The power of Focus

The first step on the road to a successful career and happy life is to sharpen your ability to focus

Published in Macau Business magazine, May 2013

By André Ribeiro

You use it throughout your entire life. You are using it right now, as you read this article. It is focus, and focus affects the way you act and react, each and every day.

Being able to focus properly can improve your quality of life – and your career prospects. The benefits apply to everyone but are of particular importance for top executives. That is why focus training is a key component of most executive coaching courses.
Each person has specific patterns of focus. These can be developed to make you more attentive.
The baseline is to first understand what parts of a person’s work and personal life they give most attention to. These are their main areas of focus.
Ideally, focus should be appropriate to the importance of what is focused on. It should be steady and sustainable, but also flexible, so it can respond rapidly to new events.

Let us do an experiment. Look around you and try to detect as many blue objects as you can. Take 20 seconds doing it. Then continue reading this article.
When you consciously choose to focus on something specific, your reticular activation system goes to work. It begins filtering out everything that is unconnected with the object of your attention. The result is that you give more importance to data relevant to the matter on hand, while disregarding what is irrelevant.
For example, when you go outside, you usually pay no attention to the cars parked round about. But if for any reason you become interested in a particular model of car (which you may wish to buy, for instance), you will probably notice every time you see one. Soon you will begin wondering how it was that you never before appreciated how popular that model is. The same thing happens with clothes, mobile phones or any other objects.

Seeing red

Continuing our experiment, do you recall how many red objects you saw when you were focusing on finding blue items around you? You probably do not. This is because your attention was locked on the colour blue. Once you concentrate on something particular, you become increasingly aware of it, while filtering out other things.

Focus also plays a role on a more personal level. By changing their patterns of focus, a person can shift from being depressed to feeling empowered. Focus directs your life because it is the first filter of reality. If you give more attention to what you lack than to what you have, you are probably going to feel miserable. Yet people are often unaware of the importance of focus. And few know how to put focus to best use. The first step is to become self-aware.

At work, your focus affects your performance considerably. Some people focus on what they cannot control or influence. Others focus on what they can have an effect on, making them more productive.

Executives need to understand the importance of aligning their attention with their objectives. Executives must learn which patterns of focus better suit their needs, and how to switch between high and low levels of attention whenever necessary.
Asking the right questions is one simple way to redirect focus. Questions can direct a person’s attention to new areas.
Having focus in your personal life and career helps you move faster towards your goals and attain overall wellbeing.

André Ribeiro is the founder of ExtraCoaching.

Coaching Tools

Coaching Tools

The international bestseller book “Coaching Tools”  published in english, spanish and portuguese includes my testimonial

An Excerpt of my testimonial follows

The diversity of individuals and situations is enormous. Therefore, coaching to be effective, must be flexible and personalized. The usefulness of the tools is the implementation and the results they provide. Tools can only work when they are applied

André Ribeiro – Professional Coach (in portuguese)

Coaching Market Wizards

Published February 2015

Coaching Market Wizards

by André Ribeiro

He makes millions year after year beating the performance of financial indices with his investments. Friends tell him he looks like crap. His face is of  a man 10 or more years older than he is.

Most people working in financial markets know someone like that.

There is another way.

Paul Tudor Jones had his reputation established in October 1987 when he correctly anticipated the market plunge and made huge profits (said to be half a billion dollars in the single biggest drop day of the crash) earning his investors a 200% return that year. It was like going to the moon, what to do next? He lost his mojo and went through a slump for a couple of years which was having consequences in his health, relationships and results.

In 1993, the billionaire hedge fund manager hired Tony Robbins, who coached him back into shape and got him fired up again. Since the relationship started more than two decades ago, his returns have been positive every year. He continues to email Robbins on a daily basis. In a Fortune magazine article, Tudor says coaching has helped both his longevity as a trader and peace of mind as a person.

For high performers getting to the top sometimes is not the hardest part. Many individuals develop and try trading systems using the best technology and formulas, others are just wired to have intuition for the markets. Some achieve a great system that generates top returns and become high net worth individuals. They may have beat the market, but at what cost? And what then? “Being the richest man in the cemetery“, Steve Jobs used to quote.

In the book The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, John Coates gives a brilliant illustration of what happens to the body when placing a bet in the financial markets. Taking the reader inside the traders’ bodies to see the biology of risk taking at work.

Traders resemble high performance athletes. They have to learn to manage the stress of failure and success; and train their bodies so that they help them thrive while taking risks. Staying at the top — requires something special. To stay there you need to develop a mindset and an experienced and a trained coach with proven results can be of help.

