ICF Core Competency: Facilitating Learning and Results – Managing Progress and Accountability

Finally, we come to the 11th core coaching competency as defined by the International Coach Federation. The person who is accountable is always the client, that is, the person being coached. If the client is not serious about and committed to her development and making progress on her goals, then coaching may just be a waste of time and money.

11. Managing Progress and Accountability—Ability to hold attention on what is important for the client, and to leave responsibility with the client to take action.

  1. Clearly requests of the client actions that will move the client toward his/her stated goals.
  2. Demonstrates follow-through by asking the client about those actions that the client committed to during the previous session(s).
  3. Acknowledges the client for what they have done, not done, learned or become aware of since the previous coaching session(s).
  4. Effectively prepares, organizes, and reviews with client information obtained during sessions.
  5. Keeps the client on track between sessions by holding attention on the coaching plan and outcomes, agreed-upon courses of action, and topics for future session(s).
  6. Focuses on the coaching plan but is also open to adjusting behaviors and actions based on the coaching process and shifts in direction during sessions.
  7. Is able to move back and forth between the big picture of where the client is heading, setting a context for what is being discussed and where the client wishes to go.
  8. Promotes client’s self-discipline and holds the client accountable for what they say they are going to do, for the results of an intended action, or for a specific plan with related time frames.
  9. Develops the client’s ability to make decisions, address key concerns, and develop himself/herself (to get feedback, to determine priorities and set the pace of learning, to reflect on and learn from experiences).
  10. Positively confronts the client with the fact that he/she did not take agreed-upon actions.

Retrieved from ICF Core Coaching Competencies.

The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines accountability as “the quality or state of being accountable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.”  It defines accountable as “required to explain actions or decisions to someone.”

So, how does a coach establish and manage accountability?  The tenth point above sums it up: the coach positively confronts the client with the fact that she did not take the agreed-upon actions. It also involves exploring why not and what the client is willing to do to move forward. Hindrances and obstacles, whether real or imagined, may be explored to foster insight, and identify what the client is able and ready to do.

If a client wants change, she must must take action to make it happen. One way of looking at coaching is that it is facilitating change from the inside out, from the client’s being or character.

Here’s an interesting view of Change from the Inside Out. What do you think?

Click here to see the 11 ICF Core Coaching Competencies in this blog.

ICF Core Competency: Facilitating Learning and Results – Planning and Goal Setting

Planning and Goal Setting in coaching is an iterative process.  While the initial plan and goals are established early, often at the beginning coaching sessions, these may be adjusted as the client experiences new learning, insights, and growth.  What does this involve?

10. Planning and Goal Setting—Ability to develop and maintain an effective coaching plan with the client.

  1. Consolidates collected information and establishes a coaching plan and development goals with the client that address concerns and major areas for learning and development.
  2. Creates a plan with results that are attainable, measurable, specific, and have target dates.
  3. Makes plan adjustments as warranted by the coaching process and by changes in the situation.
  4. Helps the client identify and access different resources for learning (e.g., books, other professionals).
  5. Identifies and targets early successes that are important to the client.

Retrieved from ICF Core Coaching Competencies.

A good starting point for a coaching plan, especially for leaders at all levels, is a 360 degree feedback assessment which can provide relevant and current information about the leader’s competencies as perceived by the key people she is working with day in and day out.

Nevertheless, performance feedback through performance appraisals can also provide key inputs.  What’s important is that the leader has a more robust base of information to start with and accelerate insights when determining the priorities for her coaching plan and goals.

One excellent 360 degree feedback assessment is the Leadership Circle ProfileTM.

The  Leadership Circle ProfileTM. is the only 360 degree profile that measures both competency and underlying assumptions and it does so in two primary leadership domains: Creative Competencies and Reactive Tendencies.

Creative competencies are “competencies that measure how leaders achieve results, bring out the best in others, lead with vision, enhance your own development, act with integrity, and encourage and improve organizational systems.”

Reactive tendencies are “leadership styles that emphasize caution over creating results, self-protection over productive engagement, and aggression over building alignment. These self-limiting styles overemphasize the focus on gaining the approval of others, protecting oneself, and getting results through high control tactics.”

Click here for a quick look at an example Leadership Circle Profile graphic.

To learn more, check out the Leadership Circle ProfileTM Test Drive or visit the  Leadership Circle ProfileTM. website.

