Following that Spark: Exploring Becoming a Coach

So you're interested in becoming a coach?!

Below is an overview of the two different types of coaching, how industry certifications work, and an outline of coaching training programs with a way to classify their differences.

Many people who identify as coaches focus on a specific area of domain knowledge that they share with clients that isn't acquired through a coaching training program but rather through professional experience. The type of coaching I'm discussing here is coaching that supports clients in working with how they navigate their world, and not about the coach delivering explicit knowledge or expertise. In this approach to coaching, we never tell a client what they should do, we help them come to their own answers and decisions.

Below is a living and ever-changing piece of content, based in my knowledge and new things I learn. So please consider that it's just that - my perspective.

There are so many ways to do this work in the world, programs are not the only path (but they are the path I get the most questions about it).  If you're curious how else coaching work might unfold for you, I'd love to connect.

Have questions, disagreements, additions, or reactions?  Send me a note 🙏

I'm always learning alongside you.


Where to Start: 2 Types of Coaching

Coaches have all sorts of focuses - career coaching to leadership coaching to health coaching to relationship coaching and beyond. You name it and someone does it. But how coaches approach their craft and their client can be grouped in two primary ways: performance coaching and development coaching.

Approaches to Coaching
  • Performance Coaching (horizontal development, working with the content of life) - the 'what' and the 'doing' part of life. Let's achieve more, be better, reach our tangible, measurable goals. This is the most common type of coaching. 
  • Development Coaching (vertical development, working with the context of life) - this is focused on developing our inner capacities and resources to BE with life, with our challenges, and reach our goals in new ways. This work asks us to dig deep and really face ourselves, which can be scary for many people and explains why performance coaching is the most common form of coaching. Development coaching focuses on building skillfulness to show up in new ways, rather than focusing on fixing or improving deficiencies.

We as coaches regularly find that there are clients who are not interested or willing to step into development coaching, whether consciously or unconsciously. Coaches who take a developmental approach will often blend in performance coaching to meet clients where they are on the journey of inviting clients deeper in their personal development.


Coaching Industry Certification

The International Coaching Federation is the primary certification body over coaching training, and they certify third-party coaching training programs. Leadership development organizations, or companies hiring coaches, often want ICF certification, but it is quite possible to be a coach independently or through an organization without it. 

Three levels of ICF certification
  • ACC - the first level, most programs that have ICF accreditation meet the requirements for this level. After program completion, and logging 100 hours of coaching, you can submit for certification + take an exam
  • PCC - the second level, some programs meet the requirements for this level, which includes more hours of training than for the ACC level.  After program completion, and logging 500 coaching hours, you can submit for certification + take the exam. The 100 hours from ACC can apply toward the 500 hours if you go for PCC level after getting the ACC level already. 
  • MCC - the highest level, you need 2,500 coaching hours and a large collection of training hours. This certification is often pursued by folks who want to be certified to teach in ICF accredited program

Program selection considerations
  • Program accreditation - if you want to use a coaching program to get an ICF certification, the program needs to be accredited by the ICF. Training program websites will clearly state if they are accredited as it is considered a selling point.
  • Mentor coach hours - 10 mentor coach hours are required to submit for certification at all ICF levels. Mentor coach hours include working with a credentialed coach to review coaching recordings and offer you feedback on your coaching.  Some ICF accredited programs do not included these hours which would require you to pay a coach separately to complete them. If you are wanting ICF certification, check the programs you are interested to see if they include mentor coach hours to avoid unexpected time and costs later.
  • Pro bono hours - the majority of the independent coaching hours required for certification must be paid hours (which includes barter exchanges, like a client buying you a coffee!). A small portion of certification hours can be unpaid (~30%, but this number sometimes changes).


Coaching Programs

To state the obvious: this list below is not nearly exhaustive, and is based on my experience and programs I'm familiar with.

If you know of programs you'd like me to add to this list, send me a note at 🙌


Foundational Coaching Programs
    • Co-Active Institute (CTI) - CTI is the most well known coaching training organization. Co-Active has many active cohorts at any given point in time, and they have a very clear coaching methodology that they teach in modules. They offer programs at a scale larger than any other training organization, which can be great for people really looking for the nuts and bolts of 'what to do' as a coach.
    • NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) - NLI takes a science-backed approach to coaching and leadership, which they’ve turned into their Brain-Based Coaching program. Their program is a very usable, framework-based program for learning coaching basics. Similar to Co-Active coaching, there is a clear curriculum that teaches you 'what to do' as a coach. I’ve gone through the first level of their program and felt like it was lighter on neuroscience than expected but would be good for someone starting out in their coaching learning journey. 


Coaching for development & transformational coaching
    • New Ventures West - NVW teaches a method called Integral Coaching that taps into the wisdom of not just our cognitive world, but our emotional and somatic worlds too. They pull from a lot of different philosophies to teach an approach to longer-term coaching engagements that is based in psychology, ontology, somatic experience, the Enneagram, adult development, and many others. It's a cohort-based program with a parallel and equal focus on your own personal development while in the program and what it means to embody the being of a coach (energetically, physically, spiritually).
      • An additional note: I've gone through the NVW program, and compared to the foundational coaching programs listed above, this program does not teach the 'how' of coaching nearly as much as they teach how to be with people. If you are looking for a program that will give you the nuts and bolts to just start coaching, this program wouldn't be the right fit. New Ventures West is exclusively focused on how to work with clients in deep, multi-month long engagements but does not train on how to have a one-off coaching conversation like many of the other programs. 
    • Aletheia - Aletheia is a methodology that is equally expansive in its foundations as New Ventures West, but has a specific approach using parts work (based on Internal Family Systems). I’ve also done this program and found it to be an amazing method and highly usable even in one-off conversations. I likely wouldn't recommend it for starting out in coaching, but as a secondary program it’s incredible as another way of learning to work at a deep depth. (FYI it’s not ICF accredited, yet)
    • iPEC - iPEC's training is based in working with energy (think of managing energy to prevent burnout, that type of energy). I don't have personal experience with this program but have heard very positive things.
    • Newfield Network - their program is based in ontology, which is the study of being.


Specialized Coaching Programs
    • Strozzi - somatic coaching program that is quite specialized but I’m not clear how well it bridges into corporate or career coaching to be able to apply in flexible ways
    • Corentus - focused on team coaching and working with groups
    • Georgetown Executive Coaching Program - focused on how to apply coaching in a work setting to specifically work with leaders
    • Alma Academy - focused on training coaches to be embedded coaches to work inside organizations. Alma has a pool of coaches that they work to place inside partner organizations, and this program is part of that (but is also available even if you aren’t in their candidate pool)


How does this all land for you? What questions does it bring up?

Are you noticing you're excited, or overwhelmed, or something else after reading this?

I'd love to hear from you 🙌