10 Things that Mark a Professional Coach

Every coach starts out as a beginner. Those who want to add great value to those they coach are not satisfied to stay there -- they want to operate at the professional level. So what does it take to provide professional level coaching? Here are ten then things that mark a coach as a professional (along with questions/statements the coach might say to demonstrate the competency):

They not only let the client choose the topic, they invite the client to set a measure of success for the session. "If we talk about this really well, what do you hope will be the result when we're finished?"

They maintain an optimistic and curious presence, especially when the client presents a really challenging topic. "That sounds challenging, let's roll up out sleeves and get to work."

They trust the client to help set direction during the conversation. "Where should we start?" "Where do we need to focus now?" "What's a good way to wrap this up?"

They practice active listening in a way that provides handles for the client to hold new awareness. "I think I heard you say it comes down to a choice between regretting, forgetting, or forgiving. How would you say it?"

They ask provocative questions based on what the client just said. "You said you want to be a great husband, what does a great husband mean to you?"

They take risks in order to support and serve the client. "Let's pretend your dead wrong about this. What then?"

They coach the person, not the problem. "What new attitude will you need to adopt in order to make this happen?"

They go beyond identifying actions by inviting the client to inhabit the actions during the coaching conversation. "So what exactly will you say in the e-mail? Let's get started writing it now."

They always test for client motivation. "What's your energy for this -- lightning or lightning bug?"

They bring up the topic of accountability without assuming the role they'll play. "What does accountability need to look like for this?"

In case you missed it, each of these bullets addresses one of the ICF's core coaching competencies. Sometimes it's tough to know how the competencies get expressed in a real coaching conversation.

If you'd like to grow in your ability to coach at a professional level and/or you're preparing for your ICF credential, then consider working with a mentor coach such as myself.