The  Leadership Circle ProfileTM. assessment is available in the Philippines through Catalyst Leadership. Interested parties may contact Cliff Scott, Director at Leadership Circle Philippines and Managing Director at Catalyst Leadership.

For other countries, please visit Leadership Circle ProfileTM for contacts in your country.

Click here to see the 11 ICF Core Coaching Competencies in this blog.

ICF Core Competency: Facilitating Learning and Results – Designing Actions

The purpose of coaching is to help a client take action and move forward to achieve her agreed upon coaching goals. Remember, creating awareness is a means to an end and not an end in itself. The next logical competency under Facilitating Learning and Results is thus Designing Actions.

9. Designing Actions—Ability to create with the client opportunities for ongoing learning, during coaching and in work/life situations, and for taking new actions that will most effectively lead to agreed-upon coaching results.

  1. Brainstorms and assists the client to define actions that will enable the client to demonstrate, practice, and deepen new learning.
  2. Helps the client to focus on and systematically explore specific concerns and opportunities that are central to agreed-upon coaching goals.
  3. Engages the client to explore alternative ideas and solutions, to evaluate options, and to make related decisions.
  4. Promotes active experimentation and self-discovery, where the client applies what has been discussed and learned during sessions immediately afterward in his/her work or life setting.
  5. Celebrates client successes and capabilities for future growth.
  6. Challenges client’s assumptions and perspectives to provoke new ideas and find new possibilities for action.
  7. Advocates or brings forward points of view that are aligned with client goals and, without attachment, engages the client to consider them.
  8. Helps the client “Do It Now” during the coaching session, providing immediate support.
  9. Encourages stretches and challenges but also a comfortable pace of learning.

Retrieved from ICF Core Coaching Competencies.

The coach is not responsible for designing actions for the client. The role of the coach is not to give advice. The coach is not an adviser. The coach is a facilitator of the process that enables the client to continue learning, move forward, and grow. The client is responsible for identifying options, and the coach and client are co-creators of actions in the sense that the coach helps to facilitate the process.

One example could be the case of a manager who would like to improve her communication skills at work because this was one of the areas for improvement she learned from her superior during a performance feedback discussion. The manager realizes that effective communication skills are key to her success and future promotion. The coach helps the manager explore the various situations where her communications, whether oral or written, may have somehow fallen short of what was expected and desired.

The coach may start the session with “What would you like to get out of this session?”  If the manager says that she would like be able to determine how she can improve her communication skills, then the coach may follow up with the questions below.

Possible questions the coach may ask to explore with the manager may include:  “Describe three specific situations where you felt that you could have done better in your communications at work.”  “What was the impact to the people concerned?” “What impact do you want to create instead?” “How would you measure that your communication skills have improved?” “What would you do differently to achieve the improvement you want?” “What will you do between this coaching session and the next one?”  “Which of the possible actions will you take?

If the manager is having difficulty in identifying new actions, the coach may suggest to help the her brainstorm together to get various ideas for further consideration.

These are just illustrative questions. The coach may not necessarily proceed exactly in this manner as the conversation is a two-way process, and the coach adjusts to what the manager talks about.

By the end of the coaching session, the coach would have helped the manager get the outcome she wanted, that is, to have identified some ways to improve her communications skills that she can start to work with, and then discuss and reflect upon in the next coaching session.

Click here to see the 11 ICF Core Coaching Competencies in this blog.

ICF Core Competency: Facilitating Learning and Results – Creating Awareness

Finally, we come to the fourth and final category of ICF core coaching competencies, namely, Facilitating Learning and Results. The first competency under this is Creating Awareness. Now, this is quite a long list.

D. Facilitating Learning and Results

8. Creating Awareness – Ability to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information and to make interpretations that help the client to gain awareness and thereby achieve agreed-upon results.

  1. Goes beyond what is said in assessing client’s concerns, not getting hooked by the client’s description.
  2. Invokes inquiry for greater understanding, awareness, and clarity.
  3. Identifies for the client his/her underlying concerns; typical and fixed ways of perceiving himself/herself and the world; differences between the facts and the interpretation; and disparities between thoughts, feelings, and action.
  4. Helps clients to discover for themselves the new thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, emotions, moods, etc. that strengthen their ability to take action and achieve what is important to them.
  5. Communicates broader perspectives to clients and inspires commitment to shift their viewpoints and find new possibilities for action.
  6. Helps clients to see the different, interrelated factors that affect them and their behaviors (e.g., thoughts, emotions, body, and background).
  7. Expresses insights to clients in ways that are useful and meaningful for the client.
  8. Identifies major strengths vs. major areas for learning and growth, and what is most important to address during coaching.
  9. Asks the client to distinguish between trivial and significant issues, situational vs. recurring behaviors, when detecting a separation between what is being stated and what is being done.

