3) What is the best, most demanding coaching certificate? The SWIFT Certificate - for exceptional executive coaches
* The SWIFT certified Bridges coaches are among the very first to be awarded this distinction on the continent.
The Jonathan Swift Corporate Competency Center, London, offers geopolitical, cross-cultural and management training. It specializes in Appointed Official, Member of the Board, CEO, Founder and the newly offered Executive Coaching Certificate programs. These are premium "Rolls-Royce" certification programs, by far the most expensive in the world. Some cost as much as a new car. The firm is so conservative and security conscious that its client-only (stealth) website is blocked from appearing on search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing!
Below is a brief overview, excerpted from its very elegant coffee-table brochure, for which the Center charges 165 pounds. It features a striking 3-D holograph of Johnathan Swift, taken from the bust near his burial spot at St. Patrick´s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland. Information about the application and the test for the coaching certificate appears towards the end of this excerpt.
Johnathan Swift (1665 - 1745) *
I. History and Origins
Jonathan Swift is best remembered as a writer. However he was also a cleric and a political advisor. He was periodically politically active in the first two decades of the 18th century, above all between 1707 and 1710 in London. In 1711 Swift published the pamphlet "The Conduct of the Allies." In it he lambasted the Whig government for not ending the prolonged war with France. That same year on Feb. 29th he founded Jonathan Swift Publick Governance Ltd. Originally the intention of the firm was to support his political essays.
The incoming Tory government illegally negotiated in secret with the French to end the War of the Spanish Succession. These negotiations were successful and led to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, ending the war. Swift became part of the inner circle of the Tory government. He tried to keep the peace between Henry St. John (Viscount Bolingbroke), the secretary of state for foreign affairs (1710–15), and Robert Harley (Earl of Oxford), lord treasurer and prime minister (1711–1714).
The on-going battle between the two Tory leaders was eventually won by Henry St. John, and Harley was dismissed in 1714. Queen Anne died that same year. George I took the throne and the Whigs returned to power, still infuriated over the treaty. Although the war was not resumed, the Tory leaders were tried for treason for their secret negotiations with France.
Jonathan Swift went to Ireland. He returned to England in 1727, staying with Alexander Pope. At that time the firm first started to address issues of political and corporate governance. Clients had been attracted to the firm by the previous publication of a geopolitical treatise: Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts, by Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships, (1726). It was followed by a masterful white paper, which definitively established the firm´s leadership in its field: Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making them Beneficial to the Publick, (1729).
II. The Certification Programs
In 18th century Britain people were being appointed to political offices and as company directors without certificates. True, many of them had university degrees, but these were often distantly related, if at all, to the political or managerial position.
Therefore the firm introduced what to this day remain the most demanding political and director certificates in the world, the Appointed Official Certificate, the SWIFT AOC and the Member of the Board Certificate, the SWIFT MBC.
Admission standards for the lectures held over a two to four month period were set so that only one of every five to seven applicants was admitted. The exit examinations were graded on a curve. A maximum of one in three could pass. These admission and examination standards are upheld to this very day.
The company was re-organized as a non-profit organization and its name changed to The Jonathan Swift Corporate Competency Center in 1957, two years after the first publication of the Fortune 500 list. The Jonathan Swift directors had observed that not a single one of the CEOs of these companies had a CEO training certificate. The firm moved “swiftly” to take advantage of the market opportunity.
The properly certified SWIFT CEO soon became the global standard. So dominant is the firm in its market niche, that if you ask any other training organization in the world today if it has a CEO certification program targeted at the CEOs of the Fortune 500, it will say no.
The next major development for the firm so steeped in British tradition was again inspired by the U.S. – the resignation of President Nixon in 1974. He was an attorney at law, as a great many U.S. politicians are, with no elected official certificate. In fact a remarkable number of politicians to this day still have no certificates. (That indubitably goes a long way to explaining some of their egregious errors.) Regrettably the Elected Official Certificate (EOC), introduced that same year, never caught on. It was finally discontinued in 1998, the year of President Clinton´s impeachment (also, no surprise there, without an elected official certificate).
