some text

Heart Coach Institute

Heart Coach Institute Director of Education

Gaye Kuelsen, PCC • December 6, 2022 • 6 Minute Read

Improvements of the ICF Core Competencies

It has been several months now that we have been working with the Updated ICF Core Competencies. As the end of year approaches, often is a good time for reflection, and for this month’s edition, I thought I’d share some thoughts and reflections of the changes and improvements between the previous and the updated ICF Core competency models.

It is important to be mindful of our language when discussing the updated model, as it is just that, updated, not new. Going through a process to UPDATE requires using the basis of what is there and keeping similarities, and incorporating improvements. A NEW model would stimulate thoughts and expectations of a completely changed model requiring further training which may cause some uncertainty and doubts. Be assured that as you are familiar with the previous model, your current knowledge and experience will easily translate and expand with the updated model.

The intent of the updated model was to create incorporate the research gathered by the ICF from coaches, which showed the emergence of new contexts relating to increased cultural awareness and to continue to emphasise the obligation of ethical behaviour and confidentiality towards clients and stakeholders. The concepts in the updated model maintain a strong similarity with the previous model:

  • Within the Foundation, coaches are obligated to abide by the ICF Code of Ethics, and uphold the Core Values. The addition of a new competency – Embodies a Coaching Mindset – requires us to open to the influence of context and culture, and use our self-awareness for the benefit of our clients. This is a direct focus on our professional expectations and how we show up as a coach.
  • In Co-Creating the Relationship, the establishment of agreements covers both the initial contract we arrange with our client, as well as the focus the client brings to each individual coaching session. In each coaching partnership, we continue to cultivate trust and provide a safe environment for our clients to converse with us. During each session we continue to maintain presence with our client, being observant, empathetic and responsive.
  • To enable Communicating Effectively, we hone our ability to listen actively to our clients and reflect, inquire and summarise their thoughts and ideas. At the same time, we support and evoke awareness so our clients influence and generate new perspectives to move them forward.
  • When Cultivating Learning and Growth, we partner with our clients to identify actions to integrate and expand their new knowledge. We support them to overcome challenges, establish methods of accountability and share in their celebrations of success and progress.

You may notice that the language chosen to label the updated competencies, has transformed from the use of adjectives – describing words – to the use of verbs – action words. This underpins the concept of moving from a theoretical model into a model that encourages the application of knowledge by moving into action:

  • Demonstrates Ethic Practice – it is not enough to simply understand the theory of ethics, but we must be intentional and exhibit ethical behaviour in all interactions with clients and stakeholders.
  • Embodies a Coaching Mindset – as a coach we are required mentally and emotionally prepare for sessions, and creating a ritual or routine helps make this a seamless process to transition from our life, into and focus on the life of our clients.
  • Establishes and Maintains Agreements – there is a strong emphasis that the coach partners with client to ensure equal determination of our coaching relationship, process, plans and goals.
  • Cultivates Trust and Safety – through the actions of demonstrates respect, and shows support, empathy and concern for the client, as the coach we are directing our energies into creating a safe and supportive environment.
  • Maintains Presence – by managing ones’ emotions and being comfortable in working a space of not knowing, requires us as the coach to focus fully on our client.
  • Listens Actively – means not just listening with our ears but with our whole selves so that we can notice trends in the client’s behaviours and determine the full meaning of what is being communicated.
  • Evokes Awareness – is achieved as we ask relevant questions to help the client explore beyond their current thinking and influence future behaviours and attitudes.
  • Facilitates Client Growth – is when we support our clients into action following the exploration and discovery of the coaching conversation.

Other general improvements with the updated model are that the is a better alignment of coaching capabilities within the core competencies. The removal of the Powerful Questioning competency as a stand-alone skill is questions can have a direct impact on Maintains Presence, Listens Actively and Evokes Awareness. Similarly with Direct Communication is not an unconnected competency, but can be used throughout the coaching conversation and in conjunction with several other competencies. Direct communication can be useful to explore deeper under the surface issue to establish a more meaningful coaching agreement for the session.

With the previous model, the last 3 competencies – (9) Designing Actions, (10) Planning and Goal Setting and (11) Managing Progress and Accountability – were always grouped together, so in essence were treated as one competency. The updated model now formally combines these three competencies into the one competency of Facilitates Client Growth. At the end of a coaching session, the coach partners with the client to lay a strong foundation for their committed actions to identify potential barriers, to tap in to valuable resources, and where to go for additional support if needed.

A closer inspection of the update model reveals a greater emphasis on partnering with our clients during the coaching process. There are 11 elements in the third competency – Establishes and Maintains Agreements. Of the 11 elements, seven of these commence with the word ‘Partners’, highlighting the importance that as coaches we intentionally work with our clients to co-create our coaching relationship. To a lesser extent, the final competency Facilitates Client Growth, has three of the eight elements starting with ‘Partners’. Again, at the end of each session, we are encouraged and directed to actively partner with our clients to design goals, summarise insight and to close the session.

In conjunction with the Updated ICF Core Competencies model, the PCC Markers have also been reviewed and revised to better align with the updated competencies. We will explore the PCC Markers individually in each monthly edition next year. So stay tuned!

img src="Gayewateringflowers.jpg" alt="Updated Competencies of ICF. "

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very happy and safe holiday season. Wishing you a bright and wonderful new year!

Sharing these mentoring moments with you,


Heart Coaching Blogs       •       Heart Coach Institute       •       Heart-Centered Life Coach Training