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Coaching Skills

January 11, 2013 by Dr. Jon Warner in Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching Skills

Coaching has come a long way in recent years. Instead of being seen as a discretionary activity for perhaps a very few senior executives in only the largest of organizations, it is now used by many levels of manager or leader, and in enterprises of all sizes and types.  This has meant that the coaching “realm of knowledge” has also matured substantially and there are now a number of key professional skills and competencies that are seen to be critical if a coaching experience is going to be a successful one. The International Coaching Federation (ICF), for example, specifies 11 key competencies under four cluster headings. These are:





  • Meeting ethical guidelines and professional standards
  • Establish a coaching agreement
  • Establishing trust and intimacy
  • Coaching presence
  • Active listening
  • Powerful questioning
  • Direct communication
  • Creating awareness
  • Designing actions
  • Planning and goal setting
  • Managing progress and accountability


Each of these competencies is well defined and possible to deepen or improve with training, development and practice.

Although the ICF competencies provide a useful broad-based coaching guidance framework, research conducted by the Worldwide Centre for Organizational Development (both in the US and UK) over the past 10 years has found that executive coaching in particular (as opposed to career or life coaching for instance) needs seven essential core competencies. These are:

  • Empathizing Ability
  • Listening Skills
  • Capacity to Confront & Challenge
  • Problem Solving Ability
  • Feedback Giving Skills
  • Capacity to Empower
  • Mentoring Skills

According to research in the filed and from feedback from a range of executives being coached, these seven competency areas are deployed in the order in which they appear. For example, an effective coach needs to demonstrate empathy at the very earliest stages of the relationship with a coachee. Listening skills are then the next competency to deploy so that the coachee feels sufficiently safe to open up and to be confronted and challenged about what is possible in the future. The Coach then may engage in problem solving discussions and gives often quite candid feedback to the coachee about behavior and performance (which needs to be done both carefully and adeptly).

Over time a coach can increasingly empower a coachee to take more risks perhaps or to do things differently and finally moves into a mentoring type of role. Hence all seven competencies are deployed over time as the relationship matures.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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