Founded in 1995, the International Coach Federation (ICF) is a leading global organisation dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of trained coaching professionals with more than more than 130 Chapters and over 25,000 members from 137 countries. Magdalena Mook, ICF’s executive director and CEO , talks about her exciting journey in coaching.
What are the common misconceptions about coaching?
ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential. However, some consumers—particularly in markets where coaching is less-established—do confuse coaching with other personal and organisational support modalities, such as counselling, consulting, mentoring, training and athletic development. This is why our organisation is committed to educating consumers about what coaching is and isn’t, and to connecting consumers with trained coach practitioners who align with ICF’s definition of coaching and stringent Code of Ethics.
How has ICF helped professional coaches improve their trade?
Through cutting-edge research, live and virtual education events, and communities of practice organised around specific topics, ICF connects our members with the tools and resources they need to be successful. Most importantly, we offer the only globally recognised, independent credentialing programme for coach practitioners.
Coaching as a profession has grown exponentially over the past 20 years. How has ICF coped with such growth?
For us, the best way to stay successful has been to stay curious! We remain constantly attuned to what’s next for our profession and ask what we can do to lead the way on the journey. For example, over the past several years we’ve seen an explosion in the growth of coaching cultures in organisations that incorporate external and internal coach practitioners and managers and leaders using coaching skills. Through our industry research, we’ve been asking lots of questions about what strong coaching cultures look like and what we can do to support managers and leaders to use coaching skills effectively.
As emerging markets for ICF include Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and Africa, what strategies have been used to help ICF expand globally in recent years?
Shifting to value-based pricing and raising our member dues in January 2014 was a notable example of how ICF met the need for continued global expansion and scale. In fact, one motivation behind this change was the need to invest in additional Regional Service Centres to enhance our customer service capabilities around the globe.
Since then, our model for supporting ICF Members and Chapters worldwide has been transformed. In October 2016, we introduced a new regional staffing structure where we replaced our four Regional Service Centres with a global network of staff members responsible for supporting ICF Chapters and ensuring a consistently positive experience for current and prospective ICF Members and Credential-holders. This new model has allowed us to expand the number of staff we have working around the world and, more importantly, it’s enabling us to be truly strategic about the global growth of ICF and the coaching profession.
What are ICF’s major events?
Until 2012, we followed a traditional annual conference model. For the past half-decade, we’ve been experimenting with a few different virtual and face-to-face event models to find the best fit for us.
One of our biggest successes has been our annual Global Leaders Forum (GLF), which has brought together ICF Chapter and regional leaders from around the globe for education, networking and idea-sharing since 2015.
This August, we’re excited to introduce the coaching community to ICF Converge 2017 in Washington DC, USA. This is an entirely new event concept for us. Attendees are free to sample from four topical “neighbourhoods” at will. There’s no expo hall: Exhibitors’ displays are integrated into each neighbourhood, and the idea is that they aren’t just there to sell—like the attendees, they’re contributing meaningful solutions and adding value to their neighbourhoods.
What do you look for in venues and destinations for your events?
Although the number of internal coach practitioners (coaches who work full-time in organisations) is growing, most coaches are solopreneurs or part of small- or medium-sised businesses. As a result, we’re very sensitive to selecting host cities they can travel to affordably and easily, and where we can price registration affordably. The relative ease of access is also a factor, from infrastructure and visa requirements to the geopolitical situation and safety of our attendees.
As our Association continues to grow globally, we’re exploring opportunities for hosting more events outside of North America. Our 2017 GLF, for example, took place in Warsaw, Poland. We’ve also committed to researching non-North American venues for the next ICF Converge event.
How has it been working for ICF?
I’ve been fortunate to grow in my role with ICF since joining the team as Assistant Executive Director in 2005. As I mentioned earlier, staying curious and always asking “What’s next?” are essential to moving the coaching profession forward.
Not surprisingly, it’s enormously enriching to lead the staff of an organisation that revolves around a personal and professional development modality: I’ve partnered with professional coaches who challenge me to think differently, confront my blind spots and pursue creative action plans in pursuit of my goals. I’ve learned how to adopt a coaching approach to managing my team and leading our organisation—and gotten to see the difference that makes. I’ve even had the opportunity to pursue coach-specific training through an ICF-accredited training provider. I always knew that coaching was valuable; now I recognise its power to transform lives, organisations and society.
During the 2017 International Coaching Week (ICW) celebration, more than 78 Chapters took part in hosting 1,000-plus events, including webinars, workshops, panel discussions, coaching demonstrations and pro bono coaching sessions. It was a powerful, inspiring illustration of our global community’s passion for their profession!
What will you focus on in the future?
Ensuring our relevance for members is a significant strategic priority. Like many associations, we’re also exploring how we can develop and deliver virtual and face-to-face events that offer a truly one-of-a-kind attendee experience.
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