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How about coaching qualification?

For those people seeking to become coaches there are a myriad of qualifications available. But how qualified do you need to be? University of Cambridge lecturer Keith Nelson explores this issue.

Here's a simple question that I ask potential students:

Tell me about your coaching aspirations. Do you want to learn to coach or do you want to learn to be a really effective coach?

Most people answer the latter and I suggest there are a number of principles they are  encouraged to follow:
  • Find a course that ensures you have the basics in place. Yes, you might already have a Masters or even higher qualification in another subject, but often this doesn't translate to coaching. Ground your coaching development through core coaching skills.
  • Effective coaching takes place within the psychological and emotional spheres. It requires coaches to be comfortable here, so look for  coaching courses that include elements of personal growth and development - be prepared to stretch your comfort zone.
  • How is the coaching course underpinned with appropriate knowledge? Coaching literature is growing rapidly and, utilised effectively, can underpin your coaching  practice with a bedrock of core coaching knowledge.
  • How experiential is the programme? How well does it replicate (and therefore prepare the learner for) the 'actual' coaching session? Look for those courses where there is ample opportunity to participate in - and observe - coaching. And participation means both coaching others and being coached.
Coaching is a journey, and you start wherever you are. There is a difference between conducting a simple coaching session which might help transactionally, and then being able to work confidently, effectively and safely in areas at might enable real transformation within the client.

Clearly personal readiness comes down to personal choice. And from the coach training perspective, seeing a student gain a qualification is very satisfying. What is far, far more important, however, is the quality of the coaching conversations that student will have with their clients in the months and years to come.

So, when can the trainee coach start to practice? Here are a few things to consider:
  • Be competent in core coaching communication skills
  • Be aware of your personal values and beliefs and the impact they might have
  • Be confident in establishing and maintaining a safe coaching environment
  • Can use a model such as GROW and, having internalised it, can coach without thinking about using it
  • Have facilitated a number of formal coaching sessions, perhaps with people you know
  • Have a coaching supervisor in place
Find out more about coaching at the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education.

About the author

Keith Nelson is Course Director of a Certificate in Coaching (HIgher Education Level 4) & Diploma in Coaching (HE L5) at the Institute of Continuing Education, Cambridge University.
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