Ajibola Ponle: How we help career advancement through professional coaching

Ajibola Ponle: How we help career advancement through professional coaching

Thursday, January 7, 2016 2:58 pm

Ajibola Ponle

Ajibola Ponle

Recently, the International Coach Federation (ICF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to professional coaching, also reputed as the world’s largest coaching organization, with 25,000 members in 126 countries, celebrated its 20th anniversary in Nigeria. In this interview with journalists in Lagos, (including Daniel Ekugo), Ajibola Ponle, President, ICF, Nigerian Chapter, the internationally certified Coach harped on the need for individuals and organizations to embrace professional coaching, while reiterating the imperative for worldwide professional standards within the coaching profession.

Q: How has it been championing this effort, knowing this could be very challenging?

A: International Coach Federation (ICF), is an international organisation that supports the coaching of professionals worldwide. The Nigeria chapter is one of the newest globally and it was established in May 2015, making Nigeria one of the over hundred chapters worldwide. Before its inauguration in Nigeria, we started working behind the scene since last year. So far, it has been very interesting, especially with the members of the board of directors, who are very passionate about the coaching profession. Their cooperation has made it a lot easier for us in setting the direction and strategic vision for the organisation.

On the journey so far, it has been exciting because we are aware that everything new comes with its challenges. We did not see this as an issue, but challenges that can be overcome. Importantly, we were able to identify the key challenges and we are tackling them one by one. One of the major challenges is how to enhance the understanding of our target publics on what professional coaching actually stands for. I recall during the launch of ICF in Nigeria, we had our press conference, press statement and everything was printed out nicely, but when we looked at the papers the next morning, we still saw our article on the sports page, surrounded by Liverpool, Barcelona, stadium and Juse Mourinho and all sorts of sports stories!

People don’t understand, they just think coaching is all about sports. We had a similar incident at the point of registering the chapter. The Corporate Affairs Commission could not register us immediately because it was misconstrued as a sports-related profession. They actually sent our name to Nigerian Sports Commission and nobody recognised the organisation.

For me, that was one of the major challenges and we were able to surmount it by sensitizing a whole lot of people on what corporate and life coaching are.

Q: What potentials do you see for coaching in the Nigerian social and economic life?
A: One of the reasons I spearheaded the establishment of coaching in Nigeria is because it is all about human potential. I see a country that is rich in so many things, not just mineral resources, but human and material resources among others. If we can, as coaches, raise the level of awareness of just one person at a time, unleash their potentials, you can imagine how productive our people will be.

A lot of what we do with coaching is to help people let go of their inhibitions, things that are holding them back, internal and external blocks. Those inhibitions are like weights holding individuals back. If you can relieve people of their inhibitions, you can imagine how enormous the impact will be. Also, getting leaders to leave with increased values, and impact of what they are doing on their direct reports at workplace, in their families, and the country.

Q: Do you think ICF has a future in Nigeria?
ICFdoes not only have a future, it is here to stay. The people we have worked with are testimonies. By the time they saw the changes, they became fascinated. I have spouses coming to me saying because of the coaching their partners have received, there has been a re-discovery. The truth is that when someone undergoes the ICF training, there is this feeling of renewal as changes start emanating from within. And it affects every part of their lives.

Q: So how exactly is ICF helping coaches in Nigeria to improve?
A: First, the program we have had to day is a strategic way of educating coaches. This is because it helps to raise the competencies of the coaches we have even locally. ICF is pushing for increased number of accredited coach training programs locally. Right now, there isn’t one accredited coach training provider locally, but we are pushing for those available to be accredited. There is another accredited coach training program coming next year, by the time we have training providers that can train on the 11 competencies, then we have reached a level.

Another issue that is salient is enhancing the understanding of people on the true values of professional coaching. Trying to create the demand for coaching so that after we may have conducted the training, there is availability of work, which is another thing we are currently working on within ICF.
We are trying to raise the awareness of local community to understand what coaching is and what it is not. We are also supporting our coaches to go through their certification and develop thriving cache practices locally.

Q: How is the market for life coaches in Nigeria?
A: One of the major issues, to be honest with you, because coaching is a passion, is how to turn the passion to pay-off. Because a lot of people coach already, but they do it out of interest. You are in church and you coach people and so on… there is a way around that. That is why ICF is here to help coaches with their sales. It is part of what we will be doing next year. This year, the focus is on establishment and awareness creation. Subsequently, we will be considering ways of supporting our members to become excellent coaches.

Q: What word of advice would you give to organisations who haven’t embraced coaching?
A: Career development has changed in the 21st century. Gone are the days you wait for employers to plan your career development and put you on training programs. We always tell our clients that their personal development is in their own hands. If you feel you need advancement, then go ahead and get a professional coach. Don’t wait for your organisation. If your organisation is offering it, fine, if not reach out but yourself. Just make sure they are ICF-accredited coaches so that you’ll know that they are applying, the competencies, global practices and ethical guidelines of coaching.

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