Globalisation can bring your association many benefits, the first and most obvious being getting access to a much larger base of members and partipants for your events. If your services are proven added values, you can enjoy increased revenues while at the same time helping an exponentially greater number of people find the answers to the questions or challenges your association helps solve, this way improving your reputation. Thanks to our special partnership with the Global Association Hubs Partnership (GAHP), Boardroom talked to Magdalena N. Mook, CEO of the International Coach Federation (ICF), who explained all about the organisation’s growth strategy.
Interview Rémi Dévé

Can you introduce ICF to our readers? What are its mission and vision?

As a federation gathering professional coaches, ICF helps people and organizations truly reach their full potential so they can contribute to a thriving society. We are changing lives, day after day, person by person, organisation by organisation. Our mission is to advance the art and science of professional coaching. And our mission is to see coaching being integral part of the society, and – naturally – ICF coaches representing the highest quality in professional coaching. Established in 1995, ICF is now a proud home to over 32,000 professional coaches around the globe.

What are your growth objectives and how are your plans to achieve them?

We are very happy that we have members in over 140 countries right now! We started small and then big – but just in North America at the very beginning. The growth in all other areas of the world has been phenomenal. Our ultimate goal is to help everybody gain access to a professional coach or to somebody who can offer coaching skills. The sky is the limit, really: we keep adding close to a thousand of new members every month.

To sum it up, we do two things. Externally, we promote coaching to general public and also do some targeted outreach to organisations and institutions. Internally, we offer education, tools, practice, credentials and community to our professional coach members so they can be well prepared and very confident in offering their services to their clients. These two dimensions seem to be working well.

You’re an international organisation and your reach is global. Were there any obstacles as you expanded?

Becoming global does not happen overnight. Even when you have members in multiple countries, it does not mean your organisation is global. It took us several conscious steps to “get there”. First, we made sure that our board of directors reflects our global make-up. Then, we evaluated our products and services to ensure that they are equally accessible around the globe. And then, we reviewed our language policies so we could access our members in their native tongues – coaching is such a personal relationship, after all. We conduct lots of research about coaching marketplace around the world. It helps us to adjust our messages and services, depending on the market.

There is no question that we are part of a larger global community and every day associations are looking for ways to take advantage of this globalization to grow. Getting global means having a better visibility towards your community and enhancing your presence in geographical area that you might have never thought about before. This way, you can assert your position as a leader in your field.

As an international federation, you have a lot of chapters. What are the challenges and opportunities for growing internationally? What are the synergies between the chapters and the ‘mother organisation’?

Chapters are truly our blood-line in the organisation. For so many of our members, the chapter is the lens that they perceive ICF – that’s their reality. So chapters are crucially important to our system. They play a significant role in retaining members and recruiting them. We put a lot of effort to support initiatives to create a chapter, our staff is working with members on the ground to see this happen.

And then we invest heavily in equipping our leaders with tools to make them successful in running a chapter – that being an education about association management; financial management; governance or even how to best access everything we, as the headquarters, have to offer. Four years ago our Board made a brilliant decision to support an annual gathering of all of our chapter leaders. This amazing event, typically lasting three days, brings us together to remind all of us about the “why” of ICF and coaching and then to help improve the “how” of the execution.

You now have a presence in three of GAHP’s partner hubs: Brussels, Dubai and Singapore. What are the benefits of being based there? How do they fit your objectives as an organisation?

Having presence in the cities where associations are known and plentiful opens many doors. From gaining legal status to attracting employees to networking with colleagues and peers – it all supports the growth of associations and supports our members.

Dubai Association Centre was invaluable in helping us have legal presence in several countries in Middle East. Just knowing that such a partner exists was a relief to our members and leaders – they were not alone, they had a knowledgeable and experienced partner to work with.

Singapore is such a hub for international business and non-profit organisations. There is a market for coaching and space to grow. As to Brussels, we opened our first out of the US office there on purpose. Being at the heart of the European Union, with the European Commission located right there, it seemed obvious that Brussels is a hub of international activity. Easily accessible serves as a perfect place to be able to serve our members in many surrounding countries. It is also great that more and more associations are located in Brussels, allowing for great cooperation and sharing best practices.

All three cities share similar characteristics with being vibrant, open, accessible, with great infrastructure, great venues for events and many very talented people. It is very attractive for associations to choose their placing where the message about the “Power of A(ssociations)” resonates positively and strongly.

So you are a truly global organization, you would say…

Definitely. Beyond Brussels, Dubai and Singapore, our offices at the moment are in Jordan and in South Korea and Taiwan, and in Europe in Moscow, London and Lisbon, but our staff is available throughout the whole region.

There is nothing that can replace a face to face or even voice to voice interaction. We are very happy with having presence in Europe, Middle East, Asia, Australasia and in fact Latin America (in addition to North America). We would have never been able to grow without the local presence. Deep understanding of local conditions, customs, value structure and economic conditions are crucial for designing a winning strategy of growth and sustainability. The help of local offices and staff and many of our industry partners have been vital and no doubts a very significant factor in our global success.

This piece is part of the exclusive partnership between Boardroom and the the Global Association Hubs Partnership (GAHP), which comes as an innovative response to the increasing decentralisation of international associations, as they look to develop their activities globally /

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