Coaching Tips from a Mentor-coach

Posted by Ross Nichols on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 Under: Coaching

‘Flying is easy; it’s take-off and landing that are difficult.’ (Anon)

I’ve been an ICF-registered mentor-coach for 4 years, supporting other coaches to gain their ICF credentials.  I’ve noticed some common patterns in the recorded sessions I critique and I share my observations here to help new coaches improve.

With reference to the flying quote, one way to consider a coaching session is in 3 phases: take-off, in-flight, and landing.  Let’s look at each of these.


In their eagerness to start ‘coaching’, it’s not unusual for new coaches to overlook the ICF competence of establishing the coaching agreement.  Where a coaching agreement is made, it can be superficial with little exploration of what lies beneath.  At ACC (Associate Certified Coach) credential level, a simple coaching agreement ‘taking what the client says they want to work on at a surface level’ and attending to that agenda is all that is required however investing time to explore this more fully can create the conditions for the session to go deeper.  This also helps to build trust and intimacy, which is another ICF competence.


Most of the coaches I’ve mentor-coached are good (or very good) at the in-flight ICF competencies: coaching presence; active listening; powerful questioning; direct communication; and creating awareness.  There can be, however, a discomfort with silence, probably due to the (incorrect) belief that as a coach they need to perform in order to create value rather than trusting that value is inherent in the process.  As my mentor-coach said to me, ‘Never be afraid of silence’.  This is when the coachee is doing their most important work in the session, so we need to allow them time to be with their thoughts and feelings.


When coachees have breakthrough moments, new coaches can think their work is done so they may neglect the ICF competencies for landing: designing actions; planning and goal setting; and especially managing progress and accountability.  Enquiring about what the coachee has learned and how they can use their learning can elicit remarkable action plans.  Asking coachees how they would like to be held accountable for following through on their actions increases the probability of them making successful change.


Here are my 3 coaching tips for new coaches.

1.       Take-off.  Be sure to have a coaching agreement, no matter how simple.  Exploring beneath this can create the conditions for a coaching session to move beyond the superficial to become transformational.

2.       In-Flight.  Relax and trust yourself.  Embrace silence by setting a positive intention for the coachee before the session and then holding space for the coachee during the session – this is where the magic happens.  You will be amazed at what your coachees can achieve when you are silent.  Trust yourself to know when and how, or whether, to break the silence.

3.       Landing.  Develop your own landing procedure to ensure the coachee captures their learning and uses it to achieve the change they want.

I hope that by developing simple procedures for take-off and landing, and by experimenting with silence in-flight, new coaches can continue to develop their coaching competencies regardless of whether they go on to pursue credentials with a professional coaching body such as the ICF.

In : Coaching 

Tags: "coaching competencies" credentialing "icf credentials" acc pcc mentor-coach