Ray Dalio, founder of the world’s largest hedge-fund firm, Bridgewater Associates, credits Transcendental Meditation with contributing to his success.

In the famous series of Market Wizards books, Jack Schwager interviews several legendary masters of wealth such as Ed Seykota, Bruce Kovner, Marty Schwartz, Richard Dennis, Paul Tudor Jones and Jim Rogers.

There is a section in each of the books, called “Psychology of Trading” in which he interviews coaches of traders such as Ari Kiev, Charles Faulkner and Van Tharp. They use tools and techniques that range from traditional psychology to sports psychology, neuro linguistics programming and hypnosis.

For thousands of years philosophers talked about HealthWealth, and Relationships. Everyone wants the good life; it’s like the three legged stool, it can only stand with the three pillars that support it.


André Ribeiro is the founder of ExtraCoaching


Generation next – Succession Coaching

 Many heads of family businesses fail to arrange their succession

Published in Macau Business magazine, July 2013

By André Ribeiro

The Macau economy is thronged by family businesses of all shapes and sizes: from Stanley Ho Hung Sun’s mega-empire, spreading from casinos to property to transport, to the small noodle shop around the corner. But most heads of family businesses fail to properly plan who should succeed them when – for whatever reason – they depart.
Succession planning is not an easy business anywhere in the world. In Chinese culture, the subject is often taboo, as it is associated with death. Customers and partners of family businesses may resist changes at the top. Business and personal relationships are closely intertwined in Chinese culture, and trust in the new head of a business is not automatic.
Often, the most daunting task is to convince the heads of family businesses of the need for succession planning. The head of a business may be reluctant to relax their grip on power after years of hard work building up the company.
They may also fear that arranging the succession will cause conflict among members of their families. But that is an equally good reason for having a proper succession plan – one that takes effect gradually, properly grooming the next generation to take over while allowing the older generation to ease itself out.
Often, the bigger the family, the greater the number of claimants to a stake in the business and the more difficult it is to arrange the succession. That is why more and more family businesses around the world opt to hire help from outside the family.
A consultant can help in two main ways. They can propose their own arrangement for the succession or they can coach the claimants to stakes in the business so each family member can negotiate an arrangement that is acceptable for all.
Accepting an arrangement proposed by outsiders is often the quickest solution to the problem. But whether the solution works or not depends on the members of the family jockeying for the top position.
This solution is usually more successful when the next generation agree to the appointment of a chief executive from outside the family, while they themselves settle for non-executive roles.
Sibling rivalry
Coaching takes longer but can lead to a more widely acceptable outcome where there is conflict between potential successors in the family. Coaching was the solution chosen by a large wine company in the north of Spain, owned by one of the country’s wealthiest families.
In 2006, the 60-year-old head of the business wished to arrange for the reins to be passed to his two sons, who were both in their thirties. Rivalry and distrust between the sons complicated matters. The sons rarely spoke, even about important business matters.
This harmed the business and endangered the succession. A decision on a property on which MOP30 million (US$3.8 million) depended had stalled because the sons would not sit down to discuss it.
The relationships among the family members involved in the business were complex, the parts that each played in the family and the parts that each played in the business were entangled. This was noticeable at family gatherings, where business was often discussed.
The father was regarded more as the head of the business than the head of the family. The personal interests of the members of the family were mixed up with their business interests. This interfered with the performance of other directors of the company, its employees and the business as a whole.
Happy ending
To start the process, both sons were coached individually. They were given exercises in communication, management and leadership, which included role-playing. Within a couple of months, the sons had consented to being coached together, at first once a week and later more frequently.
The family decided to have all of the company’s directors coached. They were taught how to communicate effectively, think strategically and look for operational improvement. The coaching sessions included training in organisational and leadership development.
The business responsibilities of the sons were progressively increased and adjusted. Direct and clear communication dispelled rumour and intrigue. It allowed important business decisions to be made, from decisions on new investments to decisions on reorganisation of the management.
Several arrangements for the succession were contemplated: hiring a chief executive from outside; making one of the company’s own managers chief executive; dividing the business into two so that each son would be in charge of his own part; having the sons take turns as chief executive for a year at a time; or picking one son as the chief executive.
The family agreed that one son would become chief executive and the other chairman. The father retired but continues to attend board meetings.
It was a happy ending to a long saga. It took one year of coaching. It needed the full support of all stakeholders to succeed – and the full support of all stakeholders cannot always be counted on.
Still, this case study shows that there is no reason to fear that succession planning will be disruptive, even when the process is delicate.
Delaying succession planning is not an option for the heads of family businesses. Succession planning should begin at once, with a view to sustaining the business and making it a success in the long run.
The more planning that is done today, the better the prospects for the family and the business alike.

