Professional Coach Mentoring and Supervision
What do you want from individualised, personal professional development

Individualised coach mentoring and supervision

Tammy Turner ICF Article November 2013

The ICFA Professional Standards’ Committee receives regular inquiries from member coaches looking to enhance their skills and further develop themselves. This is not surprising at all as any coach knows you are your service. There are many courses, qualifications and certifications available on the market to suit everyone. However, if you want individualised, personal professional development you are looking for either professional coaching, supervision or mentoring. Though do you know what you actually want?

In fielding questions, we’ve discovered that there is a fair amount of confusion as many coaches think they want ‘coaching’ or ‘supervision’, when what they are asking for is actually what the ICF would term “mentor coaching”. Currently, ICF defines Mentor Coaching as “coaching for the development of one's coaching, rather than reflective practice, coaching for personal development or coaching for business development, although those aspects may happen very incidentally in the coaching for development of one's coaching.”

The ICF also “stipulates that all of the Mentor Coach aspects may be included in Coaching Supervision but it can and does include many more aspects which a trained Coaching Supervisor is able to recognize and address. Issues which reach beyond those in Mentor Coaching and which are often brought to coach supervision at any point in a coach's professional life.”

So knowing what you want as an outcome is the first place to start. Here are some clear guidelines.


If you want to become an ICF Credentialed Coach, you are looking for mentoring as it focuses on assessing and developing your coaching skills against the ICF Core Competencies. According to the ICF and Association of Coach Training Organizations (ACTO) “mentor coaching means an applicant being coached on his/her coaching skills rather than coaching on practice building, life balance, or other topics unrelated to the development of an applicant’s coaching skill …”

( As stated in August 2012 Coachlink article “Finding Mentor Coach” MCC Coach Barbara Anderson explains that “This requirement is intended to help applicants prepare for participation in the ICF exams and to develop their coaching skills. The ICF highly recommends that applicants work with their mentor coaches in preparation for the exam and its oral demonstrations.” The current ICF guidelines are that coaches in the portfolio path at all levels, except current PCC’s, must receive 10 hours of mentor coaching over a minimum of a three-month period. Also as of April 2014 all ICF credentialed coaches must take the written exam to re-credential and a qualified mentor coach can help you with this as well. It is recommended that the mentor coach be a level above the level you’re seeking and perhaps also be an ICF 2 assessor and have taught the ICF core competencies. Finally, coach mentoring is also often used in the early stages of a coaches’ profession to receive feedback specifically about their coaching style and skills, which may also cross over to coaching supervision as well.

Continuous Professional Development

If you want on-going individual development to enhance who you are as a coach and broaden the perspective you bring to your coaching practice overall, then professional supervision is what you want. The supervision session should be a place to practice, feel supported and safe in making mistakes. In the Change Agenda paper on coaching supervision in 2006, the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) concludes that “For coaches, coaching supervision is an essential piece of their continuous professional development. It’s the pivotal link between theory and coaching practice. For those who organise coaching services, it’s the key to effective quality assurance, to managing the risks that can be inherent in coaching, and to drawing learning from the coaching conversations that take place in the organisation. It can help to increase the return of an investment in coaching and can even help to provide evidence of that return.”

Supervision is a reflective process that fosters what Edna Murdoch, Director, Coaching Supervision Academy calls “who you are is how you coach” So many coaches moving from PCC to MCC style of coaching come to supervision specifically to develop what ICF terms “Coaching Presence: the ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident”. According to the Standards Australia Guidelines, “The purpose of professional supervision is to provide a regular (often weekly or monthly) forum within which a coach can reflect on their experience and practice, and develop strategies for improvement. Importantly supervision is designed to provide an external perspective to the dilemmas and issues facing the coach.” (Standards Australia Guidelines, p. 61)

Though there are many reasons for coming to coaching supervision, here are some common examples:

  • Not feeling “good enough” to effectively coach a successful or domineering client.
  • Thinking you know the answer to client’s problem and then being disappointed when they don’t follow your advice.
  • Dealing with erratic client emotions and being unsure about whether to refer or continue to coach.
  • Feeling unsure about the impact of the interventions used in individual or team coaching assignments.
  • Using the same techniques, models and/or approaches to all coaching assignments, regardless of the client need due to lack of confidence.
  • Having the feeling that what’s happening to your client is also happening to you and/or other clients in your portfolio