As a replacement the Founder Certificate (FC) was introduced the following year. The SWIFT FC, although not that widespread in Europe, is well established in the U.S. The certificate is enjoying exponential growth in both India and China. Indeed in some regions government officials will proscribe the starting of any new venture unless the entrepreneur can show a currently valid SWIFT FC. This development is heartily endorsed by the firm.
In 2010 the latest edition to the SWIFT certificates was made with one for Executive Coaching. Previously the Jonathan Swift directors had noted that the partners at renowned management consulting firms, such as McKinsey & Company, the Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company, all have prestigious degrees (e.g. M.Sc., MBA, PhD). Many were awarded them with distinction or honors. In fact, this kind of academic qualification is a prerequisite for joining these firms. What their partners did not, and do not, have are consulting certificates, although a number of organizations offer them, not however, their own firms.
Therefore the directors had already considered in the 1980s the launching of a SWIFT management consulting certificate to follow in the path of its so successful counterpart for the CEOs of the Fortune 500. However the partners of the leading consultancies showed little interest. Therefore this project was abandoned.
In contrast to the consulting partners, many coaches have less prestigious degrees. They often do, however, have coaching certificates. In fact many coaches have the coaching certificate offered by their very own firms. (Worldwide there are over 200 firms and institutions that offer Coach Training Programs, upon the completion of which one receives one sort of certificate or another. In England alone there are over 50 organizations offering certification programs.) The common denominators to these certificates are three:
1) The entry requirements are low. Generally, the most important admission criterion is that one have sufficient funds to pay for the program.
2) The exit requirements are low. There usually is no formal examination. In the rare instances one is, indeed, administered, it is trivial with a very high pass rate.
3) The international prestige in the boardrooms is low. These coaching certificates do not have the aura of, say, a Cambridge University 1st, a Harvard Business School Baker Scholar, a Rhodes or Fulbright scholar, or a SWIFT certificate.
Hence offering a premium coaching certificate clearly appeared to be an opportunity to seize. The SWIFT Executive Coaching Certificate (ECC) was accordingly introduced, at first only in the United Kingdom, Feb. 29th, 2010. The response has been more than gratifying.
III. The SWIFT Appointed Official Certificate (AOC) (omitted)
IV. The SWIFT Member of the Board Certificate (MBC) (omitted)
V. The SWIFT CEO Certificate (CC) (omitted)
VI. The SWIFT Founder Certificate (FC) (omitted)
VII. The SWIFT Executive Coach Certificate (ECC) (overview omitted as it contains much material that applies specifically to the United Kingdom)
Only one of every five to seven applicants is accorded admission. The exit examination is graded on a curve. A maximum of one in three successfully sits the examination.
SWIFT ECC Application and Test Information
1) Application Requirements
- Application fee: upon request (Bridges comments that if you need to ask the price, you can´t afford it. The SWIFT certification programs generally cost as much as a new car; the one for Fortune 500 CEOs can cost as much as a house!)
- Honors Masters degree (minimum, top 20% of the class); Doctorate preferred.
- Publications in academic journals (Harvard Business Review also acceptable); book authorship preferred.
- Fluency in at least two languages. One of them must be English, and one a non-European language, e.g. Navaho, Onondaga; Nahuati, Quechua; Arabic, Kurdish; Hindu, Urdu; Cantonese, Mandarin; Korean, Japanese; Thai, Vietnamese, etc. Bilingual candidates are preferred. (Bridges comments that exceptions can be made. A rare and difficult European language, such as Basque, Hungarian or Finnish, is acceptable as a substitute for a non-European language.)
2) Examination Requirements
Day 1, Quantative (6 hours, i.e. 90 minutes per problem)
(Bridges comments that the generous time does not really help that much. Either you know how to solve these problems and are done in about three hours, or you do not. In that case whether you have 6 hours or 60 for the attempt would not make much difference.)
a) Background (to demonstrate basic mathematical skills)
- a proof (This section is doable because you are properly prepared for it in the seminars and workshops. One might be asked to prove that the square root of 2 is irrational, or given the Pythagorean Theorem (a2 + b2 = c2) or the Central Limit Theorem to prove. One will not be given the Noether Theorem. One will not be asked to reproduce a portion of Andrew Wiles 200 page long proof of Fermat´s Last Theorem (that no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than 2).
