Handyman or Professional?

One of my most recent posts focused in on what YOU should EXPECT from your coaching experience. This was driven by some feedback that I had received from various sources about their sometimes not so positive experience of coaching. In fact, some of their stories were more than just disheartening including some extraordinarily basic violations of a professional code of conduct, i.e., confidentiality.

These experiences and a recent webinar I was privileged to attend with Heidi Hadubiak of BreakPoint Solutions (www.breakpoint.solutions) reinforced, for me, the need to continue to raise the bar for coaching as a profession. In the recent webinar, hosted by Ben Croft of WBECS, he not only focused on the specific content of the session (e.g., marketing) but also articulated his passion and mission to raise the bar on the quality of coaching worldwide. I was inspired and energized by his commitment.

It's in this vein that I come back to the topic of engaging with coaches who are in fact credentialed and who have made a commitment to making PROFESSIONAL coaching their profession and vocation - not a sidebar, not a means of padding their consulting or other income. Experience is valuable certainly. Is training and credentials the be all and end all? Certainly not. There is a need for a BALANCE between education/training and experience. But I stress the word balance. I assert that if your coach is not credentialed they are lacking in that balance.

Let me put this in terms that might make more sense by drawing upon my own amateur skills in home repairs! A number of years ago I undertook a rather massive home improvement project with the help of some friends. The project in question was construction of a nearly 500 square foot stone patio in my back yard. Some of my friends had experience in similar projects - but certainly were not qualified tradespeople. The factors that I weighed in the decision to unleash "the amateurs" - myself included - came down to cost and perceived complexity (e.g., puffing out our chests and declaring our manliness we said "We Can Do It!").

Things turned out well enough at the time, I learned a lot - most of it the hard way - had some relatively cheap manual labor at my disposal for a weekend, and impressed my girlfriend with my physical stamina in shoveling load after load of crush and sand, placing stone after stone, and finishing a large project in relatively short time.

Several years later, however, I've found that I've had constant repair work to do on my masterpiece, dealing with some subsidence in key areas of the stone patio and now worrying about at least one retaining wall needing an extensive redo. Perhaps the "cheap and cheerful" way of my amateur handyman approach isn't leaving me with quite the legacy I hoped for?? Maybe an "expert" would have been better engaged despite the up-front cost??

So how does this story relate to coaching? Too often I see some of the same mentality coming into play during evaluation of personal or organizational coaching. Cost definitely comes into play as it should. But rather than evaluating such expenses as an investment and weighing such against the hard outcomes desired there is a decided emphasis on cost-control. A "good-enough" mentality enters the equation and a desire to either do-it-ourselves or hire a "handyman" for truly foundational work.

So can you do it yourself, hire a non-certified coach, or a consultant who sidelines as a coach to support your efforts? Sure, but you might wonder if the investment of time and effort really gave you the return you required or ended up being sustained beyond your initial intense effort. Like my home improvements, you might have been better off engaging an expert at the beginning rather than engaging in constant "repairs" to achieve the product or results you hoped for in the beginning. Or even worse, you end up like some of my contacts who actually feel they not only wasted their money but got taken down a decidedly wrong path, had their trust violated, or were otherwise compromised.

I'm suggesting there is a leadership lesson to be learned from my home handyman approach noted above. Leaving aside the do-it-yourself effort for now - which requires a great deal of personal or in-house skill that most of us don't have - how do you discern the "handyman" from the professional support you might need in coaching? Solid track record and referral base are clearly good indications but I'm also going to recommend that you look for impeccable credentials including certification in national or international regulatory bodies. Holding or pursuing such a credential (e.g., ACC/PCC/MCC with the International Coach Federation) is a sign that the individual professional not only demonstrates knowledge and skill in their chosen field, but also holds themselves to the highest professional standards and are prepared to be judged according to a strong code of professional ethics.

Further, certified members of these professional associations have chosen to contribute to a broader body of knowledge, to regulate themselves and provide accountability to clients and their profession as a whole. Credential-holders complete rigorous education and practice requirements, providing testimony to their commitment to excellence. These professionals look to protect and serve consumers of their services, measure and certify competence of their members, and inspire the pursuit of continuous development.

At the end of the day the choice of how to deal with your coaching and leadership requirements is fully in your court. Credentials are certainly not a 100% guarantee of success but just like in home renovations they are a better bet than just looking for the cheapest bidder. As in my do-it-yourself reno, you can pay now or pay later (or both). Make the time and investment pay off. In this case, It's About Leadership! And there is nothing more worthy of your investment than that which leverages all of the rest of your success - your leadership acumen.
Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCCPresident & Founder - BreakPoint Solutions