Professional coaching was something I had previously heard about, but attending a panel discussion with a group of Egyptian coaches was an insightful experience focused on their aspirations and challenges.
Before attending the meeting of the fledgling Egypt chapter of the International Coach Federation (ICF), I had never asked myself questions like: What can a coach bring to one’s life? When does a person need a coach? and How can one find a suitable coach?
Shahira Rifaat, president of the newly-founded board of the ICF Egypt chapter, introduced the panel by expressing pride that her dream — and the dream of the tens of trained coaches she was addressing — had come true.
“I am honoured to be standing in a room that is filled with coaches, all Egyptian,” she said.
The dream will not stop here, she added.
“I wish that the Egyptian chapter will be number one in the Middle East and Africa, and that Egypt will be a hub for coaching,” Rifaat elaborated.
The Egypt chapter of ICF was established two years ago, and this seminar was its first major event. Rifaat said the event was extra special in hosting Magdalena Mook, CEO and executive board director of the ICF, and Wai K Leong, ICF acting vice chair. The seminar theme was, "ICF leading into the future."
Mook affirmed that “the potentials in Egypt are very promising,” and that “the Middle East, in particular, is a hub for growth of professional coaching.”
The Egypt chapter is the second biggest in the region. ICF membership represents the highest quality of professional coaching.
The ICF has more than 31,000 members from 42 countries. Its job is to advance the coaching profession by setting high standards, providing independent certification, and building a worldwide network of trained coaching professionals.
The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential, which is important in today’s uncertain and complex working environment.
“Professional coaches, for their part,” said Hoda El-Beih, public relations director of the board of the Egypt chapter, “are supposed to raise the self-awareness of the client, encourage him to discover himself, think in a creative way and reach better decisions.”
“A coach does not judge the client. He listens, reads between lines, and reflects back to client,” she explained.
However, the job is not without challenges — above all the challenge to work on oneself all the time.
Personal coaching is a process of continuous learning, Mook explained.
“One of the credentials of the personal coach is to be at his best all the times. Thus, training is a journey in which the coach has to train himself all the time,” she said.
The ICF has a very stringent process whereby the credentials of its members are reviewed every three years, Mook added.
The other tough challenge is how professional coaches can make themselves visible in a competitive world.
Leong acknowledges that the early days in a coach’s career are tough. He recalled that he used to offer free 30-minute conversations with people. “The key is that you do not try to explain what you are doing, but let people experience it. And every time you do a good job, you make the following step easier. You build clients that way,” he said.
He advised the attendees to get testimonials from their clients and put them on their websites. “They speak for you,” he said.
Mook underlined that raising public awareness on the importance of personal coaching is a very important step.
“The good news is that some 68 percent of people are aware of coaching and can define it properly. Still, each and every one of you are the best ambassador for professional coaching and for the ICF,” she told attendees.
Perhaps one of the most important challenges facing professional coaching in Egypt is to make the training process easier and affordable to a wider base of professional coaches.
Mook pointed to the fact that the ICF is trying to make its resources available to more people via translating the materials needed for the Coaching Knowledge Assessment (CKA) test into other languages, including Arabic, besides offerings support to various chapters, especially when they are budding.
The last but not least important challenge raised in the panel discussion was how to meet the expectations of clients, especially corporate clients.
Leong explained that in corporate coaching, managers sometimes have high expectations. They expect their employees to respond to coaching quickly and develop in their work according to their expected pace.
“However, people are like seeds; some grow overnight and others take years to grow. Thus, people need their own time to grow,” he said.
Mook concluded the discussion by calling on attendees to work hard to make coaching an integral part of society, raise awareness on it, be happy in coaching, join forces with neighbouring chapters and, above all, pay attention to high standards.