Skip to main content

The profession of coaching has evolved significantly since I started to work in this space in 2003.

In those early years when I told people I was getting into coaching, they would often ask “what sport?”

That no longer happens.

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) recently announced a global milestone of more than 50,000 ICF credential holders, reflecting the growth in coaching.

Additionally, in May, the ICF released its most extensive global study to date, which provides a snapshot of the global state of the profession, and reflects confidence in future growth in demand for these services.

Who is a coach?

ICF distinguished two definitions of respondents in their study: The majority profiled in this study are those who identify primarily as ‘coach practitioners.’ These are people who coach professionally either in a full- or part-time capacity as external providers of coaching services or hired as an internal coach.

The other category are people who may coach within their professional roles but do not identify as a ‘coach practitioner.’ They may be a manager, leader or in a related function such as HR.

While most in this study are external practitioner coaches, these definitions acknowledge that leaders and supporting functions are learning the ‘coaching way’ and integrating some coaching into their role.

Main areas of coaching

Within that predominant category of coach practitioners, the study revealed the largest focus for coaching in North America was leadership coaching (cited by 41 per cent of respondents), followed by executive coaching (17 per cent), life/vision/enhancement (11 per cent), business (9 per cent) and career (8 per cent).

These distinctions do not mean that when one coaches an executive or leader, that life or career issues do not arise and get supported. We coach the person, not only any singular context. Many coaches, myself included, will coach leaders on a plethora of issues – leadership development, resilience, career, communications efficacy and more.

Outlook for coaching

The ICF study’s indication of strong levels of confidence in the future growth of coaching holds true even considering incoming artificial intelligence alternatives. Equally salient, a majority of coach practitioners globally (93 per cent) offer other services in addition to coaching, such as consulting (59 per cent), training (58 per cent) and facilitation services (55 per cent). This is true in my professional experience as well.

Will leader-as-coach continue to gain traction?

Given the study’s focus was on coach practitioners, it did not delve deeply into the leaders, managers and support functions who apply coaching skills in their role. However, from my experience, I am seeing this segment as one that is continuing to grow.

Command-and-control leadership simply doesn’t work in times of flux. Human leaders need to work with their people in recognition and support of what it means to work, flourish and thrive as a human being. They need different skills. And to have different conversations.

The collaborative and co-creative nature of coaching offers greater potential and prompts different kinds of conversations for performance, for empowerment, for connecting. Today’s leaders need to share accountability for results and learning. The ‘telling’ approach of yesteryear just doesn’t work.

Leaders can get coach training in several ways. Some will seek it out themselves. There are myriad training programs available with different kinds of specialities. Disclosure, I am on faculty of one such ICF accredited training school that specializes in coaching in the leadership context.

Others may receive customized training offered by their employer or a related sector association. An example of the latter is The Ontario Library Service (OLS), which is a client of mine and mandated to support Ontario public libraries. Among other support services, OLS hosts a two-year training program for library leaders to build leadership capacity. In recent years, coaching skills have been a significant part of the curriculum.

The training highlights the coaching mindset and various coaching skills and approaches to amplify potential for collaboration, engagement and capacity-building in the library context.

The OLS program was recently awarded with the prestigious ICF Prism award for excellence in coaching. It honours organizations and the coaches who have implemented programs that exemplify how professional coaching can maximize individual potential, shape the culture of an organization and address key strategic goals that directly contribute to bottom line benefits.

“Coaching skills can profoundly impact a leader’s efficacy in catalyzing performance, engagement and building positive, collaborative cultures that serve Ontario communities,” said Anne Marie Madziak, the OLS executive who oversaw the programming and championed the idea to integrate coaching skills into the curriculum.

Ms. Madziak recently retired but the torch has been passed on with the next cohort already in full swing with 32 more leaders adding coaching skills to their leadership toolbox.

Whether hiring a coach, becoming a coach or sponsoring an employee (manager/leader) to learn to bring more coaching to their work, it is evident that skillsets of the future will continue to embrace the coach approach.

Eileen Chadnick, PCC, of Big Cheese Coaching, is an ICF credentialed, two-time ICF Prism award winner, who works with leaders (emerging to experienced), and organizations, on navigating, leading and flourishing in times of flux, opportunity and challenge. She is the author of Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy.

Interact with The Globe