HSE docent: ‘I often hear complaints about self-proclaimed coaches’

Nataliya Antonova on how to tell a qualified coach from a swindler

“You will find a lot of people on Instagram who make up new professions, for instance, astropsychologist, tantric coach and so on. It is marketing. Of course, it is necessary to distinguish a profession from marketing catches,” thinks Docent at HSE NRU, teacher of Business Coaching course Nataliya Antonova. In her interview with Realnoe Vremya, she explained who, in fact, had the right to be named a coach and if there was demand for coaching services from public workers.

“A coach doesn’t give direct advice

Nataliya, how to tell a qualified coach from a self-appointed one?

Firstly, a professional coach, of course, has serious education. A lot of schools teaching coaching work in Russia now. People with different basic education study there. After taking the course, they learn key skills and coaching principles, but this is little. Real coaches, in fact, learn throughout life constantly upgrading their qualification. This is why one shouldn’t hesitate to ask for certificates and diplomas about education when choosing a coach.

Secondly, a professional coach follows professional ethics and principles. For instance, confidentiality is a crucial ethical principle in coaching. A coach will never tell anybody about his or her client’s situation. The client’s responsibility for his or her life is another important principle, which means that a coach doesn’t give direct advice.

Thirdly, coaches are often members of some professional association, especially if they run a private practice. This can not apply to internal corporate coaches but to private practitioners, this gives a guarantee of professional growth and membership in a community because to extend the membership it is necessary to follow the ethical code, prove your qualification, study, have some supervision. Some associations have an international professional growth system, a kind of titles (Editor’s Note: for instance, in the International Coach Federation), it is the levels ACC, PCC, МСС.

Photo: vsetreningi.ru
For instance, the Association of Russian-Speaking Coaches (ARC) has a requirement for its members to have supervision at least twice a year. This means a coach must not only work with clients but also work on himself or herself

Coaches annually have supervision and mentoring. It is also ways of upgrading a coach’s qualification, a kind of “correction of mistakes”. For instance, the Association of Russian-Speaking Coaches (ARC) has a requirement for its members to have supervision at least twice a year. This means a coach must not only work with clients but also work on himself or herself. Supervision is hygiene for coaches and psychologists.

As for executive coaching, that’s to say, coaching for officials, top managers, there is a requirement mentioned in the professional standard that it is obligatory to have at least a 3-year experience as senior executive for such a job. One has to have one’s management experience to talk with executives as equals.

“One meets with a coach when everything in life in general is good, but one wants it to be better

There is quite an opaque concept as a life coach. Do I understand correctly that every person in Russia can call himself or herself a life coach today and teach others something for money?

If a business coach deals with business requests and often with organisations, a life coach does with a client’s personal requests, though this not always can be divided. In any case, both a professional life coach and business coach must meet the same requirements.

By the way, psychotherapists often become life coaches. It is a format that helps people solve problems but without deep consideration like in psychology and psychotherapy. The latter work with a person’s deeper problems and his or her past. For instance, I had childhood trauma that affects my life now. I must cope with it not to feel anxiety and avoid other emotional problems. In other words, one meets with a psychologist due to problems, and one meets with a coach when everything in life in general is good, but one wants it to be better, one wants to develop, one wants changes. A coach works with goals, the client’s future with positivism. Now it is an era of very intense life, we see big technological, economical and other changes. Nowadays people can build several careers in different spheres. A person has to adapt to them, but this is tough. And a coach can help almost in any sphere if the request is linked with setting and achieving goals, changes in life.

Do public workers use the services of coaches too?

I worked in a Moscow regional training centre, and public workers there expressed interest in coaching. However, this area was only developing, but the state and municipal service has demand for ordering coaches’ services for employees.

Photo: oblast45.ru
This area was only developing, but the state and municipal service has demand for ordering coaches’ services for employees

“It is so far quite hard to understand who you have in front of you”

What standards the community of coaches should achieve to exclude swindlers?

The police must deal with swindlers. And professional standards of Coach have long been developed, the ARC initiated this work, and all the community of coaches participated in it. Clear requirements for this profession are explained in it — for the coach’s education, what he or she must and mustn’t do and so on. The professional standards already were sent to the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Russia, but they have been sent back for improvement now. Its project can be found on the website of the APC. The presence of the professional standard, without doubt, will clarify coaching training and principles, allow making this sphere a real profession.

It is so far quite hard to understand if you have a coach or not in front of you. Even psychological help isn’t considered as the norm in our people’s consciousness. People don’t distinguish a psychologist from a psychiatrist. Moreover, Russians don’t understand the difference between a coach, mentor, teacher. Of course, it is our task too — to explain everything to people.

There is such a widespread category in Russia as Vedic coaches who serve groundwork of contemporary psychology with a sauce of Vedic scripture. How do you assess their activity and approach to work?

You will find a lot of people on Instagram who make up new professions, for instance, astropsychologist, tantric coach and so on. It is marketing. Of course, it is necessary to distinguish a profession from a marketing ploy. Marketing consultants teach people to earn money, particularly they recommend to find an original and striking name for this. Esotericism, parapsychology, some religious practices — this all, of course, doesn’t refer to the professional activity of either a coach or psychology.

I often see complaints about the activity of self-appointed or self-proclaimed coaches. One girl complained: “I found a psychologist on Instagram. I paid 70,000 rubles for a course at once. It turned out this psychologist lived somewhere on Bali. She didn’t have a degree in psychology in general. And she says she consults people on the basis of her life experience. In other words, she experienced some problems and teaches others to cope with the same difficulties”. But what did this girl think about when she transferred money to a nobody? It is clear that it is at least necessary to check the degree, collect reviews.

Photo: hse.ru
Russians don’t understand the difference between a coach, mentor, teacher. Of course, it is our task too — to explain everything to people

If I buy an overdue good in the store, the store is responsible for this, it can be held accountable. If I purchase a product from somebody in the pedestrian subway, I am responsible for it because I was too lazy to check everything. Though people understand this. And when they purchase a Vedic or astrologic service on Instagram, then they become disappointed and file claims. If it is hard to check it on your own, it is more reliable to look for a coach in official organisations where a person without corresponding education won’t be employed or on websites of professional associations of coaches.

On the one hand, somebody probably needs these services too. Somebody probably needs to entertain with Vedic dances, feel they are “goddesses”. But this, of course, has nothing to do with coaching.

Who are Vedic coaches? Is there a professional standard for them? I don’t know. They unlikely need it. Neither do magicians and psychics have any professional standards, but they sell themselves and work successfully. Even though they are prohibited from posting ads, people will anyway come to them like people used to go to old women, witches in the past and found them without the Internet. There is demand — this is why there is supply. It is people’s conscience and choice.

Our work is to develop our profession, develop the professional standard, to explain how a coach works, who is a professional and how to understand it.

By Matvey Antropov