As we have been planning programming for 2021, it’s caused us to reflect upon our overarching philosophy and approach to coach development and maturity—which underpins and positions how and why these programmes have been created. Understanding our underlying philosophy will help you get to know us and how we work a little better and why we’ve structured our programmes the way we do.

Our philosophy of Coach Maturity

As you may know, a coach needs to have at least 125-hours of coach-specific training to be eligible to apply for an International Coaching Federation (ICF) Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential. Some coach training programmes offer this all at once, so that the full training element is completed at the beginning of the learning journey. Most often, graduates from those programmes then go onto apply for their Associated Certified Coach (ACC) credential first (having logged at least 100 hours of client work) and then they wait until they reach 500 hours of client work needed to obtain their PCC.

Whilst this is a perfectly valid approach, Hilary and I hold a different philosophy and approach to coach training and development. Personally, we feel that there are two potential drawbacks to this “all training at the beginning” approach. One is that, whilst some coaches begin to coach very actively and are able to comfortably build up to the 500 hours of logged client work needed for a PCC application, for most coaches, this can take several years. When mentoring these coaches, we notice that in many cases their skills have become “rusty” and they have perhaps also developed some bad habits. It can even be the case that their ability to evidence the competencies at the PCC level has decreased since their original training due to the length of time that has passed. In those cases, we can find ourselves needing to work more in a teaching capacity than a mentoring one, to help bring the person’s skills back to the level needed for a PCC level assessment.

The other potential drawback to this approach is in the fact that, learning to be the best coach we can be can take time. In fact, are we ever the “best”? Coaching is not a binary skill that we learn and that’s it, we’ve got it. Coaching is a nuanced, subtle skill that develops and grows as we develop and grow ourselves, both as practitioners and as human beings. In Becoming a Coach: The Essential ICF Guide, Jonathan Passmore and I talk about the journey toward Coach Maturity which reinforces this concept of development over time. When mentoring coaches, Hilary and I have found that even though they have completed a full PCC level training at the beginning of their journey, they have not had the time for their practice, their skills and their knowledge to “mature” to the PCC level. We believe that the thresholds ICF has stated of 100+ hours of client work needed for ACC level, and 500+ hours needed for PCC level, are there for a reason. We believe that these thresholds are a marker for when it is perceived a coach is likely to be ready to transition to that next level based upon the experience and development they would have gained whilst building those hours. When we are mentoring coaches who have completed all of their coach-specific training up to PCC level in one single programme, we often notice that even though the training has been delivered to that level, their skill is not yet at that level. They may have the intellectual knowledge and information; however, they have simply not yet had enough experience. Of course, this is not always the case, and some people are either quick learners or natural born coaches. However, we notice this pattern of “knowledge, but not ready” often enough for it be something that has informed our approach to coach training.

How our programmes reflect our philosophy

We hold a “just in time” philosophy to embrace the concept of Coach Maturity and development over time. We prefer to offer our coach training in two stages. Level 1 takes the student coach initially to an ACC level of skill and coaching practice. This is offered through our Science and Art of Coaching programme. Once the coach has completed their subsequent Mentor Coaching, as required by ICF, they can apply for their ACC Credential. At that point, we encourage them to go out and coach, coach, coach! We invite them to get as much practice as possible with a wide variety of different clients, topics, contexts etc. In this way, they can immediately put their skills into practice, develop further and gain traction on their pathway towards maturity.

A little later on, when they have more experience and client work “under their belt”, we then encourage them to think about their next stage of development as far as a credential is concerned. The ACC credential lasts for three years before renewal is required, during which time the coach is going to be completing some relevant and useful continuing professional development activities anyway, towards that renewal process. All of this contributes to their development and “readiness” to take that next big step. We tend to recommend that coaches think about what we call the Level 2 training once they have logged around 350-400 hours of client work. In this way, completion of that more advanced, PCC level training is well timed to support them in their preparation for a PCC application. Staging and phasing coach-specific training is not only an opportunity to adopt a “just in time” approach with training being completed at the optimal point of readiness and development, it is also an opportunity for coaches to stagger the funds needed to pay for such training over a longer period of time. Doing Level 1 first, can enable the coach to go out and set up and build their coaching practice, so that they can secure a return on their investment on their initial training and then build the funds to pay for that next level when they are ready. Now that our Level 1 programme is well established, we are very excited this year to launch our Level 2 training with our Art and Alchemy programme.

