Center for Coaching Certification

Understanding to Move Forward

A primary focus of a professional coach is to understand the client as a person by understanding their preferences, interests, wants, and goal prioritization.  Professional coach training provides tools for recognizing client style, communication style, and focus.

The International Coach Federation published a study that states a top indicator of coaching effectiveness is the rapport between coach and client; rapport begins with understanding. Understanding to Move Forward

When a coach understands their client, the coach recognizes how their client thinks, processes, and prioritizes.  This serves the coach to communicate effectively and to formulate effective questions.  Understanding serves the client because the client is aware that the coach understands, so their comfort level is increased.  Effective training develops the skill of understanding for coaches by

  • How to identify the client’s personal style in the moment, based on the current interaction (without testing), because people are a combination of styles and circumstances that influence how they are functioning in the moment.
  • How to identify whether a client is visual, auditory, or kinesthetic because then the coach adjusts language and questions to the client’s preferences for enhanced understanding.
  • How to recognize the clients focus for processing and making decisions so that the coach asks appropriate questions.

An effective coach understands the client’s personal style and then adjusts accordingly.  This means that professional coaches treat their clients the way each client prefers to be treated.


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Understanding a Coaching Client and Their Objectives

Prior to engaging a new client, start by establishing a common understanding of the coaching relationship.  During the coaching, the coach uses what they learned in coaching certification to be present to and understand their client as an individual.  The coach partners with the client for understanding of client goals, motivators, possibilities, opportunities, challenges, strategies, and plans. Understanding a Coaching Client and Their Objectives

About Understanding:

  • Before offering professional coaching, attend training for insight on establishing an understanding of the coaching process and for the techniques to understand the client.
  • Before beginning coaching, understand client outcome goals and define measurement of the return on investment (ROI).
  • When coaching, focus intentionally to understand the client’s personal style, learning style, and focus.

Understanding is Important Because:

  • The coach provides the client with information to understand the coaching process.
  • For effective coaching, the coach focuses on understanding the client and adjusts to the client’s preferences.
  • Establishing an understanding of the client’s outcome goals creates the framework for the coaching conversation.

Considerations from Understanding:

  • Utilize a coaching style that best serves the client.
  • Commit to lifelong learning and training on listening skills to further understanding.
  • Commit to lifelong learning and training on communication styles and personalities to understand the client.


  • Clarify the coaching process and value of outcome goals.
  • Be present to the client’s style and priorities.
  • Clarify and focus on the client’s priorities and goals.

Understanding in coaching involves understanding in so many ways: the client understand what coaching is, a common understanding for how the relationship works, the coach understanding the client to adjust the process to them, a common understanding of the client’s goals and considerations, an exploration of understanding for reflection and learning, and understanding the strategies and plans for moving forward.  Coaching certification is an essential step for learning and developing how to create understanding.


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Coaching Agreement

A written coaching agreement outlines the parameters of the coaching relationship.  It is foundational to building an effective coaching engagement.  A Coaching Agreement includes exploring what the client wants from the relationship as a whole and starting each session by determining what the client wants from that session. Coaching Agreement

About Coaching Agreements:

  • A written coaching agreement includes information on confidentiality, frequency of communication, payment, boundaries, and the parameters of the coach’s role.
  • A written and signed coaching agreement is essential before starting the coaching relationship.
  • Ask the client what they want from the coaching and how they will measure success.
  • Each coaching session, ask what the client wants to focus on, what they want from the session, their reasons, and how they want to have the conversation.

Agreement is Important Because:

  • The agreement defines the relationship between the coach and client (and sponsor where applicable).
  • The coaching agreement defines the parameters and boundaries of the process.
  • The agreement creates understanding and builds trust between the coach and client.
  • Agreement guides the coaching sessions.


  • Coaching agreements are written.
  • Ensure the language in the agreement is easily understood.
  • The agreement protects both the coach and client.
  • In addition to the written agreement, start each session with an agreement on what the client wants to accomplish.


  • Examples of coaching agreements are available through coach training programs and the International Coach Federation.
  • Decide how much legalize is necessary.
  • Provide the appropriate level of explanation.
  • Define the boundaries of the relationship.
  • Outline the fee structure.
  • Refer to the code of ethics.
  • Sign the agreement before you start coaching.

Coaching agreements happen in three ways: the written agreement, the agreement of what the client (and possibly the sponsor) wants from the coaching, and an agreement at the beginning of each coaching session as to what the client wants to focus on, how they will measure the success of the coaching session, how their objective and measures are meaningful to them, and how they want to have the conversation.


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Agreement Before Moving Forward

Before beginning coaching, through the written coaching agreement, the coach and client agree to the nature of the relationship, boundaries, time commitment, fees, and confidentiality, among other salient points.

