by the individual or team being coached with guidance provided by the coach. Training also assumes a linear learning path which coincides with an established curriculum. Coaching is less linear and does not have a set curriculum plan. In a coaching partnership, you will experience fresh perspective through questions and co-creating actionable goals.

I am a department manager and want to develop a more inclusive, collaborative work environment. Can coaching help me with this goal?

Definitely! Coaching can help with a variety of goal areas, including the creation of a more inclusive, collaborative work environment. Research has shown that individuals who have engaged in professional coaching have walked away with fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhanced thinking and decision-making skills, enhanced interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in carrying out their chosen work and life roles.

Is it important to use an accredited coach? What formal training do coaches receive?

Yes, it is extremely important! At this time, coaching is not a regulated field. That means there are people out there referring to themselves as coaches when they have had no formal training. When interviewing potential coaches, it is imperative to be diligent in asking them about credentials, education, training, and experience. By choosing to work with an ICF Credentialed coach, you can rest assured knowing you are working with someone who has highly recognizable, global coaching qualifications. A coach who has been credentialed by the ICF has completed stringent education and experience requirements and has demonstrated a strong commitment to excellence in coaching.

I work for governmental organisation in which cutbacks are widespread and every penny spent must be accounted for. Is there any way of measuring the return on investment after hiring a business coach?
For our ICF International Prism Award applicants, we encourage them to calculate their return on investment with this formula:

(Gain from investment – Cost of investment)
________________________________    x 100
                   Cost of investment

Other factors that must be considered when looking at the financial investment of coaching: fees charged by coaches vary by speciality and by level of experience of the coach; and desired benefits vs. anticipated length of time to be spent coaching.

I run my own company and often worry that my employees don’t have the same sense of entrepreneurialism or drive as I do. Could a coach help them with this? 

Possibly—professional coaches are trained to work with clients to inspire them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Within the partnership, a coach will assess current needs, opportunities, and challenges. From there, they will determine goals, and establish desired outcomes. In addition, the coach will help identify core strengths of the client and how those strengths can best be leveraged. 

What does coaching require of me as an individual? Is it possible to fail the coaching process?

The role of the individual is intentional. Throughout the coaching process, the individual will be required to: create the coaching agenda based on personally meaningful coaching goals; utilize assessment and observations to enhance self-awareness and awareness of others; envision personal and/or organizational success; assume full responsibility for personal decisions and action; utilize the coaching process to promote possibility thinking and fresh perspectives; take courageous action in alignment with personal goals and aspirations; engage big picture thinking and problem solving skills; and utilize the tools/concepts/models/principles provided by the coach to engage effective forward actions. The only way you can fail at coaching is if you choose not to follow through.

How do I choose the best coach for me? How will I know if my coach is any good?

If you are working with an ICF Credentialed coach you can be sure you’re working with the best in the industry. ICF Credentials are awarded to professional coaches who have met stringent education and experience requirements, and have demonstrated a thorough understanding of the ICF Core Competencies that set the standard in the profession. Achieving credentials through ICF signifies a coach’s commitment to integrity, an understanding of coaching skills and a dedication to clients. To find an ICF Credentialed coach, please visit coachfederation.org. The ICF recommends taking several actions before choosing a coach to partner with; this way you can ensure you are selecting the absolute best coach for your needs. Educate yourself about coaching, know your objectives for working with a coach, and interview multiple potential coaches. During these interviews, seek out coaches with whom you feel a connection.

The ICF recommends asking the following nine questions of any potential coach you plan to hire

Are you a member of the ICF

Do you hold an ICF Credential

What is your coaching experience (number of individuals coached, years of experience, types of coaching situations, etc.)?

What is your coach-specific training? (Enrolled in an ICF approved training program, other coach-specific training program)?

What types of businesses do you work with most often?

What levels have you coached? (Presidents, vice presidents, middle managers, etc.)

