Center for Coaching Certification

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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Stairway to Success Analogy of a Coaching Relationship

The analogy of building a staircase aligned to building a coaching relationship is a tool for the client and the coach to use as they co-create the coaching relationship.

The Center for Coaching Certification (CCC) designed the Stairway to Success coaching model to provide prospective on effective coaching.  This model is explained both in the free webinar on coaching certification and in the Certified Master Coach program.

Staircase to Success

Imagine the coaching process as a stairway leading to a doorway called ‘success.’  The client defines success; the coach upholds the foundation of the stairway.  The coach walks with the client up the stairway.

The Stairway to Success requires a foundation.

  1. Training
  2. Competency
  3. Ethics

The client and coach partner on building the relationship and the steps of the Stairway to Success.

  1. Agreement
  2. Understanding
  3. Rapport
  4. Communication
  5. Exploration
  6. Strategy

Moving up the staircase supports the client achieving their results.

  1. Success

In this blog series each of these steps is explored in more detail.


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Long-term Implications of a Coaching Culture

Imagine the impact of a culture where people focus on the future, are positive and proactive, and believe in empowering individual awareness and choice!

The bottom-line impact of a coaching culture is powerful.  Without a coaching approach, how many people really take time to consider and explore their goals?  How many people create effective action plans?  How many people follow through with their plan?  Coaching is the difference between thinking or talking about the problem versus exploring options, creating strategies, and following through. Long-term Implications of a Coaching Culture

Coaching recognizes that each person is their own best expert.  Because everyone is their own best expert, coaching skills and a coaching culture create an environment where individuals focus on possibilities and open their thinking.  Coaching creates the opportunity to brainstorm and talk through different ideas, which supports effective decision making.  Coaching supports people by ensuring they are intentional about their strategy and action steps.  Coaching also recognizes success along the way and encourages people to acknowledge what they achieve to them self.

Coaching is a process and the steps of the process can be implemented individually in a coaching culture based on the situation.  Here is an overview of basic steps taught in coaching certification:

  1. Ask an individual to list and prioritize things they want.
  2. Ask them to describe their ideal.
  3. Ask about obstacles to moving forward.
  4. Ask them to brainstorm possible solutions from this point forward.
  5. Ask about the pros and cons of each possibility.
  6. Ask them which solution they want and to consider possible outcomes.
  7. Ask what resources and skills they have and want.
  8. Ask them to design their plan of action.
  9. Support follow-through by asking what is working and what they want to adjust.
  10. Celebrate progress and success.

A coaching culture is an ideal and each person that completes coach training moves society closer to a far more effective way of interacting and communicating.  Be part of creating the ideal!


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Empower Independence

The idea of empowering independence seems a good one.  The challenge is doing it effectively. Empower Independence

Consider what happens in the workplace: ideally the people inside of an organization have the ability to do their job well.  Sometimes this is blocked by micro-managers or even simple policies requiring approval for everything.  In those situations, people step back from ownership of the work and do just what is required.

When the culture in an organization is to empower independence, the people are encouraged and rewarded for taking ownership.  This means when given tasks, they are trusted to figure out how to do it and follow-through. In this scenario, the people are engaged and more productive.

Effectively empowering independence means creating a coaching culture in which instead of being told everything, the people are asked how and by when they will do the work.  While this sounds simple, the reality is that it takes more time, skill, and patience to empower than it does to direct.  An additional challenge is changing habits from telling to asking.

How can an organization empower independence for increased engagement and productivity?  Start with coach training for the leaders and then spread the effort. After training the top leaders move to the next level and so on.  Create a coaching program with internal coaches for entry level to mid—level management and external certified coaches for the top levels of management.  Recognize and reward leaders when they empower their team.  Track the results and reap the benefits.


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You’re not coaching, you’re just telling stories!

By Randy Kesterson,

Randy Kesterson

During the twenty years I have worked at the Vice President level, my role has included the call to coach members of my team and other extended teams.

My wife Susan and I walk together quite often, and we use the time to catch up on things.  One day Susan, a Certified Professional Coach, asked me how my week had gone.  I told her, with much pride, how I had coached a team member who had come to me with a work related problem he was struggling to solve.  I explained how I had told him one of my best stories which included an explanation of how I had faced a similar problem and had dealt with it.