Retrieved from ICF Core Coaching Competencies.

Creating awareness in a client depends on the coach’s level of skill in the other competencies such as in active listening, powerful questioning, and direct communication.

Creating a shift in awareness can involve a series of steps, or even sessions, asking various questions and giving insightful feedback until the client has an “aha” moment, until that one question or observation that hits the nail right on the head.

Why is it often times challenging and difficult to create awareness?  Remember the Johari Window?  A client may have all sorts of unexamined assumptions about herself and others, and what’s going on in relation to what the client asked to be coached on.

Johari Window

Johari.WindowFigure retrieved from Johari Window.

Even if the Johari Window may not be explicitly used during the coaching session, the coaching process helps the client explore the four perspectives represented in the table below, namely, the areas that are “unknown” or “hidden” from the client vs. areas that are “known” to herself and to others.

Creating awareness is not an end in itself but rather a means to “raise” the client’s starting point for constructive actions in moving forward in achieving her goals.

One executive who lamented that her team was not able to carry out and complete the projects they agreed to do during the year, later realized that it was her way of managing, or actually not sufficiently managing, her team so that they had a very clear idea of their project charter, their deliverables, their timetable, their resources. The team had gotten into the habit of letting the project schedule slip and were complacent in not producing their deliverables. There were no drastic consequences for failure to deliver.

She wanted her team to be successful but was not sure what else she should do. One question that helped to create a shift in awareness was, “What are you doing, or not doing, that’s keeping them in the state“?  The point of the question was that before we can expect others to change, we must look to ourselves and ask what we must change in ourselves so that the others can change as well. It was a question that was meant to explore the client’s Blind Area.

The executive assumed that if she gave them the freedom and flexibility to direct their work and just checked on them a few months down the road, that the team would do better. However, more discussion revealed that the team probably didn’t really know what they they were expected to produce and by when.  They didn’t have all the required information, knowledge and skills necessary to successfully complete the project and didn’t ask for help either.  The team didn’t have sufficient initiative and commitment.  They had little sense of urgency.

Upon realizing that how she managed her team had an impact on their poor performance, she identified what she would do differently so as to help the team better understand the requirements of their internal clients and deliver on these.  The awareness enabled her to consider different ways of managing her team, experiment with these, observe more closely what worked and what didn’t, reflect on her experience and work with her team more effectively.

Click here to see the 11 ICF Core Coaching Competencies in this blog.

ICF Core Competency: Communicating Effectively – Direct Communication

The third competency under Communicating Effectively is Direct Communication. What does this mean?  Yes, it means calling a spade a spade but there’s more to it than that so as to elicit a positive outcome for the client.

7. Direct Communication – Ability to communicate effectively during coaching sessions, and to use language that has the greatest positive impact on the client.

  1. Is clear, articulate and direct in sharing and providing feedback.
  2. Reframes and articulates to help the client understand from another perspective what he/she wants or is uncertain about.
  3. Clearly states coaching objectives, meeting agenda, and purpose of techniques or exercises.
  4. Uses language appropriate and respectful to the client (e.g., non-sexist, non-racist, non-technical, non-jargon).
  5. Uses metaphor and analogy to help to illustrate a point or paint a verbal picture.

Source: Retrieved from ICF Core Coaching Competencies

Direct communication is about honest communication. The coach says what she sees, feels and senses, about what’s going on with her client.  Sometimes, when giving feedback that may be harsh or jarring, the coach shows respect by asking the client: “May I be honest with you?” before sharing her observations and perceptions.

In some instances, coaches may feel uncomfortable about telling their client what seems like the obvious truth because they are mindful about keeping the conversation’s impact positive and enabling the client to receive such feedback and act constructively.

One situation, for example, is when senior management may say they want to create a mentoring and coaching culture in their organization and attend workshops to learn the skills. However, the very same senior executives do not walk the talk, while expecting managers reporting to them to coach and mentor their subordinates. Let’s assume that senior management mean what they say, that they do really want to create such a supportive and developmental corporate culture. And, that they didn’t attend the workshop just for show or to go on a junket.

