The Elusive Recording
Essential points to consider when creating a recording for certification with the ICF.
A crucial step in applying for a certification with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the preparation of sample recordings of coaching sessions conducted by the applicant. This, at first, seems like a simple task. However, this recording is the primary tool for the coach to demonstrate their skill level in the ICF Core Competencies. The ICF has specific expectations about this recording, and it may be a challenge to come up with a great sample that represents us well.
Below are a few points I have gathered over my years of experience mentoring coaches through this process, as well as being an active member of the assessor’s team for the ICF.
Record, Record, Record
I often see coaches starting this process naively expecting that the perfect recording will happen on their first try. Most likely that will not be the case. Once the record button is pushed, the pressure is on and usually our performance mode kicks in, our presence is gone, and the session ends up not being very successful. There is also the fact that the coachee may also get self-conscious about the recording and will need to get used to being recorded as well.
The recommendation here is to plan to record multiple sessions. Make recording a habit. Record as many sessions as possible and… listen to them. The more we record, the more used to the process we become. And then, after a while when we least expect it, the recording happens.
Also, the very first session a coach has with a new client rarely is a good sample of their skills. We need time to establish the coaching partnership and for the client to get used to the rhythm of coaching. Perhaps after the fourth or fifth session we can created a flow that allows us to be at our best.
We must remember that one of the requirements of this session is that it is done with an actual coaching client. Someone we have established an ongoing process with. One single session with a random person will not fulfill this requirement.
Select the Right Client
We coaches love our clients. We tend to think they are all awesome and perfect. However, if we pay close attention, not all of them are best for a recorded session. Verbal processors are probably not a good choice. Even though they do the coachee’s work well, they usually do not give the coach much opportunity to demonstrate their skills.
Clients who are themselves coaches are most likely not a good choice either. Trained coaches know the process too well and in trying to support us, they usually end up doing too much of the work and again, not allowing the coach to fully express their skill level.
The suggestion here is to look for someone who will be a good partner. Someone who can dance without taking the lead. Someone who will be engaged and can together create an easy conversational flow.
I also believe it is a good idea to engage with a few separate clients specifically for this recording process. Enter in an agreement of 6 to 8 sessions with the clear expectation that the sessions are going to be recorded, submitted for supervision with a mentor coach and later to the ICF. This way, the clients can be clear about their purpose for the engagement. This clarity of direction and purpose will facilitate the coaching conversation even under the recording pressure.
Aim for a 25- to 35-minute recording
If applying for an ACC or PCC, I would suggest planning for recordings around the 30-minute mark. This allows plenty of room for the coach to demonstrate their skills in all competencies while still staying clean, clear, and precise with the framework. If applying for MCC, the recording will most likely need to be longer to allow for more space, silence, and deeper exploration.
Onboard the Client Well
Coaching is a partnership. This means that both parties involved are working in synchronicity. For the coachee to enter this process well, the coachee needs to know what this is all about. How can anyone play without knowing the basic rules of the game? It is important to take the time during the first conversation to explain the expectations of the coaching process. Perhaps we can even share the basic tenets of the PRIME MODEL. Careful with the temptation to explain too much and overwhelm the coachee. This is just an overview, not coaching training. Simply let the coachee know that there will always be a need for a session agreement, and for an action plan at the end – all this happening through a process of discovery and exploration.
Coachees need to be aware we will be asking a lot of questions, that they will need to do the heavy lifting of the session and that they are also expected to do some pre work and reflection. It is unreasonable to expect that without any explanation, the coachee will engage in this process well.
Be Clear but Simple with Ethics
Since the recording is supposed to be with an ongoing coachee, for the sake of this recording, the ICF assumes the coach has established a clear overarching agreement for the whole engagement where ethics have been fully addressed. There is absolutely no need for a full ethical disclaimer at the beginning of the session. We would not do this in every one of our sessions with our clients, would we? No need for this in the recording either. The suggestion in this case is to simply make a quick statement either at the beginning or at the end (or both) of the recording like: “Thank you for allowing me to record this session.” This acknowledges that the client is aware of the recording in a simple and uncluttered way, allowing the session to start with the coach giving the client immediate control over the conversation.
Work with an Experienced Mentor Coach
This is perhaps the most rewarding part of this process. Before sending the recording to the ICF, it is important to have them assessed by an experienced Mentor Coach, giving the coach the opportunity for growth and development. The process of certification is not just about getting the accolade. Certification is yet another chance to hone our skills and become even better coaches. This to me, must be the primary focus of anyone aspiring to get an ICF certification.
Regardless of what level of certification we are pursuing, this process can be tremendously rewarding and enlightening – if we are open to it. My suggestion is to use it wisely. It is yet another step in our education. Every coach I have mentored that has embraced this process from this point of view has firmly declared at the end the tremendous benefit of it all.
All these certification requirements are not in vain. There is a reason for them and bottom line, they exist so we can all operate at a higher level, supporting our clients in the most effective way possible. Work with an experienced Mentor Coach to get the best out of this process.
The process of certification is a long hall. This is not something that happens overnight. Be patient. Give it due diligence. Remember also that even after all the preparation, and after submitting the material, it will take time for the ICF to review all the documentation. Plan for 9 months to a year – if not more.
Finally, we all know that there are many professionals out there with successful coaching practices who are not certified. At the same time, having a certification is no guarantee of success either. However, the ICF certification is an irrefutable demonstration of the coach’s commitment to excellence and our pledge to continually seek the highest standards of our profession. It is a confirmation of the hard work we did to master our skills in a process that has been tested and proven for its efficacy. It signifies that we follow specific ethical guidelines, and that we are not simply coaching from one single perspective and experience. Instead, we operate backed by the best practices of more than 40,000 coaches from all around the world.
Over the past three decades, ICF Certification has gained tremendous reputation worldwide. The process is challenging for a reason. I commend every certified coach for their commitment and willingness to join this amazing community.
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As a mentor coach, I am always giving feedback to my students and mentees helping them develop their coaching skills and prepare for their certification with the ICF. ForCoaches is a place where I can publicly share some of my insights and experiences. What does it mean to be a truly effective coach?