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Coaching Competencies that every coach must have but most don’t

Core Coaching Competencies

Table of Contents

Before we explore the definition of coaching competency, let us quickly understand what does competency mean.

Competency can be defined as the ability to do something effectively and efficiently. It is a measurable ability that you have in relation to a certain objective that represents your capacity for action. 

Competencies are like the foundation of a building; they give structure and form to the foundation. Without them, the foundation will not be solid and will tend to erode and eventually collapse.

Coaching competencies refer to the specific knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes that a coach must possess to provide effective coaching. They represent the minimum standards that every coach must meet in order to be considered as being competent.

  1. Setting the foundation:

    This is one of the most basic and primary coaching competencies required by the coach. Here the coach would facilitate the coachee with the basic idea of coaching and the norms attached to it. Once the foundation of the coaching session is set, it becomes easier for the coachee to flow smoothly with the session. Within this coaching competency, there are a few sub-competencies that are essential. These include:

    • Establishing the coaching agreement:

      This coaching competency is about understanding the purpose of the coaching interaction and coming to an agreement with the prospective client about the coaching process and relationship.

      This includes understanding and effectively discussing the guidelines, specific parameters of the coaching relationship, reaching an agreement about what is and is not appropriate in the coaching relationship, what is and is not being offered, what are the coach’s and coachee’s responsibilities, and determining whether there is an effective match between his/her coaching method and the needs of the prospective coachee.

    • Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards:

      This Coaching competency is about understanding the professional standards and guidelines set by different coaching federations and coach training institutes, abiding by which would be beneficial for both the parties (coach and the coachee). This also helps the coachee to understand how different coaches work and the effectiveness of their coaching process.

  2. Co-creating the relationship:

    Coaching is not a one-session event. Generally, it extends over a period of 6 to 8 sessions depending on the coachee’s desired outcome. For this, the coach needs to foster a friendly and warm yet professional relationship with the coachee. This coaching competency is all about establishing a relationship that is most conducive to the coaching process. Sub-competencies within this coaching competencies include:

    • Using a flexible approach that is client-centric:

      Not every coachee is the same. So, it is beneficial for the coach to identify which approach to use for whom. A coach may be equipped with multiple tools and techniques to deal with the desired outcome.

      However, it is essential to identify which tool/model would best suit the coachee and require the least amount of effort and time. A coach needs to have the competency to not just identify and select the right approach for the coachee but also to modify the approaches in the most appropriate ways.

    • Managing self and maintaining coaching presence:

      Whilst in a coaching session, the coach must be fully aware of what the coachee is saying and respond accordingly. The coach’s response will help set a direction/path for the coachee’s desired outcome.

      The coach should also be aware of his/her biases and not let these biases influence the coaching interaction. This can completely derail the session and hamper the process. The coach must also be competent to demonstrate confidence in himself/herself and in the process that they are planning to use with the coachee.

    • Establishing a trust-based relationship with the coachee:

      This coaching competency is all about creating a safe/supportive environment for the coachee which would ensure trust and mutual respect between the individuals involved. The coach should also demonstrate genuine concern for the coachee’s personal welfare and future.

      This should be done in a way that does not seem forced and yet effective for the coachee. This will also help the coach develop a strong rapport with the coachee thereby ensuring the coaching process goes smoothly.

  3. Communicating Effectively:

    One of the key tools/skills used by the coach is communication. The entire process of coaching is dependent on this one tool without which it will be difficult for the coachee to understand and work towards his/her desired outcome.

    This requires the coach to be aware of different aspects of communication that can influence a coachees style of communication. And that is why this particular coaching competency becomes important. Sub-competencies within this coaching competency include:

    • Engaged Listening:

      This coaching competency is about the ability to effectively listen, encourage, accept and explore what the coachee is saying. Listening is completely different from hearing; it means listening not just through your ears but through your eyes and other senses.

      Whilst listening, the coach should also observe the body language of the coachee, the changes in tonality of the voice, summarise, paraphrase, reiterate what the coachee is saying, mirror the coachee and ensure that there is clarity in understanding the coachee.

      Through engaged listening, the coach would be able to make out a lot of the things about the coachee. It will ensure that the coach uses the right kind of tools and processes on the coachee for him/her to reach the desired outcome.

    • Powerful Questioning:

      This competency is about the ability to ask questions that will uncover the information needed for the greatest benefit to the coaching relationship and the coachee, by posing questions that are open-ended to create greater clarity, possibility or new learning.

      It’s important for coaches to question not to confront but to understand the coachee. These questions are meant to help the coachee explore their thoughts, perceptions, and behaviours in a way that the coachee can understand him/herself better and the coach can assist them to achieve their outcome.

      This also enables the coach to collect specific details so that they can work on facts and not personal biases.

