In conversation with Peter Duffell, EMCC UK

21st May by Lee Robertson

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In conversation with Peter Duffell, EMCC

Part two of our new quarterly series “In Conversation With…” features Peter Duffell, board member for governance with EMCC UK. Peter has very generously shared details with us of the EMCC’s future plans and given us some personal insight into the key issues facing the coaching, mentoring and supervision profession.

2019 has already been a busy and successful year for the EMCC. What are your key focus areas for the remainder of the year and into early 2020?

EMCC is now well into its 26th year as a professional organisation, so as you would anticipate we have real broadness to the initiatives in which we are engaged. Having recently reviewed our strategy our key aims are around ensuring that EMCC is the trusted and preferred partner, globally, everywhere in the world when it comes to coaching, mentoring, and supervision.

Further, we are continuing with our commitment to raise standards of best practice through accreditation awards and quality offerings, supported by evidence-based research.

EMCC as a whole continues to build on its recent successes. For example, through expanding its global reach, noting EMCC Asia Pacific was established in 2018, also in collaborating with other coaching and supervision organisations on key initiatives like the joint code of ethics.

In the UK, we have been through a period of investment with the aim of increasing member engagement and improving our operational capability. Consequently, we are now turning our attention to how we can significantly increase our relevance to members both in terms of professional development, member support and improving the range of benefits we offer our members. We are also actively expanding our membership via partners where we are offering people undergoing coach training discounted membership of EMCC for their first year. We have an altruistic aim here – as we plan to reinvest any increased membership revenue into events that are relevant and actively support our members.

In terms of tangible plans, the most significant is the UK Conference we are planning for 2020. This will be specifically targeted at an agenda that will offer tangible support for mentors, coaches and supervisors who are actively seeking to build their practices. For example, providing workshops on social media strategies.

We are actively expanding our networks, as these are a key element of our CPD offering. Noting that our members live all over the UK, we are endeavouring to offer accessible events both within regions and between regions. These are accessible to non-members and full details of events can be accessed via our website.

Lastly, we are now actively focusing on our social media presence and members (and non-members) will shortly see us being much more relevant and effective in this space. Hence, we aim to be one of the main points of reference for the coaching and mentoring communities.

What do you think will be the most important trends affecting executive coaching and supervision over the next few years?

There are several areas where there are emerging trends that we might want to take note of.  First is the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) across the coaching and mentoring industry as a whole, second the lack of diversity in coaches and finally that recent focus on practice theory has challenged us to look not at practitioners (their competences) but rather practices. The recent EMCC conference in Dublin covered these topics in some detail and the presentations are available on the conference website.

There has been some talk about how technology will be used more within the coaching industry. What is the EMCC’s view on coaching and supervision in the digital age?

There are two parts to this. Firstly, technology is increasingly penetrating coaching practice through FaceTime, Zoom, Instant Messaging and other ‘immediate’ communications mechanisms. There are certainly generational differences in the way the younger generations view technology versus older ones. Having just presented original research at the 8th International Coaching Supervision Conference at Oxford Brookes (with Natalia de Estevan Ubeda) it is clear that we are most probably on the cusp of a major shift in coaching and supervision practice as millennials are increasingly seeking coaching support.

It is also worth revisiting AI, where I am not sure that EMCC as a whole has an agreed view. My own opinion is that how AI might be a challenge for coaching and supervision is something where there is very little clarity currently. There is certainly a lot of hype around the topic and like the .com boom in the 1990s a lot of organisations are adding an AI marketing slant to their offerings where this might not be true or appropriate. We have seen researchers like Nicky Terblanche at the University of Stellenbosch create coaching ‘chatbots’. Further there is increased interest in what coaching algorithms might look like (and how to avoid the bias in more mainstream social media algorithms) through the work of people like David Clutterbuck. 

Whilst there are a lot of compelling examples of how AI might impact coaching, the most likely outcome is a synthesis between human being (coaches and supervisors) and the technology. It’s too early to really understand what this might look like. To put some colour to this, last year a team of researchers reported that by manipulating a few pixels (the dots making up the picture) of an image of a turtle, they fooled an AI into thinking the image was one of a rifle. You or I would probably not do this, because we have a real-world relationship with both a turtle and a rifle in terms of look, feel, scale etc. The AI simply reduces everything to patterns and statistics that bear no real relationship to the real-world object. To develop AI in the coaching space you have to ask yourself, how can we build a real-world human experience into a machine? Hence in some ways we are getting ahead of ourselves in terms of what AI is and is not capable of.

For those new to the world of executive coaching, how can the EMCC help them with their own coaching practice and professional development?

Firstly, we offer a lot of practical help and guidance – and this is an area where we are looking to expand our offering to members. As an example, we have offered a model coaching contract as a template for members for a number of years. This enables members to robustly commercially contract with individuals and organisations on a fair and equitable basis. We regularly provide guidance on relevant business matters – noting we issued some guidance on GDPR before it was incorporated into the Data Protection Act.

Our accreditation and CPD offerings are also key to helping executive coaches stand out in the market.

At the AoEC we are often asked about whether the market is saturated with executive coaches – what is the EMCC’s take on this?’

There will always be competition for providers of executive coaching services as there are a lot of providers in the market and it is an easy area for leadership and development providers to expand their offerings. However, the EMCC would highlight that experts do not simply act as more experienced novices but think and act differently. Indeed, there is a client dimension here too in that experienced executives will have expectations about the experience and capability of the coaches that they work with. Looked at through the lens of availability of the number of experienced executive coaches who genuinely have the ability and gravitas to operate at very senior levels, there is still a lot of space in the market. The real challenge here is to educate the buyers of executive coaching services so they are more aware of what they should be asking for. This is where the EMCC stance on ethics and standards is so important in this market.

Have you noticed that people are increasingly recognising the importance of been credentialed as a coach?

As I have just mentioned, there is still a lack of demand from purchasers of executive coaching services for accreditation. However, this is starting to change in the market. So, currently a credentialed coach will have an advantage, but as more organisations ask for accredited coaches and supervisors, this will change. EMCC UK is certainly increasing its focus on accreditation for this reason in the next few years. This will be both for individuals and organisations.

Team coaching is gaining more traction within the industry. What is the EMCC doing in relation to responding to the needs of this growth area e.g. such as credentialing?

We are looking at a team coaching accreditation. Team coaching is a significant growth area in the coaching world. With standards a core element of our reason for being, having an offering in this space is an important next step for us.

As well as being Governance Director for the EMCC, you work as a retained coach for several organisational clients and health-related organisations. What changes have you noticed in your own coaching work in the recent past including your clients’ needs and expectations, and their views of executive coaching?

The biggest areas where I see emerging challenges are in the areas of generational differences. People who are reaching senior leadership positions now are in a much more impatient, fast paced “always on” world. The world is significantly more complex and inter-connected so is increasingly becoming more challenging to operate in. Tackling issues such as climate change will require a step change in the ways that competing individuals and organisations collaborate with each other, in ways that we are only just starting to recognise. This is not an abstract challenge. If you are an executive in a major car manufacturer now, you are right at the heart of this as a societal issue, illustrated by falling diesel car sales, slowness of investment in electric vehicle infrastructure etc. These challenges have not been experienced before and hence organisations are increasingly turning to experienced executive coaches to help their clients deal with the personal challenges and ambiguity of leadership that these issues create.


A big thank you to Peter and the EMCC for answering our questions.