André Ribeiro is the founder of ExtraCoaching

Six elements for success​

 There are six qualities needed to recover from a life-threatening injury or achieve career goals


Published in Macau Business magazine, August 2013

By André Ribeiro

If success is defined as getting what you want, how can you become successful? When you suffer a setback or face a challenge, how can you overcome it?

It is often said that it is not about how many times you fall but how many times you get back up. That requires a positive frame of mind that helps you get back up and reach your goals.
Take Gary Faris. Faris loved to run competitively. Several years ago, he was training for a race in California. The driver of a pickup truck failed to see him up ahead behind a rise in the road. The truck hit Faris, injuring him so severely that doctors were unsure if he would make it.
After the first two operations of what would turn out to be a series of six, the doctors said the reason Faris was still alive was because of his good physical condition. They also had bad news: he would never walk normally and certainly never run again.
For the next two years, Faris was in rehabilitation. He rebuilt his body. Eventually he returned to running competitively.
After the accident, Faris began studying sports injury rehabilitation. He researched the mental attributes of athletes that had come back from injury and concluded they had six positive mental qualities: inner motivation; commitment to high standards; patience to proceed step by step; focus on the present, with a view to the future; personal involvement; and the ability to be their own yardstick of their progress.
Most important was the simultaneous employment of all six qualities to achieve success.


Six Elements of Success
1. Inner motivation is an obvious factor in achieving success. Recovering athletes use inner motivation to the maximum to move towards what they wish to achieve. They move forward because the pleasure of getting what they want is greater than the pain of working towards it.
2. Recovering athletes have a focus on regaining their health and strength. They are absolutely committed to this standard. Anything less is unacceptable.
3. Athletes in rehabilitation take the recovery process one step at a time. To imagine the entire process can make it seem intimidating and its conclusion far away. Breaking the process into smaller, more manageable steps makes success easier to achieve.
The focus is on small accomplishments that can be mastered easily, permitting adjustments along the way and creating a sense of achievement in passing milestones.
4. Athletes in rehabilitation have a unique perception of time. They succeed in recovering because they focus on the present, regarding it as the path leading to the future.
5. Personal involvement is essential. The higher the degree of engagement in the recovery process, the faster and more complete the recovery. Personal involvement gives athletes a bigger stake in their future.
6. The final quality required of athletes in rehabilitation is the ability to gauge their progress and performance using themselves as a yardstick. People naturally compare themselves and their actions to others and the actions of others. It is critical for a recovering athlete to change this paradigm and consider their own progress. This allows the athlete to regard other people’s accomplishments as inspirational rather than enviable.

Six Elements Exercise
These qualities, Faris found, were applicable to any aspect of personal or professional life.

Employ these six qualities in your life. Do the following exercise. Choose an important goal and ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do you have clear reasons for achieving what you want and do you imagine clear negative consequences if you fail? Is the pleasure of reaching your goal greater than the pain you must suffer in reaching it?
2. Are your standards high enough to encourage growth and give you a feeling of accomplishment, yet realistic enough to maintain your confidence and motivation?
3. Have you determined what smaller steps will move you towards what you want? Are these smaller steps realistic and manageable?
4. What are you doing right now to get what you want? How will doing it help you get there?
5. Are you taking action, or waiting for whatever will happen to happen? Are you doing all you can to get what you want?
6. Are you tracking your progress? Are you focused on what you can do?
Using these six mental qualities and a lot of determination, Faris was able to get through two years of rehabilitation and run again.
Use his understanding in your life, in your business or to respond to a challenge, and you will be more effective and get better results. When all six qualities are combined, they are like the spokes of a wheel – bearing the load as you roll towards success.


Note:  The story of Gary Faris is told in the book NLP: The New Technology of Achievement, by Steve Andreas and Charles Faulkner


André Ribeiro is the founder of ExtraCoaching

HNWIs – Riches to Riches

HNWIs and UHNWIs: The Wealthiest People on the planet

Wealth inequality is a potential cause of friction worldwide

Riches to Riches 


Wealth is a fascinating topic. The amount an individual owns impacts his or her everyday life in thousands of ways. It is a basic tool for survival in modern societies.

One of the most interesting things about wealth is how unequally distributed it is around the globe. A few people own a lot of it, while billions have barely enough to get by.

