Avoiding Coaching Training Scams

Coaching is a rapidly growing field, but with that growth comes the risk of substandard training programs and false promises.

I’ve been training Christian leaders in coaching skills for 20 years and regularly speak to people who joined training programs from other organizations. Sadly, some have found only after paying and taking their training that the program didn’t live up to the marketing hype. 

I want to help you to be able to do your research and discern which programs over-promise and under-deliver, and which will be able to deliver on what you’re looking for.  

3 Common Coaching Training Scams

1. Don’t believe promises of making a lot of money through coaching. Very few coaches make a living from coaching. And those who do often have recognized expertise from a prior role or career. Those who can market well make money at coaching, those who can’t, can’t. Please don’t join any coaching training program thinking you’re going to make a living from coaching. 

It is possible to earn some income from coaching. With some focus and effort, earning a few hundred or even a $1,000 a month is possible. Read more in my article: 3 Things You Need To Run A Successful Coaching Practice

2. Most “certifications” aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Anyone can make up their own certification. “Complete our training and become a SDCC: Super-Duper Certified Coach!” A certification is only as good as the rigors of standards behind the organization that grants it. If that organization is selling the coaching training, then there’s a natural conflict of interest. What objective standards is their certification based on? Who’s reviewing their teaching content, ethics, and effectiveness? Read more in my article: Want To Be A “Certified Coach”?

Professional associations, that do not also provide coaching training, are an external and objective validation of training programs and coaches. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the world’s largest coaching association. Getting an ICF coach credential isn’t easy. Because being an effective coach isn’t easy. Oh, and don’t expect to take training that isn’t ICF-approved and expect to get an ICF coach credential. Read more in my article: How To Become An ICF Certified Coach.

3. All coaching training programs are not the same. There are coaching training programs, including Christian ones, that use mostly recorded videos, books, or mass “listen only” webinars to teach coaching. Coaching is a communication skill set. You cannot learn a skill by watching videos, regardless of how famous or well-qualified the presenter is. Similarly, taking an “academic” approach to coaching by reading and writing papers on the theoretical underpinnings does not equip you to have conversations that catalyze change. 

In our coaching training we work for a time balance of 1/3 information from the instructor, 1/3 interaction among participants discussing and reflecting, and 1/3 practicing the skills. The last third is the most difficult to design and incorporate into a workshop, but it provides the largest impact on learning. We also provide many “tools” like, The COACH Model®, sample questions, and other frameworks to help participants jump into coaching. Read more in my article: 3 Essential Practices of Effective Coaching Training.

How To Not Get Scammed

The key things to look for in a legitimate, high-quality coaching training program are ICF accreditation, a balanced approach between “live” instruction and hands-on practice, and realistic expectations about the coaching profession. Here are four additional ways to find the best coaching training program and get the most out of it.

1. Is it an ICF-approved training program? Let the ICF provide the first broad filter. Even among ICF-approved education providers there is variation in training effectiveness. But step outside that ICF approval and the quality of the program comes into question. The ICF examines and approves coaching training programs as Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 Education Providers. A coaching training program that isn’t ICF approved either isn’t teaching industry standard coaching, has poor training methods, or has ineffective results (their participants can’t actually coach). Use the ICF to be your first screening and review of a program.

And don’t be fooled by promises of tricky language like, “ICF-aligned,” or “you can use the ICF Portfolio Pathway,” or “you’ll receive ICF CCEs” as a way of trying to claim the ICF standard. They are not. Look up a program in the ICF database of approved training programs. In the “Accredited Organization” field at the bottom of the form type “Creative Results Management” to see our Level 1 and Level 2 approvals. 

2. Take a short course first. Watch out for programs that want you to commit to the whole thing up front. Before committing to a multi-thousand dollar program, take one of their short courses first to see how you like it. See how you resonate with the program’s Instructors, methods, worldview, and how many practical skills you learn and practice. Continuing with their larger program should feel like a worthwhile investment of your time and money. Our Coaching Mastery Foundations course is 4 x 3.5 hours on Zoom and is $499 for Early Registration. Take a look here.

3. Set realistic expectations. You’ll be changing life-long conversation habits into new coaching habits and that takes time and effort. We can help you set a customized timeline to you meet your coaching goals. But, you should be coaching from your first course, at least with our courses you can. You will see immediate changes in your everyday conversations. You will feel improvement in your relationships. You will see people go from being stuck to moving forward through your coaching conversations. You can become a good coach. You can be achieve an ICF coach credential. We help hundreds of people to do these things every year.

4. Use a step-by-step approach. There are several levels to coaching training and certification. Although you may want to become an ICF Professional Certified Coach (PCC), the 500 client hours it takes for that credential usually require several years to achieve. So, don’t do all your Level 2 training in the first 12-18 months. It’s better to do Level 1 training, coach for a 100 hours, and get an ICF ACC. Then as you continue to coach, add additional training to complete a Level 2 Certificate, and when you have 500 client hours, get your ICF PCC. You’ll learn more and be able to apply your training better this way. 

While becoming a coach does take time and effort, the right training can provide immense value by improving your everyday communication abilities and providing coaching skills to help people solve problems and achieve their goals. Approach potential training offerings with a critical eye, take an incremental pathway, and prioritize programs that emphasize mastering real coaching competencies. With due diligence, you can identify a program that provides an authentic, transformative learning experience.

What’s your experience and advice on choosing a coaching training program? Leave a comment below.

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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