CoachingExcellence

January 1, 2017
Dear Coach,

Welcome to my Blog. Here you'll find essays I've written about coaching. Some of the questions I'm exploring are (1) What makes coaching work? (2) What helps coaches do their work well? (3) How do coaches continue to be masters of their profession? and (4) What the heck are those ICF coaching competencies, anyway?

My passion is helping coaches to be their best, so they can bring the best of coaching to their clients.

There's something here for all coaches, at all levels of experience. I’ll bet you'll learn something new, find a new perspective to consider, or just encounter a new way to say what you already know from experience. It’s all good, and (probably) good for you, too! .
You're welcome to browse - I'm sure you'll find something that resonates with your experience. You can also search on Categories and Tags for specific topics.

If you find something that you enjoy, please share with your colleagues and friends, and copy the link so you can find it again. Leave a comment if you’d like. You just might spur a new essay about something I’ve learned from you!

It's my privilege to offer my thoughts on coaching.. Enjoy your reading!

Sue McLeod, PCC

The Big Question: Am I coaching or doing something else?

We all bring more than just coaching skills to our coaching conversations
 
Sally and Joan (not their real names) joined the PCC master class for a deeper dive into their coaching skills and competencies. After the usual logistics and introductions we jumped right into a conversation about the ICF Code of Ethics. It didn’t take too long for their big question to surface.  “I’m worried that someone will find out that my‘real’ coaching isn’t really coaching. I do coaching and I add in other things, based on my expertise and knowledge about the areas the client want to work on.  Am I really coaching or is this something else?”
We created the terms “pure coaching” and “hybrid coaching” to hold the distinction.  I was struck by the level of worry these coaches had that what they called “hybrid coaching” wasn’t acceptable.  I was concerned that their worry affected their coaching. Could they be as confident and bold in serving their clients if this was in the backs of their minds?
 
 
I was sure that alleviating that worry would help these coaches be the best they could be. Since I’m committed to coaching excellence, I also wanted to understand this question better. Were they really coaching, or did something need to change for their coaching to be aligned with the coaching competencies?
 
With our distinction between “pure” and “hybrid” coaching in hand, we focused in to understand this big questions, and to find ways to address their concerns.
 
What were they doing in their coaching sessions that was concerning to them?
    
They were using their expertise to frame their questions, provide new perspectives, and explicitly share information that was new to the client.
 
How were they doing this?
    
Sometimes they asked permission - “Can I share something that might be useful?” and sometimes they assumed permission because the client had hired them for that expertise. They offered what they knew, without insisting that the client believe it or use it.
 
 
Why were they doing this?
Because it fit, in the moment, with what the client was working on. Because they believed that it would serve the client at that time.
 
 
What would you say? Is this coaching, or something else?
 
As we worked through the competencies, we came to the following conclusions:
 
When offering your expertise to the client, it’s important to maintain your focus on serving the client and the client’s agenda. This expectation is woven into all of the PCC level coaching competencies. 
 
This means that what you share should be pertinent to the topic at hand. It also means that it’s presented in a way that serves the client’s continued growth, development, and ability to become self-sustaining.  My students talked about offering another perspective, not the “answer”. Even when teaching the client something new, they hold it as “just another perspective”. Allowing the client to choose what to do with the information reinforced their trust in the client - the she is able to integrate new information and make choices that serve her best.
 
There’s  also an Ethical question that arises. Is it “ethical” - that is, aligned with the ICF Code of Ethics and Professional Practices - to coach using our expertise and knowledge in this way?
 
As we read the Code of Ethics, we saw no prohibition on bringing what we know to the coaching. In fact, we noted that we train in different domains of coaching (leadership coaching, relationship coaching, etc.) and engage our client in these specialized coaching services. Of course, our clients would expect us to have perspectives on leadership if they’ve hired us to be leadership coaches!
 
What we saw is that ICF asks us to stay true to the following tenets:
  • Honor our agreements with our clients
  • Do not misrepresent our services or qualifications
 
What is your agreement with the client? What services are they expecting you to provide? 
The agreement should clearly state that you are providing specialized coaching and clarify what that means. Clients should expect that you will bring in your expertise and know how you will use that expertise in the coaching engagement.
 
Are you qualified to provide that expertise or perspective?
Think about your qualifications for sharing your knowledge with your client, including formal training, education, research, and real-life experience. If your client wanted only that expertise, would you be a qualified candidate to provide them? If you can say “yes” to that (and others would agree), offering that experience to your clients would be appropriate.  
 
In the End…
 
After looking at this big question through the lens of the coaching competencies, the students completed the class with less worry. They could see how they were coaching and using their expertise to serve their clients. That was a success in itself!  
 
They also committed to reviewing their agreements with their clients to make sure they were representing themselves and their coaching appropriately.  And, they made a longer-term commitment to pay attention to their motivations for sharing their expertise during coaching sessions, so that they were staying aligned with serving their clients in the moment.
 
As the instructor, I was impressed by the honesty and vulnerability that these coaches brought to their work in the class. Without that, we wouldn’t have learned as much as we did, and the impact on their coaching wouldn’t have been as great.
 
What’s your Big Question about your own coaching?
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On Listening


I had come to believe that the act of being listened to was far more important than being in the documentary itself and could be transformative in people’s lives, because no one had actually ever listened to them. 
David Isay on why he moved from making documentaries to StoryCorps.
 
