Action Stations

Keeping your business on the right track needs constant forward planning, we put some of our readers concerns and questions to the people in the know, The International Coaching federation.

  • I have recently taken up an important sales position within a major international firm. I’m eager to make a success of the role. How can business coaching help me to succeed? Mike Hawkins – London.
    Coaching can help you succeed in your new role by taking you to the next level of productivity and effectiveness (and thus, you can move more efficiently toward your goals). A coach will work with you to unlock your untapped potential. Additionally, when you face a challenging situation or sales project, your coach will support you to confidently pursue new ideas and alternative solutions with greater resilience and resourcefulness. A coach will encourage fresh perspective…and will inspire and encourage you through the questions they ask and the actionable goals you co-create. ICF defines coaching as a thought-provoking partnering between a client and a coach in a creative process that inspires clients to maximize their professional and personal potential.

  • Following a recent downsizing, my employees are struggling to come to terms with their new roles and targets. Can a professional coach help them in this regard? Gavin Corbett – Edinburgh
    Professional coaches are certainly able to help employees in this regard. Coaching is the perfect tool to use when dealing with change and transition. Professional coaches are trained to work with clients to inspire them to maximize their personal and professional potential. With the client, 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 and how to best leverage those strengths. The ICF Global Coaching Client Study indicates that companies that use or have used professional coaching for business reasons have seen a median return on investment of seven times their initial investment. This study shows 86 percent of companies that use or have used coaching report at least a 100 percent return on their initial investment, as well as a significant impact in other client goal areas.

  • I run my own company and am thinking about hiring a business coach to bring me up to date with the changing business environment, but is there tangible proof that coaching works? Marc Kernbauer – Vienna
    Definitely! Many case studies, articles, and global research are dedicated to demonstrating the return on investment and return on expectation other organisations have experienced as a result of professional coaching. According to ICF Global Coaching Client Study, an overwhelming majority, 82.7 percent, of individuals who have experienced professional coaching report being “very satisfied” with their coaching experience and 96.2 percent said they would repeat it given the same circumstances. Coaching is seen as an “action plan” rather than an exploratory process. You can review this report and many other in the ICF Research Portal at

    One of the ways the ICF works to collect and share the data on effectiveness of coaching is through the ICF International Prism Award. Annually, organisations that have demonstrated a successful use of coaching as a leadership strategy are recognized for their work and commitment to professional coaching. Past recipients of the award include BBC and NASA. Details of recipients’ coaching programs and successes are outlined at

    And yet, if your goal is to refresh your knowledge about the business environment, you may consider other professionals, such as mentors and consultants to help in this regard. You may also find a coach who offers such services and set specific agreement about the scope of your relationship.

  • I’m a human resources manager for a medium-sized enterprise. What different types of coaching are available to me? David Bourdeau – Poitiers
    Many professional coaches choose a specialty or a niche, based on their experience, preference, or skill. The most commonly quoted specialties include Leadership, Executive, Business/Organisational, Career Transition, and Life, Vision and Enhancement. The type of coach you select will revolve around want your needs and the goals that you set for yourself. There are also other elements or criteria that you may wish to establish for your coach – gender, location, method of coaching, etc. You may want to consider ICF’s Coach Referral Service to experiment with finding the right coach for you. Make plans to speak to at least three candidates before making a final selection.

  • I’ve decided to hire a coach to help me improve my time-management and leadership skills. How do I find the right coach for me? Elisabeth Larsson – Malmo
    The ICF recommends that potential clients do their homework before hiring a coach. Educate yourself about coaching—coaching is regularly written about by the media. If you prefer looking at research, examine the ICF Research Portal. This portal hosts coaching research articles, case studies, journals, and more. Potential clients should also be self-aware—know your objectives for working with a coach. Have an understanding of how a coaching relationship will work best for you (do you prefer working face-to-face or over the telephone? How frequently do you want to meet?). Potential clients should also interview multiple coaches before making a final decision. Ask them about their experience, qualifications, skills, and references. And perhaps one of the most important things to consider when looking for the right coach is the reminder that a coaching relationship is an important relationship. There should be a connection between you and the coach that “feels” right to you.

