A Somewhat Different Approach to Developing Coaching Excellence

Feb, 24, 2020

Traditional Classroom Training alone doesn’t achieve an optimal learning outcome

  • Developing Coaching Excellence specifically requires a multitude of interventions for optimal outcome
  • More than ever before, Technology can help optimize the learning impact and enhance the experience

How it all started

Back in early 2002, I decided to get a professional coach training as I was contemplating leaving the corporate world to become an Executive Coach. At the time, I had just recently relocated to Hong Kong and my research showed that there were only a handful professional coaches in all of Hong Kong. Also, there was no institute at all in Hong Kong that would provide any coach training. So I joined the only English language program there was at the time in Asia which was conducted through numerous so-called tele-classes (3 hrs conference calls) and a total of 5 live classroom sessions (Friday evenings and Saturdays all day).

Our Coach Trainer – as we later learnt – had a grand total of 1.5 years coaching experience when we joined the program he licensed from a US institute. At the time, while we had some grievances around the administration of the program and the rather weird theoretical exam, we nevertheless found the training overall great!

And that’s a problem with both being coached or learning coaching: most coachees/participants don’t know what they don’t know, i.e. they have no reasonable way of knowing whether the coaching or coach training they’re experiencing is actually really great or ‘just ok’ – because they have nothing to compare it to (exceptions confirm the rule, still).

From today’s perspective, after having practiced executive coaching for over 5,000 hours and having developed new coaches for a couple of thousand hours, I can clearly say that what I experienced back in 2002 was very far from what I would consider a high-impact coach development program.

I’m not complaining, because at the time the coaching industry was almost non-existing in Asia and the program I took was the only one there was at the time. And you have to start somewhere…

When I was asked by Hong Kong University SPACE in 2005 to develop a curriculum for an Executive Diploma on Corporate Coaching, I worked with another Hong Kong pioneer coach (Ms. Angela Spaxman) to design the program. Given the HKU SPACE structure, we had to design the program to be conducted in classroom during evenings and weekends. However, one aspect that came short in my own first coach training was practice. So we built in extensive practice as part of the homework participants had to do.

Then, about a year later, we at Progress-U decided to develop our own Coach Certification program. Since we didn’t have the restrictions of HKU, we could design it in whichever way we wanted. It resulted in a 2*4-day workshops program combined with extensive coaching practice and follow-up teleclasses to hear about the progress participants made in practicing and to support them with any challenges they faced.

Getting Internationally Accredited

The first major revamp and extension of the program was required when we decided in 2011 to apply for Level 2 Accreditation with the Worldwide Association of Business CoachesTM (WABCTM). WABCTM appointed an advisor to us who left no stone unturned and helped us significantly step up our quality control procedures and challenged us on maximizing the impact of our program. Some minor further improvements were implemented to comply with the requirements for approval by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) in 2014. Subsequently, we kept optimizing the program contents and structure in rather incremental steps.

Despite continuously receiving very positive feedback for our coach certification programs, we decided in 2019 that it was time to challenge ourselves and take our programs to the next level for readiness in 2020.

What were the objectives of this significant upgrade?

  • To further maximize the learning impact
  • To provide more flexibility, especially for potential participants outside our hubs of Hong Kong, Mumbai, Shanghai and Singapore
  • To optimize the participants’ experience
  • To better leverage our best resources for the benefit of the participants

What did we change?

A)   Contents

Participants’ ratings for our contents were consistently very high, and yet, we found that we can do better and reworked or even replaced our contents.

B)   Delivery Mode

In the past, contents were exclusively ‘delivered’ in classroom settings and through some reading materials. Today, participants learn new contents through a mix of

  • Digital Micro-Learning
  • Virtual Workshops
  • Various Assignments
  • Supervised Practice Sessions
  • Coaching Practice Review Sessions
  • Group & 1:1 Mentoring
  • Receiving 1:1 Coaching

C)   Types of Activities

In the past, Progress-U’s International Corporate Coaching program contained these elements:

  • Harrison Assessments Paradox Report
  • 4*2 Day Classroom Workshops
  • 4*2 Teleclasses (follow-up)
  • Peer Coaching / Client Coaching Practice Assignments
  • Reading Assignments / Book Reviews
  • Coaching Practice Exam (conducted during the last workshop day)

While these elements were all helpful, we found that we can create an even higher impact by blending additional elements:

  • Integration of Digital Micro-Learning allows for more time in workshops for supervised practice
  • Group and 1:1 Mentoring
  • Dedicated Supervised Practice Sessions (in pairs/triads with faculty member)
  • Receiving 1:1 Coaching

Also, when COVID hit in 2020, we decided to run workshops virtually only but realized that it’s not sufficient to just take full-day classroom workshops onto a virtual platform, but that – in order to maximize the learning impact – we needed to change some of the contents and especially the workshop structure. For example, we broke down the 4*2 Day Classroom workshops into 6*2 hours * 4 modules virtual sessions. Due to the integration of Digital Micro-Learning, we could actually reduce the workshop hours.

This means that the Journey to Coaching Excellence now has been significantly deepened, providing more individual guidance and feedback to the participants.

In order to manage the increased complexity that comes with the multiple interventions, integrated the tracking and managing of progress of each participant with the same digital micro-learning solution. Participants themselves can also track at any time where they are in the journey and what they still need to complete to graduate.

About Technology

Besides changes in contents, structure and delivery methods, we use numerous technologies to aid the maximization of impact on the learning journey of developing coaching excellence:

  • Digital Micro-Learning: it takes e-learning to a whole new level, including social learning, learning in small bites for higher retention and mobile learning. It allows participants to get an introduction to all key concepts, theories and processes prior to any workshop – in a fun way. As a result, we can spend more time in the workshop on deepening the learning, and more importantly, to practice it in coaching cases based on real cases experienced by our veteran coaches.
  • Virtual Workshops: technology for video conferencing has dramatically improved over the past 10 years or so, and it’s now perfectly possible to conduct workshops exclusively in a virtual format. This results in more flexibility for participants, especially for those who would need to travel to attend classroom sessions. Also, if anyone misses any of the 2hrs workshops, they are able to watch the recording of the missed session to catch up with the rest of the group.

We should not forget, though

One of the key contributors to make any program truly great, besides the structure, contents, activities and technology, are the facilitators who interact with the participants. As a result, we’re extremely selective who we engage to deliver this program and ensure they can deliver it at the highest quality level we expect. Technology again helps us actually to improve our quality control of facilitators and provides broader choice of the best faculty members as they don’t have to travel since we conduct the program 100% online.

We launched this new version of our coach certification programs in 2020, and the results have been exceeding our expectations. At the same time, we always believe that excellence is the enemy of even more excellence, so we keep progressing and exploring ever better ways to create the best possible learning experience and impact. That’s what we’re really passionate about!


Charlie Lang
Charlie Lang
Founder and Chief Content Architect
Founder and Chief Content Architect – Charlie Lang is a C-Suite coach and a pioneer in the coaching industry in Asia Pacific.


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