What is your philosophy about coaching? 

What types of assessments are you certified to deliver?

What are some coaching success stories (examples of individuals who have succeeded as a result of coaching/how the coach added value)?

What’s the best resource to use when researching hiring a coach? Is it possible to speak to others who have had coaching before making a decision?
The ICF offers a free searchable directory of all ICF Credentialed coaches (these coaches have met stringent education and experience requirements) called the Coach Referral Service. Begin your search there. When you narrow your potential coach list to a few, request references. They will be able to direct you to previous clients who are willing to share their experience with you. You can also consider contacting a local ICF Chapter for assistance in finding people you have experienced coaching first hand. Find a local ICF Chapter: http://www.coachfederation.org/icf-members/chapter-search/

I am an executive in a bank in the City in London. My goal is to ensure promotion and advance my career in the face of competition from colleagues. Can coaching help?

Yes! A professional coach can work with you to discover, clarify, and align with whatever you want to achieve. Their job, no matter your goals, is to provide the support you need to enhance your already existing skills, resources, and creativity. Through coaching sessions, they will work with you to generate solutions and strategies to reach your goals.

Under what circumstances is coaching not right for an individual?

Coaching is a distinct service that focuses on an individual’s life as it relates to goal setting, outcome creation, and personal change management. If an individual does not find collaboration valuable, does not have the time nor energy to make real changes happen, nor is not interested in viewing a new perspective, coaching may not be right for them. Likewise, if an individual is looking for therapy, consulting, mentoring, or training (all services often confused with coaching), coaching will not meet their needs.

How long does coaching last? How much does coaching cost on average?

The length of the coaching partnership varies depending on the individual’s (or team’s) needs and preferences. They last anywhere from three to six months or longer, but factors such as types of goals, the way the individual/team like to work, the frequency of sessions, and financial resources all play a role in determining the length of time a coaching partnership will last. According to the ICF Global Coaching Study (2012), almost half of all engagements (47 percent) last between 4-6 months, followed by those lasting 7-12 months (26 percent). Comparatively, few assignments (8 percent) last more than 12 months. Likewise, the cost of coaching is varied by experience, location, and coaching niche. The same study found that the average fee for a one hour session is $229. Globally, one in two coaches said their fee for a one hour session was less than $170 (the median).

What is the most common issue that executives want to address when they take on a coach?

It truly depends on the individual and the circumstances surrounding their desire to hire a coach. Generally there is something at stake (opportunity, challenge, etc.); there is a gap in knowledge/skills/confidence; there is a desire to accelerate results; or there is a lack of clarity.
No matter what issue the client brings to the coaching session, it is the coach’s job to discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve; encourage client self-discovery; elicit client-generated solutions and strategies; and hold the client responsible and accountable. The coach will provide the support needed for the client to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that already exist within the client.

As a relatively experienced executive, I’ve possibly become a bit out of date in terms of understanding the changing nature of the business world. Can a coach help me or am I better off doing some kind of refresher course?

Possibly—a coach will work with you to unlock any untapped potential—and can give you new perspectives to consider when it comes to how you think as an executive. If you have clear goals you want to work toward, coaching can help as it allows you set objectives with guidance from the coach. A coach will hold you accountable in reaching these goals and can take you to your next level of productivity and effectiveness.

What do you see as the main challenges facing businesses in 2013? And how can business coaching help companies and individual executives meet these challenges?

The unsteady economic situation of the last several years has left many organizations unstable. Through downsizing, restructuring, or mergers, extremely high expectations have been placed on the remaining workforce. For those organizations, the challenge this year will be restoring self-confidence so they may face organizational demands. The ICF Global Coaching Client Study shows 80 percent of those being coaching saw an improvement in their self-confidence. The challenge for those organizations that did not experience the same downsizing is finding ways to flourish and grow despite the uncertain economic times. Coaching is a very powerful tool in the face of uncertainty—organizations of all types and sizes have experienced the value professional coaching brings, including: increased business performance, improved product quality, higher employee retention and morale, greater employee commitment, leadership development, conflict reduction, team building skills, and more.