  • These are anxious times within the business environment. What factors have to be considered when looking at the financial investment in coaching? Dave Freeman – London
    Working with a coach requires both a personal commitment (of time and energy) and a financial commitment. When considering the financial investment in coaching, individuals should consider both the desired benefits as well as the anticipated length of time to be spent in coaching. 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 the agreement is made.

    It may also help to know that coaching offers a good return on investment (ROI) 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.

  • With the economy struggling and unemployment rates rising, how can business coaching help my company to survive and how do I measure the success or otherwise of coaching? Shane O’Donohoe – Dublin
    In the face of uncertainty caused by workforce reductions and other factors, coaching can be very powerful. Coaching is a thought provoking process that supports individuals to confidently pursue alternative solutions with greater resiliency. Professional coaches help companies and their employees achieve strategic business objectives. Organisations 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.

    Success through coaching can be measured in two distinct ways. First, there are the external indicators of performance—these are the measures that can be seen and measured in the individual’s or team’s environment. One example of an external indicator would be the achievement of coaching goals established at the outset of the coaching relationship. Second, there are the internal indicators of success—these are the measures which are inherent within the individual or team and can be measured by the individual or team with the support of the coach. One example of an internal indicator would be the use of self-scoring/self-validating assessments that can be administered initially and at regular intervals during the coaching process. Ideally, a mix of both external and internal indicators is incorporated.

  • I would like to take on a business coach. I’m concerned, however, about finding the time for doing it. How are coaching sessions conducted and how often? Felip Laporta – Barcelona
    The amount of time spent in a coaching partnership truly depends on what you hope to accomplish, along with your individual needs and preferences. Suggested timeframes will vary from coach to coach. If you meet less frequently, your coach may suggest meeting over an extended period of time versus meeting more frequently over a shorter period of time. As for how coaching sessions are conducted, this too varies from coach to coach. Coaches work virtually (via telephone, Skype, email) or in-person. Your coach will work with you to determine the structure that will work best for you. According to the ICF Global Coaching Clients Study, an average engagement length is 12.8 months. Coaching engagements, however, tend to be fairly short with over half (53 percent) lasting less than nine months and almost three quarters (73 percent) lasting one year or less. The most common engagement durations are 3 to 5.9 months (22 percent), 6 to 8.9 months (23 percent) and 9 to 12 months (20 percent).

  • Is coaching oriented purely towards reaching business targets or can it help me with my work-life balance too? Pete Hanley – Manchester
    Coaching can be utilized in all areas of your life—across both personal and professional arenas. A coach can work with you to discover, clarify, and align with whatever you want to achieve. Their job, no matter what you hope to accomplish, is to provide the support you need to enhance your already existing skills, resources, and creativity. They will work with you to generate solutions and strategies to reach your goals—be it reaching your business targets or balancing work and life. According to the ICF Global Coaching Study, the most common reasons why people seek coaching are: Seeking better work/life balance; Looking for guidance during a career change; and Need help solving various business related matters and challenges.

  • Essentially, what does business coaching require of me? Is the process stressful? Barbara Ielati – Milan
    The coaching process includes you working with your coach to determine your current opportunities and challenges—this defines the scope of your relationship, how you will work, and actions/desired outcomes you hope to achieve. From there, you and your coach will determine the frequency of your meetings, the method (telephone, in-person, virtually, etc.), and how long your meetings will last. In-between coaching sessions, your coach may ask you to complete specific actions to support the achievement of your identified goals. To do so, the coach may provide additional resources—in the form of relevant articles, checklists, assessments, or models to support your thinking and actions.

