ICF Mentor Coaching FAQ

Mentor coaching is one of the most powerful learning opportunities a coach engages in over the course of their professional development. Here I’ve attempted to respond to the common questions that come up about mentor coaching, including its purpose, what it is and isn’t, how to get the most out of it, and what to look for in a mentor coaching program. This page is a work-in-progress (launched 12/3/21), so check back for more FAQs and updates in the coming days and weeks!

IMPORTANT: The information offered here is specific to my programs and experience. When it comes to ICF requirements and guidelines, they are the official word. Whenever I mention ICF, it’s critical that you verify the information directly with them, as requirements change and might be different for you based on your credentialing path. This page is not meant to be an exhaustive or final resource for ICF information. Details of my programs are specific to me and don’t apply to other mentor coaching programs; you’re encouraged to research different offerings and learn about their unique approach when choosing your path. This already-long page would be twice as long if I tried to cover every variable or scenario that could come up; I’ve tried to share what’s most generally true for the clients I work with. The best way to answer your specific questions is to schedule time for us to chat: calendly.com/bethbuelow/mentor-coaching-info-session. This is a no-obligation conversation, and if my programs aren’t a fit for you, I’m well-networked with trusted colleagues and am always happy to offer referrals.

Q: What is mentor coaching?

The International Coaching Federation defines mentor coaching as: “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.” It’s a requirement for coaches who wish to obtain or renew their ACC, PCC or MCC credential. Certain coach training programs have the 10 required hours integrated into their curriculum, so it’s not necessary to seek additional mentor coaching when applying for your credential; other programs don’t offer it, and therefore you would need to seek out mentor coaching from other programs or independent practitioners. You can learn more about the requirements here: coachingfederation.org/mentor-coaching

Mentor coaching should be done over a period of time in order to allow for learning and practice in between sessions. ICF requires that it take place over a minimum of 3 months (90 days). Of the 10 required hours, 7 hours can be in a group program, and at least 3 hours need to be 1:1. Here’s more info about my offerings: ICF Mentor Coaching

Each hour of Mentor Coaching also provides you with a valuable core competency CCEU you can use when you renew your credential – bonus!

Note that the ICF is in the process of revising their education program accreditation requirements, which is going to impact how mentor coaching hours are delivered to coaches-in-training. Current programs will begin transitioning to the new model throughout 2022, with a Dec 31, 2022 deadline for full compliance. You can read more about this change here: coachingfederation.org/coaching-education/evolution-of-accreditation

As more information becomes available about how this update will affect coach credentialing, this page will be updated and/or links to resources provided.

Q: Why does ICF require mentor coaching?

Refining our skills as a coach isn’t an intellectual exercise. It’s best done through practice, reflection, and feedback loops. When we’re first learning, we don’t know what we don’t know; an experienced coach hears and senses possibilities in a coaching conversation that a new coach might miss. Mentoring provides the opportunity to notice, name, discuss, and learn from choice points and possibilities.

Once we’re out of training and the further away we get from the classroom, the more our own style and methods of coaching emerge. And that’s great! We aren’t robots, and no two coaches are going to work with a client in exactly the same way. The flip side is that in the process of developing our style, we can sometimes slip into unproductive habits, develop blindspots, and generally get too comfortable with the way we coach. With an increasing number of coaches also being expected to consultant, provide subject matter expertise, facilitate, or otherwise mix modalities, mentor coaching also provides an opportunity to check in with what the core competencies and code of ethics tell us about navigating those engagements, leveraging our coaching skills, and establishing clear agreements. Mentor coaching is a way to reconnect with the fundamentals, to remind ourselves of best practices and examine where our coaching skills can be elevated. It’s a way of staying in integrity as coaches. Finally, it’s how we live the ICF Code of Ethics, particularly Standard 16: “Commit to excellence through continued personal, professional and ethical development.”

I’m an advocate of integrating mentor coaching into our ongoing professional development. It shouldn’t be reserved for just when you’re applying for or renewing a credential. Wherever you are on your coaching journey, consider making it part of your practice to engage in mentor coaching (group, 1:1, or both) every 12-18 months. If it’s not required, you have flexibility with the number of hours and format of the coaching. To discuss your particular goals for mentor coaching, feel free to schedule time for us to chat.

