January 27, 2021 by  Ashley Guberman

In this article, I will explore why ICF training is beneficial but insufficient to qualify one to offer effective business coaching.

This is part 2 in a series on the value and effectiveness of business coaching with coaches from various backgrounds. Please see the other articles in the series below.

  1. Business Made Simple Coaching (BMSU)
  2. International Coach Federation Business Coaches
  3. Certified High-Performance Coaching for Business
  4. Institute for Generative Leadership (IGL) Business Coaches
  5. Masters of Business Administration (MBA)
  6. Criteria for Choosing a Business Coach

ICF – International Coaching Federation

The International Coaching Federation is the largest and best-known coaching body in the world.  It has three levels of proficiency, and at the higher levels, the certification represents quality and adherence to standards for coaching individual clients. 

A competent ICF Coach can do wonders for an individual and leader, but fundamentally, the coaching agreement is with a single person and not the team or organization. This is true even if the coach is working with multiple people in the organization at once.  Critically, an ICF coach has no plan for their client.  Yes, it makes sense that you, as the client, would drive where you want to go and why you are hiring a coach.  However, many client organizations are blind because they don’t know what they don’t know.

ICF training provides a fantastic set of interpersonal skills to the individual coach. However, the ICF coach does not bring a professional development structure to the client unless it comes from something outside of the ICF certification. Therefore, ICF training makes the most sense when viewed in conjunction with other credentials that lend themselves toward addressing bottom-line results in a corporate setting.

Who Is an ICF Coach For?

An ICF coach is fantastic for an individual who is trying to clarify their personal life, direction, goals, or relationships.  At the higher certification levels, an ICF coach can help you with who you want to become as a leader.  An ICF coach can help you identify and resolve the barriers that stand between you and your declared goals. They can also improve the quality of interactions that you have with superiors, peers, and subordinates.

Where Does an ICF Coach Fall Short for Business Coaching Clients?

Fundamentally, ICF certification is a great start, but it is insufficient to make a competent business coach. ICF standards do not prepare a coach to reliably promise the results that organizations care about. Those results include growth, sustainability, profitability, or impact. In fact, such promises would be unethical by ICF standards, because the client has to take ownership for producing results. For more details, see Four Reasons Why Business Coaches Are Afraid to Promise Results.

Many coach-training organizations accredited by the ICF add their own approach and frameworks on top of the core ICF curriculum. However, on their own, none of the “ICF core competencies” relates to

  • Teams
  • Authority
  • Accountability
  • Organizational structure
  • Power and politics
  • Negotiation
  • Group dynamics
  • Coordinating effort, or
  • Navigating breakdowns

Bob Dunham, the founder of the Institute for Generative Leadership, brings up many of these same concerns in the video below. (We’ll be addressing business coaching and the IGL program in part 4 of this series).

Bob Dunham – Business Distinctions Missing from ICF Training

The fundamental problem with an ICF Coach offering to work with a business is that none of the ICF core competencies focus on how to grow a business.

However, companies seeking to hire a coach for their leaders still want something to certify relevance and turn to ICF accreditation to fill the void.

My Experience with an ICF Training Program

I graduated from Accomplishment Coaching in 2010.  It was a year-long program, meeting one weekend a month.  It was positively amazing for personal growth and development, and I highly recommend Accomplishment Coaching if you’re looking to become a life coach.  If you want to hire a coach, you can search their directory

However, despite claims that their work applies to the business environment, I found that claim lacked credibility.  While ICF coaches can help individual leaders personally, that is considerably different from growing bottom-line business results.  Nonetheless, I use what I learned from Accomplishment Coaching almost every day in my interactions with the people I work with, as well as my friends and family. For that, I am grateful, and will always hold Accomplishment Coaching fondly in my memories.

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