SPARE me your surveys

“Squares and triangles agree: circles are pointless.”
~ source unknown

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

At the risk of being accused of bobbing while the rest of the coaching universe weaves, zigging while they zag, I have to ask: is anybody else confounded by the plethora of coaching field “opinion” surveys popping up?

What is it, exactly, they are trying to prove or disprove?   And why?

Perhaps THAT is the question!  

In any case, I find it disturbing.

More than a little dismayed, I’ve been watching the linear take-over of the coaching field for over a decade now — sharing my disdain with only the closest of friends and colleagues until this blog post. But when survey results are announced attached to a name like Harvard, I’m more than a little afraid.

I’ve always thought I could count on the Ivy League to turn out thinkers.

No general disrespect to Harvard intended — or to any of the other organizations undertaking these surveys — but it simply astounds me whenever anyone proceeds as if there might be some discoverable “formula” for anything as person-specific as personal and professional coaching.

Clients come to coaching desiring wild success
“outside” the box,
NOT to learn how to climb inside it.

Formulaic technique rarely yields much to tempt the grown-up palate.  And yet, humankind seems driven to make the holographic linear through quantification.

It matters not to me whether those “formulas” are framed as guidelines, competencies, or laws — or how much “data” has been collected in an attempt to “prove” the point of view of the authors — they have meaning ONLY as jumping-off points for discussions of why nobody follows them as written.

At least, in my opinion, nobody who delivers a quality coaching product attempts to follow them as written.  I tend to side with Solomon.

Let’s take a vote – what do YOU think?

To my mind, even if it were possible for a survey to uncover the value of various coaching norms and techniques, what leads anyone to think that an opinion survey would be the way to do it?

Has the coaching field grown so fast it’s lost its way?

Even if one could survey a large majority of the coaches working in the field today (and document same), any attempt to find our way through surveys attempting to determine the “percentage of coaches who believe in the importance of . . .”  is utter nonsense!  It will gather statistics as meaningless as a survey in Galileo’s day showing that 99% of the world believed it to be flat.

“If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it’s still a foolish thing.” Anatole France 

Opinion is a matter of perspective and, generally, has more to do with turf-wars or alliance-building than efficacy or “truth.”

I ring in as a coaching pioneer with a background of 7 years on the world’s first Coach Trainer Team (Coach U), it’s second graduate, who “morphed” into the founder of the ADD Coach Training field and co-founder of the ADD Coaching field itself — with almost 25 years of “vanilla” as well as ADD-flavored coaching now behind me.  I recall, as if it were yesterday, when Thomas Leonard said, in my living room, “We’re going to need a certifying body.”

Back in the day we cared MOST about providing a quality service and creating a credible field – and we didn’t feel the need to take a consensus survey first!

“An appeaser is one who FEEDS the crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
~ Winston Churchill

My fellow coaching pioneers and I spent more [unbillable] time in committee than “3,000 successful graduates” spend in TRAINING, if you can believe the advertising that one of the johnny-come-lately coaching schools posted, of ALL places, on a professional forum on Linked In.”

Hey therapists,” it promised, “I can get you certified to add coaching to your offerings in a sixteen hour training” – for ONLY $1597, I’m told.

It would have been merely laughable except that there were responses from a therapist or two who seemed to be ready to drink the kool-aid. (To LinkedIn’s credit, the advert disappeared)

Wow!  If “initials” have become more important than people, I’m in the wrong field.  I need to be printing up “certification” documents.  I’ll bet I could I can do it for you at half as much as the folks above, and you don’t even have to come to class – I’ll beam the content to you while you sleep. Hurry – prices going up soon!

The Coaching Field’s Response?

To be perfectly honest, I find it hard to care any more.  If history is destiny, a bunch of linears will convene a committee – with or without a preliminary survey – and will come up with even more rules and regulations.  They’ll couple that with a marketing campaign designed to get us all to sign in, sign on and toe the line — boxing us in so that even half-decent coaching becomes harder and harder to train, and competent coaches find it more and more difficult to prove what they know.

Enough coaches will quake in their boots at the thought of being deemed unworthy that they will apply their own pressure to their colleagues, throwing anyone who opposes the idea under the bus.

Maybe I WILL go into the certification mill biz.  Anybody else want in? All it seems to take to make a killing is a good marketing budget.

