License to Coach: Are coaches getting away with mediocrity ?

6 Feb 2020

License to Coach: Are coaches getting away with mediocrity ?

It has taken me 15 years of coaching practice to realize and acknowledge the true power and potential of coaching. My insights and wisdom are informed from close to 10000 hrs. of 1-0-1 coaching for high potential senior and middle managers across geographies from MNC’s and large national corporations to CEO’s of start-ups and small/medium businesses.

Current reality of coaching market

It is fair to say that coaching is a quasi-organized industry. This seems a perfect time to trigger inquiry about the direction and practices within the executive and corporate coaching industry which is poised to cross the $ 3 billion mark and has spread to perhaps most countries around the world.

The potential coaching market is far greater, and scope of coaching is significantly undermined.

I anticipate seasoned and highly experienced coaches will amplify what I am about to share, in a nutshell, it is time the coaching community took the lead to:

  • Review and challenge the learning content and process of coach certifications
  • Invite a global dialogue to assess the expansion and advancement of the scope of coaching

There are close to 2 billion employed professionals and only 60k certified coaches available across the world, one can imagine the dearth and opportunities for tens of thousands of more coaches that the market can very easily accommodate. The larger subject of conversations could be on multiple factors-

  • Value of coaching: Users’ perceived value of coaching (not much has changed in defining the scope of coaching)
  • Expectations of users: In a ‘QUASI’ regulated industry, with no preamble-like detailed/clear guidelines available for what users should definitely expect
  • Platform like “Glassdoor”: A professional-social platform where users can leave comments and feedback about the coaching experience (positive and negative)
  • Scaling coaching leveraging new-age technology, A.I. and bots (Recent Oracle survey stated that 64% employees would trust a robot more than their manager). This is a bigger topic for my next blog.
  • Global outlook: The reforms in coaching could be informed from a global perspective and not some “Motivated reasoning”.

How does one become a certified coach?

As of now aspiring coaches attend an in-person or even an online coach certification program (accredited by ICF or other independent associations), some of which are anything between 5-10 days (classroom) and spread over a few weeks/months.

In the classroom sessions one learns about definitions and evolution of coaching, standard competencies defined by ICF/WABC and some coaching models and tools. Participants get to practice some of these competencies briefly, share and receive feedback. At best participants walk away with a theoretical sense of these models and competencies, with a taste of being coached by a fellow participant primarily to practice some competencies and process. (Far from a real session or coaching journey with a seasoned coach).

Journey to mastery

In the early stages of coaching practice, a coach’s focus is on the theory and perhaps being conscious of some core competencies such as listening, questioning, feedback and goal setting amongst others listed by ICF. From unconscious incompetence (ignorance) to unconscious competence (Expert) is a journey that could run into tens of years and 1000s of hours. How fast a coach segues from a beginner to expert depends on:

  • Cultural background
  • The foundational work
  • Underpinning
  • Nature of opportunities
  • Scope of coaching
  • Profile of clients

There are simply no short cuts!!!

What footprints do coaches leave?

One can have 100’s of hours coaching under the belt, yet it is the reflections, depth, and outcomes that one creates which will determine the future growth of coaching in terms of acceptance, acknowledgment, and adoption.

This being true, what do you think are the outcomes a coach creates in the first few years of his/her coaching journey? Yet, the footprints they leave inform the overall confidence and mindset organizations have towards the effectiveness of coaching.

While ICF (one of the front runners in terms of guidelines and benchmarks) has made some distinctions by introducing levels of expertise (ACC/PCC/MCC), yet the process in terms of method and evidence they seek has enough room for a review and re-examination.




Getting away with mediocrity

 “It is a fair assumption that for every successful coaching journey, there are tens that either do not produce the desired outcome or fail to make any significant contribution to the “growth” of the coachee.” These are brushed under the carpet.

In addition, coaching on average is a 6-8-month journey between a coach and coachee and every session is critical in terms of time and money investment. In the absence of regulation (policies, guidelines, and consumer rights) the coachees go through the motions without voicing their concerns and coaches no matter how passionate about their practice, can and do get away with mediocrity easily.




Reflective questions:

  1. What could be some subjects that are made mandatory for coaches to learn and become experts?
  2. Why is it important to have a minimum threshold to meet enrolment criteria in a coach certification program?
  3. How will ‘License to coach’ Vs ‘Coach certification’ serve the industry and organizations?


Dr. Deep Bali, CEO & Managing Partner, Recalibrate Pvt. Ltd.  

Deep is a Columbia University Global Leadership Coach, and is acknowledged by business leaders and CEOs across geographies for his super ability to enable leaders, teams and businesses to “Pivot”.

Leave a Reply