Helping you to understand the ICF 3 levels of coaching competencies ~ ICF ACC PCC MCC

I assume that you want to be confident in your skills and credible in the world of professional coaching?


I can’t imagine how terrible it would be to feel unsure about whether or not you are helping or hurting others; or how it might feel to not be able to confidently step into the market as a professional, knowing that you are credible because you are coaching according to international standards.

If you want to be confident in your skills as a coach, and to stand anywhere in the world with credibility, then it is critical for you to understand the International Coaching Federation (ICF) core competencies.

And if you are committed to your journey of making life-changing differences in the lives of those that you coach, then you should learn to master these core competencies.

Without understanding the ICF ACC PCC MCC core competencies, we can feel lost in the sea of confusing messages about what it takes to be an ethical, professional and life-changing coach.


ICF core competency based coaching

Yes it’s true, that the profession is not regulated, therefore anyone can call themselves a coach, without any legal consequences.

This is why there are so many people calling themselves coaches. Because you get “sports coaches”, and because coaching is often used as a synonym for mentoring and training, there is a lot of overlapping meaning.

So it’s up to you if you want to be credible, and earn your right to change lives, and if you want to attract lucrative work, then mastering the ICF core competencies is the only way to go.

ICF core competencies and the ICF code of ethics makes all the difference between amateur and professional coaching. Between poor coaching, average coaching and masterful life-changing coaching.

At the very least, gain these competencies. Then everything you add to your toolbox will just make you an even better coach and help to distinguish you in the market.

There are 3 established levels of skills, called ICF ACC PCC MCC Competencies.

They are ICF ACC, PCC and MCC (Associate, Professional and Master Certified Coach, respectively).

Here is a very quick outline of what each level of a professional coach can do.

I hope that this inspires you to strive to become a MCC level coach.

Master Coaches generally are paid the most, because their skills are much higher, they are more in demand, and there are much fewer Master Coaches around than ACC and PCC coaches.

With ILS you would learn all 3 levels of coaching.

ICF ACC PCC MCC quick and easy

What can an ACC Associate Level Coach do?

When you reach ACC level, you can coach the following core competencies confidently:

1. You can establish trust and rapport with a client.

A client is anyone from a loved one to a friend or individual in a group.

This means that you can easily connect to people so that they open up, and feel free to think creatively and to share with you.

2. Establish clear inspiring goals.

Helping people to gain clarity about what they really want in any area of their life, is extremely valuable. You will be able to help people to excavate their inspiring goals, and to define them very clearly so that they have a destination to strive for.

Create inspiring goal statements

3. You can help people to find their own best solutions and insights.

Even as an ACC coach, you will be able to ask powerful questions to help others to find their own best solutions.

The majority of the coaching session is spent on this. It is true, that to get deeper, more creative and intuitive groundbreaking solutions you would need PCC and MCC competencies, but ACC competencies will only get you so far.

4. Create action plans to move others forward towards their goal.

With your ACC skills, you will be able to help others to come up with their own best action plan and their next steps.

Planning and strategy are a valuable activity that you will be able to guide and facilitate, even at an ACC level.

Where you might lack skills, as an ACC coach, is how to help others to overcome their inner and outer obstacles to achieving their goals.


5. Help people to help themselves, to be accountable to their own journey.

The wonderful thing about coaching, even at the early levels of ACC competencies, is that you are helping people to help themselves. They are made accountable for their own journey.

You are not responsible for your client’s progress.

You are responsible to be the best coach you can be for them, but they are accountable for their own progress and actions.

Truly you don’t have to carry people.

This is one of the greatest benefits of learning just the ACC competencies. Because we learn to empower people to empower themselves. We need not carry their burdens. This is why managers and leaders love learning to coach. ACC competencies can help them to delegate more effectively and to empower the teams to be productive and proactive.

ILS Coach 101, our 3 week live online course helps you to gain basic ACC skills.


What can a PCC Associate Level Coach do?

As a PCC certified coach you would be able to deliver all of the ACC competencies above, plus:

1. You can motivate and inspire others.

With PCC competencies you will be able to motivate and inspire people. Not by giving them reasons for taking action, but by skilfully excavating their own best inspiring “why”— helping them to find their own reasons. At InnerLifeSkills we call this deepening the value.

Ask the question why in a coaching empowering way

2. Create engagement and interest.

The worst nightmare for anyone who wants to get others engaged in a conversation or meeting, is blank stares, folded arms and poor participation. When people pretend to be involved or flat out refuse to engage.

With your PCC skills, you will have many ways to stimulate authentic engagement. InnerLifeSkills would teach you techniques to easily create engagement.

We teach these skills to managers, to consultants, to school teachers and of course to all of the coaches that we train, from life coaches to business coaches, from youth coaches to executive coaches.

If you can’t create engagement and buy-in, you feel like you’re pushing water uphill when trying to get people to come up with solutions and participate in moving forward.

Creating engagement is relatively easy to do when you know how. And it’s impossibly difficult to do when you don’t know how. Your PCC competencies together with the InnerLifeSkills methods and techniques will help you to create engagement in minutes.

3. Excavate intuitive and creative thinking.

ACC coaching tends to be very surface, whereas PCC coaching which is far more skilful helps you to get people to think outside of the box. Instead of people just giving you the first answer that comes to mind, you will be able to help them to look deeper.