The coach who is working with senior management has the challenge of giving honest feedback about this discrepancy between what they say vs. what they are doing or not doing.  To be helpful, such feedback will need to be given in a manner that fosters self awareness, as well as encourages exploration of what may be hindering the client from engaging in coaching and mentoring, and what actions the client can take to actually mentor and coach their direct reports.

How the coach will communicate directly, the choice of words, the choice of metaphors, the timing, will be influenced by the coach’s knowledge about the client.

Click here to see the 11 ICF Core Coaching Competencies in this blog.

ICF Core Competency: Communicating Effectively – Powerful Questioning

The second competency under Communicating Effectively is Powerful Questioning. Relearning how to ask good questions is a skill that can be developed with practice.

6. Powerful Questioning – Ability to ask questions that reveal the information needed for maximum benefit to the coaching relationship and the client.

  1. Asks questions that reflect active listening and an understanding of the client’s perspective.
  2. Asks questions that evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action (e.g., those that challenge the client’s assumptions).
  3. Asks open-ended questions that create greater clarity, possibility or new learning.
  4. Asks questions that move the client toward what they desire, not questions that ask for the client to justify or look backward.

Retrieved from ICF Core Coaching Competencies.

The ability to ask powerful questions is related more to a coach’s ability to listen actively and dance with the moment and not just having a list of powerful questions in her back pocket.

The power of any question comes from it’s ability to create an “aha” eye opener moment for the client, enabling her to re-frame the challenge, issue or problem, and see it in a new perspective.  The shift in perception and thinking brings with it the opportunity for new and more options for possible solutions and actions that the client may not have thought of before.

If you would like to get a sense of what powerful questions may be like, here is a quick list in Powerful Questions from Co-Active Coaching

You can also pick up some points from Appreciative Inquiry: Asking Powerful Questions

And now for questions that may help change your life, visit 35 Questions That Will Change Your Life

Just remember that the power is not just in the question itself but whether it is the “right” one for the moment.

Click here to see the 11 ICF Core Coaching Competencies in this blog.

ICF Core Competency: Communicating Effectively – Active Listening

Now moving on to the third category of ICF Core Competencies…Communicating Effectively. The first point under it is Active Listening.

5. Active Listening – Ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires, and to support client self-expression.

  1. Attends to the client and the client’s agenda and not to the coach’s agenda for the client.
  2. Hears the client’s concerns, goals, values and beliefs about what is and is not possible.
  3. Distinguishes between the words, the tone of voice, and the body language.
  4. Summarizes, paraphrases, reiterates, and mirrors back what client has said to ensure clarity and understanding.
  5. Encourages, accepts, explores and reinforces the client’s expression of feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs, suggestions, etc.
  6. Integrates and builds on client’s ideas and suggestions.
  7. “Bottom-lines” or understands the essence of the client’s communication and helps the client get there rather than engaging in long, descriptive stories.
  8. Allows the client to vent or “clear” the situation without judgment or attachment in order to move on to next steps.

Retrieved from ICF Core Coaching Competencies.

One of the basic skills that I learned many years ago as a young management consultant was active listening to help me gather the facts and information about a client’s problem that I was working on. Active listening during coaching is more demanding in the sense that the coach must listen at deeper levels.

In her book Co-Active Coaching, Laura Whitworth et al identify three levels of listening.

Level I – Internal Listening: Listening to our own thoughts and judgements.

We hear what the client is saying but focus more on our own thoughts and what these might mean to us. Sometimes, we can lose track of what the client is saying because we are more tuned in to our own thoughts and feelings.

Level II – Focused Listening: Focus on what the client is saying.

We hear what the client is saying and how she is expressing herself. We hear the client’s context and use active listening skills such as questioning, restating, paraphrasing, and summarizing.

Level III – Global Listening: Focus on more than just the words.

We hear and feel the client’s emotions behind the words, the tone of voice, the body language. We have a heightened sense of awareness and are able to access our intuition. We use the skill of immediacy to help make the client aware of what is happening in the here and now during the coaching session.

Click here to see the 11 ICF Core Coaching Competencies in this blog.

ICF Core Competency: Co-creating the Relationship – Coaching Presence

The second point under Co-Creating the Relationship is Coaching Presence.

4. Coaching Presence – Ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.

  1. Is present and flexible during the coaching process, dancing in the moment.
  2. Accesses own intuition and trusts one’s inner knowing—”goes with the gut.”
  3. Is open to not knowing and takes risks.
  4. Sees many ways to work with the client and chooses in the moment what is most effective.
  5. Uses humor effectively to create lightness and energy.
  6. Confidently shifts perspectives and experiments with new possibilities for own action.
  7. Demonstrates confidence in working with strong emotions and can self-manage and not be overpowered or enmeshed by client’s emotions.

