Note: This article was first published in February 2015, and has been updated to reflect current information.
A critical part of the ICF credentialing process is to submit coaching session recordings when you apply for your MCC, PCC or ACC credential. This is called a Performance Evaluation by the ICF.
Here are my top ten tips for putting yourself in the best position to have your coaching session recordings pass.
1. Choose a non-coach client. Even though the ICF allows you to have a coach as your client if they are clearly an ongoing client, I recommend that you almost* never submit such a session. This is because coaches are trained in the skills you are seeking to demonstrate, and will often be overly helpful, or overly coach themselves. This doesn’t allow you to showcase the full range of your coaching skills, and may result in an overall lower score since the Assessors are not able to clearly determine your coaching abilities.
*However, if you have a coaching colleague who has other outcomes you can work on in the sessions, that don’t involve mentioning their coaching business or their coach development, then that may be okay. They may still identify somewhat as a coach, yet it’s clear you are coaching them, versus mentoring them.
If you don’t want to record regular clients, then inquire into your personal or professional networks. Offer 3-6 coaching sessions at low or no fee, in return for recording sessions. Interview clients instead of accepting whoever wants to take up your offer. Ensure they have some goals or outcomes that you want to work with them on. Make sure you choose clients that are somewhat reflective versus verbal processors who talk all the time.
Additional Tip: You don’t need to start your recordings by doing a lot of set up such as, “I’m recording. I will keep confidential all your information, etc. Instead, just say, “Thank you for allowing me to record our coaching session.” Then start coaching. This lets the Assessors know the client is aware of being recorded. Then move on to being present in the coaching session.
2. Have a Coaching Plan. In my last blog article, I wrote about the importance of having a Coaching Plan with your client. Even if you work with a pro-bono client for the purpose of recording coaching sessions for your credential process, make sure you establish what their goals or outcomes are for coaching with you. This allows you to refer to their goals, and ask questions related to their bigger goals during the session. Coaching around a pre-established plan affects many competencies including Planning & Goal Setting.
3. Rarely to never submit a first session with a client. When you start coaching a client, you are learning about each other and the coaching process. Especially to demonstrate MCC skill level, you need to have deep rapport with your client and a first session is where you are only beginning to build rapport. Submitting a first session may affect other competencies including Coaching Presence and Establishing Trust & Intimacy. In the Individual Mentoring portion of our MCG program, we do not accept a first coaching session to review, unless you want to use it as a learning opportunity. There are always exceptions, however better not to count on a once-off or first session for your ICF credential application.
4. Aim for 30-40 minute coaching sessions*** Even though the ICF allows you to submit 20-60 minute coaching sessions, I recommend 30-40 minutes as any less than 30 minutes may mean that you aren’t demonstrating all the competencies and longer than that presents other challenges. In my experience as an ICF Assessor and Mentor Coach, it’s challenging for most coaches to stay fully in a coaching model for 50 or 60 minutes, and instead may bring in mentoring, teaching or advising.
This is a coaching exam so you need to demonstrate coaching. If you are accustomed to doing 60 minute coaching sessions, the discipline of moving to 30-40 minute sessions (for this process) can serve to heighten your skills in Listening, Powerful Questioning and Direct Communications. It can help keep you connected with the Coaching Agreement so the session stays on track instead of wandering around as a nice conversation for 60 minutes.
***NOTE: If you try recording 30-40 minute sessions and you find it’s not long enough for you, then do go to 40-50 minutes. Or even 50-60 minutes. Tell your client you are aiming for 40 minute sessions, but may go 5-10 minutes longer, depending on where there feels like a natural ending to the coaching, instead of forcing an ending because of time constraint. Same with 50-60 minute sessions. Say you’re aiming for 50 minutes, but may go 5-10 minutes longer if it feels more time is needed. This is especially important for MCC skill level, as you want to stay connected and present with your client from the very first breath in the session, to the last breath in the session. So if a longer session supports you be your best, then go that route.
5. The two most crucial competencies to master. In my model of the ICF core competencies called, The Target Approach, the core competency of Coaching Presence is at the center of the target. Your presence is what determines what you believe your role is as a coach, how you listen to your clients, what you believe is important to ask, or what you never ask about. As you progress from ACC to PCC to MCC, you need to be more attentive to the “Who” of the client than the “What” that they bring. The “Who” is their beliefs, values, ways of thinking, feeling, processing, etc. We coaches need to engage with our own “Who” and understand how our [Coaching] Presence determines our level of coaching effectiveness.
Similarly, we need to master the core competency of Establishing the Coaching Agreement, which I term a “structural” competency in The Target Approach. You need to know how to structure the coaching session agreement for each coaching session, and demonstrate that you are following the client’s agenda throughout the session. If you are applying for the MCC credential, there is an even higher level of skill required to be demonstrated with this critical competency.
6. Seek out a Qualified Mentor Coach. Invest in a mentor coach, someone who studies and understands the ICF Core Competencies at a deep level. You can engage in group and/or individual mentoring settings. By engaging with mentoring early, you avoid cramming because you can integrate feedback in to the next coaching sessions that you record and continue to develop your skills to the level of the credential you are seeking.