Let’s take a survey to figure it out.

MORE about what ADD clients need from their coaches:

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

5 Responses to SPARE me your surveys

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  2. Glen Hogard says:

    Ok, Madelyn, we may be in a mutual admiration society here, out on a limb by ourselves, but I’m glad to see we’re making this point together so at least we’ll hang with at least one other person. In the middle of the night, I awoke realizing that as written, there is a lot of room for misunderstanding in my post.

    Just to state this clearly, I am not opposed to standards, or even using the ICF’s “core competencies” as a jumping off point to cover some basic skill testing, but it’s in their implementation that the problem can arise. We had nothing but air, and the ACO, the IAAC, and the PAAC (is that the correct acronym?) all respect the value of the basic coaching skills covered in the ICF’s core competencies. I know linear thinking people love the “cut and dried” approach this gives them as a tool. OK, fine.

    But I also know of some coaches personally, and several/many by second hand who were EFD/ADD/ADHD (let’s pick a good name people!) and or were trained in an ADHD/EFD coach-only environment over long periods of time who are excellent ADHD coaches — or even some of the founders or very first coaches we had who’s methods were questioned by the non-brain-based ICF examinations and failed or had to be coached to “undo” some of their brain-based ways in order to pass for the same/similar testing “as it was administered” by the ICF.

    Some of these coaches wanted to pass the non-brain-based tests so badly, that they have paid or gotten friends to “coach” them how to leave out or alter the way they coach EFD clients just to pass this artificial “pretend” way to show they can coach in ways that ignore that EFD/ADHD coaches coach clients with brain differences differently.

    Otherwise, why have brain-based coaches in the first place. We could all just be vanilla coaches and leave it at that.

    But some of the things we do to avoid or deal with startle responses, prefrontal cortex lockup, so many thoughts at once or boggle that we “must” do some things differently to be effective and yes, even avoid damaging our client’s sometimes fragile state of being.

    So I support some sort of competencies, tested in some environment that is as natural to real coaching as possible, but as I’ve observed that sort of “fill in the blank” to prove each one method (competency) that I’ve heard is the way some are doing it, seems artificial, not useful, and if taken seriously as a method to actually coach people with a certain spectrum of brain differences, then the resulting outcomes might not be the standard of excellence those tests/certifications purport to represent and could damage a clients quest for improved functioning.

    So I can’t speak for Madelyn, but I’m just calling for a bit more caution about how EFD coaches are tested to make sure that the special skills and techniques we sometimes have to employ and that define our very usefulness as brain-based coaches aren’t thrown out or excluded in the process of rushing headlong toward some standard of certification among the various bodies just to get it done.

    Just as in real life, the devil is in the details. To find a way to truly define and celebrate the amazing talents and superior specialized knowledge brain-based coaches can bring to bear in terms of increased knowledge and awareness of our client’s states of mind and then use that knowledge in an artful way to gently and supportively help that client to achieve higher and higher levels of functioning through the coaching process is the golden ring we all are seeking.

    My fear is that until now, a “best” method hasn’t been found, but good attempts have been made and are being refined. But the point of the brain-based (EFD/ADHD) coaching lies in its differences not its similarities to coaching the way the vanilla coaches do it.

    If that were not the case, there wouldn’t be any need for EFD/ADHD-specific coaching methods in the first place.

    The test of success will be some method that doesn’t require a specialized EFD/ADHD coach to become something they are not in order to past some testing procedure that ignores the very essence of the delicate balance and talents they employ to effectively coach those who vanilla coaches sometimes blame for being “not committed to the process” or fire as “uncoachable”.

    When that way of screening for the amazingly talented brain-based coaches I’ve known is found, that will shine the spotlight on the special things we do differently, and includes the basics of regular coaching, then we will have arrived at a truly valuable standard that can be applied and easily met by those truly qualified to coach our amazing population of clients.

    Glen Hogard, ACO Co-Founder


    • I’m with you on the standards, Glen, as you know. My opposition is to the APPLICATION of the standards, as if there were one and only one way to coach — and one and only one way to apply the standards. And my biggest complaint is how those “rules” are applied in the ICF certification process.

