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Coaching Certification for Core Competencies

by Katekelly

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The International Coach Federation, ICF, publishes 11 Core Competencies for coaches. In ICF-approved coach training these competencies are developed.


One of the Core Competencies is 'Clear Direct Language'. Specifically, the words we use significantly impact listening, understanding, focus, and outcomes. Choosing words that say what we do want instead of what we don't want seems simple; it requires practice. Consider this example:

  • "I don't want to work so many hours and be so stressed."



  • "I want to plan my day so it is organized and so I work 8 hours."



Rather than talking about what is not wanted, talk about what is wanted.


The Core Competency of 'Powerful Questioning' significantly impacts the outcome of coaching sessions.


"Do you think you should…?" isn't really a question, it is expressing an opinion. The way questions are asked determines the flow of the conversation. Sometimes a coach asks questions so that the conversation stays on track. Unfortunately, sometimes coaches ask questions that limit thinking. Formulating effective questions is a skill that requires consistent practice.


Coaching questions are clarifying, probing, advice-free, and open-ended. Tips for formulating questions include:


  • KISS: Keep It Short and Simple


  • Ask questions that focus forward


  • Ask questions that are open to possibilities


  • If the client is logical, ask thinking questions


  • If the client relies on their gut instincts, ask feeling questions


  • The answer often leads to the next question


  • Use 'What' or 'How' questions



Here is an example without and then with these tips for powerful questioning:


  • Without: Do you think it is better for you to discuss this with your manager or should you go to HR?


  • With: What are your options for addressing it?



In the first example, two possibilities are given and the focus is limited to considering only those two options. In the second example, the client will consider more ways of addressing it and more people with whom to discuss it, and then choose what makes the most sense for them.


In coaching, the client is their own best expert. For the coach to effectively partner with the client, learning powerful questioning is essential.


Whether you want to be a business coach, complete life coaching certification, earn executive coach certification, or add career coach certification, the value of coach training is developing the 11 Core Competencies as published by the ICF. When a program is an ICF-approved coach training, it must cover at least one of these Core Competencies. At the Center for Coaching Certification, all 11 are covered. The Core Competencies include creating awareness and designing actions; both are influenced by how a client learns and processes information.


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