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Establishing the Coaching Agreement: Here's How to Do It Well

Posted by Julia Stewart

Establishing the Coaching Agreement - two men

According to the ICF, one of the most important, if not THE most important Coaching Competency is #2: Establishing the Coaching Agreement.

The ICF is very particular about how to coach with this one perhaps because it sets the structure for the entire session. Most coaches can do it well at the ACC level, but stumble over PCC requirements, which are multifaceted and quite explicit. At the MCC level, it is far deeper and more subtle. Why is this hard? Most coaches just don't know how to do it.

[UPDATE, 10-10-19: The ICF just announced a new coaching competency model to owners of ICF-accredited coach training programs like the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program. They have asked us not to share the new module until they have released it to their entire membership in November. It appears the following skills will still be appropriate under the new model. If I discover otherwise, I will update this again.]

What follows are Do's and Don't's on how to Establish the Coaching Agreement at the ACC, PPC, and MCC levels.

ACC: At the ACC level, Establishing the Coaching Agreement is easy and straightforward, but you might be surprised how many coaches miss it. Do: Ask the client, at the beginning of the session, what they want to achieve with the session. Don't: Choose the goal for the client, or neglect to ask the client what their goal is, or ask but coach on something else.

PCC: At the PCC level, you need to go considerably further with Establishing the Coaching Agreement. Do: At the start of the session, ask what the goal for the session is, then explore a bit what makes that goal important to the client. Also ask how they will know they have achieved the goal. This is sometimes referred to as the "measure of success", which can be a feeling, such as confidence, a mind state, such as clarity, or something tangible, like a ten-point plan. Then begin coaching the client to reach that goal. Later in the session, check to make sure you're on track to reach the goal, or if you notice the conversation is heading in a new direction, ask if the goal has changed. If it has changed, fully establish the new goal. Finally, near the end of your coaching session, ask the client if they've reached their measure of success. If they reply strongly in the affirmative, the coaching was successful. Don't: Forget to ask how the client will know they've succeeded or fail to explore the importance of the goal, or fail to check that the session is reaching or has reached the goal; nor should you make any mistakes from the ACC level, above.

MCC: Do: The MCC level coach does everything the PCC level coach does, and then some, but may do it in a far more subtle fashion, knowing that competency #3: Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client, #4: Coaching Presence, as well as every other competency, will enhance Establishing the Coaching Agreement, by creating trust, easing the client, and providing an environment in which the client shares honestly and completely. Without that level of openness and receptivity, the client is unlikely to share information that feels vulnerable (sharing our most cherished dreams tends to bring up vulnerabilities) and therefore they may not receive full value from the coaching. In addition, the master coach will help the client expand their thinking about the goal by helping the client connect it with their larger goals and/or integrate their understanding of it within the context of their entire life and even beyond, as needed (#8: Creating Awareness). What makes this difficult is, in addition to having mastered all the competencies, having heightened perceptiveness, and knowing how to communicate a lot with few words, the master coach must also be able to hold a holistic and intuitive mind state simultaneously with linear step-wise consciousness. This is easy if they have an advanced contemplative practice. Otherwise, it tends to take years of coaching to develop. Don't: Make assumptions, or lead, direct, or teach the client in any way. Without a fully connected partnership that honors the client's expertise in their own life, coach and client are unlikely to achieve the client's most desired dreams.

So now you know how, at all three levels, to coach with one of the most important ICF Coaching Competencies. This understanding. especially at the PCC and MCC levels, can help you become a far more effective coach. You still need to learn how this tool applies uniquely to each coaching session. Plus you need hours of practice and expert feedback to learn to do it well. Our Master Coach Training series of modules will help you develop masterful coaching skills, and get you ready to apply for ICF certification, if that is your goal. These modules are all included in our Certified Positive Psychology Coach program and our Certified Neuroscience Coach program. Plus, two more modules, included in the Certified Neuroscience Coach program, will help: NP1: The Science of Goals and Achievement and NP2: Neuroscience Tools and Practices.

 

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Topics: ICF, Coach Certification, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, MCC, coach credential, certified neuroscience coach, PCC

ICF Credential vs. IAC Life Coach Certification

Posted by Julia Stewart

certified_coach_goldribbon.jpgI interviewed my friend and colleague, Donna Steinhorn, IAC MMC, ICF PCC, on the difference between ICF and IAC life coach certification. Unfortunately, the recording was no good, which is one of the of the many reasons that attending live is always the best policy.

