Coach or Charlatan?

How you can separate the wheat from the chaff with the help of the International Coaching Federation

“Coach” is not a protected job title like “medical doctor” or “nurse”. These days, HR or talent development departments receive weekly offers from a wide variety of coaching providers. Some of them can be recognized easily as charlatans. Others come across as quite respectable, however, they are using the word “coaching” to sell programs that you would normally rather find in a cult environment. HR or talent development could now sift through the coach profiles in laborious detail work, engage in long telephone interviews with the individual providers: and still they would not have certainty on whether they are providing quality support to their people or not.

Here are three helpful criteria to help you make these decisions:

  1. Ask providers about their coaching training

Has the coach completed a coaching education, or is he or she a trainer and only calls him- or herself a “coach”? And coach training does not equal coach training – so ask also about the number of training hours and the accreditation of the training in a coaching association. It should be at least 60 hours of training.

  1. Ask for membership in a coaching association

A membership in one of the major coaching associations shows the professionalism of the coach.

  1. Ask for a certificate

Although most training institutes award certificates today, the certificate alone does not say anything about quality, ethics and coaching practice. The International Coaching Federation with its internationally valid, independent certificates offers a valuable aid for orientation.

Any ICF member (certified or not) must prove 60 hours of coach training which is in alignment with the ICF core competencies, in order to become member at all. Each member has signed the Code on Ethics and is subject to an ethical review process by the association in case of unethical behavior.

There are three levels of certification for coaches: Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and Master Certified Coach (MCC). For certification, the coaches must demonstrate a certain number of training hours. Not all coach training courses count, but only those, which can prove that they are teaching the ICF core competencies. Furthermore, all certified coaches have had one or more coaching sessions evaluated by the ICF to ensure that they have mastered these core competencies of a coach. Documenting hundreds of hours of coaching experience completes the examination of the ICF certified coaches. The ICF coaching credentialing process is not just an examination of the theoretical abilities, but like in a driving license examination, candidates must also prove that they are able to do the job of a coach well.

The ICF core competencies are is examined regularly for their validity. They were last updated in 2019 as part of a “job profile” analysis conducted by an independent institute. You can read about the eight core competencies here:

The International Coaching Federation also clearly defines coaching as: “coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”. This also excludes harmful behavior by so-called coaches.

Of course, other associations also have highly qualified members and a serious certification or accreditation process, for example EMCC or the members of the German Roundtable Coaching. The benefit of ICF and EMCC certification / accreditation is that they require constant continuous professional development and a reflective practice of the coach. HR or talent development departments can confidently assume that ICF coaches can support employees professionally and competently. Coaches can confidently assume that an ICF credential will demonstrate their high standards to their customers.

If you would like to join a wonderful community of coaches, HR people, leaders, Agile Coaches… why not join us at our free coaching meetups and exchange: