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Becoming A Coach

Mentor Coaching: What it is and How to Meet the ICF Credential Requirements

Lumia instructors Bonnie Stith and Juliann Wiese discuss what mentor coaching is, ways to meet the ICF requirement, and how to find the right mentor for you.

What Is ICF Mentor Coaching?

A conversation with Lumia Coaching instructors Juliann Wiese and Bonnie Stith on Mentor Coaching and Coaching Supervision

Mentor coach Juliann Wiese

I'm Juliann Wiese. I've been a coach for the last ten years, and a mentor coach for the last three, and I primarily coach in corporate settings and with executives. I live in Scottsdale, Arizona, I’ve been married for 24 years, and I have a puppy, who's the joy of my life.

Mentor coach Bonnie Stith

And I'm Bonnie Stith. I live right outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and I’ve been coaching for more than ten years and mentor coaching for four. Juliann and I were certified together in Mentor Coaching two years ago. My husband and I have grown children, three in Kentucky and one of whom lives in Louisiana, as well as family in California and Florida so we travel a fair bit. In addition to coaching, I have a background in cybersecurity and serve on boards as well as advise and consult in that industry.

We are both instructors at Lumia Coaching, and we've been asked to discuss mentor coaching and how it differs from coaching supervision.

Let's Talk About It

The International Coaching Federation (ICF), the world’s largest professional body for coaching, makes the distinction relatively clear.

For Mentor Coaching, the ICF states that:

“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. Mentoring provides professional assistance in achieving and demonstrating the levels of coaching competency and capability demanded by the desired credential level.”

What is the ICF’s purpose in requiring mentor coaching? 

Bonnie: I think a great outcome of mentor coaching is to allow young coaches the ability to draw the wisdom from a more tenured coach. A mentor can share their experiences on what has worked for them and any significant learnings they have had.  

There is a lot that goes into transformational coaching and newer coaches often find themselves feeling stuck on how to work with a client or how to manifest the ICF core competencies. The beauty of mentoring is that it doesn’t have to be just about improving coaching skills, it can be about all the issues that come with coaching, like setting up a business. 

Like coaching, there is confidentiality, which is meant to create a feeling that it is safe to ask and discuss doubts and challenges that come naturally during the process of becoming a coach.

Juliann: The ICF has made mentoring a requirement of credentialing because when you are starting out as a coach, you need and want this kind of support, encouragement, guidance, and wisdom. Without it I think a lot of new coaches would feel like they're walking around in a very dark room without a flashlight hoping to find the way through.

I believe that aspiring coaches should be looking for several things in their mentor coach. For one, working with somebody who's been in the business for a while is going to be able to give you a much more expansive picture of what it's like to be a coach and run a business of coaching. I think that you want an experienced coach as your mentor. 

Working with a mentor coach who has gone through certification like Bonnie and I did can be helpful, because there are structures we learned in the Mentor Coach Certification that can help aspiring coaches accelerate the path to feeling much more confident in their coaching approach.

Bonnie: I agree with that. One of the conversations I remember we had in that program was talking about the “typical” mentor coaching process. The mentor coach you look for is one who will “meet you where you are.” All coaches are not the same and all mentor coaching needs are not the same.

If your goal is to get credentialed, you must submit a recording of a coaching session. You want a mentor who will help you get to a recording that will pass. You might not always like what you hear, but the goal is to pass the ICF requirements. That’s why it’s essential to find a mentor who will be honest with you. 

Juliann: Realize that you're also working with a mentor coach so that you can improve your coaching skills. You are opening yourself up to somebody else's perspective. If you want to get the most out of your mentoring experience, you must go in open and receptive to that.

Bonnie: Your mentor will be focused on helping you demonstrate that you understand the ICF competencies and frameworks. For credentialing, it’s important that you coach the ICF way. Don't fight that. It’s helpful to learn it, it will make you a better coach in addition to helping you pass the credentialing process. 

If you don't understand the ICF’s core competencies, ask the mentor to demonstrate.   Your mentor needs to be someone who can do that. They need to know the ICF way inside and out. 

The ICF assessors can be tough. So you don't want a mentor that's just going to make you feel good. Look for the person that's going to be honest, hold you accountable, and work with you to get the best recording possible for submission.

Juliann: Logistically, I encourage people to start with the 1:1 mentor coaching while they are in the early days of accumulating hours — don’t wait till you have 100 hours and then find out that that you aren’t demonstrating the framework in a way that will pass and must do extra work to get a successful recording.   

I've had that experience where people will come at the very end and they're a little surprised by the fact that I'm suggesting to them that their recordings won't pass.

