How to show competence in embodying a Coaching Mindset?

quality coaching Feb 05, 2021
How to show competence in embodying a coaching mindset

Why is this important? 

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) introduced Core Competency 2 - [Coach] Embodies a Coaching Mindset - as a new competency in 2019. It deals with one essential constituent of the ICF professional coach: the coach's mindset, and related to that, with the coach’s attitudes, practices, and processes to help the coach develop and maintain an open, curious, flexible, and client-centered mindset. Applicants of an ICF Credential need to show Competence in the ICF Core Competency 2. When a coach develops and maintains an open, flexible, and client-centered mindset, it is easier for the coach to exhibit competency in several additional core competencies. Holding this mindset is critical when applying for an ICF credential. When the coach does not embody a coaching mindset, it is harder to show competence in other competency areas. That may affect the potential to receive a passing score in several ICF core coaching competency areas, independent of whether the coach applies for the ACC, PCC, or MCC credential.


In brief: 

There are two pieces of the puzzle when considering ICF Core Competency 2. Firstly, ICF credential applicants need to show competence in Core Competency 2, and secondly, this competency affects other competency areas. Showing competence and collecting evidence on a mindset is difficult and may happen indirectly in the ICF Credentialing Evaluation Process. ICF ACC, PCC, and MCC Credential applicants need to know about the relation between Competency Area 2 and the other Core Competency Areas. This and the next post will explore both Core Competency 2 and its sub-competencies and how they affect other competency areas.



When applying for an ICF Credential, applicants need to show competence in Core Competency 2. ICF Core Competency 2 provides that the coach develops and maintains an open, curious, flexible, and client-centered mindset. The competency’s eight sub-competencies provide for additional requirements. Any credentialing coach can use the sub-competencies to gain additional clarity and guidance on embodying a coaching mindset. Yet, showing competence in embodying...a mindset is tricky. The competency does not clarify the relationship between Core Competency 2 and the other competency areas and how a lack of competence in Core Competency 2 affects competence in other competency areas. So, how can a coach show embody an open, curious, flexible, and client-centered mindset? 



Assessing one’s mindset is not a straightforward task. One may have to rely on specific knowledge and use adequate ‘tools’ of analysis. Even then, the margin of error may be quite high. It is harder still to assess an applicant’s mindset in an ICF credential application evaluation, and we can't imagine what a mindset evaluation would be like if done “directly”. To find a viable solution, additional avenues need to be explored. 


C.C. 2’s eight sub-competencies provide some guidance. Especially important is to understand the relationship between those sub-competencies and other competency areas. Hence, the quick answer is that the coach may show holding that mindset indirectly. By showing competence in other core areas, the coach can provide evidence of the coach’s mindset. 


What other competencies can help a coach show competence in Core Competency 2?  

Let’s have a look at some primary relationships between Core Competency 2 and other Competency areas. 



Primarily Related Competency Area(s)

1. Acknowledges that clients are responsible for their own choices

Core Competency 3, 4, 5, 8

2. Engages in ongoing learning and development as a coach

All Core Competencies

3. Develops an ongoing reflective practice to enhance one’s coaching

All Core Competencies

4. Remains aware of and open to the influence of context and culture on self and others

Core Competency 4, 5, 6

5. Uses awareness of self and one’s intuition to benefit clients

Core Competency 5, 6, 7

6. Develops and maintains the ability to regulate one’s emotions

Core Competency 4, 5, 7

7. Mentally and emotionally prepares for sessions

All Core Competencies

8. Seeks help from outside sources when necessary

All Core Competencies


All ICF Core Competencies are intertwined. Thie intertwines, however, seem especially strong between Core Competency 2 and other Competency Areas. Below we present the relationship for CC. 2.1 In future blogs, we will examine the other sub-competencies of ICF Core Competency 2.


Sub-Competency 2.1 Acknowledges that clients are responsible for their own choices.

How can an ICF Assessor collect evidence a Coach holds this true?

As we have explored above, this may only happen indirectly. Below we present some examples of evidence of competence in other Competency Areas that may prove indirect evidence of competence in Sub-Competency 2.1:

  1. Competency Area 3, especially sub-competencies 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9. When creating a coaching session agreement and the coach allows the client to choose the session’s objectives, outcomes, focus, measures of success, and what needs to be addressed is a way to prove that the coach is competent in acknowledging that clients are responsible for their own choices.
  2. Competency Area 4, especially sub-competencies 4.2 (demonstrating respect for the client’s identity, perception, style, and language and adapting the coaching to the client) 4.3 (acknowledging and respecting the client’s insights and work in the coaching process), 4.4 (showing support for the client), and 4.5 (acknowledging and supporting the client’s expression of feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs, and suggestions).
  3. Competency Area 5, especially sub-competency 5.6 (Creates or allows space for silence, pause or reflection).
  4. Competency Area 8, especially sub-competencies 8.3 (acknowledging and supporting the client’s autonomy in the design of goals, actions, and methods of accountability) and 8.1, 8.2, 8,6, (in summary, partnering with the client to make choices regarding transforming learning and insights into action).


Are there variances among ACC, PCC, and MCC to consider?

At the time of writing (February 2021), specific ICF guidance is only available for PCC level coaching and credentialing. The PCC Markers contain references to how to collect evidence for Core Competency 2. We expect similar guidance to apply to both ACC and MCC credentialing levels by the time ICF will use the new competencies for credentialing examinations (second half of 2021).


In our next blog post, we will continue to explore the relationship between Core Competency 2 and other competency areas, looking at additional ways to show competence in embodying a coaching mindset.

Reference Material:  2019 ICF Core Competencies, 2020 PCC Markers


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