What’s in a Coach’s Job Description Anyways?

I was initially ambivalent about participating in a job analysis panel for ICF. I know that those who know me can appreciate that I get glassy eyed when the talk turns to the details of writing job descriptions. In my typical “intuitive” way, I prefer to live in the world of big picture and possibilities. However, I thought it was time to flex and challenge myself to participate and learn something in the process and meet interesting people. Maybe if I stayed curious, I would have a small part in shaping the updating of the job of a coach and possibly the updating of the coaching competencies. And so, off I went to Fort Lauderdale (February 20/21) to analyze what a coach actually does and what skills are needed in order to be successful.

There were 19 coaches from around the world participating in the job analysis panels. Not only did we come from around the world, we came from different industries, different and varied experiences and different genres of coaching. At the session, we were divided into two groups: one group looked at the job of a professional coach (external to organizations) and the group that I participated in looked at the role of an internal coach. Our role was to identify the key duties and then the steps for each of these key duties. We had two skilled facilitators from The Ohio State University take us through the DACUM process. At times, it was frustrating, and yet, we laughed, debated, shifted and in the end, we ended up with a product that we all agreed to. And this product is just about 10 percent of the full project. The next steps are to validate our findings with ICF membership in the form of a survey and then take those results and see what needs to be updated. It will probably take at least a year (or more) to get to final results.

Here are some of my own personal learnings:

  • Coaches, regardless of where they live and work, are very passionate about what they do. We see it as a calling. Most business schools neglect to recognize the need to incorporate teaching about how to start a business. In fact, many of the “external” professional coaches were very insistent that marketing and business development was a key duty, with very specific steps. This is an obvious gap that is an emerging trend/topic in the coaching world.
  • Most internal coaching models have operational staff/managers coaching a percentage of their time, while maintaining other related or not related duties. This can be tricky and ethical boundaries become very prominent (who pays us, who’s the client, internal politics and hierarchy, independence as a coach, who we can coach and maintain confidentiality, etc). And, as more and more organizations hire internal coaches, which is a trend, what are the implications?
  • I really appreciated how the conversation around the table centered around how we can “be” as a coach and as a person in the world. It’s not just the skills we learn and who we coach. It’s about modeling the way, and I saw lots of that at the panel event.
  • More importantly for me, I met some very interesting and passionate people from all around the globe. I learned how things are set up in different countries and in different organizations, and I am in awe of how coaching is spreading and the difference we all are making around the world.

So, I’m very glad that I took the time to engage in this event. It will be one of the many highlights of my career as an ICF coach. I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to participate in an ICF Global event of any kind, to say yes…you never know what you will learn and who you will meet. ) At the top of this blog you will see a picture of a small but mighty group!)


Lily Seto, President, Vancouver Island Coaches