Competencies are a well understood concept in many companies, with all of our jobs being tied to a job description backed by a set of competencies, or, as I like to call it, the expectations of you in the role that you fulfill. This means that others interacting with you have a baseline expectation of your capabilities which foundationally ensures that as a company, we can execute on our strategy by having the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles. Coaching is no different and the International Coaching Federation (ICF) in that it has a “job description” which outlines the skills and approaches that they wish to see ICF accredited coaches demonstrate. Other coaching organizations, particularly blended coaching offerings, such as Agile Coaching, have similar job descriptions underpinned by a competency model. ICF have published their Core Competencies to allow both aspiring coaches and indeed clients know what the expectations are for the role of a coach. The competencies are grouped into four key domains and they logically group key skills together. This means, as a coach, we can focus our upskilling on a competency block, with the opportunity to use different coaching skills and techniques to offer a rounded approach to hitting the inner listed competencies. The four blocks are:
B: Co-creating the relationship
C: Communicating Effectively
D: Cultivating Learning and Growth
Let’s look a little deeper at each of them:
Foundation, as the name suggests, is really the key building blocks that make you a coach. Many of these are simply you as a person and not skills per se that you have to focus your time and energy on accomplishing such as being an ethical person. The one that stands out to me in this section is embodying a coaching mindset by having an open, curious, flexible and client centric mindset. For me, that’s the driving force for getting into coaching in the first place!
Co-creating the relationship talks to the peer-to-peer nature of coaching, where we partner with clients and create clear, defined goals and agreements for the coaching session and indeed relationship. A large part of coaching new clients is demystifying what coaching is and isn’t, to help the client understand the process, the role of the coach, differentiate between coaching and other disciplines like consulting and therapy. A large focus point within the relationship building is that of trust and safety, underpinned by the foundation stone of ethics. Psychological safety is something that is an undercurrent to this competency and making sure that your client feels safe in unpacking raw feelings and emotions, in a non judgemental and non biased environment, is key to creating positive momentum and helping to move the client forward in a safe manner. Being present as a coach is one of the most important and often overlooked skill for coaches. It talks to offering a presence that is warm, open, flexible and underpinned by key skills like powerful questions to drive curiosity and allowing space for reflection on both the client and coaches behalf.
Communicating Effectively is all about focusing on what the client is and is not saying to help create a sense of understanding and awareness of the contexts to ultimately support the client. This competency speaks to having a consideration for the client in a holistic manner, their identity, environment, experiences, emotions, beliefs and values to help both you, as the coach, to understand the clients perspective and to allow the client to gain that understanding. We use key techniques like reflection and summaries to ensure clarity and acknowledgement to allow the client hear that they are being listened to and that respected. Taking this awareness our job is then to evoke that in the client to facilitate the insight and learning. We can do this by challenging the client through questions that provoke a sense of exploration beyond their current thinking to help them identify factors and influences that are lost in their story. By reframing their perspective and sharing those observations we have the potential to create an environment of learning for the client.
Cultivating Learning and Growth is the last block, which looks at our role in partnering with the client to transform their learning and insights into action. The goal here is to integrate the new awareness gained into a tangible action plan, underpinned by an exploration of both accountability and supports available and an awareness of potential barriers to their success. The key goal here for the coach is to invite the client to consider how to move themselves forward in a way that sets them up for success to transform their insights into actions. A large part of this process is acknowledging the journey that the client has undertaken, to celebrate the successes and the progress, particularly across sessions as we discuss the learning and insights attained from their action plan.
As you can see the blocks logically group together in such a way that the natural flow of a coaching session is evident as we move from block B to D, underpinned by the natural foundation of who you are as a coach. This gives a great focal point for for coaches who are training, self inspecting their own approach and whom are on the path of continuous improvement. It allows us to ensure we have the core skills and competencies to set the session up for success as the natural flow means we need to be comfortable and confident in our abilities to help the client progress through the coaching session. So regardless of where you are on your journey, the competencies become a guidance for the expectations that you should have of yourself as a coach and the need your client has for those competencies to be present to allow them to reach their goals.