What skills do I need to demonstrate to achieve the ACC credential of the International Coaching Federation?

September 25, 2020


If you’re familiar with all the words in the question above, chances are you’ve trained to be a certified coach (if not, please go here to see what that’s all about)

If the question is a relevant one for you, you would know that you are required to submit a recording of a coaching conversation as part of your ICF application that will be reviewed against the 11 ICF coaching competencies. I’ve had several trainee coachees do a recording and be very unsure of whether it meets the guidelines or not and the intent of this post is to help you do a self-evaluation for yourself.

The ICF has helpfully published a document with the minimum skills required for the ACC credential. It gives you an understanding of what assessors evaluate in relation to each competency, the minimum level of skill necessary to successfully demonstrate an ACC level of competency, and also what behaviours might prevent you from passing the credentialing process.

To quote the ICF “We hope the document helps each individual coach answer the following queries: What does it mean to be an ACC coach? What do ICF assessors listen for when they are evaluating an ACC coach? As I progress on my coaching journey, what are my strengths and what are the skill set areas that I need to grow to pass the ACC performance evaluation?”

We’ve culled out the behaviours into a more accessible table for your easy reference (scroll down). If you’d like to look at the original, it’s here https://coachfederation.org/msr

My recommendation would be that you read through your transcript with a specific focus on one competency each time; you could also ask your mentor coach for feedback on how you are doing versus these standards.

All the best! The world needs more coaches!

Competency Will pass if the coach Will not pass if the coach

Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards

Understanding of coaching ethics and standards and ability to apply them appropriately in all coaching situations

  • Demonstrates a knowledge of the coaching conversation that is focused on inquiry and exploration
  • Keeps the conversation based on present and future issues.

Focuses primarily on telling the client what to do or how to do it (consulting mode) or if the conversation is based primarily in the past, particularly the emotional past (therapeutic mode).

Establishing the Coaching Agreement

Ability to understand what is required in the specific coaching interaction and to come to an agreement with the prospective and new client about the coaching process and relationship

Asks the client what they want to work on and attends to that agenda throughout the coaching. Chooses the topic for the client or if the coach does not coach around the topic the client has chosen.

Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client

Ability to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust

Shows genuine concern for the client and is attuned to client’s perceptions, learning style, and personal being at a basic level. The coach must also demonstrate an ability to provide ongoing support for new behaviors and actions at a basic level.
  • Demonstrates significant interest in the coach’s view of the situation rather than the client’s view of the situation
  • Does not seek information from the client about the client’s thinking around the situation, or about the client’s goals regarding the situation,
  • Focuses attention on the coach’s own performance or demonstration of knowledge about the topic.

Coaching Presence

Ability to be fully conscious and create a spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident

Attends to client’s agenda, seeks information from the client about it, is responsive to that information as it relates particularly to actions to achieve the client’s agenda, and is attentive to what actions the client is taking in relation to agenda. The ICF notes that trust and intimacy and presence are quite related competencies so the above would apply here as well

Active Listening

Ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires, and to support client self-expression

Hears what the client says in relation to the client’s agenda, responds to it in relation to the client’s agenda, and the listening is focused on helping the client achieve their agenda.
  • Does not demonstrate listening that is focused on and responding to what the client says or the coach’s response is not related to what the client is trying to achieve.
  • Appears to be listening for the place where the coach can demonstrate their knowledge about the topic or tell the client what to do about the topic.

Powerful Questioning

Ability to ask questions that reveal the information needed for maximum benefit to the coaching relationship and the client

  • Uses inquiry versus telling methodology. This includes exploring what issues exist for the client versus telling the client what the issues are or suggesting solutions.
  • Questions must attend to the client’s agenda and seek information about that agenda and are oriented to solving issues set by the client.
Does not focus on an inquiring versus telling methodology, if the majority of questions contain already pre-determined answers by the coach, or if the questions attend to an agenda or issues not set by the client, but set by the coach.

