Which coaching qualification?

These days, I imagine most articles relating to work, management, HR and so on begin with reference to the coronavirus pandemic. This one does. But then, that’s the context we’re working, managing and HR’ing in and most of us know that the tactics and strategies that worked pre-pandemic are unlikely to have the same impact going forward.

From the results of Maximum Performance’s recent survey of UK L&D professionals, a key learning and development method for the future is coaching:

  • 66% foresaw an increase in line managers’ use of coaching skills.
  • 51% expect increased demand for coaching from their teams.
  • 80% said they are working towards a coaching culture.

The question is, how best to build the coaching capacity in your business? One option (possibly the easiest, apart from ‘ignore the situation’) would be to ‘sheep-dip’ your managers through some kind of coaching skills training module. That would signpost your commitment to coaching in principle, and be a relatively quick way to build some awareness, even enthusiasm. But in terms of developing capable coaches who can support their teams and colleagues with practical skills, probably not so much.

If you’re serious about coaching, it’s worth considering what coaching qualifications would give you (here’s a clue: the sheep-dip approach gives you managers who understand a bit about coaching; coaching qualifications give you managers who are also coaches).

What’s available?

The two most popular/common coaching qualification options for UK firms are the International Coaching Federation’s Associate Certified Coach (ACC) certificate, and the Institute of Leadership & Management’s level 5 or level 7 certificate for executive coaches and mentors.

The ICF (the Federation) is the world’s largest professional coaching body, spread across 135 countries and representing around 30,000 coaches (including 3,500 in the UK) and working with coaching training providers as well as individual coaches. The ILM is the largest awarding body of leadership and management-related qualifications in the UK (70,000 people ‘pass through their doors’ each year). At Maximum Performance, we work with both these qualifications and there are some differences:

  • Target audience – the ICF focuses on both full-time coaches and managers who coach as part of their day-to-day role; the ILM is more for managers with a coaching element in their job description.
  • Practice – the ICF approach includes 100 hours of coaching experience backed up with mentoring and feedback, the ILM relies on 20 hours of practical experience.
  • Assessment – the ICF is more practice-based with learners conducting an observed coaching session as part of the assessment and receiving observation-based feedback throughout the learning process, whereas arguably the ILM is more theory-based with a greater emphasis on essays and reflective learning alongside the practice.

To generalise, in Maximum Coaching’s experience, the ICF is a more common option for organisations that see coaching as a primary function, possibly even setting up a team of internal coaches to support staff. The ILM option is more often chosen by businesses looking to add coaching to their managers’ skill sets.

What do we recommend?

To a certain extent, it depends on what you want or need for your business. If you’re looking to establish a coaching culture, use coaching to support organisational change, or for deeper development work, then the globally-recognised ICF certificate could be for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking to support your managers to be better listeners and communicators, to help them in building trust in their teams, or better personalise their L&D interventions, then the UK’s ILM approach could be the way to go.

Here at Maximum Coaching, we offer both: a programme that results in the ICF certificate, with the option of ‘topping up’ the studies to achieve the level 7 ILM certificate too – one of the few instances when you can genuinely have your cake and eat it too.

The current reality is that most businesses in the UK will find themselves leaning on coaching skills in the near future (if they aren’t already). If you decide on certification route, Maximum Coaching is currently taking bookings for our Autumn 2021 programme of four 2-day modules, 3 group coach mentoring webinars, and 3 hours of one-to-one support (book soon to take advantage of the early bird discount and save £1,000). If your needs are more focused, we also offer a wide range of coaching consultancy, mentoring and training interventions.


If you’re interested in knowing how we can support you in building greater coaching capacity, or any aspect of business in the ‘new normal’, give us a call on 01582 463461. We’re here to help.

Categories: Coaching

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