- a second order differential equation (By far the most difficult part of the entire examination is this problem.)
b) Applied (These problems are fully covered in the seminars and actually fairly easy. Just about everyone gets these right.)
- risk assessment problem (Understanding a client´s attitude towards risk is a critical component of executive coaching. Candidates should review subjective utility theory, including the work of Baumol and Quant, and probability density functions.)
- a game theory, linear or non-linear (dynamic) programming problem
Day 2, Qualitative (8 hours, i.e. 2 hrs. per question)
- Background (Candidates should review the Leipziger (Wilhelm Wundts*) and Würzburger Schools, Field Theory, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, C.G. Jung, Binet-Simon Tests, Leon Festinger (cognitive dissonance), Abraham Maslow (hierarchy of needs), etc.) The short answers (one or two paragraphs per question) are to be written in one’s first language.
*Unsuccessful candidates of the past have often failed to review thoroughly the 53,735 pages he published in his lifetime.
- Applied, a clinical case study (It is typically about a leadership personality defect or a dysfunctional organization.) The answer is to be written in a second language, which may be either a European or non-European one.
b) Management and Commerce
- Background (A suggested reading list is given of ca. 35 books in English. The ensuing test presents paragraphs from these books. One is asked to identify the author and book from which it came - for half marks, and critique it - for full marks.) The answers are to be written in English.
- Applied, a business case study (Examples include re-casting cost accounting into transactional costs, strategy formation, investment portfolio optimization, project scheduling, etc. One is expected to use tools such as the Ansoff Power Evaluation, BCG or McKinsey matrices, the Black-Scholes model, LIFO/FIFO switching, NPV, PERT/CPM/SPIDER, Porter´s Five Forces, Vasconcellos analysis with Lorenz curves and Gini coefficients, Z-scores, etc. depending upon which tool applies best to the case.) The analysis is graded externally by U.K. university professors and therefore is to be written in English.
Day 3 Oral (1/2 day - 3 hours, i.e. 90 min. per question)
One selects a topic from three choices for, respectively, coaching and ethics. One is given 45 minutes preparation time. Then one makes a 30-minute presentation to the review board, followed by a 15 minute Q & A session, for each question. N.B. One subject is to be presented and discussed in a European language, the other in a non-European language.
- Coaching methodology (Candidates should review attentive listening, conflict resolution, 3600 feedback evaluation, the Alexander/Whitmore GROW model, Briggs Meyer topology, Nelson Valverde topology, strategy taxonomy, etc.)
- Ethical case (It may involve discrimination, litigation, whistle blowing, product recall, termination, a strike, environmental or political issues.)
Due to unprecedented demand, the biannual intense six-week preparation seminars for the SWIFT Executive Coach Certificate are all completely booked through 2014. The 2015 schedule is forthcoming.
1 With the exception of the fatuous firm eponymically* imputed to Jonathan Swift, the source for the information about him is Wikipedia (2010). His complete prose works comprise 14 volumes and the Penguin edition (1983) of his poetry is 953 pages. In the Modest Proposal, one of the most famous – and powerful – political satires ever written, he recommends that Ireland's poor escape their poverty by selling their children as food to the rich:
”I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout."
"I do therefore humbly offer it to publick consideration, that of the hundred and twenty thousand children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swine, and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore, one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in sale to the persons of quality and fortune, through the kingdom, always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.”
The essay supports this thesis with the satiric use of statistical analysis. One can download it from Project Gutenbert.
* eponymn: name giver; one for whom or which something is named (Webster´s III)
* © Elephant image - Dreamstime; Johnathan Swift bust, W. Knight94, 23 May 2007, GNU License 1.2, GFDC 3.0
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