Coaching for Change By Wendy Morris


I recently returned from the launch in Los Angeles of National Arts Strategies’ inaugural leadership coaching cohort. Over the next 12 months, I’ll be learning alongside 20 seasoned arts and culture leaders who are committed to co-creating a community of practice that supports change at individual, organizational and systemic levels. Our learning approach involves taking a deep dive into the core coaching competencies as defined by the International Coach Federation (ICF), the leading global organization dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of trained coaching professionals. In October 2019, ICF announced an updated model of 8 core coaching competencies based on a 24-month analysis of coaching practice with input from 1300 coaches across the world. 

As coaches, we partner with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process designed to inspire and maximize personal and professional potential. Opportunities to adopt a coaching stance abound—whether in formal client/coach relationships or when supervising employees or supporting our children. Below is a list of the ICF core coaching competencies with a bit of description. 

How does a coaching stance show up in your work and life? Which of these core coaching competencies are most familiar to you? Which are you less attentive to? 

  1. Demonstrates Ethical Practice. Personal integrity, honesty, sensitivity to identity, appropriate language, referring to others when issues fall outside one’s scope of practice, and confidentiality – are some hallmarks of ethical coaching.
  2. Embodies a Coaching Mindset. A coaching mindset is open, curious, flexible and client-centered.
  3. Establishes and Maintains Agreements. An important part of co-creating an effective coaching relationship is establishing agreements with clients and relevant stakeholders that clarify the overall arc of coaching engagement as well as for each coaching session.
  4. Cultivates Trust and Safety. Coaches partner with clients to create an environment that is safe, trusting and supportive enough to allow clients to share freely. 
  5. Maintains Presence. In the context of coaching, presence means being fully conscious and present with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, grounded and confident.
  6. Listens Actively. By focusing on both what the client is and is not saying, a coach seeks to fully understand what is being communicated in the context of the client systems and to support client self-expression. 
  7. Evokes Awareness. A coach facilitates client insight and learning by using tools and techniques including powerful questioning, silence, metaphor or analogy. 
  8. Facilitates Client Growth. Coaching is about transforming learning and insight into action, and partnering with the client in ways that promote autonomy. 

I look forward to sharing more about what I discover through my year-long collective journey about how a culture of coaching can enable transformation at the level of the part (individuals), the whole (organizations), and the greater whole (social systems). 


About the Author: Wendy C. Morris is an internationally recognized facilitator of learning and leadership development who collaborates with global networks for change including the Human Systems Dynamics Institute, the Art of Hosting network and Presencing Institute. Wendy is dedicated to setting conditions for an equitable, creative and thriving future by transforming mindsets, developing changemakers and elevating organizations. Her work is informed by 19,000 hours of mindfulness/embodiment training, and has been recognized by 25+ awards in leadership, artmaking, and interdisciplinary practice.  



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