As more and more individuals contemplate becoming a coach and more and more contemplate opening institutions to train coaches and others contemplate building a coaching based leadership development or personal development practice, there are searching questions being asked about whether we have too many coaches and we have too few opportunities, whether the commoditization and price wars have begun and of course if this is worth all the effort. Worse some are picking up worried questions being asked around the world – is coaching broken.
Having become a coach in 2001 and co-founded CFI, a leading coaching and leadership institution in India in 2006, I believe it is important to try and answer these questions in as accurate a way as I can.
First, coaching in India is currently well poised – it isn’t broken for sure. What we do from now on will determine its future.
How many coaches are there in India?
It is my own estimate that CFI, ICF, CCL and a few other institutions put together may have contributed to the creation of not over 2000 trained and certified coaches in India. Add to this a small number of coaches who might be coaching based on their sheer professional credentials and personal reputation without a certificate as well as some international coaches operating in India. So, lets take 2000 as a good number for our discussion.
I am excluding from this, those certified in in-company programs as coaches as a part of a leader as coach or manager as coach program to build a coaching culture. I am also excluding those who attended a skills program but did not do an internship and practice that was supervised.
Of this number of 2000, it is my view that not over 25% – that is 500 coaches might be in active executive coaching practice. The remaining 1500 are unable to find opportunities or never tried to find opportunities or lost interest or just did it as a part of their personal development.
Also, unlike in other countries, many of these coaches don’t JUST do coaching – they do other things too – consulting, advisory work, training, teaching, counseling, healing, sitting on board and so on.
How many executive coaching opportunities are there in India?
This is an interesting question. It is my estimate that in a year there are about 1500 classical executive coaching opportunities. Does this number surprise or shock you? Yes, that is the number according to me. Remember, executive coaching is offered only at the CXO levels and most often an executive who is a coachee does not seek coaching more than once in a very very long time.
Now if you put the two together you might see an interesting picture emerging – 500 coaches and 1500 opportunities – some successful coaches doing multiple assignments in a year and some doing one or two in a year or two.
It must also be remembered that most executive coaches also have a “salience period” – a period when their professional credentials are valued and their coaching skills sharp and their practice thriving. It is like a cricketer in form. With age, some coaches do lose the energy and interest and the edge. Some of course keep marching on with great energy and zest.
Now considering the fact that the number of coaches has grown maybe seven-fold in the last 5 years, an extrapolation will make the next 5 years look challenging. If India were to see about 10,000 coaches in 2026, will they have on an average at least one opportunity per head per year?
What will be the shape of coaching in the years to come?
The answer to this question is complex but it will depend a lot on the way coaching will evolve in the years ahead.
It is my view that the classical executive coaching model that we have seen will continue to grow but not grow in large numbers in the years to come.
On the other hand, it is a firm reality that executives in corporate India need help and support to manage their work and their lives and they need it urgently. However, such help will need to take much more innovative, flexible and more nimble forms.
Institutions and individuals who are able to come up with development solutions that have an individual coaching element built into them creatively will be able to meet these fast-emerging needs. More importantly it will create a huge ground swell of demand for coaching talent, albeit in a different form.
The right time
Now is the right time for India to consciously shape the next stage of evolution of coaching based on the experience of the last two decades and ensure that the integrated and holistic Indian coaching model shows the way to the rest of the world.
Now is also the right time for India to get its coaching practice right before it runs into either commoditization or price wars to unethical and inappropriate application or sheer proliferation.
Institutions that are training aspiring individuals to become coaches need to pay attention to quality and relevance and not just sheer numbers. We all recognize that coaching is like any other professional practice (lawyers, doctors, architects). It is not the credentials that matter – it is the competence. The focus must be on competence building and not sheer credentialising. The deeper focus must be on the “being” of a coach”. (being empathetic, being congruent and offering unconditional positive regard without being judgmental, in the words of Carl Rogers).
Individuals wanting to become coaches need to seek good counsel before making a choice – certainly not imagine this to be a lucrative profession because it certainly is not.
Leadership institutions need to be innovative in the manner in which they embed coaching into their development solutions. Given our demographic profile, coaching must reach younger employees sooner and not be burdened by “entitlements” and “rank”. They are going to run corporate India very soon if they already are not.
Existing coaches need to recognize that continuing professional development is critical to their sustained success and this will call for some selfless service to fellow professionals in aiding their journeys of development.
Clients and sponsors would do well to invest in their own literacy about these aspects so that they can make well informed choices about the right solution and the right partners.
In all of these decisions, the coachee must be at the very heart of the matter – we need to be truly coachee centric in order to get this right!