How getting accredited has ignited my passion for coaching

A chance discussion with a colleague about recently completing my International Coaching Federation (ICF) accreditation raised the question ‘Was it was really worth it?’  My colleague pointed to my existing experience which made me stop and reflect on

What have I really gained from the process?

Anyone who is accredited knows that it is commitment of time and resource. You often get caught up in the process and forget to reflect on how you are growing personally and professionally.  I came up with the following benefits.

I’ve reconnected with my strengths

In the first workshop I was putting my learning into practice with a fellow delegate. I was surprised by the feedback about my ability to connect with people and make them feel at ease quickly. It felt like a stark contrast to the skills I used in my daily role as part of a large programme team focussed on deadlines and deliverables.

The feedback really struck a chord with me and led to some deeper insights, which I’ll come to.

I realised (remembered) that I had strengths in many areas I wasn’t necessarily using because of the type of role I had and the context I was working in.

I knew I wanted to return to using these strengths more actively and that I felt quite an emotional connection with them

My peer networks have grown

The ICF require 60 hours of training to become an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) and the training is full on! You arrive as a group of strangers. My group was an international mix of full time professional coaches, people who wanted to coach more in leadership roles and individuals aiming to set up coaching businesses.

In this group we learnt, explored and received, gave and observed coaching using techniques we’d often never used before.

You have to trust the group quickly and be willing to share something of yourself: your aspirations, vulnerabilities and life experiences. 

You seek out the positives and explore how you can encourage and learn from each other and the facilitators.

I now have a new peer network I can trust and turn to for advice because I know how they approach their coaching practice. Two years on I still work closely with 3 individuals as we navigate developing our businesses, career moves and what life throws our way.

I’ve moved beyond my comfort zone

Massively! I’d coached for many years previously as a HR Business Partner, Change Manager and in project teams. I was well networked in a large global organisation and was often asked for advice and support when people had a problem or decision to make.

But here’s the difference. I’d never coached outside The British Council or my ‘technical specialist’ areas. Coaching was often a hidden technique I used to influence and problem-solve and as a line manager. It was opportunistic and there was often no explicit coaching agreement in place (and therefore no evaluation). When people asked me for advice they wanted just that. I probably did a lot more mentoring than coaching.

Accreditation meant building a substantial coaching portfolio and thinking and talking about myself as a professional coach.  I set myself targets to get external clients and work in other sectors.

Meeting someone who only ever knows you as a coach and brings a set of expectations built on that is an entirely different experience. 

Charging a fee for the first time is nerve-wracking and agreeing to work with someone outside of your sector is scary.  I’ve faced and overcome obstacles I put in my own way.

Would I have tackled so many ‘firsts’ if I hadn’t been tracking my coaching portfolio …… in all honesty probably not.

I feel credible

I’d toyed with the idea of becoming independent for years. Friends and colleagues point to your strengths and capabilities but something holds you back.

In the last 12 months I’ve pitched to organisations and secured coaching contracts. I’ve worked with senior managers from The Christie NHS Trust through a period of restructuring to grow their leadership capability. I’ve supported individuals through career transitions, life changes and to grow their professional confidence. I’ve volunteered with the CIPD Steps Ahead Mentoring Programme supporting young job seekers through interview coaching and with the Business Growth Hub to coach start-up owners.

I have continuously evaluated my work with each client and can evidence the impact my coaching is having.

Writing this down and reflecting on the last year makes me hugely proud and quite emotional. 

I now feel more credible when talking about what I do and how I can work with clients.

My professional confidence is stronger

I’ll always have a bit of imposter syndrome (don’t we all), but I’m well on the journey to making my new business a reality. It would be misleading to say that gaining accreditation has been the only influence on my professional confidence, but it’s definitely played a part.

Returning to deeper insights,

the most significant impact working towards accreditation had for me was to ignite my passion for coaching and to change my career path. 

The process led to me re-assessing my values and how they shape my career.  Coaching started of as an interesting skills set to develop and has become a clear area of professional focus for me. It’s not that I was sold on continuing in the role I was in forever, but I was stuck in a rut and wasn’t clear on what next.

I left the last workshop in July 2015 determined to gain accreditation and to establish my own coaching business. I’ve pursued this relentlessly since, making it a reality on a daily basis.  Professional confidence is knowing that you are operating in the right space, with the right skills and that you are making a difference. I’m not sure I’ve felt such a connection with all these factors before.

So yes, it was really worth it!

I talk to a lot of people who are going through career transitions, some of which are not of their choosing. Every situation is different and accreditation is a significant investment of time and money. However, I believe it is one of the things that can differentiate you in a hugely competitive environment like coaching. I know some recruiters who won’t even shortlist you if you can’t tick this box.

I’ve only been asked the direct question ‘Are you qualified?’ twice, but I have regularly been asked about who I’ve worked with, in what contexts and whether I’ve come across certain situations before. I now have a much deeper and richer source of experiences to draw from.  If I get stuck I know who to ask.

More importantly, I act and feel like a professional coach and that makes the investment worthwhile.