Direct Communication

Ability to communicate effectively during coaching sessions, and to use language that has the greatest positive impact on the client

  • Is direct at times throughout the session and the communication attends to the client’s agenda
  • does not appear attached to a particular outcome or solution or take the communication away from the client’s stated agenda without discussion with and permission from the client.
  • Does not attend to the client’s agenda, changes the agenda without input from the client, or appears attached to a particular outcome or solution.
  • If the communication frequently occurs in a convoluted, meandering, or circuitous manner.

Creating Awareness

Ability to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information, and to make interpretations that help the client to gain awareness and thereby achieve agreed-upon results

  • Focuses on inquiry and observations that relate to the client’s stated agenda with the greater focus on inquiry rather than offering the coach’s opinions.
  • Assists the client to explore that agenda more deeply and without significant attachment by the coach to a particular outcome or direction.
  • Uses coaching tools in a manner that encourages rather than limits exploration.
  • Does not attend to the client’s agenda, changes the agenda without input from the client, or appears attached to a particular outcome or solution.
  • Narrows the exploration of awareness significantly to a single issue without discussing that decision with the client and without the client’s consent.
  • Seems to substitute assessments or standard coaching exercises for powerful questioning or inquiry.

Designing Actions

Ability to create with the client opportunities for ongoing learning, during coaching in work/life situations, and for taking new actions that will most effectively lead to agreed-upon coaching results

  • Suggests homework and actions that are related to the client’s stated agenda and measures of accomplishment of that agenda
  • The suggested homework have a clear purpose and potential to move the client forward in their thinking, learning, or action around the stated agenda.
  • May also suggest tools or structures to assist the client so long as the tools are not forced on the client and that the tools or structure bear an easily recognizable relationship to achieving the client’s stated agenda.
  • Insists the client do what the coach has prescribed as homework
  • The suggested homework does not have a clear relationship to the client’s stated agenda
  • The homework does not have a clear purpose and potential to move the client forward, or if suggested tools and structures clearly do not bear a relationship to the needs of the particular client or his/her agenda.

Planning and Goal Setting

Ability to develop and maintain an effective coaching plan with the client

  • Adopt goals suggested by the client and/or helps client set goals that are clear on the surface and causally related to achieving the client’s overall objectives and stated agenda.
  • The plans and measures of accomplishment must have a clear purpose and potential to move the client forward in their thinking, learning, or action around the stated agenda and toward the client’s overall measures of success.
  • May also suggest tools or structures to assist the client so long as the tools are not forced on the client and that the tools or structure bear an easily recognizable relationship to achieving the client’s stated agenda and desired outcome.
  • Insists that the client follow a prescribed plan familiar to the coach, if the coach is unable to support the client in developing an effective coaching plan
  • If the plan or goals do not have a clear relationship to the client’s stated agenda and desired outcome, if the plan or goals do not have a clear purpose and potential to move the client forward,
  • If suggested tools and structures clearly do not bear a relationship to the needs of the particular client or his/her agenda.

Managing Progress and Accountability

Ability to hold attention on what is important for the client, and to leave responsibility with the client to take action.

Suggests measures of success and structures of accountability to the client and/or helps the client develop measures of success and structures of accountability that

  • Are clearly and causally related to achieving the client’s overall objectives and stated agenda.
  • have a clear purpose and potential to move the client forward in their thinking, learning, or action around the stated agenda and toward the client’s overall measures of success.

The coach may suggest tools or structures to assist the client so long as the tools are not forced on the client and that the tools or structure bear an easily recognizable relationship to achieving the client’s stated agenda and desired outcome.

  • insists that the client follow prescribed measures and structures familiar to the coach
  • Is unable to support the client in developing an effective method of managing and measuring progress
  • If the measures and methods of accountability do not have a clear relationship to the client’s stated agenda and desired outcomes, if they do not have a clear purpose and potential to move the client forward, or if suggested tools and structures clearly do not bear a relationship to the needs of the particular client or his/her agenda.

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