In conversation with Marva Sadler, WBECS

27th August by Lee Robertson

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AoEC in conversation with Marva Sadler WBECS

Part three of our “In Conversation With…” interview series features Marva Sadler, CEO of WBECS. The full WBECS Summit is set to start in September and Marva has given us a fabulous insight into what the Summit will cover and what we can expect from WBECS going into early 2020.

You recently joined WBECS as its new CEO, tell us a bit about yourself and what your ambitions are for WBECS?

Much of my career so far has been spent in professional services: strategy consulting, small business consulting, running a tech consulting firm (do you detect a theme?) as well as executive positions in large multinational corporate training organisations, Achieve Global and Franklin Covey. I have a deep respect for professional coaches. I find them to be the most articulate, thoughtful, and kind people I know. So, joining WBECS was a great privilege as well as a great opportunity.

My ambition for WBECS is that we fulfil our mission of Raising the Global Standard of Coaching.  We’re doing this by focusing on the great potential we have to become all that professional coaches need us to be, by listening more thoughtfully, interacting more frequently, and continuing to innovate around content creation, delivery, and pricing to put our high quality programmes and services within the reach of all coaches. We’re also working to encourage the coaching community to greater engagement, and more open dialog. Our new Coach-Created © effort emphasizes “Created by Coaches for Coaches” to increase awareness, collaboration, communication, and community worldwide.

2019 has been an enormously successful and busy year for WBECS. Where will your focus be for the remainder of the year and into early 2020?

We’ve just launched our first-ever tool, to help professional coaches more easily and cost effectively attract potential clients, so that they can spend less time marketing and more time coaching. This tool also includes an ongoing monthly mastermind programme to help coaches “work on their business” as well as “in the business”. So, this means the Assess.Coach tool and mastermind are also our first effort at an affordable subscription model for coaches, to make our products and services more widely available. You can expect more of that in the future.

We’ve also got two new fully integrated educational programmes in development that are more comprehensive and more innovative than any program we’ve previously run, with development paths that coaches can participate in at several levels, and can also continue to connect with for continuing skills and professional development over long periods, at affordable rates.

And, we’re continuing to grow and develop our flagship, the WBECS Summit to reach a larger audience, and become more accessible to coaches worldwide. And of course, we’ll continue to innovate to improve quality, increase engagement and application, and help make the Summit even more compelling than it has been, which is a big ambition for us to deliver on.

What do you think will be the most important trends affecting the executive coaching profession in the next few years?

At WBECS, our biggest concern is the lack of clear understanding by the world in general of the distinction between professional coaches with practice and ethical standards, and clear qualifications, and the vast sea of people who call themselves coaches, but who are often unprepared and unqualified.  We believe the professional coaching associations have much more in common than they have differences, and that we need to align around this key issue, to clarify the distinction, and expose the gap between professional coaches and all others.

A second trend we see is the need for coaches to mirror business clients’ need for greater urgency, impact, and measurement accountability, so that the clients can easily see and articulate the great benefits they achieve through coaching. So many corporate clients still lump coaches with trainers as a “discretionary overhead” that can be downsized at any time in order to make the quarterly earnings report. Our work as coaches should be so compelling that leaders build coaching into every major initiative as a way to help ensure success.

A third concern I have is very personal and is also a big reason why I left Tech Strategy and joined WBECS. The world’s level of civility is rapidly eroding. Regardless of the cause, most of us can agree that this trend is destructive to our businesses, our families, and our communities. Coaches are in a unique position to help their clients understand the value of communicating and leading in more humane and civil ways, which will, in turn, positively impact the employees, family members and communities the clients interact with. I believe coaches have an imperative to help turn the tide, simply because we can. And if we don’t who will?

For those people who are new to the field of executive coaching, how does WBECS help them make the most of their own coaching practice and professional development?

The WBECS Pre Summit and Full Summit provide support and education for all coaches and are especially helpful to relatively new coaches and those just getting into business and executive coaching.  In a simple, easily accessible format, the Summits feature a faculty of world-renowned coaching and leadership experts, who present a broad range of topics, methodologies, and emerging issues highly relevant to coaches and to those leaders and managers whom they serve. The Summits also offer a wide variety of session types, including content presentations, live coaching demonstrations, panel discussions and in-depth, coach-led question and answer sessions with thought leaders.  It’s a great way for relatively new coaches to gain exposure to a wide selection of issues and ideas.

Our more intensive education programmes have historically focused on the needs of more experienced coaches. However, the two new programmes we’re launching in the next twelve months will each have introductory levels especially for relatively new coaches who have completed their initial coach training, and who are seeking to accelerate their professional development.

