To help people better understand what it means to be a coach, the ICF (International Coach Federation) has developed 11 core competencies regarding the ethical practices surrounding coaching relationships.
The 11 Core Competencies can be broken down into four main categories:
1) Setting the Foundation
2) Co-creating the Relationship
3) Communicating effectively
4) Facilitating learning and results.
Let’s break them down.
The 11 Core Competencies of ICF
- Setting the Foundation
Core Competency #1 – Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards
As you have probably guessed, Core Competency #1 is all about ethics and professional standards. In other words, a coach should not only understand all ethical guidelines as set out by the ICF Code of Ethics but should also follow them.
This competency clearly states that a coach must understand the difference between coaching and other similar professions like consulting and psychotherapy and must be willing to send clients in alternative directions if coaching is not the right fit for them.
Core Competency #2 – Establishing the Coaching Agreement
Competency #2 is all about establishing boundaries and making sure that the coach and client are a good fit for one another. In this competency, it is the job of the coach to explain to their new client exactly what to expect out of the relationship, including scheduling, fees, and the responsibilities of the coach. It is also the job of the coach to explain any boundaries within the relationship, as well as what is appropriate and what is not.
During this time, the coach and the client will also determine whether or not they are a good fit, and whether or not the coach can meet the client’s needs.
- Co-Creating the Relationship
Core Competency #3 – Establishing Trust and Intimacy
The key to success in coaching is all about establishing trust and intimacy in the relationship between coach and client. In order to do this, the coach must work to create a safe, supporting, trusting environment wherein they show genuine concern for the welfare of their client. Honesty, integrity, respect, and follow-through are all important aspects that can help to build this trust.
Core Competency #4 – Coaching Presence
Competency #4 is all about creating a strong presence within the relationship. If you want your client to have confidence in you, you need to be able to demonstrate confidence in yourself. You can do this by being flexible, trusting your own instincts, taking risks, generating new opportunities, and being open to new possibilities. Creating positive energy and using humor can also help to solidify the bond between you and your client.
- Communicating Effectively
Core Competency #5 – Active Listening
Every relationship in life is dependent on how well you communicate. After all, you can’t be there to help someone if you don’t understand their needs. That is why Core Competency #5 is all about active listening. In this competency, it is important that the coach not only listens to what their client is telling them, but also that they understand their needs and goals. This competency is all about ensuring that the coach is listening to the needs of the client, and not subconsciously focusing on their own agenda.
To accomplish this, you must be able to distinguish between words and body language, encourage communication, and listen without judgement.
Core Competency #6 – Powerful Questioning
This competency is all about asking the right questions. In this competency, you want to ask your client questions that evoke insight, discovery, or action. Avoid close-ended questions that do not allow your client to elaborate. Rather, you want to stick with open-ended questions that will push them in a forward momentum and motivate them to create a brighter future.
Core Competency #7- Direct Communication
When in the position of a coach, it is important that you understand the best ways to get through to your client. You always want to be direct, clear, and articulate with your clients, while at the same time remaining positive and motivational. Feedback must always be constructive and respectful.
Coaches can use a variety of methods to help illustrate points including metaphors, analogies, and re-framing.
- Facilitating Learning and Results
Core Competency #8 – Creating Awareness
Core Competency #8 is all about creating awareness for your client. It is your job as the coach to assess your clients concerns and help them reframe those concerns for greater understanding and clarity. You may do this by helping your client understand what feelings, beliefs, thoughts, or disparities are standing in the way of their goals and success.
You can also use this time to determine any strengths of your client, and to determine where your time would be best focused during future sessions.
Core Competency #9 – Designing Actions
This competency focuses heavily on defining your client’s goals and helping them reach those goals through learning, exploration, and self-discovery. Within this competency, the coach helps the client to define their goals and provides them with the support and encouragement to reach them. Ideas and solutions can be generated within this competency, and immediate support is provided to the client for “do it now” encouragement.
Competency #10 – Planning and Goal Setting
Now that goals have been set, what is the plan moving forward? Your plan should contain goals that are measurable, specific, and have target dates. At this stage, you will want to celebrate small successes and steps forward with your client to encourage motivation and forward motion.
Competency #11 – Managing Progress and Accountability
Core Competency #11 is all about making sure that your client follows through with their intended plans and goals. During each coaching session you can discuss commitments that were made during previous sessions and how the client is progressing towards those commitments. This competency allows the coach to hold the client accountable for what they say they are going to do, as well as for their actions. Positive and constructive (but respectful and gentle) feedback are both welcomed at this time.
There you have it — the 11 Core Competencies as set out by the ICF. Following these competencies will allow you to better reach and connect with your clients, and better establish yourself as a professional in the coaching industry.
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Writer, Coaches Training Blog community