Understand this competency and how it’s assessed – with tips & recommended skills
Beautiful natural coach, my InnerLifeSkills team, and I are here to support your growth from natural coach to go-to master coach, making a living, making a difference.
So let’s wrap our minds around ICF competencies focusing on #1 Ethical Practice.
Oh, my word, it took me years to get all the acronyms right, and I still would challenge anyone to say some of the ICF acronyms like ACTP, ACSTH and CCE several times fast.
They’re real tongue twisters.
As promised, I want to show you some skills and methods that make a massive difference across all competencies. Starting with a foundation demonstrates ethical practice.
As a reminder, on my infographics, you’ll see that I have two little icons.
- The little check mark means these are implied competencies. You’ll not likely be able to prove the competency with evidence in a coaching session because these happen before a session, right? They’re part of your mindset, part of your role; they’re part of your growth and development as a coach.
- The recycle symbol means these should be demonstrated in a session. So we’re gonna be emphasizing these.
What’s in this guide (Across 9 articles):
- The 5 Guiding principles used to assess your coaching
- ICF Core Competency 1 Demonstrates Ethical Practice
- ICF Core Competency 2 Embodies a Coaching Mindset
- ICF Core Competency 3 Establishes and Maintains Agreements
- ICF Core Competency 4 Cultivates Trust and Safety
- ICF Core Competency 5 Maintains Presence
- ICF Core Competency 6 Listens Actively
- ICF Core Competency 7 Evokes Awareness
- ICF Core Competency 8 Facilitates Client Growth
What’s the definition of Demonstrates Ethical Practice?
The definition is “Understands and consistently applies coaching ethics and standards of coaching.” ICF International Coaching Federation
- Demonstrates personal integrity and honesty in interactions with clients, sponsors and relevant stakeholders.
- Is sensitive to clients’ identity, environment, experiences, values and beliefs.
- Uses language appropriate and respectful to clients, sponsors and relevant stakeholders.
- Abides by the ICF Code of Ethics and upholds the Core Values.
- Maintains confidentiality with client information per stakeholder agreements and pertinent laws.
- Maintains the distinctions between coaching, consulting, psychotherapy and other support professions.
- Refers clients to other support professionals, as appropriate.
The ICF lays down their high standards of ethics, asking us to demonstrate integrity and honesty in our interactions with client sponsors and relevant stakeholders.
- Are we being sensitive to the client’s identity, environment, experiences, values and beliefs?
- Are we using appropriate and respectful language to client sponsors and the relevant stakeholders?
- Do we abide by the ICF code of ethics and uphold its core values?
- Do we maintain confidentiality with clients with regard to our client’s information in reference to stakeholder agreements and pertinent laws?
So you can see the context here.
Coaching has matured over the years, and because of the explosion in the coaching industry where sometimes we think everyone and their uncles, auntie’s cousin, is becoming a coach, right?
Therefore, you naturally get the good, bad, and ugly versions of coaching. So you are here reading this because you’re interested in high levels of coaching competency, and the ICF has put in much work over the years to create these competencies.
This first part of the foundation of competencies is there to weed out unethical practices, to draw a line in the sand that says professional coaches honour and respect all these things.
Now, if you’re focused on being of service, if integrity and honesty and respect are all part of who you are, then this competency is super easy, so tick it off and move on.
The one definition worth emphasizing here is “Maintains the distinctions between coaching, consulting, psychotherapy and other support professions.”
This is why I’ve emphasized it, and I’ll go into some detail in a moment.
And then the last qualifier of “Demonstrates Ethical Practice” is “Refers clients to other support professionals, as appropriate.”
Again, this is implied. You’re not going to submit a recording of you coaching someone you couldn’t coach because they needed to be referred to another professional service.
Let’s circle back to point 6.
“Maintains the distinctions between coaching, consulting, psychotherapy and other support professions.”
Here are the things that need to be in place to support this distinction.
You need to understand the role of a coach. And this is the distinction, right? That a coach is not a teacher, mentor, consultant or therapist.
Coaching skills fully strengthen professions that lean heavily into communication, and often our skills as mentors and leaders and teachers become enhanced through learning to coach.
More than 80% of my InnerLifeSkills graduates are what I call blended coaches.
They’ve learned the art and science of coaching, but they mix it with their roles as managers, counsellors and consultants.
But of course, to master the ICF competencies and prove them, we need to show that we can coach in a pure way and that we know the difference.
Here is the key distinguisher: Coaches don’t give advice. A little hint of it here or there is probably allowable. Still, you’re safer, especially in assessments, proving that you can facilitate a full coaching session and empower and facilitate growth without telling someone what to do.
And even when you give feedback, it’s not positioned as a fact. There needs to be an overall tone of asking permission and inviting and inquiring instead of telling.
Here’s my two-minute, quick, easy way to explain and understand the difference between coaching and other roles.
The client is walking up a mountain.
The mentor (trainer, teacher) stands on the top of the mountain, saying to the client: “I have found a way. I can give you advice to show you a way.”
The counsellor (therapist, psychologist) sits at base camp and asks the client, “What way have you walked?” The counsellor is looking more at the past, helping the client heal traumas from their journey.
And yes, of course, there are overlapping roles here.
The coach walks with the client up the mountain, asking, “What way do you want to walk? Why?” And helping the client to find those inner resources.
In InnerLifeSkills coaching, we’ve worked hard to ensure that our methodology also helps you build wisdom wells for your client along the way so that they can overcome their inner obstacles and access their inner wealth. It’s something that we specialize in.
So if you’re clear on the difference between the counsellor role, mentor trainer role and coach role, you can give a thumbs up and move to the next competency.
Finally, to ensure that you’ve got this competency in the bag, check out the code of ethics https://coachingfederation.org/ethics/code-of-ethics that the ICF list on their website and make sure that you feel resonant with them. If you feel “ Yeah, I can line up with this kind of ethical integrity,” then thumbs up.
Here are a few reasons you might miss vital opportunities because you’re:
- Too focused on the process (beginner coaches suffer from this).
- Too mechanical (if you haven’t learned flexible skills).
- Not listening deeply enough (if you’re listening to your thoughts or aren’t engaged).
- Don’t feel fully equipped to meet that opportunity (lack training).
These can count against you and lower your overall skillset as a coach. Once you’ve heard about an opportunity and spotted it, it’s about how you respond.
And an opportunity could be something the client has said or not said or the way they’ve said it.