Becoming masterful as a coach is a significant milestone in any coach’s career. It means you have honed your skills and developed your own coaching style that aligns with the ICF Core Competencies, and now you want to be recognized for your achievements. However, the road to obtaining a mastery designation of ACC, PCC, and especially an ICF MCC designation, can be challenging, and candidates often face a few stumbling blocks. Here are some tips to help you overcome them.

Common Stumbling Blocks

I personally hate when people say, “Trust the process,” but in this case, I would say trust the competencies and focus on your learning. One of the most common stumbling blocks that candidates face is spending too much energy fighting with the competencies. I hear things like, “My way of coaching…” or “That’s pure coaching…” The International Coaching Federation (ICF) has a specific way of recognizing the demonstration of the competencies, and it’s essential to learn how the competencies weave together to support client agency and awareness, both ultimately crucial to sustainable changes and to demonstrating partnership. So, instead of fighting the competencies, focus on learning how to demonstrate the them masterfully, in your own way and in your own voice. This will help you to learn and improve your coaching abilities.

​Build on Your Current Competencies

Another common mistake that candidates make is thinking they must start from scratch. Many candidates feel overwhelmed when receiving their first feedback and think they need to make significant adaptations. However, it’s important to remember that you have already developed some competencies that are compatible with the ICF ACC and MCC BARS, and the PCC Markers. Instead of starting from scratch, it’s better to build on what you have. I liken the PCC Markers to “Micro-Skills” Identify the competencies that you already naturally demonstrate, and continue doing those. Then assess which competencies you maybe step over or ignore and focus on intentionally playing with those. The ACC and MCC BARS are useful to check out as well, as you develop your capacity to partner.

I know in my own coaching, I struggled with agreement setting, I would ask for a topic, I might even ask for what was important to the client, but I didn’t see agreement setting as coaching… So, learning to explore what was important about what the client was bringing to coaching, what would be different if they had XYZ, and partnering on how they wanted to start exploring were all micro-skills I played with until I had locked them into my habit of how I hold a coaching conversation. And it’s still a work in progress. MCC doesn’t mean done, it’s only a mile marker on continual mastery.

Be Brave and Compassionate with Yourself While Coaching

During any development journey, you may experience “conscious incompetence.” This is that state where you become aware of what you don’t know or what you need to improve. It’s sucks, but it’s also a thing you will probably notice. While it’s important to recognize your areas of improvement, it’s equally important not to let your self-criticism affect your learning journey. Consider ways to support yourself while you basically turn into a hot mess for a bit. During coaching sessions, invite your inner critic to sit in the back seat, not drive the car. Take care of yourself, I love Laughter Yoga when my internal narrative is yappy; focus on being fully present with your client and practice with people you like and trust, with colleagues, or in a supervision session. Doing these things can help you tame the tiger in your mind, build your confidence, and improve your coaching skills.

I love Raenotes. I will upload calls monthly and assess how I am doing at holding the coaching space in relation to the competencies. I find it gives me some clarity of distance, where I can see where I am hitting lots of indicators of the competencies and where I need to be more intentional. In Raenotes highly recommend going through a coaching transcript and capturing all the PCC Markers in my questions, then switching to the ACC or MCC Bars, and doing a follow up assessment of my work. Raenotes allows you to change how you are assessing the same transcript, so that you are able to look at your work through different lenses.

Stretch Yourself and Stay Open-Minded

Another common stumbling block is becoming too attached to your coaching model. While it’s natural to be proud of your coaching approach, it’s important to remember that ICF has specific requirements for the PCC and MCC designations. It’s crucial to stretch yourself. Expanding your capacity as a coach to hold the space is important. Full partnership is different from full participation. Learning to hold the partnering space is crucial as you develop from ACC. When I was working on my MCC I heard a coach say that when we step into a process with our clients, like, let’s do a breathing exercise, we are stepping out of coaching. I don’t remember who said it, but it was profound for me. It was an invitation to stretch past what I knew, and learn to be in the unknown with my clients, not solve the problems but explore the clients relationship to the problem. Having a mentor coach is crucially important as we develop choice points in how we listen and what we ask. 

Overcoming Stumbling Blocks to Get Your MCC

Seek Support from Mentors and Listen to Good Coaching

Obtaining your credential is a journey, and it’s natural to face challenges along the way. When you find yourself struggling, seek support from your teachers and mentors. Listen to coaching calls. I used Moore Master Coaching to listen to Master Coaches. I loved it, I could listen and think, “I’m stealing that!” or “Never in a million billion years would I do that.” It was a great way to begin to cultivate my own style. The recordings can provide you with valuable ideas and help you develop things to explore that will support you to move through the challenges you face. Gail Moore has quite a few passing MCC demonstrations at this point and those are wonderful for a hopeful MCC applicant to listen to. But I also want to say, an ACC or PCC coach can be coaching at an MCC level, given enough intentionality. The more we all coach at an MCC level, regardless of actual credential, the better for our coaching and our clients. Craft your coaching style and learn to ask powerful questions by listening to what other coaches have noticed and then been curious about.

In Closing

Obtaining your credential is a significant achievement, and the road to achieving it is full of opportunities for growth and learning. By accepting the process, building on your current competencies, avoiding self-criticism, trusting yourself, and seeking support from mentors and others who have walked the path, you can overcome the stumbling blocks and achieve your goals. Remember, the mastery journey is not just about achieving a designation; it’s about developing your coaching abilities and becoming the best coach you can be. Happy Coaching!


Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC, author of StoryJacking: Change Your Dialogue, Transform Your Life and the Reflective Coach, and the new book, Light Up: The Science of Coaching with Metaphors. Lyssa is a Confidence Coach, Certified Mentor Coach, Coaching Super-Vision Partner, ICF PCC Assessor, and coaching educator. Using her understanding of the ICF Core Competencies and her knowledge of Neuroscience, Lyssa works with Professional Coaches to expand the capacity to partner with their clients through how they show up and hold the space for those with whom they work.

Lyssa is the creator of the Power of Metaphor Certification Program. Giving coaches new ways to tune their ears to hear the powerful metaphors their clients bring forward and discovering how to leverage the important metaphors to create stronger agreements, build trust and safety, allow the client to lead, and ultimately evoke powerful embodied awareness.

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