Consultants Cap Gemini SA and Royal Bank of Canada put together the World Wealth Report every year. The report coined the term “high net worth individual” to describe a person with investable assets of US$1 million or more, excluding his or her primary residence, collectibles, consumables and consumer durables.

The latest report, issued in June, has some interesting observations.

It says there were 12 million high net worth individuals in 2012, and that together they had investable wealth of US$46.2 trillion, the most ever. North America had the most high net worth individuals, closely followed by the Asia-Pacific region. North America had 3.73 million of the super wealthy and the Asia-Pacific region had 3.68 million.

About 90 percent were “millionaires next door”, whose investable wealth ranged from US$1 million to US$5 million. Together they controlled about 43 percent of the wealth held by high net worth individuals.

About 111,000 people had investable assets worth more than US$30 million. They made up less than 1 percent of all high net worth individuals, but had 35.2 percent of the wealth held by high net worth individuals.

The Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report says an adult required net assets of just 4.000 US dollars to be one of the wealthiest 50 percent of people in the world in the middle of last year. An adult required at least 75.000 US dollars to be one of the wealthiest 10 percent, and 753.000 US dollars to be one of the wealthiest 1 percent.

The distribution of wealth is clearly uneven.

The Credit Suisse report says the poorest 50 percent of the world’s people owned less than 1 percent of the world’s wealth. At the top end, the richest 10 percent held 86 percent of the world’s wealth, and the richest 1 percent held 46 percent.

Flexing Rules

Wealth varies with geography.

Average household wealth across the globe was USD 51.600 for each adult in the middle of last year. In the richest countries, the figure was more than USD 100.000 an adult. In the richest country, Switzerland, it was more than USD 500.000 for each adult.

A report by the charity Oxfam, issued in January, says the wealth of the richest 1 percent of people in the world amounted to US$110 trillion last year. That sum was 65 times the combined wealth of the poorest 50 percent.

The poorest 50 percent, some 3.6 billion people, had as much wealth as the world’s richest 85 people.

It is an inequality that exacerbates social problems. “Concentration of income and wealth actually hampers the realisation of equal rights and opportunities because it makes political representation harder for disadvantaged groups, to the benefit of affluent groups,” Oxfam says.

Oxfam goes on to point specific practices that lead to a “rigging (of) the system,” where money is funneled almost exclusively to the already-wealthy.

The Oxfam report found that over the past few decades, the rich have successfully wielded political influence to skew policies in their favour on issues ranging from financial deregulation, tax havens, anti-competitive business practices to lower tax rates on high incomes and cuts in public services for the majority. Since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 out of 30 countries for which data are available, said the report.

André Ribeiro is the founder of ExtraCoaching. 

Power of positivity

‘Positive intelligence’ is viewed as a crucial asset on the road to management success

Published in Macau Business magazine, October 2013

By André Ribeiro

Positive intelligence is still a new term in the world of executive coaching. But, as happened with emotional intelligence some 30 years ago, the term “positive intelligence” is likely to revolutionise the way we look at leadership and performance.

One of the gurus of positive intelligence is Shirzad Chamine. Mr Chamine argues that research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience and organisational science shows that companies with teams and leaders that have higher positive intelligence can perform up to 35 percent better than those without, while their staff are happier and report lower levels of stress.
In his book “Positive Intelligence”, published last year, Mr Chamine talks about invisible mental “saboteurs” which prevent people from achieving their goals. He identifies 10 saboteurs and gives them names, such as Judge, Controller, Victim, Avoider and Pleaser.
Saboteurs are automatic and habitual mind patterns, each with its own features, which work against our best interests. They are remnants of our primitive urges and instincts. Mr Chamine says nearly 95 percent of executives attending his lectures conclude that they have saboteurs preventing them from fulfilling their full potential.
Different people are affected by different saboteurs. But a saboteur common to all cultures is the judge. The judge is the universal master-saboteur, a tendency to notice and exaggerate the negative, to constantly find fault with yourself, with others, or with your conditions and circumstances.
The antagonist of saboteurs is the “sage”. The sage has access to your deep wisdom, creativity, compassion and clear thinking. It works to build positivity, using five powers to overcome the saboteurs: empathy, exploration, innovation, navigation and decisive action.