Bonnie: I tell students at the very beginning of their coach training to start recording themselves and listening back to the recordings. The purpose is twofold: hear yourself and listen for specific use of the skills and competencies that the ICF is requiring. Second, to get used to recording yourself, so it isn’t so awkward when you must do it for the assessment.

I'm always surprised when somebody sends me a recording, and when I ask “did you listen to it” they say “no.” 

So now that you know what to look for, where do you FIND a mentor coach?

Choosing A Mentor

Bonnie: The ICF has a Mentor Registry which you can search under key terms like location, credential, etc. You can ask for references too, and speak to others who have worked with that mentor to help you select someone who is a good fit. You can also look within Lumia for mentor coaches or within your local ICF Chapters.

Juliann: Let’s share some logistics here. Mentoring is required for ICF credentialing.  As a reminder, ICF has three levels of credentialing:  

  • Level 1 Accredited Certified Coach (ACC) which requires 100 hours of coaching; 
  • Level 2 Professional Certified Coach (PCC) which requires 500 hours of coaching; and 
  • Level 3 Master Certified Coach (MCC) which requires 2500 hours of coaching. 

For Level 1 (ACC) you are required to have 10 hours of mentor coaching, 7 of which can be group and 3 that must be one-on-one. You can be mentored by an ACC, but it must be an ACC that has completed at least one re-credentialing process. In other words, an ACC that has at least 3 years as a credentialed coach and has re-credentialed. 

For Level 2 (PCC), you must be mentored by at least a PCC. For MCC you must be mentored by at least an MCC.

For example, in Lumia’s Signature coach training program where you and I both teach, students are provided 7 hours of group mentor coaching as part of the program, with up to 10 student coaches in each group. In those mentoring sessions there's a lot of collaborative effort to help close understanding gaps, to give people a chance to practice, and to allow them to get their questions answered by someone who's been in the business. 

When students finish those 7 hours within the constructs of the program, they are required to get 3 more hours of one-on-one time with a mentor. Typically this is to help new coaches get their recording ready to submit for credentialing with the ICF.

For more on ICF credentialing and requirements, see Lumia’s guide: ACC vs PCC vs MCC - What’s the Difference Between ICF Coach Credentials?

Coaching Supervision

Bonnie: Let’s add another element. The ICF also acknowledges Coaching Supervision as a valuable resource for coaches. Recognizing that coaching is a lonely business – the very nature of client confidentiality and coaching being a profession that is largely 1:1 interaction – the role of the coach supervisor is focused more on the internal capacity and capability of the coach.

For Coaching Supervision, the ICF states:

“Coaching Supervision is a collaborative learning practice to continually build the capacity of the coach through reflective dialogue for the benefit of both coaches and clients. Coaching Supervision focuses on the development of the coach’s capacity through offering a richer and broader opportunity for support and development. Coaching Supervision creates a safe environment for the coach to share their successes and failures in becoming masterful in the way they work with their clients.”

Bonnie: Rather than helping the coach look for external solutions (like mentoring), Coaching Supervision focuses solely on the coach's needs. Different from the coach mentor who must work within the ICF’s core competencies and behaviors, a coaching supervisor’s effectiveness is often enhanced through diversity in their assumptions, professional background, perspectives, and training.

Coaching supervision has a hugely expanded focus, enabling the exploration of anything that relates to the coach’s professional work. Working with a Coach Supervisor to create a reflective practice enables the coach to bring attention to themselves, their work, their clients, and the systems which can enhance the coach and client outcomes.

Like mentor coaching, live coaching and recorded sessions can be used in supervision (though more often for less experienced coaches) but they are typically treated as launchpads for broad conversations. The conversation could equally explore how the coach was left feeling, what influences were shaping the coaching, the nature of the relationship between coach and client, the choice of coaching approach and even how the supervisor experienced the session.

In most cases though, there is no recording or live session and, instead, the coach and supervisor explore what the coach wishes to bring. This might include a challenge with a client, a pattern of behavior they’ve noticed in themselves, or anything else upon which they wish to reflect and analyze.

While Coaching Supervision is not yet a separate credential offered by the ICF, the European Mentoring and Coaching Council does recognize and offer certification to Coach Supervisors. It is currently more popular, used, and required in Europe than in the United States. I can see a future where Coaching Supervision will be a separate credential level in the ICF.

Looking for a Mentor Coach?

To work with Bonnie, visit: Stith Coaching & Consulting

To work with Juliann, visit: Wiese Executive Coaching & Consulting

Search the ICF Mentor Directory

‍Want to Become a Coach?

One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power as a coach, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors like Juliann and Bonnie, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

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