The Dark Side of Competency Models in Coaching

The Dark Side of Competency Models in Coaching

Coaching Accreditation Systems Based on the Evaluation of Competence Have Serious Limitations

Dr. Paul Lawrence recently published a critical white paper on coaching competencies. It is a must-read for all professional coaches, coach supervisors, and the purchasers of coaching services. I have summarised some key points below, but I strongly recommend reading the complete article. (see bottom of this page)

Coaching bodies and associations often use accreditation systems that focus on the evaluation of "coaching competencies." Unfortunately, this comes with some severe limitations:

• While such competency frameworks are helpful to some extent, they may lead to the wrong impression that 'if you only do x, it will result in great coaching.' There is, in fact, little evidence "to support the idea that adherence to a coaching competency framework in itself will make someone an effective coach."

• In addition, Lawrence argues that even when we observe actual coaching sessions (ICF mentor coaching, for instance, requires listening to live coaching sessions or recordings of such coaching sessions), it is hard to evaluate such sessions without being able to include the client's subjective experience of the coaching session.

• A system with different credential levels (such as ACC, PCC, MCC in the ICF) is thus highly dubious and "(t)here is no evidence to suggest that MCC coaches are more effective than novice coaches." It makes one wonder if professional or commercial interests are the driving force here.

• As a consequence, coaches undergoing a credentialing process may coach very differently from their real coaching style just to pass the exam. "What then does this mean to the purchaser of coaching services? It implies that many of the coaches they deploy, they deploy because those coaches have demonstrated the capacity to coach in a style that they are unlikely to actually use in real life. That seems absurd."

Lawrence then suggests looking at "mastery and capability" beyond competencies, introducing two models by Prof. Tatiana Bachkirova, one of my coaching supervision teachers:

• The Capability Model emphasises competencies ("not only the ability to demonstrate key skills, but the ability to apply those skills effectively in practice"), knowledge (theory, capacity to translate theory into practice, and quality of thinking), growth (commitment to ongoing development, engagement in coaching supervision), and psychology (self-awareness, quality of self-reflection, understanding of relational dynamics).

• The 4P Model looks at the coach's philosophy (including preferred theories and frameworks), the coach's purpose (why did they become a coach, what is their mission in coaching and in life?), practice (how do they actually coach), and progress (the coach's development plans).*

So, what do we do with all this? (my perspective, not necessarily Paul Lawrence's)

• Professional coaches and coaching supervisors need to broaden and deepen their knowledge about coaching continuously. CPD needs to go beyond building competencies and collecting CCEUs. In my opinion (philosophy!), this must include learning about applied neuroscience and how the human brain and mind work as well as regularly receiving coaching supervision from a qualified supervisor.

• Professional coaches and coaching supervisors need to challenge existing accreditation models of coaching associations actively. They may also question whether these coaching associations have primarily professional or rather commercial objectives.

• (Executive) coaches need to educate (corporate) purchasers of coaching services about coaching. This includes advising buyers on selecting coaches by methods such as the capability model or 4P model, not just credentials issued by commercial coaching associations.

• Such buyers of coaching services need to learn more about coaching. And they need to look beyond the popular coaching bodies. E.g., there are universities that offer degrees in coaching, respectively in related fields, or buyers can seek input from experienced senior coaches.

If you are a professional coach or coach supervisor and want coaching to become a well-established and highly regarded profession, you need to actively contribute to making this happen. So, please spread the word!

*Personal note: as part of my journey of becoming an Oxford Brookes-certified coach supervisor, I had to develop my very personal coaching supervision model based on the "3 Ps" (philosophy, purpose, and process). This has been one of the most useful exercises for development in my whole executive coaching and coaching supervision career. For details, see Peter Jackson, Tatiana Bachkirova, 'The 3 Ps of supervision and coaching (Philosophy, Purpose and Process)' in ‘The Heart of Supervision’, eds. E. Turner and S. Palmer, Routledge, 2018

Author: Gerrit Pelzer

Related articles:

What is Coaching Supervision?

What is the Difference between Coaching Supervision and ICF Mentor Coaching?

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