Most coaches start thinking about their mentoring requirements around August for the end of the year their credential is up for renewal when they should be starting in January because August is when you should be applying for your next credential, to ensure your credential doesn’t lapse.
The ICF gives you 2 months grace period, so if your credential renewal is December 31, 2018 then you have until March 1, 2019 to renew your credential, without your credential lapsing. This is important if you are an ICF Mentor Coach; if you mentor someone and your credential has lapsed (because you are applying for your next credential), the ICF will reject mentor coaching hours for your Mentee from when your current credential lapsed.
NOTE: If instead of renewing your current credential, you plan to apply for your next credential (i.e. now ACC, applying for PCC, or now PCC applying for MCC), the ICF process may take up to 18 weeks. So start early in the year of your renewal with your mentoring or development process, so you are ready to submit by August or September.
7. Record, Record, Record! When I’m assessing coaching recordings for the ICF, it’s often obvious this is the only (one or two sessions) the coach has ever recorded. You need to record many sessions and choose the best one or two for your submission, as not every coaching session will allow you to showcase your full coaching skills.
You will likely be nervous or self-conscious at being recorded, which affects your Coaching Presence and coaching skills in general. So record several/many sessions, then listen to your recordings, and/or review them with a qualified mentor coach against the ICF Core Competencies. As a mentor coach, I also use the PCC Markers and the Competencies Comparison Table (the PCC Markers are great, even for distinguishing ACC and MCC skill level differences).
You will learn a lot by listening to your own coaching, including how you sound in terms of tone, pitch and volume changes over the course of a session. In our mentoring programs, we require our participants to fill in a core competency worksheet on their coaching sessions so they learn to listen for and identify their coaching skills.
Additional Tip: The ICF requires an mp3 or WMA file format. You can record in-person sessions using the Voice Memo feature on an iPhone, or likely similar with Android and other phones. You can record audio only if you use Skype with a program such as Amolto Call Recorder. Or you can record on a teleconference line such as Zoom or Free Conference Call
8. Study and Prepare! Many coaches believe that because they have 750 or 1000 or 3000 hours of coaching that they are demonstrating great coaching skills. Sadly, that is not often the case because most coaches haven’t had a qualified mentor coach listen to their coaching and give competency based feedback since they completed their coach training. Many coaches may be getting great results with their clients, but that doesn’t mean those results are because of their great coaching. It could be that they are doing more training, mentoring, teaching, influencing and consulting than coaching. And we all get into ‘bad’ habits if we don’t regularly review our own coaching skills.
9. Give yourself at least 6 months to prepare your application. Many coaches expect that all they need to do is fill in the paperwork, record a couple of coaching sessions and submit their application and they will be awarded a credential. Make sure you give yourself time to study and prepare, and to record many coaching sessions.
If you are applying for your MCC credential, my experience is that 6 months is the minimum amount of time to engage with a qualified mentor coach for MCC preparation, and generally less for PCC and ACC preparation. Coaching skills and especially Coaching Presence need to be revisited in the context of MCC skill level.
Many coaches applying for their MCC have not had their coaching reviewed by a qualified mentor coach, maybe since they took their coach training years earlier. This is a big reason why many coaches fail their MCC the first time; they haven’t checked where their coaching skills are now, and compared to the standards for MCC skill level. There are not many MCC skill level coach training programs offered, which means you need to study the ICF information, including the Competencies Comparison Table
10. Be a Learner. Decide that you are going to use the credentialing process for your personal and professional development. We coaches ask our clients to be Learners and reveal themselves to us. We can be great role models and demonstrate being congruent as coaches by also being Learners. The bonus is that at the end of a mentoring process, you will have an ICF credential, AND improve your coaching to a new level. You clients will notice, and report higher satisfaction with your coaching, and even better results. Another benefit is when you have also experienced transformation within yourself that has your clients wanting to hire you more often.
Are you preparing for your first or next ICF Credential?
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NOTE: Two new Mentor Coaching Group Programs are scheduled to commence February 2018, on a first come, first reserved basis. Maximum of 6-10 participants per group. One is ACC-PCC skill group, the other is MCC skill group.
Start early with your mentoring requirements in the year of your renewal, especially if you plan to submit for your next credential instead of renew your current one. You will need to submit your application by mid August in order to accommodate the 18 week ICF process.
The Mentor Coaching Group program is approved for 24 ICF Core Competency CCE units! (which includes 10 hours of mentor coaching)
We offer an awesome mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants. You can read some testimonials here
We have been trained by the ICF to assess using the new PCC Markers. Carly also assesses for the ICF MCC and ACC credential.
One of our unique offerings is an extensive library of MCC, PCC and ACC coaching sessions for our participants to listen to, evaluate, debrief, and learn from, along with The Target Approach to demystifying the ICF core competencies. These are incredibly valuable learning tools, and will accelerate your understanding of competency distinctions.
Carly has created products to more deeply understand Establishing the Coaching Agreement and Ten Characteristics of MCC Skill Level.
Here’s where you’ll find more about The Mentor Coaching Group