This blog post comes to you from Clare Norman PCC – Director; Coaching Culture Creator; Leader and Transition Coach; Mentor Coach and Supervisor at Clare Norman Coaching Associates Ltd.
The theory of coaching is far less important than how we show up in the room.
One of the great things about the International Coaching Federation (ICF) is that they demand quality from coaches. They are the only professional coaching body to assess coaches’ actual coaching skills (how you show up in the room) in depth. They require coaches to submit one or two recordings of their coaching to be assessed. Also, coaches have to have accrued 10 hours of Mentor Coaching before they go after a credential.
The world is finally taking the practice of coaching seriously. However, the world is in a state of constant flux. Because of this, it’s important now more than ever that coaches keep their skills and credentials razor-sharp.
Why Mentor Coaching?
No matter what stage of development you are at, and whether you are going for a credential or not, Mentor Coaching is invaluable. It enables us as coaches to see our blind spots in practice.
Here’s what the ICF have to say about Mentor Coaching:
“The International Coach Federation believes that, in order to be effective, continuing professional education should include opportunities for individual practice, reflection and learning with the support of a skilled observer providing feedback. This is the role of the Mentor Coach.”
So, it’s not just for a credential – it’s for life!
If we declare that we want to be the best coach we can be for our clients, the only way we can be certain that we are staying on top of our game is to be observed and provided with structured feedback which is related to our competence.
It’s about regularly bringing ourselves back to conscious competence:
- Never forgetting that there is always more to learn about the practice of coaching
- Never getting complacent or believing we have nothing left to learn
- Never getting stuck in unconscious competence or indeed slipping into unconscious incompetence
Of course, we can get feedback from our clients, but they don’t always necessarily know what great coaching looks or feels like. They know they’ve had a good experience, but do they know what a coach at their absolute best looks like? It’s our job to show them.
What is Mentor Coaching?
The ICF describes it as follows: “Mentor Coaching for an ICF Credential consists of coaching and feedback in a collaborative, appreciative and dialogued process, based on an observed or recorded coaching session to increase the coach’s capability in coaching, in alignment with the ICF Core Competencies.”
It can be in a group or 1-1. For credentialing purposes, group mentor coaching can account for no more than 7 of the 10 hours you need.
Group Mentor Coaching allows you the benefit of seeing others coach, so that you can learn from different approaches. You get the chance to see from the outside what moves the client’s thinking further on – and what keeps their thinking in the past.
1-1 Mentor Coaching allows you to listen to a recording together with your mentor coach, and to stop and start it to reflect upon what you are doing that is enabling your client to progress – and what keeps their thinking in the past.
All of the feedback – whether your own to yourself, your peers’ feedback towards you, or your Mentor Coach’s towards you – will be tied to the competencies. This structure makes it easier to assimilate, as you figure out which competencies you need to work on and which you are strongest at.
Mentor Coaching can be face-to-face or virtual, whatever works for you. For example, I run a face-to-face group lock-in, an advanced lock-in for those on the lifelong learning path, and a virtual lock in plus 1-1s over Zoom.
Who should I choose as my Mentor Coach?
It is important to be observed by another coach who understands in detail what they are looking for – and who puts all the learning into practice in their own coaching too. This is far from the old adage “if you can’t do, teach”. This is a ‘both/and’ equation – they should be a coach AND a Mentor Coach. A Mentor Coach must have been through the Mentor Coaching process themselves and keep putting themselves through the rigour of that to stay sharp. They are your role model for continuous professional development.
For credentialing purposes, the ICF requires you to have a Mentor Coach who is at the level you are aspiring to be credentialed for, or higher. For example, if you are going for ACC, they must have been an ACC themselves for more than 3 years.
Whether you are going for a credential or not, I recommend you choose a Mentor Coach who will:
- observe your coaching, as per the ICF brief
- give you constructive feedback in a supportive AND challenging way, tied to the competencies
- understand the ICF competencies and markers inside out and back-to-front – practically as well as on paper
- receive mentor coaching themselves on a regular basis
- share their own learning from their own practice in service of your practice
How frequently should I invest in Mentor Coaching?
You will need Mentor Coaching if you are going for a credential. Thereafter, ACC renewal requires you to receive more Mentor Coaching every 3 years.
However, Mentor Coaching is for life, not just a credential. So, how frequently might you decide to invest in revisiting your competency as a coach?
I gain so much value from working with a Mentor Coach that I do it four times a year. Not only do I gain so much value from it – my coaching clients do too, in terms of the coaching we do together.
What’s realistic for you? Perhaps you invest in supervision as well, and you’re thinking about choosing between the two as a way to manage your time and money. Supervision and Mentor Coaching are both important for different reasons. Supervision keeps us safe and resourced; Mentor Coaching keeps us at our sharpest.
My suggestion would be to follow the recommended ICF re-credentialing timing and invest in ten hours of Mentor Coaching at least every three years, which is spaced out or carried out over a period of three months. That three-month window allows you to put new habits into place within your coaching and assimilate what you are learning over time.
Where can I find a Mentor Coach?
The reason I am so passionate about this is because I am a Mentor Coach with 18 years of coaching experience, and six years of Mentor Coaching under my belt – and, I should add, a 100% success rate for coaches who submit their application after working with me. I can’t guarantee that you will be successful, but past results are a predictor of future results.
There are others like me out there. You can search for them in the Mentor Coaching Registry on the ICF website. Reach out to one of us if you are looking to sharpen your edge – whether that’s for a credential or for lifelong learning.
What are you waiting for? If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a vested interest in keeping our profession at its best. One way to do this is to change the way coaches think about Mentor Coaching. Remember: it’s not just for a credential, it’s for life!
This content is taken from Clare’s forthcoming book, Mentor Coaching: A Practical Guide (Open University Press).