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Do I Really Need Credentials?

Are you curious about coaching your clients? Many productivity professionals and home organization experts start their businesses and become interested in adding coaching to their services. For some, it comes as a complete surprise to learn that it’s perfectly ethical and A-ok to start an organizing business or a coaching business without any specific education, coach training, licensing, or certification. You do not need to be certified or accredited to call yourself a professional organizer or a coach.

In other words, anyone can call herself a coach. Just make sure you do not add any initials after your name and misrepresent yourself.  Some very fine organizers who coach do not maintain any type of coaching credentials, certificates, or certification (note: these are three different things). They may have developed their skills through classes, mentorship, or self-study without pursuing any formal coaching program.

Let me give you a personal example of why I think this is important. In the past, I earned a Level 5 Master Trainer certification from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD).  My goal was personal satisfaction and more in-depth knowledge. Plus, it helped set me apart from my competitors. I enjoyed the participation in a comprehensive program with a mentor, monthly calls, training, ongoing peer coaching, and the “final exam,” which is a peer review. I earned my certification and after several years of working with clients, I craved change. Organizing was good but in addition to working with residential clients I began applying my coaching skills to help other professional organizers. I found that this type of work was extremely fulfilling.

Because of the time I was spending coaching colleagues, I chose not to re-certify with ICD.  Instead I started working more and more via phone with new professional organizers from around the world while working less with chronically disorganized residential clients. Now I coach not only professional organizers but other small business owners who have a wide variety of career and business related questions. And that’s why I refer to what I now do as “career coaching” and sometimes “career consulting.”

Did I benefit from earning that certification? Absolutely! But did I need to continue to maintain it in order to help my clients? I decided that I didn’t. So you can see that sometimes earning a credential is the right thing to do, and sometimes it may not be necessary.

Types of Credentials and Certification

If you want to earn a coaching credential or coaching certification, take a deep breath as I attempt to demystify a few of the paths.

Before we begin, let me say that I’m over-simplifying this a bit, but hopefully it’s an analogy that makes this topic easier to understand. You can think of the three levels this way:

The first thing you’ll notice if you go searching for coach training and certification online is that there are many options. For example, you can become a Martha Beck Life Coach through the Martha Beck Institute. Or a Certified Dream Coach® with Marcia Wieder.

Let’s say that you decide to take the training in the hypothetical “Mary Jones Coaching Method.” This training could include as little as an in-person or online workshop, and perhaps some self-study. Or it may be very substantial, with instruction in methodology, workshops, training, homework, and ongoing coaching of others. It may require a few hours to complete or it could take several months. In any case, at the end you are likely to receive a “certificate of completion” or a license to call yourself a “Certified Mary Jones Coach.” These types of programs may provide the “bench warmer” credential or the “junior varsity” certification, but not the “varsity” level.

The only organization that grants that highest level of certification is the International Coach Federation, sometimes referred to as ICF.  The ICF is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to training and certifying coaches. The ICF establishes the standards for someone to advance through the designations of Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and Master Certified Coach (MCC). If you are a professional organizers or productivity professional, you’ll see that it’s similar to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) industry’s Certified Professional Organizer, or CPO®. But while there is just one certification level for professional organizers, there are three levels for certified coaches.

In order to earn any of these three ICF coaching certifications, you must attend an accredited training program, meaning a program officially approved and recognized by the ICF as meeting ICF standards. So when you consider signing up for a program, remember that the program may be very substantial and develop strong skills, but in order to earn the “varsity” coaching certification from ICF, you must complete a program that is accredited by ICF. You can find a list of schools accredited by the International Coach Federation on their website.

Choosing a path towards ICF certification can be daunting. Programs can easily require a time commitment of a year or more and cost thousands of dollars, so take time to consider what you want from your coach certification training.

Coach Certification Training Programs

One of the oldest and most respected programs is Coach Training Institute (CTI).  The people who founded this institute were very highly respected pioneers in the coaching profession. Together they wrote a book, Co-Active Coaching, which has been extremely useful to many people seeking to improve their coaching skills. You may want to begin by looking at this book to get a better understanding of what they mean when they speak of coaching.

Another popular program is Coach U. Coach U has a slightly different focus than Coach Training Institute.  You can look at their website to see what they emphasize and whether this is a good program for you to consider.

If this is your skillset and your desire, go for it! But remember that a full certification program may not be right for you. First, evaluate the impact that ICF certification, non-ICF certification, or just skill-building has on your business goals. Will this program qualify you to work with the types of clients you want to work with? How much will the program cost? How long will it take? Will you be required to travel for in-person sessions, or can you complete the training remotely? How will this program impact your ability to earn money in your business? This will help you determine the return on your investment or ROI. Understand that for some marketplaces (for instance, the $300-an-hour, corporate-type jobs) a minimum of an ICF certification will typically be expected. Your competition for these positions will have it and will promote it as a distinction that is recognized in this niche.

Want to learn more and figure out if coaching fits into your organizing business plans?  Schedule a one-on-one phone consultation with me. I love helping professional organizers find creative solutions to their business problems!

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