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The Rise of Professional Coaching

There is a profound shift facing leaders worldwide. The recent 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report details the rapid rise of the social enterprise, where organisations are increasingly judged on the basis of their relationships with their workers, their customers, and their communities, as well as their impact on society at large -  transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises.1 Other mega trends driving new expectations for leaders include rapid changes in technology, the influence of globalisation; amplified boom and bust cycles; ever-changing organisational metrics; and increased diversity of our workforce.2  What's required from our leaders today is very different to the traditional form of leadership, and demands a new approach to organisational development.


While some individuals thrive in an environment characterised by uncertainty and complexity, most are left searching for ways to survive. It is here we see the rise of coaching as part of organisational development strategies, as we seek to best equip our leaders to respond and thrive in a constant state of change.


Coaching: new thinking brings new results

The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as "partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential". It's about bridging the gap between where someone currently is and supporting their thinking and action to get to where they'd like to be. Through powerful questioning techniques, the development of goals and action plans, and expanded awareness on insights to overcoming barriers, the coaching relationship focuses on transformational, lasting change and success.


As humans we naturally feel more committed to acting upon our own ideas than those of others, so a process which facilitates this generation of thoughts and ownership of solutions will tend to achieve higher levels of commitment to change, action, and in turn results. 2 Research commissioned by the ICF and conducted by PwC, show the three main reasons for engaging a coach in New Zealand are to: (1) optimise individual and team work performance; (2) improve communication skills; and (3) increase productivity. 3 Clients of coaching are held accountable for their own outcomes and find, that through coaching, new thinking brings new, more desired, results.


Coaching versus Mentoring. An important distinction

What happens when you are asked by a colleague or industry connection for a coffee catch up to share your knowledge and insights on a particular subject. One coffee leads to another and next thing you know you have a regular meeting in place as part of what may feel like a €˜coaching' relationship. It is here where the lines can become blurred on the distinction between coaching and mentoring. Although some coaches provide a mix of training, consulting and mentoring services, it is important to understand that coaching is a distinctly unique profession with its own competencies and standards of conduct. Mentoring is specifically different to coaching and can be defined as €˜voluntary wisdom in shaping an outlook'. Mentoring involves a more experienced or knowledgeable person (mentor) helping a less experienced or knowledgeable person (mentee) in an area where the mentee wants additional growth. Mentoring works on the interface between identity and the bigger picture, where a mentor helps to shape the outlook or attitude of an individual's thinking, acting as a sounding board and offering a sympathetic ear when needed. Mentors are in a position to offer their own advice and wisdom, where alternatively, the role of a coach is to expand the clients' capacity for their own self-discovery and insights €“ rather than offering advice. What's important about this distinction, is that we can no longer simply rely on the sharing and transfer of knowledge to grow capability. To shift from surviving to thriving in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, we need strategies and interventions which tap into individual creativity and foster agility and accountability. Professional coaching offers a gateway to this and is increasingly used as a global development approach, especially for both established and emerging leaders.


Coaching trends in New Zealand

The 2017 ICF Global Consumer Awareness Study shows general awareness of coaching in New Zealand is increasing, with 82% of participants €˜very' to €˜somewhat' aware of coaching, versus 68% globally. However, only 24% of respondents in New Zealand say they are being coached, compared to 35% globally. Of particular note, for those who are being coached, or have experienced coaching in the past, just 36% of respondents in New Zealand reported being €˜very satisfied' with their experience, with the majority (46%) reporting €˜somewhat satisfied'. The challenge is coaching is an un-regulated industry, meaning anyone can put a website together, grab a few business cards and call themselves a coach. And unfortunately, many people do, without any formal coach training. This, in turn, contributes to varying experiences in the market for buyers of coaching. Furthermore, coaching clients may not have a common understanding of what professional coaching actually is, further contributing to market confusion and mixed experiences of coaching.


There are also some key differences to the way coaching is delivered in New Zealand compared with global trends. In New Zealand, the majority of coaching is reportedly delivered by managers using coaching skills alongside internal coach practitioners, with just 43% of coaching delivered by external coaches. Again, this trend comes with implications on the ability for effectiveness within the coaching relationship. It is challenging to expect a direct report to open up about their true challenges (both personally and professionally) to a direct manager who is using coaching skills, given this manager may then be responsible for their performance review in weeks to come. Again, this trend could be impacting the levels of satisfaction and effectiveness for coaching and should be considered as part of organisational development strategies.


Points to consider when hiring a coach

There are some interesting numbers to consider when hiring a coach. During Q1 2018, 37,292 people in Australia and New Zealand had €˜coach' as part of their job titles on LinkedIn. Of this total, 4.1% (1,553) are ICF members, and 1.5% (558) of all coaches in Australia and New Zealand are ICF credentialed. An ICF credential indicates compliance against rigorous education and practice requirements, supported by a set of ICF Core Competencies and a Code of Ethics designed to protect and serve buyers of coaching.

Other points to consider when hiring a coach include:

  • Do your homework.Educate yourself about what coaching is, what it isn't and what the coaching process entails.
  • Reflect on your goals and objectives. Be clear on what it is you want to achieve, in order to then select the best-fit coach for your desired outcomes.
  • Chemistry check a selection of coaches. Find a coach you can personally connect with. What is their area of specialty, and what types of organisations and individuals do they typically tend to work with?
  • Confirm credibility.Ask each coach about his or her experience, skills and qualifications, including coach training, professional memberships and credentials.
  • Success stories. Ask about their coaching success stories. Are they aligned to what you are wanting to achieve?

Research indicates that organisations with a culture of coaching are more productive, have lower turnover and are more innovative.4 In a world characterised by constant change, coaching is rapidly increasing in relevance, as leaders navigate the changing nature of business and fill a widening leadership gap in society. Human Resource, Organisational Development, and Learning and Development Leaders have a crucial role to play in creating and executing strategies which prepare and equip people and their organisations to thrive.



  1. 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends
  2. Chandler Macleod Report: The Promise of Coaching
  3. 2017 ICF Global Consumer Awareness Study
  4. Manchester Review €“ Maximising the impact of executive coaching: Behavioural change, Organisational outcomes & Return on Investment (2001)



Aleisha Coote is a certified coach and member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) NZ Northern Leadership Team.


Globally, the ICF has over 31,000 members, of whom over 60% are credentialed, in 149 countries. The ICF is the leading global organisation dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of trained coaching professionals.