Should Coaching Supervision be Mandatory?

Should Coaching Supervision be Mandatory?

One could argue that coaching is not a "real" profession. In most countries, coaching is not regulated, and anyone can call themselves a coach. A specific education, certification, or license is not required. On the one hand, this allows for a high diversity in coaching, and this is great. On the other hand, it comes at a cost: there is very little quality control in the coaching world, and this regularly leads to harsh criticism, putting the reputation of coaching at risk. [1]

Even when it comes to international coaching bodies with solid reputations, the training requirements to achieve credentials are often surprisingly low. For instance, for Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credentials from the International Coaching Federation (ICF), only 125 hours of coach-specific training are required. [2] Comparing this to the years of training you have to go through to work in most other professions, it seems valid to question the qualification of coaches.

Can coaching supervision improve the quality of coaching?

Training in coaching and certification is just the beginning of a coaching career. Coaches who are serious about their profession need to continuously broaden and deepen their coaching knowledge. They also need to evaluate and improve their coaching skills and practice constantly. This is where coaching supervision comes in handy.

"Coaching supervision is a formal process of professional support which ensures continuing development of the coach and effectiveness of their coaching practice." (See also my earlier post What is Coaching Supervision?). Formal supervision has a long tradition in other professions and is mandatory in many countries for, e.g., psychologists or therapists. Supervision can definitely increase the quality of practice in a given profession. Consequentlu, this  raises the question if supervision should be mandatory for all professional coaches, too.

Different coaching organizations follow different approaches. For instance, the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) requires their credential-holders to regularly undergo coaching supervision. [3] In contrast though, the ICF "supports Coaching Supervision for professional coach practitioners as part of their portfolio of continuing professional development (CPD) activities designed to keep them fit for purpose" (and up to ten hours of coaching supervision can be claimed as continuing coach education units (CCEUs)) but does not make coaching supervision mandatory for their credential holders. [4]

So, should coaching supervision be mandatory for professional coaches?

Naturally, there are pros and cons to compulsory coaching supervision.

With the very low entry barrier to coaching, it is evident that mandatory coaching supervision could prompt professional coaches to reflect, evaluate, and improve their coaching practice more rigorously. Apparently, there have been positive experiences with mandatory supervision in other professions, so why not apply the same standards in the coaching industry to raise the quality of coaching?

In my opinion, however, there are many downsides to making coaching supervision compulsory which might outweigh the benefits:

Today, when a coach seeks coaching supervision of their own volition,  this individual is intrinsically motivated and serious about their professional development as a coach. If coaching supervision was mandatory, there would be the risk that coaching supervision is seen as a necessary evil by coaches, and coaching supervision could turn into a "just ticking the box" activity for some. And as a coach supervisor myself, I would hate working with coaches who come to coaching supervision only because they "have to."

Also, I foresee that mandatory coaching supervision would give rise to a gold rush in coaching supervision that would actually be counterproductive: imagine tens of thousands of coaches globally would suddenly be obliged to undergo coaching supervision. Where would all the coach supervisors come from?

You don't need a crystal ball to anticipate that commercially-driven individuals would scent profitable business opportunities in generating armies of coach supervisors, who, in turn, might view coaching supervision as an easy way to make money from the thousands of coaches who now must see a supervisor regularly.

Thus, today, with coaching supervision not being mandatory for most coaches, I believe that those seeking coaching supervision are doing so because they have an honest desire to become better coaches. Likewise, all the coach supervisors I know personally are very experienced coaches who want to contribute to the coaching profession and raise the quality of coaching. They are all highly professionally driven, not commercially driven, and I assume the same is true for the vast majority of all other coach supervisors.

Personally, I would not like to see this change. So let us keep coaching supervision a voluntary means of professional development for those intrinsically motivated to continuously improve their coaching capabilities.

Author: Gerrit Pelzer

[1] See, e.g., a) Dominic Green, How Prince Harry became celebrity frontman for a very questionable industry, The Spectator, April 10, 2021 (www.spectator.co.uk/article/how-prince-harry-became-celebrity-frontman-for-a-very-questionable-industry)
b) Stratford Sherman and Alyssa Freas, The Wild West of Executive Coaching, Harvard Business Review, November 2004 (hbr.org/2004/11/the-wild-west-of-executive-coaching)
[2] coachingfederation.org/credentials-and-standards/pcc-paths
[3] at least one hour of coaching supervision per 35 hours of coaching, and a minimum of four hours per year (www.emccglobal.org/leadership-development/supervision/guidelines/)
[4] https://coachingfederation.org/coaching-supervision

Would you like to explore how coaching supervision can help you become a better coach? Then contact me via gerrit@coachingsupervision.online or through the contact form below to schedule a complimentary exploratory session without any obligations.

Related articles:

What is Coaching Supervision?

What is the Difference between Coaching Supervision and Mentor Coaching?

What is the Difference between Coaching Supervision and Coaching?

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