Note: This article was first published in February 2015, updated December 2017, July 2019, and since then to reflect most 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 client or peer who has other outcomes you can work on in the sessions, that don’t involve mentioning they are a coach, then that may be okay.
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 potential clients instead of accepting whoever wants to take up your offer. Ensure they have some specific goals or outcomes to work with them on. Make sure you choose clients that are somewhat reflective about themselves 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 for my mentoring and ICF credentialing purposes.” Then start coaching. This lets the Assessors know the client is aware of being recorded. Then move on to being fully 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 positively impacts 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 30-55 minute coaching sessions*** The ICF allows you to submit 20-60 minute coaching sessions (and not a minute more). I recommend 30-45 minutes as any less than 30 minutes may mean that you aren’t demonstrating all the competencies. It can be challenging for most coaches to stay fully in a coaching model for 50 or 60 minutes, and may instead move in to mentoring, teaching or advising. However, you can go to 55 minutes – be conscious to stay fully in coaching mindset.
***NOTE: Let your client know you will aim for 35-45 minutes, but ask them to allow up to 55 minutes for each coaching session. This means you can close the coaching session when it feels like the coaching is complete, rather than stopping when there might be some great awareness unfolding for the client. 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. A rigid time stop can be detrimental. 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 client, 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.
For MCC, you can also review the “Key Skills Evaluated” by Core Competency in the MCC Minimum Skills Requirements document available on the ICF website (Credentialing tab)
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. Also, you’ll hear ‘small words and sounds’ you make such as Hmmm. Ahhh. Okay. Right. Too many of these, too often, can interfere with the space and silence for the client, and be an interruption. In our mentoring programs, we require participants to fill in a core competency worksheet on their coaching sessions so they learn to listen for and identify their coaching skills, and any habits they might not be aware of in their speech patterns.
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 similar App 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
Another Tip! Ensure you are coaching in a quiet environment, so not a cafe that has music playing or a lot of people talking (or coffee machines, etc). Or people moving around in the background. Or dogs constantly barking. Really pay attention to background noises. All of these can be picked up when recording and are louder than you think. This can interfere with the ability to clearly hear you coaching, and might not be suitable recordings to submit.
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.
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, 2019 then you have until March 1, 2020 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.
9. Give yourself at least 6 months and possibly 9 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, perhaps up to 9 months. And generally less for PCC and ACC preparation. MCC (and mastery) coaching skills are not generally taught in most coach training schools, which focus more on beginner (ACC) and intermediate (PCC) 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.
10. Be a great 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. Your 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.
Written by Carly Anderson
I offer a rich, experiential mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants. Here’s where you’ll find more about The Mentor Coaching Group