The International Coach Federation (ICF) maintains 8 essential skills that every person who wants to become a coach should possess. This list of “core competencies” was updated in November 2019—the first and only update since the list was created back in 1998.
While much of the previous model still applies to the coaching world as we know it today, the ICF’s research discovered that after nearly 25 years of use, the 1998 model was beginning to show its age.
The new ICF model integrates some updated elements and themes, with added emphasis on ethics and confidentiality between coaches and their clients.
Some other areas that receive emphasis in the new model include:
- The importance of a coaching mindset and ongoing reflective practice
- The partnership between coach and client
- Cultural, systemic and contextual awareness
- The distinctions between different levels of coaching agreements
By adding to the foundational standards of the tried-and-true model and refreshing it with components based on emerging themes in the coaching industry, the new ICF core competencies are a better reflection of the world that new and prospective coaches will be entering.
And, since these are the skill areas that will be used in the ICF’s accreditation assessments for new coaches starting in the second half of 2022, we’ll just be looking at the updated model in this article.
The New ICF Core Competencies
In order to receive ICF accreditation, anyone who wishes to become a coach has to demonstrate competency in all 8 of these areas:
- Demonstrates Ethical Practice
- Embodies a Coaching Mindset
- Establishes and Maintains Agreements
- Cultivates Trust and Safety
- Maintains Presence
- Listens Actively
- Evokes Awareness
- Facilitates Client Growth
The Four Domains
The ICF Core Competencies are categorized into 4 different logical domains. These groupings aren’t weighted in importance, and they’re not meant to imply any sort of hierarchy. All 4 of these domains—and all 8 skills—are crucial for a coach to possess and demonstrate.
Demonstrates Ethical Practice
New coaches need to demonstrate an understanding—and application—of ethics and standards of coaching.
Embodies a Coaching Mindset
Coaches must show that they’ve developed an ongoing mindset that is open, curious, flexible, and client-centered.
Co-creating the Relationship
Establishes and Maintains Agreements
This area is focused on partnership with clients and stakeholders, as well as reaching and establishing clear agreements about the coach-client relationship, process, and goals.
Cultivates Trust and Safety
Clients need to feel safe and supported in their relationship with the coach. There should also be mutual trust and respect between the coach and their clients.
To show competency in this area, coaches need to learn how to be “present” with clients, as well as develop (and demonstrate) emotional intelligence.
Are you supportive of self-expression with your clients? Are you able to accurately interpret what the client is saying—and not saying?
This area is concerned with your ability to facilitate client insight, sharing, learning, and progress through different methods such as questioning, silence, and analogies.
Cultivating Learning and Growth
Facilitates Client Growth
Coaches need to demonstrate that they can partner with clients to change behaviors, promote action, and encourage client autonomy.