Q: Can we talk about my business or professional challenges during our mentor coaching sessions?

Unfortunately, no. The scope of mentor coaching is confined to the ICF Core Competencies and the ICF Code of Ethics. The experience is focused on coaching skill development. If you have a few questions about your business or professional challenges, you’re welcome to share those questions, and I will be happy to provide resources via email or outside of our mentor coaching session for your consideration. If you require more than that, then I would create a separate agreement with you for those services or, more likely, refer you to trusted partners.

Q: How do I decide between participating in your group or 1:1 program?

I encourage coaches to consider the following when deciding if group or 1:1 is best for them:

What’s your goal for the mentoring? If you’re applying for a credential and need to submit recordings for assessment, 10 hours of 1:1 gives you the maximum opportunities for sharing your recorded sessions, receiving feedback, and getting support in choosing a recording for submission. If you crave lots of personal feedback and have specific questions related to your skills and stretches, 1:1 provides more space for those conversations. For this option, it’s best if you have at least three active clients (paid or pro bono) so that you have more opportunities for recordings. Really want 1:1 but don’t have clients you can record? Check out reciprocoach.com as a way to obtain practice, hours, and opportunities to record.

How do you learn best? Regardless of whether you’re renewing or applying for a credential, you might prefer the group setting and its collegiality and diversity of thought. You’re often with coaches who went through different programs, and that opens your perspective and expands your coaching vocabulary. There’s a special energy created when thoughtful coaches get together to learn and grow in a supportive environment! Very often, my coach-clients have said to me, “I’m a bit nervous about being in a group, because it’s more vulnerable to coach in front of peers… but that’s why I need to do it. It will stretch me and build my confidence.” Conversely, you might want more individualized support, and 1:1 feels like a better fit. 1:1 gives you maximum personalized support and learning, and group gives you more collective learning along with a dose of 1:1.

What kind of schedule do you need? Group coaching involves 5 sessions that are scheduled for predetermined times over a period of approx 8-10 weeks, and attendance is required to receive full credit. The 3 hours of 1:1 are scheduled at mutually agreeable times using my online calendar. If you’re doing 10 hours of 1:1, then all of your sessions are scheduled at mutually agreeable times using my online calendar.

Q: What can I expect from a typical 1:1 session with you?

This again goes back to your goals for the mentoring: if you’re applying for your credential and required to submit recordings, we’d use most (at least 7) of our sessions for recording review and discussion. You would submit your recording (30-45 min, either a full or partial session) and transcript to me at least 48 hours in advance of our session so that I can review before our session. I highly recommend the use of RaeNotes as a transcription platform, as it’s designed for Mentor Coaches and allows for more in-depth feedback (click here for my referral link; if you create an account, we both get 20 bonus transcription minutes!). Another reliable transcription platform is Rev.com. I also ask that you listen back to your session and make notes on what you notice; I have a worksheet for that, or you can use the feedback functionality in RaeNotes to comment right in the transcript.

During our session, we discuss the recording in more depth, including where you demonstrated the core competencies, what strengths emerged, what choice points could be considered (where the inquiry or reflection might have gone in different directions), where you experienced challenges and ease, and anything else you noticed or learned from the session. I ask you to reflect first, before I offer questions and insights; this process isn’t about me saying, “this was right/wrong and here’s what to do differently.” It’s a peer relationship that is designed to deepen your self-awareness and capacity for self-reflection on your skills. It’s not about performing for me, the client, or for ICF. Our emphasis is on awareness and learning, not checking boxes. I will be direct with you and offer developmental feedback that supports your growth, including areas for improvement or increased effectiveness. But I am not going to come at that task with a judgemental or evaluative mindset.

In addition to discussing the recording, I will always ask you if there’s anything around the ICF Core Competencies or Code of Ethics that you want to discuss during our time. If you don’t have a recording, you can choose to bring general questions and learning around the competencies for exploration, share specific coaching experiences that have raised questions for you, or continue to debrief a previous recording. I also can support you with the logistics of navigating the credentialing or renewal process.

Q: What can I expect from your group mentoring program experience?