Retrieved from ICF Core Coaching Competencies.

I like to think of coaching presence as similar to “mind like water” and “mind like the moon”  in Karate or martial arts.

The first metaphor of “mind like water” (“mizo no kokoro” or “mushin“) refers to “quieting one’s mind to the point that it resembles a still pond of water without a single ripple or wave of distracting mental activity. In this state, the surface of the water reflects a clear and perfectly undistorted image of the surroundings, like a mirror.”

The second metaphor of “mind like the moon” (“tsuki no kokoro” or “zanshin“) “describes an acute state of non-analytical alertness or global awareness wherein the mind observes every detail, just as the moon shines on everything
without prejudice or preference, and remains unaffected by what it illuminates.”

The metaphor of “dancing in the moment” for coaching presence is spot on.

Retrieved from Mushin and Zanshin.

Click here to see the 11 ICF Core Coaching Competencies in this blog.

ICF Core Competency: Co-creating the Relationship – Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client

The second category of ICF core competencies is Co-Creating the Relationship and the first point under it is Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client.

3. Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client—Ability to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust.

  1. Shows genuine concern for the client’s welfare and future.
  2. Continuously demonstrates personal integrity, honesty and sincerity.
  3. Establishes clear agreements and keeps promises.
  4. Demonstrates respect for client’s perceptions, learning style, personal being.
  5. Provides ongoing support for and champions new behaviors and actions, including those involving risk taking and fear of failure.
  6. Asks permission to coach client in sensitive, new areas.

Retrieved from ICF Core Coaching Competencies.

Establishing trust and intimacy is always a challenge, especially during the initial coaching sessions. How do you show a genuine concern for your client?  You can begin with being fully present, that is, giving 100% of your attention to the person in front of you and listening openly and actively to what she is saying and what she may not be saying.

You must also show respect to the uniqueness of the person and not make any judgments about who she is, her challenges or issues, expressed perceptions and thoughts, her behavior and so on. Accepting the person for who she is helps create trust.

You must strive to communicate clearly and make sure agreements are clear. Do what you say you will do and say what you do. In case something appears not to be clear, make an effort to re-clarify. Support your client in her efforts to try out new behaviors and ways of doing things.

When you feel you must give honest feedback that may hurt, weigh how ready she is to receive this and work with it constructively. It helps to ask permission to coach in sensitive areas.

Click here to see the 11 ICF Core Coaching Competencies in this blog.

ICF Core Competency: Setting the Foundation – Establishing the Coaching Agreement

The second point under Setting the Foundation is Establishing a Coaching Agreement

2. Establishing the Coaching Agreement—Ability to understand what is required in the specific coaching interaction and to come to agreement with the prospective and new client about the coaching process and relationship.

  1. Understands and effectively discusses with the client the guidelines and specific parameters of the coaching relationship (e.g., logistics, fees, scheduling, inclusion of others if appropriate).
  2. Reaches agreement about what is appropriate in the relationship and what is not, what is and is not being offered, and about the client’s and coach’s responsibilities.
  3. Determines whether there is an effective match between his/her coaching method and the needs of the prospective client.

Retrieved from ICF Core Coaching Competencies.

Establishing a clear coaching agreement at the beginning of a coaching relationship is very critical so that coach and client know what to expect and what’s included vs. what’s excluded.  Ground rules for sessions are set down.

When there is a three-way relationship, that is, one involving a sponsor, client, and coach, then clarifying the agreement becomes even more important to avoid issues. The sponsor is typically the superior of the client that engages or sponsors the coaching program for the client.  The client is the person being coached or is the “coachee.”  The coach must ensure that both the sponsor and client know the ground rules on confidentiality and agree with them.  That is, what if any matters discussed by the client with the coach will be shared with the sponsor.

From experience, it helps to have the client initiate and have periodic conversations/updates with her superior so that the accountability for deciding what to share and how remains with the client.

To see examples of coaching agreements, visit these links below. You can find more examples by googling the keywords “coaching agreement.”

Coaching Agreement Example 1
Coaching Agreement Example 2
Coaching Agreement Example 3
Coaching Agreement Example 4

Click here to see the 11 ICF Core Coaching Competencies in this blog.