Is the Coaching Industry in Trouble?

Author : Teri Kansted

22nd July 2021

17th – 23rd May was International Coaching Week, and during this weeklong celebration of all things coaching, we decided to create our own theme for the week: The good, the bad and the (subjectively) ugly in the coaching industry. As part of this we held dedicated discussion spaces for our community to explore the good, bad and ugly that we each see within the coaching profession, as well as inviting them to contribute articles on this theme for a community competition to win a free spot on an Animas CPD.

We received 9 brilliant articles and will be sharing each of them on the blog for you to enjoy. Here’s Narrative Coaching Psychologist and Supervisor Teri Kansted’s article.

We kicked off the week’s conversations with ‘The Good’, and there was a lot of good to come from this initial conversation. Starting with helping others, coaches’ own personal development journey, the positives coaching brings to the world, the level of training provided by Animas, making people feel heard and seen, understood and accepted, providing value, doing something meaningful, the community feel, the sense of belonging and much, much more!

If you’re reading this, perhaps you’re a coach yourself, and know exactly how awesome this industry is and how important our work as coaches is. 

In following conversations around ‘The Bad’ and ‘The Ugly’, there were also a lot of negatives. The consequences of working in an unregulated industry, using an unprotected title, the people who sell lies and give coaches a bad reputation, the cost of training, that coaching can be seen as a luxury product, the fact that you can be shamed for offering free coaching as well as for charging too much, the blurred lines between coaching and counselling, the poor standards of some coaching programmes, the confusion around titles or that some people offer their opinions as if they were facts, such as ‘you must niche’. 

Many of these examples can turn from bad to truly ugly, like all the private messages you get from coaches, promising riches if you follow their method, and coaches only becoming rich off the back of other coaches’ desperation to make a living from their passion.

Again, I doubt I have to tell you what’s bad or ugly about this industry, as I’m sure you’ve seen it via intrusive, targeted ads or experienced it in your very own inbox!

So, what’s my point?

My point is that what’s so utterly amazing about the coaching industry is that it’s unregulated, giving you the freedom to experiment and expand on any given framework, and that, due to ‘life coach’ being an unprotected title, you can make and shape it into your own, personalised and niched version, like ‘empowerment coach’, ‘career coach’, ‘motivational coach’ and take full ownership of your business, being as playful or serious as you like.

Hold up, didn’t I just say that’s what’s bad about coaching?

Exactly!

The coaching industry is whatever you choose to focus on.

Just like we as coaches are – ideally – showing our clients: Wherever your focus goes, your energy flows. That they are in control of the narrative – so, what is it going to be?

Every time I come across a pop piece about the awful coaches out there, with no training and no ethics who manipulate and hustle people, or I’m harassed by the ‘shouty’ coaches who are only selling ‘how to get rich’ schemes to other coaches, having only ever earned money themselves from selling ‘how to earn money’ to other coaches and never from coaching non-coaches on life problems, I think: “Urgh! Awful industry! I don’t want to be called a coach!” and I start playing around with my title, yet again. I feel frustrated and embarrassed. 

However, whenever I see or hear about the transformation a coach can make, I’m head-over-heels in love with coaching and the industry that makes this happen and I start brainstorming how we can make coaching more common and a ‘go-to’ for everyone, facing any life obstacles. I praise it, value it and feel full of gratitude and joy. 

My focus – my choice.

I can either limit my thinking, using my lens, or I can feel expansive, inspired and full of zest. 

That’s the power of the stories we tell ourselves – in this case, about the coaching industry and other coaches as good, bad, ugly – or utterly brilliant!

In January 2014 I brought my new, Scottish boyfriend home to visit my family in Denmark. 

My brother decided to drive us all to the island we’d grown up on. I hadn’t been back there for over a decade. 

Eager to impress this young fellow, I pointed to a hill, once covered in trees and told him how I, along with all the children on the street, would play hide-and-seek there till midnight during our summer holidays without any adult supervision because it was a safe neighbourhood. I showed him where my mum and I would go swimming nearly every day during the summer, and how we’d sunbathe in our garden after. I showed off the sailing boat we’d once owned, still docked there, and talked about sailing to Sweden each summer before my parents’ divorce. I told him how, when we moved to the island when I was 3, I’d make friends with every person I met, regardless of age, and invite myself inside and start playing (I was young enough then for it to be endearing). Everyone knew everyone and we could leave our houses unlocked and windows open. I’d cycle to school at the age of 6, alone. I showed him the local library which had been my second home and told him how the librarians knew me so well that they would keep books back they thought I’d love. I told him of the bus rides to Austria, in winter, with all the other locals heading out to ski. And I, laughing, told him of the Renault Fuego we’d bought in Spain and brought back in the 80s, which my young peers thought was a Ferrari due to its sports car look and electric windows! Or, how we’d pirate copy VHS tapes, we rented on the weekends, and was known on the street for having a massive film collection everyone was welcome to borrow from.

I’d tell him every single fun and wonderful memory I could pull from the cobwebbed, back catalogue of my mind. 

Now, why am I telling you this in the middle of a blog post about the coaching industry? 

Because, up until that moment when I wanted to impress my new boyfriend, my story had always gone: I grew up on a small island where everyone knew everyone and the gossip was ripe. I was bullied throughout my childhood and my dad was very critical and unsupportive and my brothers unkind. I felt so lonely that I escaped into books and I had no real friends. I was born unlucky and grew up depressed. 

That day, in January 2014, I learned the power of a narrative and how to change my story by changing my focus. I learned how to make my story ‘thicker’ and add, previously forgotten, nice people back into the story. And with that shift of focus my energy shifted too. I hadn’t had a ‘bad childhood’. I’d had a privileged childhood and I’d been born into a very lucky situation. Did bad things happen too? Sure! But I had the power to shift my feelings and memories from ugly and bad to good and fortunate. 

My focus – my choice.

I trained as a counsellor and I met with clients, week after week, examining their problems, talking about their obstacles, validating them in their hardship, pinpointing the origin from the past.

Then I trained as a coach, and I started examining the solutions, talking about the opportunities, validating them in their strengths, pinpointing their dreams and future possibilities. 

So, why did I title this post ‘is the coaching industry in trouble?’ – because it made you look! It caught your attention. The sheer gossip of the title, right? 

Sometimes I think the coaching industry is in trouble because of the many charlatans out there but other times where I think the coaching industry, as it is now, is in from trouble because this wonderful industry is ever-changing, ever-moving, ever flexing and expanding. It’s a sexy beast that knows no limits, that tests presumptions, that challenges outdated ways of thinking and doing. We’ve gone from the GROW model and goal-orientated sessions, to more transformational, philosophical conversations, done in partnership. There used to be a focus on how to get a promotion or excel at work but now I see a shift towards a more holistic and deeply reflective space.  

Whether the coaching industry really is in trouble, depends on your narrative, and it also depends on whether you associate ‘trouble’ with something negative, such as ‘facing difficulties’ or you see it as something playful and positive, like ‘rebellious’ and a refusal to be put in a conformist box.

What’s the story you tell yourself?

Teri Kansted

Teri Kansted

Narrative Coaching Psychologist and Supervisor

Visit Teri's Website

If you would like us to help tell your story or you would like to share your coaching niche, philosophy or agenda in the form of a blog, like this one – contact Sam to express your interest: [email protected]

Categories: International Coaching Week  

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