Is coaching for real?

by | Jun 30, 2006

This morning I observed a coaching session that was conducted entirely in Swedish. I speak English, a little Spanish, less Italian, and still less French, No Swedish.
Why am I telling you this?
Because this experience session affirms for me that, coaching, far from being an amorphous, accidental, and random coaching oepration, consists of specific, observable set competencies that an educated observer can identify and evaluate. It is, in other words, possible to distinguish degrees of expertise and skill among coaches. That matters to you if you are or ever intend to work with a coach or hire a coach for someone in your company.
Obviously, I could not comment on the content of the session conducted in Swedish. Nonetheless, I was able to observe with a good deal of precision to what degree the Core Coaching Competencies as set out by the International Coach Federation. were evidenced by the coach. Here is an overview of the areas in which my observations agreed with those of the examiner:

  • Establishing Coaching Agreement: By the pattern of question and answer and the inflections of statements, I could discern how much time and what kind of attention was given to establishing the scope and purpose of the coaching session.
  • Coaching Presence: Pacing, intonation, and the mix of questions and statements along with how the coach responded to pauses in the client’s responses gave me a vivid sense of how this competency was embodied.
  • Active Listening. I could evaluate this competency by attending to the spaces between questions and statements, the pattern of restatement (which was distinguished by intonation and an exchange of what sounded like brief confirming or correcting remarks, and by noticing shifts in mood, intensity, and pace.
  • Creating Awareness. Observing the coach’s tone of voice, pace, and intonation in contrast to that of the client gave a good indication of whether or not the client was experiencing new awareness and whether that awareness emerged from the coaching process, from the client’s abilities to self-coach, or from a “teaching” by the coach. See also my comment under Powerful Questions.
  • Powerful Questioning. I got an impression of this by the frequency with which a question resulted in silence on the part of the client followed by phrases that were reflective in tone and incomplete in form (the incompleteness suggesting that the client was exploring a new response rather than responding from past history.
  • Direct Communication. Listening to the relationship between coach’s intonation, phrasing, inflection, and those of the client gave me a sense of how succinctly and directly the coach was communicating.

When I debriefed my observations with the Assessor-Trainee, I learned that my observations and impressions matched the experience of the coach and client/assessor to a remarkable degree, even to being able to identify that points in the session at which certain competencies were demonstrated or appeared to be lacking.
My experience observing the session conducted in Swedish is consistent with my experience administering or observing dozens of exams in English, most of them with a fellow assessor. The degree to which my observations and assessments correlate with those of various other assessors further iindicates that coaching can be observed and evaluated with a high degree of certainty.
How do you ensure that you are hiring a coach with proven expertise? One way is to ask what credential the coach has earned. ICF awards three levels of professional credentials:
Associate Certified Coach (ACC)®
60 coach training hours
100 hours documented coaching experience.

Professional Certified Coach (PCC)®

125 coach training hours
750 hours documented coaching experience
Master Certified Coach (MCC)®
200 coach training hours
2500 hours documented coaching experience
PCCs and MCCs must renew their credentials every three years by documenting participation in a minimum of 40 hours of Continuing Coach Education (CCE) over the three-year period since initial certification or last renewal.
Coaching is very much “for real,” and I encourage you to include an ICF credential in your criteria when hiring a coach.