What About Coaching Competence?

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?

  • A skill that is distinct. Coaches who are affiliated with the International Coach Federation [ICF] use the organization’s definition of coaching as their guideline and use a set of competencies that define how a coach interacts with clients.
  • 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 a destination.”

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

  1. Training from a reputable training program. Competence doesn’t develop without training from experienced coaches.
  2. Experiencing coaching as a client. 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. Coaching skills 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, 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.