Coaching Small Business Owners: The Nuances of the Updated ICF Competency Model

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Small businesses are the backbone of the global economy, generating a staggering 70% of all jobs worldwide. Yet, the market for coaching small business owners, the vital enterprises, remains notably underserved.

For coaches, understanding the intricacies of the updated International Coach Federation (ICF) Competency Model can be a game-changer in serving this sector effectively.

These competencies are not merely guidelines, but form the heart and soul of a transformative coaching experience. Here’s how these competencies weave into coaching small business owners.

Coaching Ethics and Standards

Demonstrates Ethical Practice

Trust is paramount in coaching, but for small business owners, it’s even more critical. A small misstep can have significant repercussions.

Coaches demonstrate personal integrity and abide by the ICF Code of Ethics to maintain a relationship of mutual trust.

They also respect the client’s values, beliefs, and cultural background, thereby setting the stage for a safe and trusting coaching environment.

Embodies a Coaching Mindset

A small business owner’s path is fraught with uncertainty, requiring them to adapt continually.

Coaches foster a mindset that is open, curious, and flexible. They engage in ongoing learning and remain aware of the influence of context and culture on themselves and their clients.

This competency is particularly helpful in dealing with small business owners who often operate in dynamic environments, ensuring that the coaching approach is agile and client-centered.

Building Trust in Coaching

Co-Creating the Relationship and Establishing Agreements

Small business owners often find themselves juggling the needs of multiple stakeholders, from employees to investors, which can make it challenging to prioritize their own objectives and concerns.

This is where the ICF competency of co-creating the relationship and establishing agreements can be particularly empowering.

Unlike other interactions where external demands often dictate the terms, coaching sessions offer a unique space where the small business owner is firmly in the driver’s seat.

Coaches work closely with the small business owner to identify or reconfirm the goals they want to accomplish in each session. This ensures that the focus remains on what the client genuinely needs, rather than what others say they should prioritize.

By aligning the session’s objectives with the owner’s self-identified needs, coaches offer a tailored experience that’s not only insightful but also immediately applicable to their unique business challenges.

"Your job is to be more of a mirror, reflecting your client's thinking, and less of an echo chamber, amplifying what he or she already believes." - Hargrove

Cultivates Trust and Safety

The stakes are high for small business owners. Many face a make-or-break situation daily.

Therefore, coaches strive to create an environment of safety and mutual respect. This allows clients to open up and share not just their successes but also their fears and failures, which is crucial for learning and growth.

Maintains Presence

Coaches remain emotionally grounded and fully conscious during sessions, providing an anchor for small business owners who often deal with high levels of stress. Being present allows coaches to adapt their style to the client’s needs and maintain focus on their goals.

Putting the Business Owner in the Driver’s Seat – Client-Centered Coaching

Active Listening and Evokes Awareness

For small business owners who are often swamped with tasks, having someone who listens can be incredibly empowering.

Coaches don’t just listen. They listen actively, considering the client’s context and even noticing shifts in emotions and energy.

They also employ powerful questioning techniques, inviting clients to explore beyond their current thinking, thereby promoting self-awareness and insight.

"Awareness is the birthplace of possibility. Everything you want to do, everything you want to be starts here." - Chopra

Cultivating Learning and Growth

Coaches promote client autonomy throughout the process, partnering with them to transform new insights into concrete actions.

This competency is particularly beneficial for small business owners, who need to rapidly apply new learning to their businesses.

Coaches support them in designing goals, setting action steps, and celebrating successes, thus integrating new learning into their daily business practices.

The Broader Impact

The ICF competencies are not only exhaustive but they are also universally applicable, making them an ideal framework for coaching small business owners.

Coaches who align their practice with these competencies contribute to more than just individual growth. They empower small business owners to drive change, foster employment, and strengthen the global economy.

By understanding and leveraging the updated ICF Competency Model, coaches have a nuanced and robust framework to make a substantial difference in the small business landscape.

Thus, embracing these competencies not only elevates your coaching practice but also fills a critical void in an underserved yet vital sector of the global economy.

Your Next Move: The Fastest Growing Market in Coaching Awaits

Did you know that 90% of businesses are considered “small”? With such a big market, the potential for coaches to do what they love best is guaranteed.

If you’re looking to diversify and expand your coaching practice, the small business sector offers unparalleled opportunities.

Get Equipped with Systems Business Coach

We offer professional development for coaches entering this market including the training, tools, and experience you need to build a thriving small business coaching practice.

Elevate your coaching career by visiting or book a call to learn more.



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