Coaching Competency Framework

In our Advanced Certified ScrumMaster Workshops, we spend a bit of time talking about the often "squishy" topic of coaching. Coaching can take on many forms, but I firmly believe coaching is about taking someone / a team from where they are, to where they want to be. There are many tactics and techniques that can help coaches do this, but at a minimum we have to understand the competencies required to be a great coach. Let's unwrap the four core competencies of agile coaching.

Professional coaching helps clients achieve their professional and personal growth by maximizing their potential. For agile coaching, Lyssa Adkins and Michael Spayd wrote a white-paper centered around developing great agile coaches. In the paper, they describe a competency model to get a better idea of the skills and approaches required of our coaching profession. While the coaching stance is “the heart” of the framework, the coaches can use the “core competencies” when they get a new coaching engagement or score themselves to improve their craft.

Each core competency in the competency framework furnishes an understanding of the skills and approaches to master them; establishing a benchmark for their assessment. The competency framework describes four current core competencies:

  • Setting ethical standards
  • Building relationships
  • Effective communication
  • Learning and results
  • Providing updates on the learning

To better understand the competency framework, we will review each core competency coaches need to evolve as we grow.

The Four Core Competencies

Develop better coaching ethics and mindest

The first core competency describes the foundation of skills coaches need to develop: the ethical practices and the coaching mindset the coaches should demonstrate.

Ethical practices for coaches include several skills and practices. Coaches should deal with the clients, sponsors, and relevant stakeholders with honesty, integrity, and respectfully using only the appropriate language. They need to be careful with clients’ identity, environment, experiences, values, and beliefs. Coaches should also protect the confidentiality of client information according to laws and agreements. They need to know the difference between coaching and other support professions such as consulting and psychotherapy and refer them whenever required.

Also, coaches should develop a client-centered, open, curious, and flexible coaching mindset. It means, as a coach, they need to be involved in ongoing learning and development to further enhance coaching by reflective practice. They need to be aware of influences such as cultural influences that can impact the clients' behavior.

Mental and emotional awareness is also important to maintain a better coaching mindset. For instance, coaches need to control emotions and mentally and emotionally prepare themselves for coaching sessions to better provide their services. Lastly, never hesitate to take help from others when necessary. We don't want a long period of inactivity which can then affect the client's desired results and timeline.

Maintaining the Relationships

The second core competency explains the practices in coming to clear agreements with clients and stakeholders, creating a safe and supportive environment, and maintaining the presence or the consciousness.

Agreements are very important for maintaining a healthy relationship with the clients. For that, coaches need to establish clear agreements with clients regarding their relationship, including appropriate things and explaining what they offer with coaching and things that they do not offer. Agree on the coaching-related matters such as fees, duration, termination, etc. Partner with the client on things such as defining an overall coaching plan, client aims, measuring success, time management, and focus.

Maintaining trust and safety is another key competency that should include maintaining the client-coach relationship. Coaches need to understand the client, respect their values, including style and language and accept client talents. Whenever required, provide assistance, show empathy, and concern. For building trust, be open and transparent. Coaches should also be fully conscious of managing emotions and have a clear focus. Be responsive to the client whenever required and be confident when dealing with strong client emotions.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is the third competency coaches need to focus on. It states that active listening, powerful questioning, and direct communication are the core of effective communication with clients.

Active listening includes focusing on clients’ sayings, understanding what they say, and supporting client self-expression. For active listening, coaches need to focus on clients’ agendas rather than their own agenda. Listen to client concerns, goals, values, and beliefs, incorporate client ideas and suggestions, ensure correct understanding of what clients have said.

Coaches need to practice powerful questioning to get information to benefit the client-coach relationship. It includes asking open-ended questions, asking the right questions that reflect client perception, and letting them achieve their desires.

Direct communication is another key skill coaches need to have. When you provide feedback, clearly provide them. Clearly communicate coaching objectives, meeting agendas, and reasons for coaching techniques. Use non-sexist, non-racist, non-technical, and non-jargon language.

Facilitating Learning and Results

The fourth competency includes creating awareness, designing actions, planning, goal setting, and managing progress and accountability for learning and achieving the desired results.

Coaches need to “accurately evaluate multiple sources of information” and interfere with the results to make them aware of their progress to better achieve their intended results. It includes identifying client concerns, helping them change their viewpoints, identifying areas that need more focus, and helping them identify the things that impact their behaviors.

Next, coaches need to create ongoing learning opportunities and take new actions to reach their ultimate goals. It includes brainstorming for defining clients' actions to deepen their learning, helping clients take a systematic approach for addressing concerns, persuading clients to go for alternative approaches, and celebrating client success and growth potential. In addition, encourage experimentation, self-discovery, and challenges.

Planning and Goal Setting is another important part of the coaching competency framework. The coaching plan should be effective enough to achieve the client's desired results. The coaching plan should be specific, attainable, measurable, and contain the target dates of achievement. They need to make adjustments to the plan whenever required and provide access to other learning resources like books.

Finally, coaches need to manage progress and accountability. In order to develop that, they need to practice things like identifying client actions for achieving the desired goals and following those actions. Accept what the client has done and has not done. Make sure to keep the client on track, help them develop decision-making abilities and promote self-discipline.


The competency framework identifies the essential skills and approaches of the coaching profession through four core competencies. This article explained each core competency, providing a concise review of each. Coaches can evaluate themselves against each of them and identify what is lacking and develop them to become valuable coaches in their profession.

Join us at one of our advanced workshops!

We explore a bit more about coaching stances and non-violent communication in our advanced workshops.


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