The feedback from coaches who attended the interview has been awesome. So I'm going to add a few highlights here, in case you missed it.

The two organizations, themselves, are of course, the ultimate authorities on what they do and they change their policies from time to time. So if you're looking for highly detailed info, visit their respective web sites. The ICF's is coachfederation.org and the IAC's is certifiedcoach.org.

Donna has been deeply involved in coach training and certification for many years and is one of only a handful of coaches who have both ICF and IAC coach certifications, which is why I chose her for this interview ~ that, and the fact that Donna is fun to talk with.

Both Donna and I have been on the coach training and certification bandwagon for eternity (Donna is a member of SCM's Board of Advisers) - and we're both rebels, so we have a shared skepticism, as well as support of these two leading professional organizations and their respective credentialing processes.

We began our conversation by noting that there are limitations to both ICF and IAC coach certifications. Each has its own coaching competencies (or masteries, as the IAC calls theirs). Each definitely has its own coaching style, which you need to be able to demonstrate. Neither style encompasses every possible way to coach brilliantly; they're just doing the best they can.

So why are there two professional coaching organizations and certifications? Actually, there are zillions of them - some completely bogus - but these currently are the most respected. Oddly, the same man, Thomas J. Leonard, the 'Father of Professional Coaching', founded both the IAC and ICF. Thomas founded the ICF in 1995 and later, the IAC in 2003, just before he passed away.

ICF credentialing, as it's called, emphasizes coach training, mentoring and experience, as well as an online test and demonstration of coaching skill. Thomas sought to streamline the process of certification with the IAC, which emphasizes the results of coach training, mentoring and experience, rather than the documentation of it. This makes the IAC certification process a bit simpler, but it's by no means easier, because coaches need to demonstrate masterful coaching skills. Only about 25% of coaches who apply for IAC Coach Certification pass on the first try.

The ICF has three levels of coaching credentials: The Associate Credentialed Coach (ACC), The Professional Credentialed Coach (PCC), and the Master Credentialed Coach (MCC). The IAC currently has only one certification, the Certified Coach (IAC-CC), but from what I've observed, the level of coaching skill required by the IAC is roughly comparable to the ICF MCC. (UPDATE: the IAC added another 'intermediate' level of certification, as well.)

Finally, the ICF has two pathways for credentialing: The portfolio route allows you to get your coach training anywhere and the accreditation path requires you to study at an ICF accredited coach training school. The IAC doesn't require demonstration of coach training, just the results of it: masterful coaching skills. I know most IAC Certified Coaches and I believe all of them have had substantial coach training and/or mentor coaching. Donna says there may have been one coach who passed without being trained.

I asked Donna if there were any hidden costs to getting certified by either organization. She mentioned the mentor coaching requirement by the ICF, which would cost you about $350 - 400 per month, but Donna doesn't consider that a hidden cost, since all coaches need to have their own coaches at all times. Personally, I don't think anyone needs a coach every minute of their life, but coaches are foolish if they don't work with successful coaches of their own. I worked with two excellent mentor coaches while I prepared for IAC Coach Certification.

What, in Donna's opinion, is the best benefit of getting certified? She considers the coach directory on the ICF website, which only lists ICF credentialed coaches, to be by far the best benefit, because it brings her a steady stream of potential clients. We agreed that the IAC would do well to offer such a benefit to its own membership.

Finally, which coaches need certification most? Donna says corporate coaches and perhaps executive coaches, since companies usually want to see credentials. She doesn't believe life coaches need to be certified, but I've seen anecdotal evidence that clients are screening life coaches more carefully than they used to. Even new life coaches are telling me that potential clients ask about training and certification.

School of Coaching Mastery's Certified Positive Psychology Coach® program prepares coaches for ICF credentialing.

So there you have the Readers Digest version of the ICF Credentialing vs. IAC Life Coach Certification interview.

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Topics: certification requirements, coach training, coaching clients, ICF, Coach Certification, Thomas Leonard, certified coaches, Donna Steinhorn, IAC, certified coach, coach credential

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