She stopped in her tracks, looked at me with an incredulous expression on her face, chuckled a little, and said … “you’re not coaching, you’re just telling stories.”

Starting at that moment, I was determined to become a better executive coach.  I am proud to said that I have completed the Certified Professional Coach program at the Center for Coaching Certification and, now armed with a proven executive coaching methodology, I am on the way to becoming a much better coach.

Some of the greatest take-aways I had from the coach training include:

  • Coaching is defined by the International Coach Federation (ICF) as “… a strategic partnership in which the coach empowers the client to clarify goals, create action plans, move past obstacles, and achieve what the client chooses.”
  • A coach is NOT a: counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, advisor, mentor, consultant, or friend.
  • Coaching is client-focused, i.e., it’s all about the client and it’s critical to the coach-client relationship that we adhere to the coaching Code of Ethics.
  • People think, feel, and prioritize differently and we, as coaches, adjust our process to the client’s personality.

What is next for me in my coaching journey?  I plan to work as an executive coach upon retirement from industry.

What I know now that I wish I had known before I started is that being a good coach hinges on being a REALLY good listener. I guess we were given two ears and only one mouth for a reason!


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Coaching Techniques for Focus and Motivation

During coaching certification, the class on focus and motivation is amazing in terms of the awareness of how people think and as a result act.  Following are examples.

Have you ever gotten in to an elevator and pushed the button for the floor you are already on? Without thinking, I got on at the first floor, pushed one, and waited… then pushed one again, and waited.  My friend noticed and said, “Aren’t we going to the fourth floor?”  Amazing how much more effective it was when I pushed the right button!  Often our thought process functions in the same manner: we focus on where we are, or on the problem, or on what we wish was not. It is when we choose to focus on what we do want that we see how to make it happen.  Coaching Techniques for Focus and Motivation

Consider this example: A work team has a big project with a tight timeline.  Because of conflicts within the team, the leader decided to spend time resolving conflicts to ensure more productive efforts.  The leader asked the team, “What are the problems and your needs?”  The team jumped into pointing out the problems and what they needed individually, entrenching themselves in their positions.  With the same group I changed the focus; “how are you going to work together and get the job done?”  The team realized it is their responsibility to manage differences and focused on developing solutions.

People say they no longer set New Year resolutions because they will not do them anyway.  At the gym, January is the busiest month of the year because many start exercising; by March it is much less crowded.  Have you ever had someone tell you they will “try” and thought it was not going to happen?

In conversation, people often share what they do NOT want instead of talking about what they DO want. This focuses the attention on the past or the negative.  Learn to ask questions to create a shift so that the focus is on what is wanted. This opens the door for developing a strategy and planning.  For example, when someone says they do not want to work so many hours, ask them how many hours they do want to work.  Then explore options and actions for creating the change.

When people are doing something for someone else or to avoid a consequence, the impact is short term. Ask probing questions so that the individual becomes aware of their own internal motivation and what it means to them to do something.  This creates long-term buy-in and motivation.

Rather than waiting for things to happen, explore with people what they do control so that they develop a proactive plan moving forward.  For example, when someone wants a promotion and is waiting for their review, ask what steps they can take now to move them toward earning the promotion.

Coaching creates a positive, forward focus while being proactive.  Coach training is for all who what to effectively support a positive, proactive focus.


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Coaching Questions for a Coaching Culture

Powerful questioning is both art and science, and involves open, probing, and clarifying questions. Because a single word potentially changes the meaning and the direction of the conversation, learning powerful questioning takes time.  Powerful questioning is a coaching competency taught during coaching certification.  Following are a few highlights.

For example, asking, “What would you do?” falls short of creating a commitment.  Instead, asking, “What will you do?” invites being committed to chosen actions. Coaching Questions for a Coaching Culture

Consider for yourself how the same question asked two different ways makes a difference.  Pause now and think about your answer to this question: What do you want?  Consider where your mind goes initially, then give it more time and consider what additional thoughts occur.  After a few minutes of thinking, change the phrasing of the question: What do you want in your relationships?  Now the question directs where you focus.  The same occurs if instead of relationships you are asked what you want in your life or what you want in your career.  The first question is truly open; the subsequent examples are questions that give direction.