      You say it VERY well in the last two paragraphs of your comment:

      The test of success will be some method that doesn’t require a specialized EFD/ADHD coach to become something they are not in order to get past some testing procedure that ignores the very essence of the delicate balance and talents they employ to effectively coach those who vanilla coaches sometimes blame for being “not committed to the process” or fire as “uncoachable”.

      When that way of screening for the amazingly talented brain-based coaches I’ve known is found, that will shine the spotlight on the special things we do differently, and includes the basics of regular coaching, then we will have arrived at a truly valuable standard that can be applied and easily met by those truly qualified to coach our amazing population of clients.

      btw- I added some formatting to your comment to empahasize some of your points. The way that works with this “theme,” only the blog owner has permissions to format comments. Even though I don’t have time to format ALL – or many of – the comments left on the blog, the length and appropriateness of this post led to my taking the time to do it for THIS one.


  3. Glen Hogard says:

    Madelyn and I have spent “over” 6 hours in conversation the past few months about brain-based coaching and credentialing bodies and what the deisre to meet some sort of linear or quantifiable standards might do to possibly limit or constrain the inspired brain-based coaching many of us/you do.

    My fear, without knowing the exact facts, is that something of the “sine qua non” is in danger of being lost in the rush to quantify who is “qualified” to coach people with brain differences (EFD or ADD or ADHD -your choice).

    In a perfect world , there would be a legitimate test which was not some artificial “fill in the check marks” (i.e. core competecies) way of truly measuring both a good linear coach and a good lateral coach who’s style might be totally different if they come at it from the inside (they have EFD/ADD themselves and can use first person knowledge effectivly and reliably; not “guessing” what it’s like).

    Some people may not know this, but the dream I had for the ACO in discussion from almost the beginning of coach training along with my peer coach Tammy Cochran (a nod to her here), was to make a certifying body.

    The ACO became a professional organization for two reasons. One: we were having difficulty figuring out how one would do it correctly or adequatly, or fairly. And Two: to our great relief, we discovered that yet another attempt was being made to do this simultaneously as we were forming the ACO so we didn’t have to do that part of forming an ADHD coaching organization.

    That effort became the IAAC and at the beginning had several great coaches, including Madelyn, who had made the attempt before.

    So the suggestion was made in an ACO board meeting (my notes say Sarah Wright did it) to have the ACO be a more simple professional orgainzation with minimul requirements for entry that in a simple way separated the sheep from the goats without trying to determine how good a sheep or goat one was. And history has shown that worked beautifully.

    I’ve been meaning to find a way to write about this or talk about this problem of who gets to do the judging an how to do it for some time, (as this length will tell you) but Madelyn’s post has sent my verbal/linguistic processing brain into gear . Perhaps I’ll write about it more later, but I agree with Madelyn on this.

    Those who would try to quantify or judge ADHD coaching through a form or some linear process will probably miss the boat and perhaps keep some great intuitive and creative (non-linear) ADHD coaches from certification so what’s that certification worth?

    Glen Hogard, ACO Co-Founder


    • Wow, Glen. You really DO need to get blogging – you have so many great points to get out there to the coaching universe. (I’ll let you slide on the “over 6 hours” part, but anyone ELSE reading these comments needs to understand it has been WELL over 6 hours!)

      Thank you for affirming my decision to publish this post so soon after I hit that “publish” button – I’ve been holding my breath, wondering if my ADD mouth was going to get me drummed out of the corps – again.
      (At least we’ll get drummed out together, huh?)

      Sometimes the rabble needs rousing, however. This is one of those issues that nobody talks about anywhere they might be overheard. It’s long past due for somebody to run the issue up the flagpole
      to see if anybody’s in a saluting mood.

      My fear is that, after much MORE time on the linear trajectory, it will simply feel TOO risky for anyone to “sing out Louse.”

      You and I are well aware that we are not the ONLY ones unhappy with the direction the coaching field seems to be heading. If those of us who are concerned don’t soon “hang together” to loosely quote
      B. Franklin, I believe, we’ll SURELY all hang separately.

      Kate Kelly’s recent brush with the other side has encouraged me to risk censure by speaking my truth NOW. (But then again, don’t I usually come to that conclusion eventually for SOME reason?)

      I sometimes fear my tombstone will read,
      “She might have made a better living if she’d stuffed a sock in her mouth!”



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