    • Flexible/Person centric communication:

      While engaged listening and powerful questioning are important coaching competencies, another thing to keep in mind is that different people communicate differently. It is important for a coach to be able to identify and use the style of communication preferred by the coachee.

      This requires the coach to be aware of different aspects of communication (suggestibility, love language, representation system, level of expressiveness, meta-programs…) that can influence a coachees style of communication. Based on how the coachee understands and communicates, the coach needs to be flexible and communicate accordingly.

      While this coaching competency is closely associated with the person-centric approach, it also helps the coach to build a trust-based relationship.

  4. Facilitating Learning and Results:

    Once the process of the coaching is set and adhered to by the coachee, it is important to ensure that there are visible or measurable results. These results will help the coach identify the effectiveness of the coaching tool/model used and decide whether to continue or change the process/model.

    This Coaching competency also helps the coachee understand the coach’s effectiveness and skill set or decide if he/she wants to be coached under the same coach.

    • Raising awareness and insights:

      This coaching competency is about the ability to integrate, accurately assess and interpret various information to help the client gain awareness and achieve agreed-upon results. The coachee will be equipped to identify facts from the interpretation and distinguish between behaviours that need to be worked on to ensure the desired outcome is met.

      While coaching is more about the outcome and not insights, it is true that many times insights become the seed on which an outcome can be achieved. In cases where insights are important coaches must have the tool to help coachees get these insights.

      since insights are spontaneous and come from the unconscious mind, a coach’s ability to work with the unconscious can be very handy. While the coach can use processes to help the coachees tap into his/her unconscious, the coach also enables the coachee to develop mindfulness leading to increased awareness about themselves and their lives.

    • Inviting Possibility:

      The coach should have the competency to ensure that the coachee is open to all possibilities. At times certain thoughts, emotions or beliefs lead to the coachee not being open to things that may be beneficial for achieving the desired outcome. The coach would help the coachee restructure these things that are essential for a better tomorrow in life.

      This also inculcates a sense of hopefulness within the coachee thereby looking at things in the rawest form possible and not interpreting them with his/her own biases.

    • Ecological goal setting:

      Since coaching is about helping coachees achieve desired goals, goal setting becomes an extremely important part of the coaching process. Having said that, there are times when one goal can negatively influence other goals which may be more important from the point of view of the coachees unconscious.

      In such cases, the unconscious doesn’t support the accomplishment of these goals which can lead to self-sabotage. Ecological goal setting ensures that goals are set in a way that they do not negatively affect any other goals.

    • Designing Actions:

      This coaching competency is about the ability to co-create opportunities for ongoing learning and for taking new actions that will most effectively lead to agreed-upon coaching results. This can be achieved through brainstorming and assisting coachees to define actions that will enable them to demonstrate, practice and deepen new learning.

      Challenging coachee’s assumptions, helping them to evaluate options, focus on alternative ideas and solutions, and explore specific concerns and opportunities vital to coaching goals is equally important whilst designing action plans for them.

      After helping clients create ecological goals it is necessary for the coachee to also ensure specific steps to take them from where they are to move to desired goals. In order to understand these steps, a coach helps the coachee explore and evaluate different ways, options, ideas and solutions.

    • Overcoming conscious and unconscious hindrances:

      The coach whilst designing the plan of action/task-list for the coachee, should assess and see if there are possible hindrances that may prevent the coachee from consistently completing the tasks. At times these hindrances may be out of the coachee’s awareness.

      At this point, it is essential for the coach to ensure that the coachee is aware of the same and should enable him/her to deal with it. It can also be that at times the coachee may be aware of the hindrances but is not able to control or overcome them. For eg: – persistent dysfunctional thought, feeling or behaviour pattern.

      In times like this, the coach helps the coachee become aware of the hindrances they were unaware of and help the coachee change those thoughts and feelings that were getting triggered automatically. Dealing with hindrances can also ensure that the coachee gets new learnings and will be better equipped to deal with similar or new hindrances in the future.

    • Managing Progress and Accountability:

      This coaching competency is about the ability to hold attention on what is significant for the coachee and to leave the responsibility with him/her by clearly requesting the coachee to stick to the agreed plan of actions that will move the coachee toward his/her stated goals.

      Following through – by asking about those actions that the coachee is committed to in previous session(s), and acknowledging the lessons learned, what was done and what wasn’t along with keeping the coachee on track by holding attention to the coaching plan and the desired outcome – is important.

Most coaching certification programs will help you develop the basic coaching competencies but if you are really serious about developing the advanced coaching competencies that can help your clients not just make use of their conscious awareness but also be able to effectively utilize their unconscious potential then check out the Cognitive Hypnotic Coaching Diploma®

If you are aware of this approach to Coaching then you must read more about the Cognitive Hypnotic Coaching Approach and what makes it so powerful.

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