Many coaches find both individual and group peer supervision useful. Adding professional supervision to your on-going development can add an additional level of quality you bring to your clients. More experienced coaches find identifying and shifting parallel process, blind spots and/or transference in the coach/client context invaluable. Furthermore, if you are coaching within an organisation, the ‘Standards Australia Guidelines for Coaching in Organizations’ states categorically: “All coaches should be engaged in professional supervision.” (Standards Australia Guidelines, p. 61)

At this stage the ICF has not sanctioned coaching supervisor qualifications though has offered some recommendations on the website ( Given coaching supervision is relational and long-term, be sure you feel supremely comfortable both emotionally and with the qualifications of the supervisor you’re hiring. Additionally, since supervision is reflective and all about you as coach come prepared to look at yourself. “One supervisor said that the coach plays an active and primary role in super-vision and that ‘it is the coach that makes it work’ (S2: 13). The coach has a responsibility in the supervisors’ eyes to be willing to stand back and reflect on their practice, reflect on themselves in the context of the coaching conversation. In essence the coach needed to be able to ‘sit in a different seat in the room ... and look at their work from a different angle’ (S2: 16–17).” (Passmore, International Coaching Psychology Review ‚óŹ Vol. 4 No. 2 September 2009. P. 150)

  Mentor Coaching Coach Supervision
International Coach Federation definition For purposes of credentialing, mentor coaching means an applicant being coached on their coaching skills rather than coaching on practice building, life balance, or other topics unrelated to the development of an applicant’s coaching skill. Coaching Supervision is the interaction that occurs when a coach periodically brings his or her coaching work experiences to a coaching supervisor in order to engage in reflective dialogue and collaborative learning for the development and benefit of the coach and his or her clients
Purpose To reach a particular standard, or demonstrate specific coaching competencies and other credentialing requirements To generate coach insights through guided reflective enquiry that will improve the quality of his or her coaching; and hence expand coach capability and confidence.
Outcome Assessment On-going support and development
Timing Typically associated with a specific step in the coaches development, such as gaining a credential ICF requires 10 hours over a minimum of 3 months, 3 of which must be one-to-one mentoring Throughout the coaches professional life, to uphold the highest professional standards. The ICFA Supervision Task Force recommends 1 hour of 1-1 supervision for 20 client contact hours or 2 hours of group supervision for 20 contact hours
Scope More specific Broad ranging
Role of:

Mentor Coach

Passing on specific coaching knowledge, skills and methodologies.

Your mentor coach will:

• Encourage your growth

• Listen actively

• Provide timely advice

• Deepen your insight with regard to your coaching knowledge and skills

• Review your coaching in relationship to the ICF’s Coaching Core Competencies

• Assist in identifying and solving problems around your overall coaching competency

• Give support and guidance for your ICF application and exam

• Guide you to extending your coaching comfort zone

Coach Supervisor

Guiding the coach discover ways of being more effective, observing and highlighting patterns.

Your coach supervisor will:

• Encourage your growth and exploration of ideas and personal reflections

• Listen actively

• Provide timely advice and constructive feedback

• Refine and expand your coaching knowledge, skills and practices

• Further your insights, confidence and capability through guided reflective practice

• Work with you overcome any dilemma or issues you identify in your coaching

• Guide you to extending your coaching comfort zone

Focus More focus on coaching skills and demonstrating capability. Less focus on client interaction. More focus on coaches thinking and metamodels (around their self-confidence, their self awareness, relational and contextual awareness) and its impact on clients. Strong focus on client interaction.
Qualifications required

For ICF purposes the mentor coach is required to hold an ACC, PCC, or MCC Credential and be a member in good standing. In 2014, a Credentialed Mentor Registry will be introduced by the ICF.

ICF Australasia recommends that the mentor coach also be, if possible, an ICF assessor, a teacher of the ICF core competencies to coaches in training and have a track record of coaches they have successfully mentored through the credentialing process

While the ICF supports specific training for Coach Supervisors they recognise there is a limited number of trained coach supervisors and have suggested the following minimum requirements.

• Be an ICF member which implies that the Coaching Supervisor is familiar with and abides by the ICF Ethics and Standards and

• Not be under any sanctions from the ICF Independent Review Board for violations of ethical conduct and

• Be an experienced, mature, preferably credentialed coach - at least 3 years FTE practice and

• Has continued expanding exposure to and knowledge of coaching approaches beyond their original coach training. 

About the author

Tammy Turner has been working in the coaching profession since 2001 and is currently both a MCC and Certified Coaching Supervisor.  She is the ICFA Director, Professional Standards Committee and Leader of the Coaching Supervision Task Force, and an AOCS member.

For related questions, contact Tammy on [email protected] 







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