Is coaching a casual or an intensive process? How much of a sacrifice in terms of time and effort must be made by those taking on a coach?

Depending on what your personal goals and expectations are, the coaching process can be casual and/or intensive. No matter which it is for you, the individual must be intentional: you will get out of the partnership what you put into it. According to the ICF Global Coaching Study (2012), almost half of all engagements (47 percent) last between 4-6 months, followed by those lasting 7-12 months (26 percent). Comparatively, few assignments (8 percent) last more than 12 months. As far as effort goes, the individual can expect regularly scheduled sessions (the coach will suggest a timeframe that will work based on your needs and preferences). And in-between sessions, the coach might ask for the individual to complete specific actions to support the achievement of your identified goals (to do so, they may provide additional resources, such as relevant articles, checklists, assessments, or models to support your thinking and actions.)

How much training do ICF accredited coaches get? Is it necessary to take great care when choosing a specific coach?

A coach who has been credentialed by the ICF has completed stringent education and experience requirements and has demonstrated a strong commitment to excellence in coaching. Exact numbers of training and experience hours per Credential type are outlined at Coachfederation.org/icfcredentials.

Yes! Coaching is not a regulated field at this point in time—and unfortunately that means there are people out there referring to themselves as coaches yet they have had no formal training. Don’t be misled to think that someone is a competent coach because he or she sets high fees or seems professional. The ICF always recommends that individuals interview potential coaches and be diligent in asking about credentials, education, training, and experience. By choosing to work with an ICF Credentialed coach, you can rest assured knowing you are working with someone who has highly recognizable global coaching qualifications. According to the ICF Global Consumer Awareness Study, 84 percent of consumers who had experienced a coaching relationship reported that it was important for coaches to hold a Credential.

To make it easy for consumers, the ICF offers a Coach Referral Service. This searchable directory includes all ICF Credential holders and is free to use. Access it at Coachfederation.org.

What factors should be considered when examining the financial investment in coaching? How are the benefits of coaching measured?

Working with a coach requires both a personal commitment (of both time and energy) and a financial commitment. When considering the financial investment in coaching, individuals should consider both their desired benefits as well as the anticipated length of time to be spent in the coaching partnership. And it should be noted that fees charged vary by speciality and level of experience of the coach. Since the coaching relationship is predicated on clear communication, any financial concerns or questions should be voiced in initial conversations before any agreement is made. 

It is also beneficial to know that coaching offers a good return on investment for individual clients and a significant return on investment for companies. According to the ICF Global Coaching Client Study, 68 percent of individual indicated they had at least made back their initial investment. The median suggests that a client, who achieved financial benefit from coaching, can typically expect a ROI of more than three times the amount spent. According to the same report, the vast majority of companies (86 percent) say they at least made their investment back. In fact, almost one-fifth (19 percent) saw an ROI of 50 times their investment, while a further 28 percent saw an ROI of 10 to 49 times the investment.

As far as measurement goes, you could use this formula (we encourage our ICF International Prism Award applicants to calculate their ROI with it):

(Gain from investment – Cost of investment)
________________________________    x 100
Cost of investment

Does coaching guarantee appreciable results in terms of productivity, personal satisfaction with life and work and the achievement of personally relevant goals?

As a result of professional coaching, it has been found that clients set better goals, take more action, make better decisions, and more fully use their natural strengths. According to the ICF Global Coaching Client Study, specific areas in which clients have experienced increased productivity included: improved work performance (70 percent), improved business management (61 percent), improved time management (57 percent), and improved team effectiveness (51 percent). Coaching has also been shown to improve self-confidence (80 percent), improve relationships (73 percent), improve communication skills (72 percent), and improve work/life balance (67 percent).