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ICF Global Conference and the Coaching Barbarians

Today John and I presented at the Global International Coach Federation (ICF) conference in London. We delivered a Challenging Coaching session to the heart of the global coaching profession, 800 people attended the conference from 56 countries.

As previously we have delivered to mainly UK audiences this was the first big opportunity to present to a truly international audience. This was a great chance to test the cross cultural interest in challenging FACTS coaching.

Also, ICF is a broad church with members from a life coaching background as well as executive coaching. The person centred non-directive approach is at the heart of the ICF, so there was a possibility that our challenging style would be criticised.

Before the session started, Dan from Romania came up to me as he had recently downloaded our book, and said that it reminded him of the barbarian tribes of ancient times and he said that all empires were conquered by barbarians (In ancient Rome, a barbarian was the name given to any people who lived outside the borders of the Roman Empire. There were five main barbarian tribes in Europe and each wanted to conquer the famous Roman Empire. These tribes were the Huns, Franks, Vandals, Saxons, and Visigoths). In a very complementary way Dan was saying that John and I were the barbarians, challenging the empire of non-directive person-centred coaching!

ICF global conference and the coaching barbarians


For sure our message can be like marmite, some people love it, and others hate it. I remember a few years ago presenting to an audience of internal coaches steeped in non-directive coaching, and after an hour feeling like I’d walked off a battlefield. We were accused of ‘calling the Pope a Methodist’, and much of what we said was criticised that day. So entering the heart of the ICF was a risk, a real challenge.

However, it seems to be a sign of the times, a sign of the economic climate maybe, that there is now a positive appetite for challenge in the coaching community at home and abroad. The ICF audience were very receptive to the need to challenge within a system wide context. This seems to be the spirit of the times, the emerging zeitgeist.

In another comment from the audience, Troy from Canada said that as long as the person you are working with remains ‘at choice’ then you are still coaching. This was an interesting definition that we had not heard before and embraces many of the coaching principles we believe in.

For me, the session was an international validation of Challenging Coaching and it reminds me of the quote on page 52 of the book by the philosopher Schopenhauer “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

We’d love to hear your own views via our LinkedIn challenging coaching group.

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