I have two tracks for group mentoring based on your goals and level of experience:
ACC: coaches who are preparing to apply for their ACC or are renewing their ACC. You must have completed at least 30 hours of your coach education program and have at least 30 hours of coaching logged (bartered, paid, or pro bono) by the time of the first group session. This is also the right group if you are looking for ongoing continuing education and have less than 400 coaching hours logged.
PCC: coaches who are getting ready to apply for their PCC and/or have logged at least 400 coaching hours.

Whichever track you’re on, you can expect to be part of a small peer group (4 coaches max) that is supportive, encouraging, and thoughtful. Together, we co-create a brave space for learning and growth, not performance or comparison. We’re all coming from different experiences, niches, trainings, identities, and systems. It’s that diversity that makes for a learning environment that holds enormous potential for surprises, fresh perspectives, and provocative insights and questions. We get to know one another a bit as human beings, not just coaches (because wholeness and integration is essential to our personal and professional development). Over my years of leading groups, I’ve experienced wonderful collegiality amongst members, with somehow just the right people coming together every single time.

Group sessions include in-class peer coaching or review of a pre-recorded session; feedback, reflections, and learning; and a discussion exploring various aspects of the ICF Core Competencies and Code of Ethics. For more information, see the individual program pages for ACC and PCC tracks.

Q: How do I get recorded sessions for us to talk about?

Typically, your recordings will be with clients you’ve worked with for at least a few sessions. They are clients with whom you can do “pure coaching,” with no mixing of consulting, mentoring, training, or other modalities. They can be paid, pro bono, or barter clients. The most important thing is that you feel like you are able to be in full coach mode and that the client is coachable – they understand what coaching is and isn’t, they are committed to doing the work, and they are willing to be recorded for learning purposes.

As soon as you know you’re going to engage in mentor coaching, start recording sessions as often as you can. Always request permission from your client to record and share with your mentor coach, and honor their wishes. You can record video or audio only (ICF requires audio-only recordings for assessment). If you’re in person, use a voice memo app/function on your phone to record unobtrusively (recommendation: put your phone in airplane mode so that notifications don’t interrupt the recording or the session!). Recording via Zoom, Teams, Skype or other virtual platforms is easy and seamless. If a client agrees to be recorded, let them know they can change their mind after the session, and you’ll delete the recording. Get in the habit of recording; you never know when you’ll have a session filled with learning opportunities (both in terms of highlighting your strengths and revealing growth areas) or that has submission potential. Store and share the recording securely, with password protection if necessary. As your mentor coach, I adhere to the same ethical standards in my listening as I do if I were the coach, including strict confidentiality.

Q: How many of my recorded sessions will we review?

1:1 coaching: If you’re applying for a credential, I recommend at least 7 different 30-40 min recordings, ideally with 2-3 different clients. If you’re renewing or mentoring for ongoing development, at least 5 recordings would be optimal. We can discuss what would meet your learning goals in your first session.

Group: If you’re applying for a credential, I recommend having a 30-40 min recording for all 3 1:1s, ideally with 2 different clients. If you’re renewing or mentoring for ongoing development, 1-2 recordings would be optimal but aren’t required. We can discuss what would meet your learning goals prior to your first session.

Q: What if I don’t have many active clients, and/or I’m not permitted to record the ones I have?

If you have a light client load, consider offering a small coaching package (4-6 sessions) to a friend of a friend, distant family member, former professional colleague, or a nonprofit organization. Even if you offer it for free, honor the partnership the same as if it were paid (because, ethics!). You can also enroll in an independent or ICF Chapter-sponsored peer coaching program; ReciproCoach is a well-established program to consider. Check with your coach training program to see if they have a peer coaching opportunity that would fit your needs.

MORE FAQ IN DEVELOPMENT…

What should I look for in a mentor coach, and what qualifies you to be a mentor?

What can I expect from a partnership with you?

Will you help me prepare to apply for my ICF credential?

What are some resources that will make the process easier?

How can I get the most out of the mentor coaching experience?

What do you enjoy most about mentor coaching?

Where can I see more coaching demos? I find them really helpful!

What coaching books or resources do you recommend the most?

I want to be a mentor coach! Where should I start?

Where I hang out online...