According to the International Coach Federation (ICF) (one of the governing bodies of the coaching profession) it is estimated that there are currently approximately 47,500 professional coaches worldwide. Within the coaching profession there are many coaching “niches.” A coach might work primarily with executives or small business owners or with people who are interested in developing their health and wellness or work/life balance. There are spiritual coaches, accountability coaches, trauma and loss coaches and coaches who work with children, the elderly and all ages in between.
One of the greatest assets of the coaching profession is that each coach brings his or her unique sensibility and experience to their coaching practice. But as varied as coaching practices may be, all coaches who are credentialed through the ICF are bound to coach using the ICF Core Competencies as a structure for their coaching. And this is where coach mentors come in.
The ICF requires mentoring for all coaches who are applying to earn a credential and also for those coaches who are renewing the ACC Credential. But many coaches also seek mentoring as a form of professional development and training, because they know the value and have seen the results manifest in their coaching.
Mentors provide an opportunity for coaches to hone their coaching skills and become more deeply grounded in their understanding and practice of the ICF Core Competencies. Through mentoring, a coach gains confidence and agility that helps them to truly support and bring value to their clients. In addition, mentoring provides a safe and supportive environment for a coach to try new techniques and take risks knowing that his or her mentor will provide feedback and insight.
As a coach, I have experienced the incredible value that mentoring has provided to me. It is this experience that inspired me to become a coach mentor and trainer. Over many years now, I have had the opportunity to work with coaches around the world, supporting them as they hone their skills and grow in their professional capabilities.
Philosophically, I believe in acknowledgement as a powerful tool for training and mentoring. When I mentor coaches, I not only point out areas of opportunity for growth and learning, but I also acknowledge what I see that is working in my mentees’ coaching.
Acknowledgement is a motivator and it is also instructional. When I acknowledge a coach for a particular behavior or ability in coaching, that skill set is strengthened and the coach gains confidence. It is that confidence that powers the inspiration to work on other areas of their coaching where they may feel more challenged or where we may see that there is an opportunity to expand their abilities.
In addition to formulating the coaching core competencies, the ICF in partnership with ACTO (Association of Coach Training Organizations) has developed the Mentor Coaching Duties and Competencies.
They start by defining Mentor Coaching:
“The ICF defines Mentor Coaching as providing professional assistance in achieving and demonstrating the levels of coaching competency demanded by the desired credential level sought by a coach‐applicant (mentee). Furthermore, Mentor Coaching means an applicant (mentee) being coached on their coaching skills rather than coaching on practice building, life balance, or other topics unrelated to the development of an applicant’s coaching skill.”
As I mentioned earlier, coaches have many different styles. As mentors, it is not our job to mold coaches into a particular style. Rather, it is our job to listen for the coaching competencies, to listen holistically to our clients, to create distinctions that make a difference for our clients in terms of growth and learning, and to be able to communicate all of that in a clear and respectful manner.
During a Mentoring session, a mentor will typically share with the coach the competencies heard or not heard. The mentor will also ask the coach questions and invite the coach to self-assess. The mentor may also make suggestions for rephrasing questions, starting and ending sessions effectively, communicating clearly, etc. As a mentor, I see this as a conversation between myself and my mentee, where the goal is to create awareness and define clear distinctions that the mentee can take forward and apply.
Coach mentoring provides a dynamic learning experience. A mentor provides instruction, feedback, modeling of coaching behaviors, and a sense of community and inspiration to move forward in the coaching profession. For coach mentors, the value is in the learning that comes through teaching and sharing experiences.
As you can see, there are many layers and elements to being an effective mentor including mastery of the coaching competencies and mentoring competencies, and an ability to be a life-long learner, influencer and colleague. The benefits are myriad and there is no end to the learning, making the role of the coach mentor a sought after and highly satisfying area of coaching.