Coaching in the Philippines: Promises and Challenges

Coaching in the Philippines is a burgeoning practice that opens a new pathway for Filipinos to develop their fullest potential, personally and professionally.

In the past decades, coaching was merely supplementary to a broad spectrum of human development interventions and was very loosely utilized. The most common notion of coaching was tied to athletic pursuits. Coaching as a scientific process, as a professional practice with global standards and ethics, was introduced in the country via Benchmark Consulting and ICF-Philippines chapter, which I both founded. Since then, the number of our coaching clients has consistently increased annually, including participants to our public coaching seminars as well as aspirants who train to be coaches. This indicates the growing appreciation and recognition of how coaching empowers individuals. Coaching clients come from diverse industries, 95% of which are multinational companies.

Business, leadership and executive coaching are the most popular forms of coaching. Clients engage external coaches to provide one-on- one coaching to top level executives. Most commonly, client companies hire coaches to conduct coach-training programs for leaders and managers who will in turn coach their respective teams. Participants to such interventions have reported positive results, if not-life changing, in terms of their working relationships, achieving and surpassing their targets and goals as well as building an agile corporate culture.

I have personally witnessed 360-dgree turnarounds. It is no surprise for coaching to complement and reinforce Filipinos’ inherent talents, resilience, passion and collective spirit. Coaching can indeed propel Filipino executives to an elevated level of competence and productivity. Their group orientation, deeply imbedded within, provides a fertile ground for team coaching, which can make for a high performing organization.

There is however, a need for greater awareness and education to shed light on misconceptions, lack of understanding and cultural nuances that work as impediments to the faster advancement of coaching.

We need to address the perception that coaching is expensive as it deters clients, especially medium and small scale organizations, from hiring external coaches. Add to this the overriding connotation about coaching being a corrective intervention, providing some kind of behavioral or attitudinal fix. Coaching has yet to carve its niche as the top of mind mechanism of personal, team and organizational development and empowerment, critical in conquering the challenges of today’s ever-changing business environment.

I have also observed that for many, the boundaries between coaching and mentoring (and even one-to-one training) are blurry. Underpinned by innate respect for authority, the general notion of coaching is directive. The coach is deemed as a content expert, therefore he is expected to teach, tutor or instruct coachees on what to do and how to do it. This happens particularly when coaching is not thoroughly explained and fleshed out with clients. Misunderstanding coaching can likewise result to lack of emotional buy-in or resistance on the part of coachees.

Cultural nuances, on the other hand, generally manifest in the context of coach-client relationship, Studies have proven that Filipinos put a high value in ensuring smooth interpersonal relationships. This value becomes a drawback when coachees only engage in coaching because they are complying with company directives. In some cases, coachees feel obliged to please the coach and end up setting superficial goals, action plans or timelines. Researches have also indicated that to the Filipino worker, professional and personal relationships are not completely separate. As such, they are inclined to be sensitive to feedback, preventing the coaching process from moving forward.

Education is key in straightening out inaccurate suppositions about coaching. The task, however, is doubly challenging with the dearth of formally trained and credentialed coaches to date. There are only four ICF-certified coaches in the country – one Professional Certified Coach (PCC) level and 3 Associate Certified Coach (ACC) level. Coaching practitioners sans proper knowledge, skills, experience and qualification, more often than not fall short in tackling the issues I discussed and further contribute to existing confounded assumptions.

Still, the demand for coaching is rapidly rising, and we are in a crucial period of establishing its credibility as a powerful human development intervention and profession. There may be challenge as we shape the future of coaching, but I am very optimistic that the practice and the profession will continue to flourish. Current social realities, economic pressures and Filipinos’ high regard for fulfillment and success will inevitably drive them to seek out and aspire for coaching’s ultimate promise – help them be no less than their best.