The ICF Updated Competency Model - Insights and Tips

Posted by Ross Nichols on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 Under: Coaching

The International Coach Federation’s (ICF) core competencies are its ‘crown jewels’ – and they are now even better! 

Following a rigorous, 24-month coaching practice analysis, the ICF announced an updated ICF Coaching Core Competency Model in November 2019.  Additionally, a new ICF Code of Ethics came into effect in January 2020.

If you want to coach under the ICF banner, then you need to be familiar with the updated ICF Core Competency Model and Code of Ethics.  If you are not yet ready to join a professional coaching body such as the ICF, but you want some coaching competencies to work to, the ICF’s updated core competencies fit the bill.

Here is an overview of the changes to the ICF’s core competencies, some insights into the updated model and tips on how to use it.


The ICF’s core competency model has reduced from 1,537 words to 1,109 words; and the number of competencies has reduced from 11 to 8.  The new headings are:

1. Demonstrates Ethical Practice

2. Embodies a Coaching Mindset

3. Establishes and Maintains Agreements

4. Cultivates Trust and Safety

5. Maintains Presence

6. Listening Actively

7. Evokes Awareness

8. Facilitates Client growth



The updated model is shorter and simpler; it’s easier to understand and use. Everything of value in the previous model has been carried forward into the updated model while duplication and unnecessary elements have been removed thus simplifying the model.  To my mind, it’s a better reflection of the natural flow of a coaching session. 

New concepts have been added that make it more like a ‘yellow box junction’: encouraging all coaches to do what good coaches have always done.  For example, new competence No 2, ‘Embodies a Coaching Mindset’, highlights the importance of reflective practice, which in my view is key to coach learning and development.  I also like the distinction and clarity about the different types of coaching agreement in competence No 3, ‘Establishes and Maintains Agreements’. 

The updated model is more holistic, acknowledging the need for coaches to be aware of their coachee’s culture, systems and overall context.



Here are my tips for using the ICF’s updated competency model:

1.    Save a copy of the updated competency model, and the new ICF Code of Ethics, in a place you can easily retrieve them for reference.

2.    Use the updated model to reflect on your coaching sessions.  This is the best way to engage with the core competencies and learn how to apply them.  If in doubt, ask an experienced coach or a mentor-coach for guidance.  See below for a suggested Reflective Template.

3.    Transitional arrangements for credentialing are yet to be announced however the ICF have said that the updated model will be used for credentialing not before early 2021.  In my view, if you are competent using the updated model, you will also be exhibiting all the competencies of the previous model, so I recommend that you start using the updated model right away.

You can see the full versions of the previous and updated core competency models here:  The new ICF Code of Ethics is available here:



Here is a basic template (developed from the Animas Coaching Learning Journal) for reflecting on your own coaching sessions.

·         Meta data: Date; Coachee Name; Duration of Session; Type of coaching (e.g. Career, Biz etc).  Use a notebook, your PC, tablet or phone as you wish (this is personal data so do remember to ask for permission and to protect it appropriately).

·         Context: e.g. session 3 of 6.

·         List the 8 coaching core competence headings.  Refer to the updated competency model and assess how well you coached against each competence using, say, a tick (competence used well), a question mark (competence partially used), or a cross (competence not used or not understood).

·         Your Self-Talk.  What were you saying to yourself during the session?  Did your self-talk change?

·         Outcome for the Coachee.  Did your coachee achieve their outcome(s), in whole, in part, or did they exceed them?

·         What Could I Do Better?  The observations you make here are gold dust for helping you to improve. 

As you build up your reflections, you will notice patterns, which you can then address.  The competencies can be mysterious at first however over time, with practice and reflection, they begin to reveal their subtlety and richness.  This can provoke a lot of thought and useful questions to put to your coach trainer, mentor-coach or supervisor.  As you gain experience with using the template, you can add your own additional headings to personalise it.  Good luck with your learning and development as a coach!






In : Coaching 

Tags: "coaching competencies" credentialing "core competencies" ethics "code of ethics"