As the director of a nonprofit and a volunteer coach for other nonprofits, I know it can be hard to keep the ICF Core Competencies at the forefront of your coaching when trying to help others. Clients seek coaching to optimize their lives, whether it’s to get unstuck, improve performance and/or increase self-confidence. At times, it can be difficult for them to understand that the answers they are searching for are within them.

It’s up to us, as coaches, to use the Core Competencies in a way that empowers clients through self-discovery, rather than taking the easier path of giving advice or telling them what they should or shouldn’t do. Clients should be able to grow personally and professionally through the coaching process by finding their own inner strength and self-reliance. Applying the Core Competencies in our work can better prepare our nonprofit clients for the transformational experiences of coaching.

Coaching is a process that moves a person from where they are towards where they want to be, so the first thing we need to do is find out where they think they are. Developing rapport, trust and intimacy will allow us to show the client that we care about their issues, value their views, and want to provide a safe and supportive space for them to be heard. A space without judgement and with encouragement is something a lot of people don’t have in their lives, especially if they are going through a challenging time. Given the space they need, a client will open up and start to release some of the fears and frustrations they brought to the session.

In my experience at my nonprofit, Recovery Nation, clients are used to being talked at instead of listened to. The importance of their feelings and thoughts fade into the background, which can lead them to lose faith in themselves. But when we create a safe space, trust and rapport form, leading us to a better understanding of the client and leading the client to better communication within themselves and with those around them.

From there, helping people to identify their strengths and available resources is much easier. They’ve let their guard down and are more open to the probing and powerful open-ended coaching questions that require them to think critically about where they are, where they want to be, and how they can get there. It allows for deeper reflection, awareness and engagement from the client. As we encourage the pursuit of self-discovery with support and patience, they start to see that the answers they are searching for do indeed lie within themselves and that they have the strength and resources to reach their goals.

By creating rapport, trust and intimacy, we are also able to give direct feedback that the client is open to because we have created deeper communication and support in our relationship. It helps them draw on their strengths to identify the gaps and the actions needed to fill them.

Through the coaching process, we help clients learn how to create self-awareness, discover new possibilities for their future, becomes self-reliant, and build confidence that they can use throughout their life going forward. Simply telling people what to do in the present won’t have long-term positive effects on their well-being. As the old saying goes, “Give a person a fish and they will eat for a day. Teach a person to fish and they will eat for a lifetime.”


cheryl thacker headshotCheryl Thacker, PCC, is the founder of Successful Coaches Enterprise LLC, where she partners with coaches and entrepreneurs to take structured action to define and scale their business, reach their professional and credentialing goals, and improve health and balance in their life.  Cheryl also runs a nonprofit organization, Recovery Nation, where she leads a team of volunteers that helps those with addiction using the Health Based Recovery (HBR) model.  Cheryl is a Master Board Certified Coach and has a PCC Credential through the International Coach Federation and a BCC Credential through the Center for Credentialing and Education.

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