    The process does not have to be stressful—in fact, if you are completely intentional about it, you will not only be able to fully reap the benefits of your coaching partnership, but you will feel more at ease as coaching has been proven to help clients set better goals, take more action, and make better decisions. Coaching is a partnership and your coach is a catalyst for you reaching your full potential through active listening, powerful questioning, and action planning.

  • I’ve been on training and mentoring programmes before within the workplace. How is business coaching different from these? Tej Gupta – Mumbai
    Professional coaching is a distinct service that focuses on an individual’s life as it relates to goal setting, outcome creation, and personal change management. It is a forward looking process and an “action” one.

    Mentoring is most closely defined as “guiding from one’s own experience or sharing of experience in a specific industry or career development” and is often confused with coaching though coaches do not mentor clients. Coaches work with clients in a manner to provoke thought and allow for creativity that inspires the client to maximize their potential.

    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 by the client with guidance from the coach. Training also assumes an established curriculum and coaching does not have a set curriculum plan. It varies from situation to situation and client to client.

  • To justify the cost of employing a professional coach, is there any way of directly measuring the return on investment that may accrue from coaching? Sarah Preis – Frankfurt
    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

In addition, you should consider these factors when looking at the financial investment of coaching: fees charged by coaches vary by specialty and by level of experience of the coach; and desired benefits vs. anticipated length of time to be spent in coaching.

  • How much training have ICF coaches had? Can I be guaranteed a professional, effective service? Martin Davis – Sidcup
    The ICF expects its members to represent the highest quality in professional coaching and has membership eligibility requirements in place. This sets ICF members apart. Coach members of the ICF are required to have at least 60 hours of coach specific training—meaning that they have received training from an ICF approved program (or equivalency) in training that teaches coaching skills and behaviours, how to apply skills in a coach-like manner, and transfers these skills in accordance with the ICF Core Competencies.

    By choosing to work with an ICF coach, you can rest assured knowing that your coach has been properly trained and has committed to upholding the established codes, processes and ICF standards as set by the ICF—this includes our ICF Code of Ethics and the Ethical Conduct Review Process.

    Also, a large and growing number of ICF members hold one of ICF three credentials: ACC, PCC, or MCC. That means that they met stringent requirements of coach training and experience, and were evaluated by their peers on their coaching. For example, a PCC (Professional Certified Coach) has to obtain at least 125 hours of coach-specific training; have 750 hours of coaching experience; pass a written exam and have at least two coaching sessions evaluated and scored at the PCC level.

  • I manage a firm in Brazil with international ambitions. Can professional coaching help me to understand how business is done overseas and help optimise the company’s chances of success? Jorge Santos – Sao Paulo
    A coach who is familiar with various cultures or who has international business experience might help you see things through a different lens. Coaches with international experience could guide you to see a wider perspective to help you overcome cultural barriers that you never even realized existed. Many coaches specialize in multi-cultural environments and populations and can be of real help.

Depending on your goals, a consultant could also be an option for you. A consultant can tell you how business is done internationally and propose strategies for success. However, if you are seeking a guiding process in which you create your own solutions by weighing various international perspectives and customs, a coach could be a great fit for you.

  • What are the benefits of joining the International Coach Federation? How do I go about becoming a coach myself? Adrian Cochrane – London
    By belonging to the ICF, you showcase your professionalism to the world. Membership informs others that you are a part of an influential voice that is shaping the future of coaching around the globe. ICF membership is an investment in your future and in the future of professional coaching. You will also be joining a network of almost 20,000 professional colleagues and their combined experiences and wisdom.

    Members of the ICF enjoy many benefits, including: professional recognition; leadership development; shared ethics and standards; local educational and networking offerings at 100+ ICF Chapters in over 50 countries; and special discounts on the application/renewal of the ICF Credential, event registration, and ICF branded research, and offers through the ICF Partner Programs.

    If you are serious about coaching, your first step should be coach-specific training. Research ICF approved coach training programs in the Training Program Search Service at to find a program that fits your specific needs. Begin your coach-specific training, and consider joining a professional global organisation like the ICF as well as being involved at the local level.