 Grounds for divorce

Mr Chamine argues that positive intelligence is more important to effective leadership and performance than emotional intelligence or your intelligence quotient. The reason for this is that positive intelligence is a more basic, core form of intelligence. Without it, attempts to improve other sorts of intelligence are likely to fail because of “self-sabotage”.
Positive intelligence is measured by the proportion of time our minds are working in our favour rather than against us. The tipping point for positive intelligence is a score of 75, meaning our brain is working in our favour 75 percent of the time.
Mr Chamine arrived at this figure by using data from various studies. One set of data was from research by John Gottman. Mr Gottman, by making several studies and thousands of observations, learned to predict whether a couple would divorce. After just five minutes with a couple, he was able to predict correctly in more than 90 percent of cases.
An important factor in making his predictions was the ratio of positive expressions he heard to negative expressions. Couples that stayed married had, on average, five positive interactions for each negative interaction.
Other research that Mr Chamine used was done by Marcial Losada. Mr Losada adapted the methodology used by Mr Gottman to business teams. Mr Losada observed that the ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback was a strong indicator of the success of a team. Successful teams had, on average, three positive interactions for each negative interaction.
Another researcher Mr Chamine cites in writing his book is Barbara Fredrickson. Ms Fredrickson found that university students who made, on average, three or more positive statements for each negative statement, were much more likely to be in a state of good mental and social health.
Judge not
The importance of positive intelligence suggests the need for self-improvement. There are three main ways to improve your positive intelligence.
The first way is to weaken the saboteurs. This is done by identifying those that harm you the most, properly labelling saboteur thoughts when they come to mind and then letting them go.
Fighting saboteurs head-on is inadvisable, as it can, paradoxically, strengthen them. For instance, when you criticise yourself for judging yourself, the judge is playing the part of a double agent.
A second way to improve your positive intelligence is to tap into your sage’s perspective whenever a problem arises. Always regard problems as an opportunity or something that could be turned into an opportunity.
Third, you should give your positive intelligence workouts in the same way that athletes give their bodies workouts. This can be done through special exercises meant to build up positive intelligence “muscles” or the parts of the mind most involved in the sage’s functions.

André Ribeiro is the founder of ExtraCoaching

Take charge

Take charge

Published in Macau Business magazine, September 2013

By André Ribeiro

Effective decision-makers only try to influence situations they have control over


“You can’t control the ocean but you can surf it,” says M.D. and author Srini Pillay.

Some people try to control everything around them by planning every single thing down to the last detail. More often than not, reality tricks them.
A big part of what surrounds us is beyond our control. We can blame unpleasant changes on the government, the economy, stock markets, management, pollution – whatever. It makes little difference, besides draining our energy and making it harder to produce results.
There are basically two kinds of problems: those you can do something about and those whose resolution is beyond your reach.
When an event outside your control affects you, the way to think is: can I influence this? Is it something I can control? If the answer is “no”, do not waste your energy trying to change it. If it is “yes”, act.
Problems you cannot solve are actually “solved” by definition. If you acknowledge this, you can put them to your own use, as a potential catalyst for growth and achievement.
Managers cannot control events with a global impact, such as a natural disaster or financial crisis, but they can choose what meaning to attach to them and how to react.


Pavlov’s pets

We are often placed in situations or in confrontations we would rather not face. These are circumstances over which we have little control.

In these situations, managers can either panic or work on the only thing they can control: themselves.
Many people go through life reacting only with Pavlovian responses: the same situation draws the same response.
Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist who won the 1904 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his studies on how digestion works.
While studying digestion in dogs, Mr Pavlov noticed the animals would salivate whenever an assistant entered the room, even in the absence of food. He concluded this was a learned response, what is now known in psychology as classical conditioning. The dogs were responding to the sight of the assistants’ white lab coats, which they had come to associate with food.
Mr Pavlov’s discovery became the basis of behavioural psychology. Classical conditioning is used today to treat phobias, anxiety and panic disorders.
However, humans are more complex than dogs. We are able to use our awareness and consciousness, and be responsible for our reactions to people or events.
We can choose how to react to a given situation, and we have the ability to adapt our response if faced with a similar situation again.

Real control

The story of Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, as told in “Man’s Search for Meaning”, illustrates how important it is to take control of the way we respond to circumstances, even in the most extreme and uncontrollable conditions.
In his book, Mr Frankl chronicles his experience as a prisoner at Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. There was only one thing his captors could never take from him – the way he responded to situations.
“When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves,” he said.
Like Mr Frankl, you can decide how to react to uncontrollable externalities. This is the first step in taking real control of your life.
Focus your energy on the events, people and situations you can change. For circumstances that cannot be directly controlled, instead change yourself and the way you approach them to make the most of those situations.
This is a simple yet very powerful concept: instead of letting life go by, influence your own future by focusing on what you can control and influence.

