Business and Executive Coaching Buyer’s Guide

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) recently published a coaching guide. It appears that SIOP is trying to compete for a piece of the coaching pie by the language on the site, and I applaud them for finally doing so. For example,

“Effective [business or executive] coaching requires expertise in a wide array of fields including assessment, measurement and evaluation, change management, adult learning and development, leadership development, performance management, organizational behavior, and team dynamics. Because psychologists educated in Industrial and Organizational Psychology (I-O) have a doctoral degree and a thorough education in these fields, they are particularly qualified to provide effective coaching assistance.”

The language suggests that a good “coach” (in this case a business or executive coach, not a life coach) is one who is educated and trained in I-O psychology and the listing of things that add up to being an effective coach are taught in I-O programs. Good move I must say.

Under the first comment section SIOP makes an even bolder move by stating:

“Many people call themselves coaches, and their education may range from a one-day continuing education course to a doctoral degree from a major research university. (See the SIOP website for information on doctoral and masters level programs in I-O psychology.) Many organizations certify coaches although the meaning of many of these certification efforts is not clear. We believe the most effective coaches are well educated in the areas of I-O psychology listed above and encourage an organization to ask detailed questions about education and experience.”

Now, that’s taking your place in the coaching arena!

I also like their questions to ask a coach. And in the comment section warns those seeking coaching to, “Watch out for gimmicks and one- size-fits-all solutions. Make sure the coach is using tools that are valid, i.e., have evidence of their usefulness for their intended purpose, and appropriate for the individual and setting.”

In particular, I like these questions:

(1) What is your training and experience in the following areas?

  • Individual Assessment
  • Measurement and evaluation
  • Performance evaluation
  • Change management
  • Training and development
  • Organizational behavior
  • Team dynamics

(2) How much and what kind of experience do you have in organizations?

(3) How much and what kind of experience do you have in this industry and with
individuals in this role (e.g., line management, staff functions, professionals)?

(4) How many people have you coached?

  • How did you identify the problem(s) of the individual?
  • How do you assess the individual?
  • What tools do you use? What experience have you had using them?
  • What kind of action planning process do you use?
  • What kinds of developmental activities do you employ?
  • How do you evaluate progress? How? When?

(5) How (and how often) do you evaluate the effectiveness of your coaching?

(6) What ethics code guides your work?

  • How does the coach handle ethical problems?
  • Who is the client?

(7) What are your references?

In raising concerns about the definition of coaching (as a distinct, standalone profession) and about the credibility of coaches as well as an entire coaching industry that has sprung up, Grant (2007) raised an important consideration. He says:

“Because coaching is an industry and not a profession, there are no barriers to entry, no regulation, no government-sanctioned accreditation or qualification process and no clear authority to be a coach; anyone can call themselves a ‘Master Coach’” (Grant, 2007, p. 27).

He goes on to say that there are so many “coach training organisations [sic],” some of which are nothing more than credentialing mills because after a few days of training and payment you can become a certified master coach. “[I]t sometimes seems as if ‘every man and his dog’ [can] offer a coach certification programme… making the value of such certifications highly questionable” (Grant, 2007, p. 27).

I think it’s important to take heed of this piece of advice:

“Make sure that you take the time to find an individual (or firm) who has the skills and approach that works for your organization and your needs” (SIOP, 2009).

Disclosure: I am currently in an Industrial and Organizational Psychology program and am a member of SIOP.

References

Grant, A.M. (2007). Past, present and future: The evolution of professional coaching and coaching psychology. In S. Palmer & A. Whybrow (Eds.), Handbook of coaching psychology (pp. 23-39). New York: Routledge.

SIOP. (2009). Selecting a Coach: What Industrial and Organizational Psychologists Bring to the Table. Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/workplace/coaching/selecting_a_coach.aspx