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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Professional coaches at the top of their game

By Linda White
Special to The Sun

They're often compared to athletic coaches, but professional coaches follow a different set of rules. For starters, it's an individual's experience and goals -- not the coach's -- that determines the game plan.
Square Peg Solution

And rather than focus on what needs to be improved, a professional coach focuses on an individual's strengths and capabilities. "Coaching is a forward-looking process," says Laura Macro, a whole life coach who specializes in women's leadership in life and work.

"As a coach, you help your clients create a vision of where they want to go in the future," Macro says. "Many say, 'If I knew what I wanted to do, I'd be doing it.' I help people become more aware of their current situation, what's holding them in that place and help them create steps to get to where they want to go."

Professional coaching has grown tremendously over the past couple of years, largely in response to an increase in job transition, self-employment and small business. Many personal and business coaches choose to specialize, as seen by the variety of job titles: personal coach, business coach, corporate coach, interview coach, leadership coach and career transition coach.

"Many coaches work in their own business, but increasingly they're working inside corporations," Macro says. "A number of years ago, there was no such thing as hiring a coach. Corporations are recognizing it's about bringing out the best in people and providing opportunities for people to grow within the organization."

Macro established WORKandBalance five years ago. Before that, she worked as a career counsellor and as a human resources manager. "The shift for me was wanting to do something broader than help people go from 'Job A' to 'Job B'. Coaching provided me with an opportunity to learn new skills and new ways of working with people."

She completed two years of training and certification through the Coaches Training Institute of San Rafael California, one of more than 150 coaching schools around the world. She served as vice-president of the Toronto chapter of the International Coach Federation (ICF), the largest professional association of coaches.

You don't need to be certified to call yourself a professional coach, but the trend is toward certification. The ICF, for example, is rolling out new membership levels that will recognize different levels of qualification, including credentialed coach.

That level is reserved for the professional coach who holds the Associate Certified Coach, Professional Certified Coach or

Master Certified Coach credential. (Credentials vary from one organization to another. The ICF offers a list of coach training programs that meet the criteria for its accredited training program.)

Paul Copcutt is a personal branding strategist who worked as a headhunter before establishing Square Peg Solution three years ago.
  • Professional coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.
  • They work with clients in all areas, including business, career, finances, health and relationships.
  • A coach is trained to listen, observe and customize their approach to individual client needs.
  • A coach's job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources and creativity the client already has. -- The International Coach Federation (

  • "I help clients identify their unique skills and attributes and translate them into their career," Copcutt says.

    Copcutt is president of the Hamilton chapter of ICF. He's not certified, but recognizes the trend toward certification and lists the benefits of belonging to an association such as ICF. "As a member, you must adhere to a code of ethics and most coaches will note that on their websites."

    Specializing is key to success. "The downfall of many coaches is they don't niche themselves. They try to be anything to everyone, but specializing helps you in terms of marketing your message," Copcutt says. About half of his clients work or want to work in the medical industry.

    Many coaches work out of home-based offices and must be prepared to operate as a small business. "You must be self motivated," he says. "Working from home sounds enticing, but if you're used to the corporate world, it's a whole different game."

    Belonging to an association provides an opportunity to meet others in the industry. "By nature, it's a much more helpful association than others, whose members see each other as competitors," he says. "Belonging to an association recognizes or validates what you're doing and gives you credibility in the eyes of the consumer. It provides opportunities for continuous learning and is a valuable referral site."

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