André Ribeiro is the founder of ExtraCoaching


Mistakes Intelligent People Make

Mistakes Intelligent People Make, my presentation at Ignite in Lisbon, March 4th 2010

Funny how the organizer made a mistake and the slides that were supposed to go on automatic every 15 seconds weren’t programmed.

Have you ever made one of the mistakes talked about in this presentation?


Costa del Coaching

Coaching is on the up in Spain – but in a country that is traditionally unwilling to admit to weakness, and where not everyone has the same development opportunities, it may have its work cut out.

Article about Coaching in Spain, published in the “Coaching at Work” magazine, January 2007

Back in 1994, Jane Upton was “clearly the exception” as a female executive coach in Barcelona. “I had guys in their early thirties telling me it was ok for me to do this job because I was foreign, but that they wouldn’t let their wife do it,” says Upton, who is a coach with Praesta and runs its operations in Spain.

Sara Ais, an independent coach who works with the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL), recalls ringing a business bookshop in Barcelona in the late 1990s to ask what books they had on coaching. “They had nothing,” she says. But, according to Ais, in the past two to three years, the Spanish coaching market has “exploded”.

Silvia Guarnieri, academic director and co-founder of Escuela Europea de Coaching, an executive coach training school with branches in Madrid and Barcelona, one of two in Spain accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF), agrees. When the school was launched three years ago, the public had no idea what coaching was. But Guarnieri is seeing a rapid growth in demand for coach training, and 80 per cent of those becoming certified coaches with the school are funded by their employers. There is a definite shift away from a command­and-control culture towards a coaching style of management, she says.

This year ICF Spain’s third annual gathering consisted of two days in Madrid, attracting some 120 delegates and a handful of big sponsors, such as Spanish bank La Caixa and Pepsi. This compares with a 70-strong ‘professional day’ in Barcelona the previous year and a 30-strong meeting in Zaragoza the year before that.

“It’s incredible,” says Viviane Launer, president of ICF Spain, which has 120 members in Spain, nine of whom are fully accredited. The ICF hopes to reach 200 to 300 associates by the end of this year.

Despite the boom, it is still early days. Launer says Spain is a nation of inequality when it comes to access to training and development.
“Some people haven’t been trained at all, while others have been extensively trained and are very receptive to coaching,” she says.

Spanish managers highlighted one-to-one coaching as one of their top choices for learning soft skills, according to research by the CCL, Emerging Leaders Research: Phase Il, Europe.

The oldest and youngest Spanish respondents did not include coaching in the top learning methods for soft skills, unlike most of the other European participants.

The majority of Spanish respondents fell into two generations: those born in 1952-59 (Generation B) and those born in 1960-70 (Generation C). The other learning options for Generation B were on-the-job training, discussion groups, classroom training and case studies, and for Generation C they were on-the-job training, discussion groups, assessment and feedback, and peer interaction.
“One could speculate that these groups haven’t been exposed to or experienced coaching,” says the report, written by Alessia D’Amato and Jennifer Deal.

Only a small handful of companies, such as the Banco de Bilbao y Vizcaya (BBV A) and Roche Diagnostics, are going all-out to build internal cohorts of coaches, according to Guarnieri.

Steven Poelmans, a professor in IESE Business School’s Managing People in Organisations department, agrees. “Most people are asking for coaching rather than setting up coaching systems,” he says. “Developing internal capacity, as Roche Diagnostics is doing, is still exceptional”

Portuguese executive coach André Ribeiro, founder of Barcelona-based company Extra Coaching, says the coaching market in Spain lags behind the UK by at least five to 10 years. He says HR professionals do not necessarily help the coaching cause in Spain. “The multinationals are better informed, but many HR professionals see it as a threat, believing the coaches will take their work,” he says.

Poelmans says that because historically Spain has had a collectivist culture in which networks are very important, there is a lot of informal coaching going on – which means in some ways there is less need for people to reach out to professionals.

On the other hand, he says, there are issues of power and distance that inhibit coaching. The stereotypical hierarchical, patriarchal, macho Spanish business culture is very much alive and kicking in many organisations. it seems.

Jane Upton says: “Male Spanish bosses can sometimes be frightened of being challenged. Also, Spanish people have a lot of face and pride, with a strong ‘enchufe’ [meaning ‘plug’, or someone important who can pull strings for you] system. Put all this together and that’s what you’re facing as a coach.”

She says that senior executives in Spain often block the move towards a coaching culture.