Sometimes there is a free introductory session where the coach asks the client about their understanding of the coaching process. If a sponsor is hiring the coach, there may be an orientation for the client.  Often, coaches simply have a conversation with clients about coaching and sign the agreement when establishing the relationship. Agreement Before Moving Forward

Professional coaches have a written agreement they sign with their clients prior to the first coaching session.  The ICF publishes a sample agreement with key points covering:

  • Length of the relationship;
  • Fees and scheduling;
  • Client responsibility;
  • Nature of the relationship;
  • Coaching is not mental health (and to seek outside mental health care if needed);
  • Coaching is not a substitute for professional advice; and

Additionally, if there is a sponsor, there may be reporting parameters included in an agreement.  A written agreement embodies commitment and provides a solid foundation for understanding and building rapport.

When coaching competencies are evaluated during coaching certification, mentor coaching, or applying for credentialing, the guiding parameters are defined by the ICF as PCC Markers.  The markers include the coach asking the client to confirm what they want, their measure of success, what is meaningful about their objectives, and what they believe must be addressed.

This means that an agreement before coaching includes clarifying what the client wants to accomplish through the coaching relationship as a whole and during each individual session too.


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Moving Forward Ethically

Core to the foundation for the CCC Stairway to Success Coaching Model is adopting and promoting the Code of Ethics.  The CCC trains coaches to promote the Code of Ethics on their website and include key concepts in a written agreement. Moving Forward Ethically

To follow the Code of Ethics provided by the ICF, here is a short list:

  1. Ensure your conduct is professional:
    1. Accurately portray your credentials and experience.
    2. Respect and honor others’ efforts and contributions.
    3. Know your personal limitations.
    4. Complete research in keeping with appropriate guidelines and with integrity.
    5. Ensure confidentiality in record keeping and storage.
  1. Prevent or address conflicts of interest:
    1. Avoid known conflicts of interest.
    2. Disclose potential or learned conflicts of interest.
    3. Ensure service exchanges and referrals are appropriate, fair, and with integrity.
  1. Interact professionally with clients:
    1. Define the nature of the coaching relationship in a written agreement.
    2. Establish clear, respectful, and appropriate boundaries.
    3. Ensure that coaching and continuation of services best serves the client.
  1. Protect confidentiality:
    1. Establish a clear agreement on confidentiality, and if there is a sponsor (third-party payer), on the level of reporting.
    2. Training programs shall clarify confidentiality policies.
    3. Ensure when managing coaches that the code of ethics is adhered to and confidentiality standards followed. 

Coach Training and ICF membership are required for ethical coaching and accountability.


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Coaching Ethics

As is true in all professions, having and being accountable to a Code of Ethics is essential.  A code of ethics provides the code of conduct for how coaches treat their clients and manage their work. Coaching Ethics

About the Coaching Code of Ethics:

  • Most businesses and professions have a code of ethics, so for many, it seems a basic necessity.
  • Currently, coaching is an uncontrolled profession, and many untrained “coaches” are unaware of ethics.
  • Think about and discuss ethics in advance to develop an understanding of boundaries and for handling situations.
  • Coach training on ethics and accountability to ethics through the International Coach Federations demonstrates professionalism and supports quality.

Ethics are Important Because:

  • Ethics provide a foundation for the coaching relationship.
  • Ethics protect the client.
  • Ethics protect the coach.
  • Ethics guide the coaching process.

Ethical Considerations:

  • Ethical accountability is essential.
  • Quality coach-specific training reviews the ICF Code of Ethics and discusses possible ethical dilemmas.
  • Each coach is called on to study the code of ethics and think through what is important to the client, coach, and profession.
  • Actively participate with other professional coaches and seek to continuously learn.


  • Use the Code of Ethics as the foundation of your coaching.
  • Publicize your code of ethics.
  • Support and promote ethics in the coaching industry.

The ICF Code of Ethics is available online and all members of the ICF are held accountable.


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Moving Forward with Coaching Competency

Coaching competency is about the skill of the coach as a process expertise.  In coaching, the coach empowers the client.  Coaching is based on the premise that the client is their own best expert.

The client is ultimately best served by their coach when the client explores their possibilities, defines their goals, and decides on their plan of action.  Through client-focused coaching, a client is learning skills, owning their decisions, and creating their success. Moving Forward with Coaching Competency

Developing competency as a coach ensures that the coach is empowering the client.  It takes competency and skill to elicit ideas and solutions from another person.