The question “anything else?” invites a yes or no answer.  The question, “what else?” invites consideration of additional possibilities.  Close-ended questions limit thinking by either stopping additional consideration or indicating that other thoughts are best be saved for later.  With open-ended questions the individual is empowered to explore, consider possibilities, and make their own choices.

Imagine a conversation where a person states, “I am overwhelmed.”  A follow-up question might be, “Are you worried that you are unable to handle it?”  This interprets what is behind the initial statement and includes judgment.  Instead ask, “What is going on?”  The person then continues their thought process and shares what is happening.  Overwhelmed could be overwhelmed with joy, concern, gratitude, tasks, priorities, etc. The first example of a response jumps to a conclusion, the second seeks clarification.

Imagine discussing a customer complaint.  The question, “Do you think you should provide a written response?” gives an answer in the question and shuts down other options.  This type of question limits thinking and possibilities.  The question, “What are your possible courses of action?” empowers consideration of multiple options.

Tips for powerful question include:

  • Keep it short and simple
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Ask questions that focus forward
  • Ask questions that are open to possibilities
  • Ask questions using words that work for the individual

Coaching certification is the way to learn powerful questioning.


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Listening is Essential in a Coaching Culture

Listening is one of the most important tasks to excel in: really hearing what is said and at the same time what is really meant, too.  When you listen well, are open and accepting, then you are prepared to engage in a coaching culture.  During coach training, specific insights and listening techniques are taught.  Interesting facts about listening:

  • People hear one word in seven.
  • People only remember 25 to 50 percent of what is heard.
  • Only 7% of understanding is the words (55% is visual and 38% is tone / volume).

What are the techniques to move past these realities?  Listening is Essential in a Coaching Culture

  1. Listen intentionally and actively, completely focusing on the speaker.
  2. Rephrase using the speaker’s key words and put the rest in your own words to verify understanding and demonstrate you listened.
  3. Reflect the emotions behind the words back to the speaker to further clarify meaning and show understanding.

How does listening make a difference?  Consider this brief example:

Eduardo: My inbox is overloaded!

Kelly: Are you worried you cannot keep up?

This is poor listening that includes analyzing, interpreting, and judging.

Now apply effective listening:

Kelly: Talk about your inbox.

This is opening the door to explore the situation so that the focus can be on strategizing solutions.

Friends share stories and experiences, empathize with one another, and then analyze problems and people. In conversations, friends relate to what friends say, their stories remind each other of other stories to share, plans call for input and opinion with different recommendations and advice-giving, problems call for suggested solutions.

In comparison, coaching uses listening and questioning to empower thinking, brainstorm, explore, and choose.  Listening intentionally means:

  • Listen to what is said with a focus on understanding thought process and interests.
  • Hear the challenges and ask them to generate solutions.
  • Hear the options and ask questions to empower open thinking and broader perspective.


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Power of Silence – a Tool for a Coaching Culture

Silence is an important tool in conversations generally and in coaching it is essential.  Coach training teaches the power of silence.

Think about it this way: how often have you asked a question and then been uncomfortable with the silence while waiting for an answer?  The natural tendency is to then jump in and fill that silence by further explaining the question or giving possible answers.  Explaining the question is unnecessary and indicates that perhaps the person asked is unable to figure it out for them self.  Giving possible answers negates asking a question in the first place.   Power of Silence – a Tool for a Coaching Culture

Alternatively, consider the other side: how often have you wanted to say something or answer a question and been unable to either because there was no silence to think and talk or because before you could answer a question more was being said?  Chances are you lost track of what you did want to say or simply gave up on saying anything.

Who is uncomfortable with silence, the person asking or the person thinking about the question and their answer?  Silence gives the person asked an opportunity to respond, whether it is one minute or even more.  Coach training teaches that silence after a question is respecting each person in the conversation.  (Silence becomes easier with practice.)


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