“We are still seeing the old-school attitude. The other day a friend and I went to a restaurant, which was reluctant to let us sit at a particular table because it was the boss’s. This harks back to the days of Franco, when the boss got what he wanted,” Upton says.

Allard de Jong, a Dutch coach working with Penna in Barcelona, says the problem with coaching in Spain is that sometimes it is perceived as asking for help – and in a culture that thrives on honour, this is seen as a weakness. “Once people are educated about coaching, they realise it is not weakness but partnering,” he says.

De Jong agrees that Spain is lagging behind other European markets. For coaching to take hold there needs to be a culture of continuous improvement, and this tends to be found only in large international businesses, he says.

Nevertheless, word is gradually spreading and, increasingly, smaller firms are embracing coaching. Ribeiro, for example, is currently working with a 220-strong family-run wine firm in La Rioja, helping the father pass over the business to his two sons and working with some eight leaders in the business.

Francisco Gay, also a professor in IESE’s Managing People in Organisations department, agrees with Ais and De Jong that coaching in Spain tends to be more about working on problem areas than strengths. “It’s about finding out what needs improving – that’s what the coach is paid for,” he says.

Pedro García, human capital manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Barcelona, says companies in Spain usually turn to coaching to improve people’s relationships or skills by changing their attitudes. “They look to coaching to generate change in attitude in areas flagged up as needing improvement,” he says.

De Jong believes another obstacle is that Spaniards tend not to be as ambitious as their Anglo-Saxon counterparts.

“There is not so much demand for coaching because people are not so keen to improve. This is a generalisation, but it is something I am seeing,” he says.

Gay believes the interest in coaching in Spain is being fuelled by the popularity of “pseudo­psychology”. Once people realise the amount of self-reflection it brings, however, their enthusiasm can wane. Spaniards, perhaps, have less of a custom of navel-gazing than the British or Americans, for example.

“Being Latinos, we are interested in pseudo­psychology, which can make us receptive to coaching – but once people realise it’s about reflection and looking in the mirror and it hurts, lots of people disengage,” Gay says.

There is still a lot of confusion about what coaching is, it would seem. Upton says that while over the past few years she has noticed more and more people have heard of coaching, they often misunderstand it.

Gay agrees there is “notable confusion” as to what people mean by coaching in Spain. “One of the first things we need to do is to try to classify the concept and recover rigour,” he says.

A question of quality

When Ribeiro meets new Spanish clients, he finds it vital to spell out what coaching is and share success stories.

Poelmans says that most coaching is done at executive level with external coaches, but that it is starting to be cascaded down to lower levels in some organisations. He says that IESE’s position is very clear: that coaching should be an integral part of every manager’s responsibility.

Gay agrees. “From my point of view, the internal model is the most recommended. But another thing is whether leaders want this. Many are not engaged in their own development or lack trust. It’s not easy to bring coaching into the hierarchy,” he says.

Ana Tomás, an Alicante-based business coach, says: “The current trend is to contract external coaches but increasingly firms are thinking about training internal coaches or taking on professional coaches as part of the workforce.”

Ais says coaching tends to be used to support training and development initiatives, particularly at leadership level, to help high­ potential employees and to help leaders work on challenges. Just as there has been in the UK and elsewhere, there are real issues around the quality of coaches in Spain.

“The big companies are interested in coaching, but we’re a little green in Spain; it’s just beginning. There are not enough good coaches to go round and often people doing coaching don’t know anything,” says Maria G6mez Navarro, leadership development manager at Telef6nica Group.

Ribeiro says: “We’re seeing a great boom, but there is still low quality generally. You can get a certificate in coaching for about €900 (£600) or in executive coaching for €1,500 (£1,000). You get a formula with 15 questions to ask, and that’s about it.”

He adds that there are lots of coach training franchises that are unconcerned about quality, and that much of what is on offer is life coaching. Many head-hunting firms have suddenly reframed themselves as coaching providers, according to the ICF’s Launer.

Poelmans says HR managers complain that it is difficult to know if coaches are professionals and they are looking for advice on that. But while there is a “situation of uncertainty”, the majority of people are still not thinking about this, he says.

Gay says the ICF is the benchmark organisation in Spain, but that it is still very early days in terms of accreditation. “There is no official school, and accreditation is not deemed as that important. It’s more important to have someone professional,” he says.

Ais adds: “We’re walking lamely when it comes to accreditation. It’s a lack and options are limited.”

Poelmans says accreditation has only just started to become an issue in Spain, and many coaches still become accredited overseas. He agrees with Ribeiro that a certificate is no guarantee of quality.