Our philosophy of Mentor Coaching

The other area I’d like to explore here is that of Mentor Coaching and, more specifically, becoming a Mentor Coach. To give you a bit of history, our Becoming a Mentor Coach training is a programme that we designed a few years ago as we both felt that it was important for Mentor Coaches to have proper training in order to be able to provide this important and valuable service to other coaches seeking ICF Credentials. It is also an opportunity for experienced coaches to have an additional source of revenue and contribute to the development of others and the profession. However, we also remembered the days when it was possible for a coach who had just gained their ACC to simply write a letter of recommendation for a coach colleague and that would count towards that person’s application. Talk about being just one page ahead in the book! Since then, a lot more measures have been put in place to promote the quality and integrity of this process.

However, it is still a fact that being an experienced coach does not necessarily make someone a good Mentor Coach. They are different skills, and we wanted to create a programme that really helped provide a deep understanding of the competencies and their demonstration at various levels of development, along with an in-depth knowledge of the ICF credentialing and assessment system. We were also prompted by a few too many stories that we heard from coaches about some of their experiences with mentors. Hence, we created a programme! We are really happy to say that everyone who has completed this programme with us has found it to be really useful and has said that it has not only very well prepared them to offer great Mentor Coaching services to others, it also significantly informed and deepened their own coaching practice – along with the benefit of plenty of CCEs towards credential renewals and CPD etc. What’s not to like?

Given that this level of training for mentor coaches is not yet a requirement, it has always been a programme that is harder to generate interest in, as it’s not a “have to”. In fact, last year we didn’t run it at all and were even wondering whether or not we were too far ahead of the curve for it to be feasible and should we focus our energies elsewhere. Then, all of a sudden, sparks of interest started popping up, from all over the world and, lo and behold, we have our largest group ever starting in April! So, we are now getting very excited about this relaunch with our truly international cohort in April with a programme that is grounded in solid principles as well as being fresh and up to date with the latest ICF Competencies as the backbone of the curriculum.

“… if seeking to offer our students and coaching colleagues and community the very best training, development and service we possibly can is “excessively rigorous”, then we will wear that badge with pride.”

There are many ways to approach coaching and coaching maturity, and this hopefully tells you a little about ours. Some years ago, someone said that we were “excessively rigorous” because of the standards that we introduce and maintain in the work that we do. Well, if seeking to offer our students and coaching colleagues and community the very best training, development and service we possibly can is “excessively rigorous”, then we will wear that badge with pride. Our mission is to support the development of not just good, but great coaches who will go out into the world and add incredible value to others with their skills. In this way, we make our small contribution to this wonderful profession and the world we live in.

See a listing of all our upcoming programmes here.

Tracy Sinclair, MCC

Tracy Sinclair is a multi-award-winning Master Certified Coach (MCC) with the International Coaching Federation (ICF). She is also a trained Coaching Supervisor, Mentor Coach and ICF Assessor. Tracy trains coaches and works with managers and leaders to develop their coaching capability. She works as an international Corporate Executive and Board Level Coach, a leadership development designer and facilitator working with a wide range of organisations. Tracy also specialises in working with organisations to support them develop coaching culture. Tracy has co-authored a book Becoming a Coach: The Essential ICF Guide published in 2020 which provides a comprehensive guide to coaching for coaches at all levels of skill and experience, the psychology that underpins coaching and the updated ICF Core Competency Model. In this same year she founded Coaching with Conscience which exists to have a positive impact on society and our environment through coaching. As part of this work, she collaborates closely with MIND, the UK’s leading mental health charity and the British Paralympic Association (BPA). She also offers pro bono personal development and coaching programmes to young leaders (18-25-yrs). Tracy was named as one of the Leading Global Coach winners of the Thinkers50 Marshall Goldsmith Awards of 2019 and was a finalist for the Thinkers50 Coaching and Mentoring Award in 2021. She won the ICF Impact Award for Distinguished Coach in 2023 and is a member of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches. She was the President of the UK ICF from 2013-2014 and was an ICF Global Board Director since 2016, serving as Treasurer in 2017, Global Chair in 2018 and Immediate Past Global Chair in 2019 and Vice Chair and Director at Large on the International Coaching Federation Global Enterprise Board in 2021.

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