  • Demonstrate your focus on and respect for the client by recognizing their preferences and adjusting to their style.
  • When you have coaching sessions, set aside everything else and focus completely on the client and process.
  • Enhance your communication with open interest and support, exploring the possibilities of different approaches.
  • A great coach is both a great listener and a great questioner.
  • Listening intentionally means to listen actively, rephrase, and reflect emotions.
  • Effective questions and follow-up questions empower understanding, exploration, and clarity.
  • Coaches open the door for possibilities by sharing perspective and then asking more questions.
  • Coaches expand on answers by asking carefully-worded probing questions, asking for more ideas, and brainstorming.
  • As a coach, you are a strategic and accountability partner; a coach partners with the client in developing their plan and managing their accountability to their plan.
  • Competent coaches enjoy the privilege of celebrating successes with clients.

Start with your coach training and then gain experience as a coach to develop competency as a coach.  Professional coaches are life-long learners.


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Moving Forward with Coach Training

Coach training develops a skill set that is expected of leaders, HR professionals, Trainers, Talent and Organizational Development professionals, Project Managers, and consultants. Moving Forward with Coach Training

Coaching Certification will ultimately be a requirement of all professional coaches.  Completing coach training makes sense when:

  • You plan to do coaching work;
  • You want to enhance the quality of your coaching;
  • You are interested in additional tools; and
  • You value personal and professional development.

Research your training options.

  • What are the qualifications and experience of the founders and trainers?
  • How experienced are they in developing and delivering training? What model do they use?
  • Does the organization have affiliations with other professional organizations?
  • If you are considering a training program that uses a mental health model, research your state licensure requirements for mental health professionals.

Coach training options range from an a la carte approach to balance your time and budget to an all-in-one offering.

Coach training prepares the coach to serve as a partner for strategy, accountability, and motivation.

The CCC is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) to offer continuing education units (CEUs).  Offering CEUs is a unique qualifier in coach training because IACET is focused on the quality of the training program from content through delivery.

The CCC training is approved by the ICF, emphasizing coach-specific content, including core competencies and the code of ethics.


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Coaching Competency

Competencies are the skills identified as critical to the profession.  The International Coach Federation defines and measures 11 Core Competencies for coaches. Coaching Competency

About Coaching Competency:

  • Coaching requires a set of learned skills.
  • Coach training both teaches the competencies and supports application of the skills.
  • Coach-specific training builds on previous education and experience with a focus on information applied to coaching.
  • Hands-on learning, discussion, research, and coaching with feedback develops competencies for coaching.

Competency is Important Because:

  • Coaches provide a service based on competency.
  • Without competence through training and experience, the possibility of harm is increased.
  • In an uncontrolled profession, the recognition of applicable competencies and the consistent focus of professionals to enhance these skills serve both the profession and clients.


  • As a growing profession, coaching is moving toward either self-regulation through the ICF or government regulation. Currently it is increasingly seen as self-regulating.  This means the core competencies may be a future requirement if ICF membership is seen as the baseline for being a coach.
  • If offering services as a professional coach, a lack of competency or training may increase liability.
  • Competency requires training and practice to develop and maintain.


  • The ICF defines and promotes eleven core competencies.
  • Clients ask about certification to ensure competence.
  • Quality service makes good business sense and benefits clients; competency is a basic requirement for quality.

Learning and developing the coaching competencies supports an effective coaching engagement.


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The Steps in a Coaching Relationship

In the previous log the Staircase to Success analogy gave a brief description of the coaching relationship.  What follows now is a deeper exploration by outlining key considerations for each step and then reviewing how to move forward. Coaching Relationship

Coach Training

Coach training accredited by the International Coach Federation is specifically designed to develop knowledge of and skill in the 11 Core Competencies of a coach.  This prepares the coach to provide a quality coaching process.

About Coach Training:

  • Coaching is currently an uncontrolled industry; training is neither required nor regulated – it is recommended.
  • Training provides perspective, tools, and credibility in addition to enhancing the core competencies of a coach.
  • All training is not equal; the certification program quality and trainer experience affect learning and skill development.

Training is Important Because:

  • As with any career, training enhances quality and professionalism.
  • Clients want to know about the skill of the coach and if the coach has training in the core competencies published by the International Coach Federation (ICF).
  • “Coaches” without training may unintentionally be unaware of ethics, or even practice mental health without a license.

Considerations for Training:

  • Within the coaching industry, there are different definitions of coaching, coaching models, and approaches to coaching.
  • The appropriate skill level to enter different coach training programs varies.
  • Mental health coaching models may require separate licensing.
  • Training may be a requirement in the future.


  • There are over 300 different coach training programs.
  • The time and cost currently range from two hours to ten years and from free to over $20,000.
  • The quality of training varies widely.

Training for all professionals makes sense and when providing a personal service such as coaching it is essential for the quality of the process.


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