When I travel, I load up my IPad with podcasts from my favorite radio shows. I can listen while I knit or crochet, so it feeds my need to be doing something meaningful with my hands and my head.
 
This morning, I sat down with my crocheted scarf project and an episode of On Being that all coaches should find interesting. It’s an interview with David Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, and the topic is “The Everyday Art of Listening”.  
 

I was intrigued to find that this interviewer holds listening as a way to transform people’s lives and the conversations they have with each other.  So much of what he shared is aligned with how coaches listen and why we listen, and affirms the transformation that we bring to our client’s by the gift of our listening and by bearing witness to their stories.
 
He also shares how he finds intense listening to be challenging and hard work, and something that he can’t do all the time and with all the people in their lives.  This, too, should be familiar to coaches - it certainly is for me!
 
I encourage you to find a quiet moment to listen to this extraordinary interview.
 
http://www.onbeing.org - April 17 episode.
 

 

StoryCorps is a project that collects the stories of everyday people in audio recordings, which are stored in the Library of Congress.  http://storycorps.org
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A Season of Renewal for Your Coaching

It’s been a long winter!


Here in Maine, we’ve been shoveling snow and dealing with below freezing temps since December. I know from my friends along the East Coast and in the Midwest that it’s been a tough all over. Never ending snow, ice, cold, and cancellations. It’s hard to believe that spring is on it’s way!

One of the delights of my winter has been the PCC Master Class. There are three sessions in progress, each with just a few participants. I’ve been delighted by the level of commitment the students have shown to the process. They are willing to focus in on a specific competency and wrestle with what it means, what they are doing well, and where they need to improve. They share their coaching stories including their struggles and uncertainties - the moments that they’re not so proud of in their coaching. They learn from each other’s experiences and questions. And they design their own assignments to observe themselves more closely, and try new coaching moves.

I’ve witnessed each student grounding her knowledge, increasing her confidence, and deepening her awareness of what it means to be a masterful coach.

And, now, spring is coming. The birds are returning to the Maine landscape. The ice on the rivers is breaking up and flowing out to sea. The snow is melting, revealing the ground from which our summer grass and flowers will emerge.

It’s the perfect season to spruce up your coaching.

 

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Who Needs a Mentor Coach?

Mentor Coaching is a new requirement for some of the ICF credentials. But, who is required to have mentor coaching to fulfill the requirements?


To quickly answer that question, I've put together a handy guide in table form.  Find your current credential level in the first column, then find your next credential level in the top row. Find where they intersect and you'll find the mentor coaching requirement!  Simple!

ICF Requirements for Mentor Coaching
Information accurate as of Sept. 30 2013
 
Mentor Coach must hold credential at or above your certification level
 
Graduates from Accredited Coach Training Programs (ACTP)
 
 
Current Credential
Next Credential
ACC
PCC
MCC
None
name the mentor coach from your training program
none
none
ACC
10 hours
none
none
PCC
 
none
none
MCC
 
 
none
 
 
Portfolio Candidates (those who have not completed an Accredited Coach Training Program)
 
 
Current Credential
Next Credential
ACC
PCC
MCC
None
10 hours
10 hours
10 hours
ACC
10 hours
10 hours
10 hours
PCC
 
none
10 hours
MCC
 
 
none

The light blue boxes show the requirements for renewing your current certification level.

Does this make it clearer????  If you have questions, please leave a comment and I'll answer them as best I can.

And, I recommend that you bookmark the page on the ICF website that has the requirements for your next credential and check it periodically. Download the sample application to see exactly what information you're required to provide.

Requirements have changed and are expected to change again in Spring 2014.

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The road to mastery (or at least, to being more masterful than I am right now!)

What does it take to continue towards mastery?

I finished my coach training over 12 years ago. I've been a PCC for 10 years and since then have given feedback and support to many coaching students. And, of course, I've coached a lot too. A good training program, and lots of on-the-job training - and you'd think I could consider myself a master at my trade.

However, I've found that just doing the work of a coach, without close examination of what I'm doing and why, without upgrading my understanding of what good coaching should be, without honest feedback and support, doesn't really lead to mastery. It leads to experience, yes. But without that edge of continual improvement, deepening awareness, and the struggle inherent in moving beyond my limitations to new levels of performance, that experience doesn't always lead to better coaching.

So, I've gone back to basics and created a program I call PCC Master Class (now the Coaching Master Class). I offer it for others to participate in - and I've enrolled myself as well. So I'm not the all-knowing instructor, but a peer on the same journey of discovery and challenge.

The Coaching Master Class is based on an assumption that we've had a good foundation in what great coaching can be, and we have enough tools to use in our coaching conversations. So it's not about learning to coach.

The ICF Coaching Competencies give us a road map for both the "being" and "doing" of a coach. The PCC Master Class takes us into those competencies for the PCC level, and asks us to reexamine our understanding and use of them with our clients.

There's class discussion and then field work - which can include research and writing, observing a coaching demonstration, or examining your own coaching. We learn together, asking the questions that are on our minds now, using our collective experience and wisdom to seek the answers.

Class 1 was about Ethics and Professional Standards. I came away from that class is a deeper understanding of the underpinnings of our Code of Ethics, and a better way to evaluate those situations that just don't feel quite right so see what action is the best to take.

I'm excited to see what will develop as we dig deeper into each of the competencies in this journey to mastery.

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