Coaching in Portugal

Coaching in Portugal may still be in its infancy but it is healthy and thriving.

Published in the “Coaching at Work” magazine, May/June 2008

By André Ribeiro

In fact, it is very much in the growth phase, according to Bresser Consulting’s European Coaching Survey 2007-08 (see “Coaching continues its march across Europe”, Coaching at Work, vol 3, issue 2, page 7).

Coaching here is a bit of a hotchpotch, though, and the market is in the process of defining itself, with players finding their positions and segments, and buyers gradually becoming aware of the quality of the offer.

Supervision does not play a major role, however, and the concept of a coaching culture has yet to be embraced.

There are various types of accreditation. According to the Portuguese chapter of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), its membership in Portugal has grown to 28, from only a few a couple of years ago.

“Although coaching demand from customers is still low, enrolment after recognising the benefits is significant,” says Sofia Calheiros, president of ICF Portugal and partner at provider Conceito O2.
In terms of the state of certification in Portugal, Calheiros says: “There are many people claiming to practise coaching without any type of specific training. They are people with training in different areas and some in areas that I consider to be similar to coaching but not specifically.”

For example, most Portuguese coaches have a background in consulting and management, some coming from psychology and other areas.
As for other coaching bodies, the association of Iberian-American Coaching had its first meeting in Lisbon last year and the newly formed Association of Portuguese Coaching is due to become active soon.

Coaching has a minimal presence in the Portuguese media and literature by Portuguese authors is limited to half a dozen books.
It doesn’t help that coaches and coaching clients prefer to keep a level of anonymity, which makes it hard to capture a clear picture of the market and statistics. While coaching is widely unknown and sometimes regarded as a fad, the clients themselves are mostly large companies such as national airline TAP, national mail company CTT, Portugal Telecom, Banco Espírito Santo, Chamartín, Automóvel Club de Portugal and Instituto do Emprego e Formação Profissional. Most coaching firms have only a couple of coaches focusing on training.

ActionCOACH, an international franchising system of coaching, is getting a lot of exposure through advertising and partnerships, which could be bad news for those operating in the higher levels of the market.

Most of coaching clients are obtained via word of mouth and networking. The internet is also a preferred promotion vehicle.

Coaching in Portugal tends to be directive, as it is in Greece, Ireland, Latvia and Slovakia, according to Bresser’s report. “A very good knowledge of and feel for national culture and values is required to operate as a coach, so coaches from abroad struggle to succeed here,” the report notes.

When asked what was “special” about one-to-one coaching in Portugal compared with other countries, a respondent to Bresser’s report answered: “Portugal is a very conservative country. A coach must feel our culture, values and so on… A small but strong group of people are running the good practices in coaching. We believe we are growing slowly, but with a good code of ethics and an open mind.”


André Ribeiro is the founder of ExtraCoaching. 


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