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What About Coaching Competence? Part 1

What About Coaching Competence? Part 1

By Mary Verstraete

In talking with coaches, a common goal is to be highly competent and masterful in the profession. Certainly every client deserves a masterful coach, but have you ever wondered how coaching competence is actually defined?


  • Competence is a scale of growth. The scale begins with a foundational level of competence that is the basis for continual learning and development. I remember when I finished forty hours of coach training, way back in 2004. I presumed that was all I needed and didn't realize the course was meant to be the beginning of my competence. In my journey of completing my first 126 hours of coach training, I realized what I didn't know! From that point, I knew there could always be a consistent polishing of my skills. When I asked Patrick Williams, author of Becoming a Professional Life Coach, what makes a masterful coach, his response was, "Mastery is a journey and not not destination."

On the logistic side of competence, basic skills begin with three investments:

1.  A reputable coach training program that teaches coaching skills

Competence doesn't develop without training from experienced coaches. The importance of this was brought to light in the recent ICF announcement:

The following changes will go into effect on July 31, 2018, at 12 Noon (New York):

  • Coaches applying for their initial credential (Associate Certified Coach or Professional Certified Coach credential) via the Portfolio path will be required to demonstrate that they completed a comprehensive training program that includes the ICF definition of coaching, Code of Ethics and Core Competencies, and is organized in a scope and sequence that encourages the growth of the coach. 
  • This means that coaches will no longer be able to submit a random compilation of non-approved training hours and/or Continuing Coach Education units in fulfillment of their initial training requirements.
  • Reputable programs require learning new skill and completely high-quality coaching and not falling into being the expert and engaged in advising and counseling. Coaching are to be experts in the coaching process.

2.  Being coached
To understand how to coach and understand the role of the client, the coach must be a client. ICF recommends that a new coach invest in a coach for 6 to 12 months! Why? This allows the new coach to experience how the coaching relationship unfolds from the client's perspective and to learn coaching skills from an experienced and competent coach.

3. Practice
Coaching cannot be learned by just reading a book. Coach is interactive and occurs between a coach and client. Without spending time in practice actually coaching–the coach will still be a beginner at the end of the program. The only way to learn how to apply coaching skills is to practice.

The initial check list for coaches to build competency:

  • Training from a reputable training program
  • Experiencing coaching as a client
  • Coaching skills practice

In Part 2, we will take a closer look at competence through the lens of coaching ethics.