The ICF Core Competencies were developed to support greater understanding about the skills and approaches used within today’s coaching profession as defined by the International Coach Federation.
The ICF Global Board has approved a revised competency model that will go into effect in early 2021. To learn more about the revised model, scroll down to the heading labeled “Updated ICF Competency Model: November 2019.”
These competencies and the ICF definition of coaching were used as the foundation for the ICF Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA). The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The Core Competencies are grouped into four clusters according to those that fit together logically based on common ways of looking at the competencies in each group. The groupings and individual competencies are not weighted—they do not represent any kind of priority in that they are all core or critical for any competent coach to demonstrate.
1. Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards—Understanding of coaching ethics and standards and ability to apply them appropriately in all coaching situations.
2. Establishing the Coaching Agreement—Ability to understand what is required in the specific coaching interaction and to come to agreement with the prospective and new client about the coaching process and relationship.
3. Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client—Ability to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust.
4. Coaching Presence—Ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.
5. Active Listening—Ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires, and to support client self-expression.
6. Powerful Questioning—Ability to ask questions that reveal the information needed for maximum benefit to the coaching relationship and the client.
7. Direct Communication—Ability to communicate effectively during coaching sessions, and to use language that has the greatest positive impact on the client.
8. Creating Awareness—Ability to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information and to make interpretations that help the client to gain awareness and thereby achieve agreed-upon results.
9. Designing Actions—Ability to create with the client opportunities for ongoing learning, during coaching and in work/life situations, and for taking new actions that will most effectively lead to agreed-upon coaching results.
10. Planning and Goal Setting—Ability to develop and maintain an effective coaching plan with the client.
11. Managing Progress and Accountability—Ability to hold attention on what is important for the client, and to leave responsibility with the client to take action.
The Core Competencies Comparison Table shows the varying levels of Core Competencies skill required for each credential. This was adapted from the minimum skills requirements document for each level of credentials. Download a PDF of the table below.
Download the Core Competencies comparison table in English.
Download the Core Competencies comparison table in French.
Download the Core Competencies comparison table in German.
Download the Core Competencies comparison table in Portuguese.
Download the Core Competencies comparison table in Spanish.
Since 1998, the ICF Core Competencies have provided a vital foundation for the coaching profession.
When we first created the Core Competencies and developed the ICF Code of Ethics, we set the standard in the coaching field. The ICF Core Competencies were first identified and articulated by eight pioneers in our profession, all of whom were committed to creating greater understanding about the knowledge and skills needed for effective coaching.
In any profession, it is best practice to perform a job analysis regularly to ensure a competency model remains a valid and accurate reflection of professional practice. ICF last conducted a job analysis in 2008, and our profession has since grown and evolved significantly.
Over the past 24 months, we’ve been engaged in rigorous job analysis research. From start to finish, more than 1,300 coaches—both ICF Members and non-members—from around the globe have participated in this process. These coaches represented a diverse range of coaching disciplines, training backgrounds, coaching styles, and experience and credentialing levels. No other coaching certification body has undertaken this level of research, and we’re incredibly proud of the quality, integrity and validity of our evidence-based approach to credentialing and to the value it brings to ICF credential holders.
While the empirical data we collected through the job analysis process validated that much of the original ICF Core Competency model remains relevant and reflected in current coaching practice, this new competency model offers a simpler, more streamlined structure and integrates consistent, clear language.
Definition: Understands and consistently applies coaching ethics and standards of coaching
Definition: Develops and maintains a mindset that is open, curious, flexible and client-centered
Definition: Partners with the client and relevant stakeholders to create clear agreements about the coaching relationship, process, plans and goals. Establishes agreements for the overall coaching engagement as well as those for each coaching session.
Definition: Partners with the client to create a safe, supportive environment that allows the client to share
freely. Maintains a relationship of mutual respect and trust.
Definition: Is fully conscious and present with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, grounded
Definition: Focuses on what the client is and is not saying to fully understand what is being communicated in the context of the client systems and to support client self-expression
Definition: Facilitates client insight and learning by using tools and techniques such as powerful questioning, silence, metaphor or analogy
Definition: Partners with the client to transform learning and insight into action. Promotes client autonomy in the coaching process.
ICF has already begun the work to translate this updated model into priority languages for our community. We will publish these translations here as they become available.
Ultimately, this updated model will serve as the basis for the ICF Credentialing process through the launch of a new credentialing assessment reflecting the revised competencies. We are targeting early 2021 for the launch of the new assessment.
On December 10, 2019, ICF staff hosted a pair of webinars regarding the revised competency model. Download slides and view the recordings below.