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The Updated 8 ICF Coaching Competencies

ICF Core Competencies for A Coach

The first step of coaching is knowing the ethical rules that accompany a coaching partnership, specifically the ICF code of ethics. The coach and his client then create a coaching agreement that spells out each other’s positions, relationships, ethics, and procedure.

When you’re looking at becoming a life or business coach, you’ll come across the terms coaching competencies and core competencies sooner or later. This usually refers to the ICF core competencies, which are a collection of eleven skills that any coach should possess.

ICF developed the core coaching competencies to help people learn more about the skills and practises used in today’s coaching profession. In practise, they serve as the foundation for assessing coaches seeking an ICF ACC, PCC, or MCC certificate. The coach is supposed to have greater mastery of the coaching competencies depending on the stage.

The coach gives the client the opportunity to maximise their lives by raising awareness through self-exploration, promoting preparation and goal setting, and acting as an accountability partner. ICF also uses coaching competencies to assess what constitutes coach-specific training and the coach training programmes they accredit.

The Updated 8 ICF Coaching Competencies

The International Coach Federation* (ICF) introduced 11 Core Competencies to help people better understand the skills and approaches used in today’s coaching world.

Last autumn, the ICF (International Coach Federation) declared that an updated competency model would take effect in early 2021, and that it would “serve as higher, more rigorous coaching requirements for the future.” Let’s have a look at the 8 new ICF core coaching competencies that form an important part of every coaching professional’s life!

The core competencies are applicable to every type of coach and serve as a foundation to one’s coaching skills. The core competencies skills are an essential part of a coach’s growth apart from the many other techniques as learned during one’s coaching journey.


1. Demonstrates Ethical Practice

The Coach understands and consistently applies coaching ethics and standards of coaching.

  • Demonstrates personal integrity and honesty in interactions with clients, sponsors and relevant stakeholders
  • Is sensitive to clients’ identity, environment, experiences, values and beliefs
  • Uses language appropriate and respectful to clients, sponsors and relevant stakeholders
  • Abides by the ICF Code of Ethics and upholds the Core Values
  • Maintains confidentiality with client information per stakeholder agreements and
  • pertinent laws
  • Maintains the distinctions between coaching, consulting, psychotherapy and other
  • support professions
  • Refers clients to other support professionals, as appropriate

2. Embodies a Coaching Mindset

The coach develops and maintains a mindset that is open, curious, flexible and client-centered.

  • Acknowledges that clients are responsible for their own choices
  • Engages in ongoing learning and development as a coach
  • Develops an ongoing reflective practice to enhance one’s coaching
  • Remains aware of and open to the influence of context and culture on self and others
  • Uses awareness of self and one’s intuition to benefit clients
  • Develops and maintains the ability to regulate one’s emotions
  • Mentally and emotionally prepares for sessions
  • Seeks help from outside sources when necessary


3. Establishes and Maintains Agreements

The Coach partners with the client and relevant stakeholders to create clear agreements about the coaching relationship, process, plans and goals. Establishes agreements for the overall coaching engagement as well as those for each coaching session.

  • Explains what coaching is and is not and describes the process to the client and relevant stakeholders
  • Reaches agreement about what is and is not appropriate in the relationship, what is and is not being offered, and the responsibilities of the client and relevant stakeholders
  • Reaches agreement about the guidelines and specific parameters of the coaching relationship such as logistics, fees, scheduling, duration, termination, confidentiality and inclusion of others
  • Partners with the client and relevant stakeholders to establish an overall coaching plan and goals
  • Partners with the client to determine client-coach compatibility
  • Partners with the client to identify or reconfirm what they want to accomplish in the session
  • Partners with the client to define what the client believes they need to address or resolve to achieve what they want to accomplish in the session
  • Partners with the client to define or reconfirm measures of success for what the client wants to accomplish in the coaching engagement or individual session
  • Partners with the client to manage the time and focus of the session
  • Continues coaching in the direction of the client’s desired outcome unless the client indicates otherwise
  • Partners with the client to end the coaching relationship in a way that honors the experience

4. Cultivates Trust and Safety

The Coach partners with the client to create a safe, supportive environment that allows the client to share freely. Maintains a relationship of mutual respect and trust.

  • Seeks to understand the client within their context which may include their identity, environment, experiences, values and beliefs
  • Demonstrates respect for the client’s identity, perceptions, style and language and adapts one’s coaching to the client
  • Acknowledges and respects the client’s unique talents, insights and work in the coaching process
  • Shows support, empathy and concern for the client
  • Acknowledges and supports the client’s expression of feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs and suggestions
  • Demonstrates openness and transparency as a way to display vulnerability and build trust with the client

5. Maintains Presence

The Coach is fully conscious and present with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, grounded and confident.

  • Remains focused, observant, empathetic and responsive to the client
  • Demonstrates curiosity during the coaching process
  • Manages one’s emotions to stay present with the client
  • Demonstrates confidence in working with strong client emotions during the coaching process
  • Is comfortable working in a space of not knowing
  • Creates or allows space for silence, pause or reflection


6. Listens Actively

The coach focuses on what the client is and is not saying to fully understand what is being communicated in the context of the client systems and to support client self-expression.

  • Considers the client’s context, identity, environment, experiences, values and beliefs to enhance understanding of what the client is communicating
  • Reflects or summarizes what the client communicated to ensure clarity and understanding
  • Recognizes and inquires when there is more to what the client is communicating
  • Notices, acknowledges and explores the client’s emotions, energy shifts, non-verbal cues or other behaviors
  • Integrates the client’s words, tone of voice and body language to determine the full meaning of what is being communicated
  • Notices trends in the client’s behaviors and emotions across sessions to discern themes and patterns

7. Evokes Awareness

The Coach facilitates client insight and learning by using tools and techniques such as powerful questioning, silence, metaphor or analogy.

  • Considers client experience when deciding what might be most useful
  • Challenges the client as a way to evoke awareness or insight
  • Asks questions about the client, such as their way of thinking, values, needs, wants and beliefs
  • Asks questions that help the client explore beyond current thinking
  • Invites the client to share more about their experience in the moment
  • Notices what is working to enhance client progress
  • Adjusts the coaching approach in response to the client’s needs
  • Helps the client identify factors that influence current and future patterns of behavior, thinking or emotion
  • Invites the client to generate ideas about how they can move forward and what they are willing or able to do
  • Supports the client in reframing perspectives
  • Shares observations, insights and feelings, without attachment, that have the potential to create new learning for the client


8. Facilitates Client Growth

The Coach partners with the client to transform learning and insight into action. Promotes client autonomy in the coaching process.

  • Works with the client to integrate new awareness, insight or learning into their worldview and behaviors
  • Partners with the client to design goals, actions and accountability measures that integrate and expand new learning
  • Acknowledges and supports client autonomy in the design of goals, actions and methods of accountability
  • Supports the client in identifying potential results or learning from identified action steps Invites the client to consider how to move forward, including resources, support and potential barriers
  • Partners with the client to summarize learning and insight within or between sessions Celebrates the client’s progress and successes
  • Partners with the client to close the session

ICF also uses coaching competencies to assess what constitutes coach-specific training and the coach training programmes they accredit. These eight competencies must be the subject of an ACTP, or Accredited Coach Training Program.

Coaching competencies are the foundation skills that must be mastered before anything else. If you can master these, you’ll be well on your way to being a coach in any form or niche. Of course, additional training is needed depending on the specialisation, so coaching competencies aren’t the be-all and end-all, but they are the foundation for all forms of coaching.