I call this helping people to walk around the mountain.

Imagine standing on the road at the side of the mountain; on the other side of the mountain a beautiful river is visible. If I asked if you could see the river, you’d tell me you couldn’t. But if you simply took a walk around the bend suddenly you’d see the river, and you’d find a path to the water.

When we ask people questions, they are standing on a mental point of view. Just like standing on the road at the side of the mountain. From their point of view they cannot see the solution.

As a PCC coach, you will be able to help people to walk around the mountain, to change their point of view.

They move from not being able to see the solution, to suddenly clearly knowing what to do.

Only a PCC and MCC coach has the skills to help people to change mental positions. To move from “I don’t know.” to “I do know.”

Use perceptual spaces to coach

4. Help people to overcome their inner obstacles.

With PCC competencies, you will be better equipped to help people to overcome inner obstacles like procrastination, fear, self-doubt, indecision etc.

But in my opinion even well-trained PCC coaches, with ICF credentialing and certification, still struggle to coach inner obstacles.

That’s why InnerLifeSkills teaches more than ICF competencies to its professional and master coaches.

ILS Professional Coach our 16 week live online course helps you to gain these skills.

ICF MCC guide

What can a MCC Associate Level Coach do?

As a master coach you can do everything an ACC and PCC coach does, plus you can:

1. Make coaching look effortless.

Have you ever watched a professional athlete, or artist or singer performing — don’t they make it look so easy?

A master at any skill has earned their way to making what they do effortless and natural. The ice skater easily moves across the ice, jumping and spinning. We get on the ice and discover just how hard it is to skate.

Eric Clapton picks up his guitar closes his eyes, and effortlessly jams creating music without any thinking; his fingers naturally moving with speed and grace. We pick up a guitar and discover just how hard it is to coordinate our fingers to get them to land on the strings while strumming at the same time.

By the time you master your coaching competencies and become a MCC coach, you will make coaching look effortless and natural.

You will learn the privilege of changing lives with ease and grace.

But just like Eric Clapton couldn’t skip past learning the chords and learning how to hold the guitar, you can’t skip ACC and PCC levels.

With MCC competencies, your communication skills, your listening skills, your questioning skills, thinking processes and all of the techniques that you have in your coaching toolbox, will be so proficient that they are barely noticeable.

If other people listen to your coaching, they will hardly notice the structures and the techniques that sit underneath your craft.

2. Create true partnerships with your clients.

The pressure to perform disappears when you reach MCC levels. Now instead of you feeling like you have to do all the work in a coaching session, your MCC competencies will help you to build a true partnership with your clients.

This is true empowerment.

Over the duration of several sessions or meetings, your client will learn how to get the most out of their experience with you. This makes coaching easier and easier whilst becoming more and more rewarding and effective.

Use the equal to bridge process
At MCC level you co-create the coaching experience, where your client helps to choose, shape and design their own coaching process. Like going to a great restaurant, where you can customize your meal, this partnership creates massive progress.

3. Your coaching becomes more creative and intuitive.

We learn the rules to break the rules. By the time you reach MCC levels, the original structures that helped you to learn to coach will naturally fall away.

If you choose to study with InnerLifeSkills, we give you our 3 Step Coach Method that acts like a scaffolding that you can use to fast track your learning as a coach and also your client’s valuable coaching very quickly.

This 3 Step Coach Method acts like training wheels that you’d use when learning to ride a bicycle.

Training wheels help us to learn to be confident quickly so that we can accelerate our learning. But when you start riding a bicycle correctly, the training wheels will get in the way, restricting your creative movement on a bicycle.

It is the same with using scripts and methods as a coach. During ACC and PCC levels, the many scripts that we give you will help you to be able to help others very quickly.

We give you over 50 processes to use in our Master Coaching ACTP program. This means that from day one, even with ACC skills you will be able to offer value to others. As you get to PCC levels these scripts will naturally start to restrict you.

Just like training wheels eventually are a pain. At that point we tell you that you’ve earned your right to let them go.

By the time you get to MCC levels you must throw away the training wheels.

The scaffolding of the structures and processes that you have learned disappears. You still use them but in a more natural, organic and creative way, that they are barely visible.

You draw on your toolbox and on the many processes that you’ve learned in a very intuitive natural way.

This means that your coaching becomes dynamic, much more interesting and truly customized to each session.

Make sure that when you learn to coach that you’re given this kind of flexibility and are encouraged to eventually break out of the structures. Otherwise you will find it difficult to reach MCC levels.


Here are the ICF Core Values

In addition to core competencies, I also suggest that you subscribe to the ICF core values.

“We are committed to reliability, openness, acceptance and congruence and consider all parts of the ICF community mutually accountable to uphold the following values:

Integrity: We uphold the highest standards both for the coaching profession and our organization.

Excellence: We set and demonstrate standards of excellence for professional coaching quality, qualification and competence.

Collaboration: We value the social connection and community building that occurs through collaborative partnership and co-created achievement.

Respect: We are inclusive and value the diversity and richness of our global stakeholders. We put people first, without compromising standards, policies and quality.”

I recommend that you strive to achieve each level ACC then PCC and then finally MCC.

These are wonderful milestones to have. They inspire us to keep improving our skills so that we can change more lives for the better.