“You can simply pay for the certificate and HR professionals are aware of that. They are looking for ways to distinguish between good and bad,” he says.

Launer says companies do not yet seek accreditation in the coaches they use. And she says Spain is a long way off from having regular supervision for coaches. She does, however, believe organisations will soon start seeking accreditation.

Meanwhile, as Gay says, it is more a case of “a mi no me expliques los titulos que tienes, pero lo que haces,” which translates as “don’t go on to me about all the letters after your name, what is it you do?”

“Businesses are looking for people they can trust and prestige in the case of well-known coaches; they want to know they can have a relationship based on trust,” he says.

Coaches are often selected because they come recommended. “It’s a closed world and recommendations go mouth-to-mouth,” says Garcia, who agrees that firms are looking for someone they can trust who has maturity and experience. “It has to be someone older who has accumulated experience,” he says.

Ais agrees: she says that coaching is the one profession in which grey hairs actually count for something.

Model behaviour

PwC’s Garcia says large companies in Spain are beginning to appreciate the importance of feedback and evaluation, and that coaching is the missing link There is not a widespread culture as yet of Spaniards welcoming constructive criticism, however.

Gay, who agrees that Spanish firms are increasingly introducing 360-degree feedback mechanisms, says: “We are not at all Anglo- Saxon, and while we like evaluation, feedback is very hard for us.”

Both Gay and Garcia believe that Spaniards are getting better at receiving criticism:

“Feedback is very necessary; we have to hear things we don’t like and we’re learning,” said Gay, who also thinks one of the problems in terms of Spanish people being receptive to coaching lies in the use of the verb “ser” (”to be” in a permanent sense) as opposed to the verb “hacer” (”to describe behaviours”).

“People say: ‘You are unpunctual’ instead of what they should say, which is: ‘You often arrive late’ – which would imply that someone could improve,” he says.

Gay adds that if someone has some negative feedback about someone else, they do it via the HR function. Spain is perhaps not as hung up on models as the UK. He says he hasn’t detected formalised methods in the coaches he knows: “Basically we are Socratic coaches, and beyond that we are applying our own expertise and experience.”

Sir John Whitmore’s “GROW” model – Goal, Reality, Option, will – is popular, as is neuro­linguistic programming (NLP), according to García. Ribeiro uses some NLP (PNL in Spanish) and “GROW”, among other things. But he says only small numbers of people are training to master’s level in NLP, compared with some 250 each year training in the basics.

“There are issues of quality in terms of NLP. People are looking for simple, rapid training,” he says.

One model that is becoming more and more popular in Spain is Chilean sociologist and philosopher Rafael Echeverria’s “ontological coaching model”. This model is taught at Escuela Europea de Coaching and by Newfield Consulting, for example, which was founded by Echeverria.

The model’s premise is that businesses are essentially networks of conversations and they can be defined by the conversations they have. If you want to change an organisation, change its conversations, Echeverria says. His “ontology of language” discipline stems from the idea of humans as intrinsically linguistic beings; as observers. It links with work by fellow Chileans – Fernando Flores, finance minister in Chile’s Allende government, who was imprisoned during the coup in the early 1970s; and biologist Humberto Maturana – as well as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein and US philosopher John Searle.

Launer acknowledges the growing popularity of the ontological model, but says it is no different from any best-practice coaching model that seeks to help clients find a new way of being by working with language, emotions and the body.

What does the future hold?

De Jong says he believes coaching in Spain will take a different turn from the Anglo-­Saxon world, with its emphasis on results and performance.

“In Spain, there is more of an interest in personal development. I think coaching will have a broader base, influenced by the South­ American self-help culture and the likes of [Argentinian psychotherapist and author] Jorge Bucay,” he says. “There is more of a penchant for philosophy in South rather than North America, which is why we’re seeing the ontological model of coaching.”

De Jong says that most of the coaching models in Spain come from Anglo-Saxon culture, but that Spain will continue to adapt these, with coaches being more like “philosophical counsellors”.

Ais says: “We need a culture that defines what coaching is, so it is not seen as a remedial activity or as another American invention that won’t last.”

Silvia Guarnieri says: “We no longer have a culture in which pyramidal command­ and-control styles work. As coaches we go in as the plumbers of the organisation, to help things flow, to sort out damaged relationships and help people converse. I think people are becoming ready to have radically different conversations.”

She believes coaching is a permanent part of the Spanish landscape: “I think coaching is about being more human. It might go forwards but not backwards. It’s here to stay.”