And finally, we’re also planning a mini Summit, for mid-2020 to introduce new coaches to several leading coach training organisations and their programmes and methodologies. Our goal is to help educate new coaches and those considering becoming coaches on the initial training and certification options available to them and emphasize the importance of professional coaching education.

The full WBECS summit starts on September 5th. Can you tell us more about the topics and speakers you have lined up to contribute to this year’s impressive programme?

Oh, where to start? This year’s Full Summit has the broadest range of speakers, topics, and session types that we’ve ever had. We have speakers from sixteen countries, representing six continents. We have a higher proportion of new speakers and new topics than ever before.

Some of those that are most recognisable are: Michael Bungay Stanier will kick-off the Full Summit with a discussion on The Neuroscience of an Irresistible Coaching Experience, and a panel discussion on How Coaching can Transform an Organisation. In October, Peter Bregman will expand on his Pre-Summit theme of Emotional Courage and give us a live coaching demonstration. In November, we’ll have a Fireside Chat with Simon Sinek. 

Among our new topics and new speakers, LaTonya Wilkins will present on Coaching People that are Different from You, How to Avoid Common Missteps. Madeleine Blanchard will talk about how to Effectively Break the Coaching Rules in Service to Your Clients, and Erica Dhawan will discuss Getting Big Things Done: Becoming a Standout Collaborator. 

And that’s just the tip of all that’s ahead. I strongly suggest that you check out our Full Summit line-up and topics on our website

At the AoEC we are always asked whether the market is saturated with executive coaches – what is the WBECS’ take on this?

This is directly related to the trend I mentioned about needing to make a clearer distinction between professional coaches and those who are not. The market for excellent coaches continues to grow.  Leaders increasingly recognise the potential value and impact of great coaching. However, the market for mediocre coaches does seem to be increasingly saturated. In addition, leaders and managers who have experienced mediocre, low-impact coaching are much less likely to engage another coach in the future, so low-value coaching actually leads to market shrinkage over time. It’s just one of the reasons we continue to emphasize the need to raise the global standard of coaching. Excellent coaching creates impact which leads to market growth.

As the coaching profession matures, are you seeing more of a demand for coaches to be accredited by the industry’s professional bodies and if so, how are you tailoring your content?

We strongly support professional accreditation for coaches. We believe it’s a right of passage for anyone who wants to be a serious coach. We compare it to other professional services, such as attorneys or accountants, which also require not only education, and accreditation, but also continuing professional development.

We’re adapting our content in a few ways. First, we have provided ICF CCEUs for both the Summit and our programmes, from their inception. Beginning this year, we are also working other major associations to qualify for their continuing education credits as well. We’ll be continuing to expand our programme accreditation over the next months and years to better meet the needs of all the major accreditation organisations and their coaches.

Second, while we have long encouraged coaches who join our programmes to first achieve some level of professional accreditation, more advanced levels of our new programmes will actually require some level of professional accreditation as part of the qualification process. 

And third, as I mentioned, we are planning a Coach Training Programme Summit as part of our regular offerings, beginning in 2020, so that we can increase our support of professional accreditation across the board. Since we see the real issue as making a distinction between professional, accredited coaches, and everyone else, we support all the major accreditation organisations. We realise that different methods appeal to different people and different learning styles. 

Team coaching has been steadily growing in awareness and interest within the coaching arena in recent times. What is WBECS doing to highlight this aspect of coaching as part of 2019’s Summit?

We agree that team coaching is an increasingly important topic. We have scheduled several presentations and discussions in the Full Summit specifically on the topic of team coaching, as well as several other topics that apply to team coaching. 

Even more exciting, we’re launching a Global Team Coaching Institute in the spring of 2020. The Institute will feature several world-renowned team coaching faculty members, an innovative, multi-level programme, a choice of team coaching methodologies, and other innovative programme features and benefits.

WBECS established EthicalCoach last October with a pilot in Ethiopia. What kind of impact has this had and how do you see EthicalCoach developing as a result?

We’re nearly half-way through a two-year effort in Ethiopia. The initial summit in October 2018 was very well received and created significant momentum. The NGOs present represented services for over 9 million individuals. Since then, our international coaches have been working with the local Ethiopian coaches, and the selected NGO leaders on a continued coaching and development programme, and we’re officially measuring and tracking the results. The first year of the data will be available at the end of the year. Unofficially, the team reports tremendous individual and organisational impact, and we’re very excited about going into the second year of the local coaching.

Our new initiative in 2020 will be aligned more closely to WBECS core skills running compelling virtual conferences. The 2020 conference is under construction. We’ll be announcing it and rolling it out early next year.


An enormous thank you to Marva and WBECS for their sharing their plans.